**SIDE NOTE: Gluten free isn't for everyone. Talk to your doctor about this before starting diet, since it's pretty rough on your system at first. Some people respond to this better than others, and while some embark on the diet for weight loss and overall health, others with issues such as Celiac disease have to be EXTREMELY careful, not just with food, but household products as well. Use caution- I'm not a doctor, just a gal with experience and a mother with Celiac.
1. Rice is usually the best substitute in things like pasta and bread. Corn has a distinctive taste that's hard to ignore in packaged food.
2. You don't have to go to Whole Foods for everything. Whole Foods, or Whole Paycheck as I like to call it, has the widest range of mass market gluten free products, but they come with a hefty price tag and won't normally special order things. Try smaller, out of the way, all-natural food stores instead. They're usually a bit cheaper and sell more of the small brands that have better food. Plus, if you're on friendly terms with the owners, you can ask them to special order the products that you're interested in.
3. There actually is a way to keep gluten free bread products from tasting... soggy. Most gluten free bread products have to be frozen, and then cooked in either a microwave or toaster. The problem I always had with that was the food coming out soft and soggy. So this was how I learned to do it: Wrap the food in a damp paper towel, and microwave it for 30 seconds. THEN toast it. It comes out with a crispiness that you otherwise can't get.
4. Gluten is in freaking everything, so read your labels, and do your research. This one is mostly for the people who are extremely allergic to gluten: Read your labels, and become familiar with the "chemical names" for gluten. It's almost never listed as gluten. Even so, you can call the manufacturers and ask if the product has gluten in the preservatives, traces on the machines, etc. They're usually very welcome to questions. (Avoiding lawsuits, I would assume.)
5. There are plenty of apps and websites that list the names of gluten free companies, products, and restaurants. During my GF time, I didn't have a smartphone, so I never bothered with the apps. Now, though, there are a lot of apps listing gluten free stuff. Find Me Gluten Free is a good one that my mother uses often for restaurants. If you don't have an app-enabled device, there are lots of websites as well. Celiac.com is great, listing recipes as well as store bought products. Make yourself familiar with all the resources before starting the diet. You'll be glad you did later, because...
6. The first month is the hardest, so prepare yourself before starting. Get yourself familiar with stores, apps, websites, and lists of "safe" companies beforehand. If you live alone, toss out anything you know the diet doesn't allow. If you share the food space with someone else, set your gluten free stuff aside so you won't be staring at "normal food" every time you want to eat some of your food. You expect the first month to be extremely difficult. You'll feel miserable, hungry, and jealous.
7. Don't try quitting cold turkey. When I went gluten free, I started immediately, and it only made the next month that much harder. I missed having things like fried chicken, cookies, and bread. I wish I had gone slowly, taking my time to get used to the diet instead of plunging in. If you can, try to take the month before to work on lessening your intake of the gluten, before quitting.
8. Gluten free desserts don't always have to taste like wet mud. I'll be perfectly honest- Almost every gluten free dessert I tried at first was awful. But after a while, I came to find some really delicious ones that don't taste even gluten free. First, there's the ever-so-popular Flourless Chocolate Cake. Then I found other favorites. For instance, Betty Crocker makes two cake mixes, one cookie mix, and one brownie mix, that are all great, and Glutino makes yummy glazed donuts. My point is, there are a lot more options than you'd think, as long as you know where to look.
9. When eating out with friends, go somewhere that has a gluten free menu available. Don't just assume that you can get a salad or plain potato. PF Chang has a gluten free menu on the back, and certain branches like Longhorn Steakhouse can give you a printout of the foods that they can tweak to make them safe for you to eat. Find out before choosing a restaurant.
10. Chances are, you won't get enough nutrients when you go gluten free. Be careful, because your body is used to getting certain nutrients and vitamins from your old foods. Going gluten free usually means that you won't have a reliable source of those anymore, so find them elsewhere. Take vitamins and supplements, stock up on plenty of fruits, etc. If you don't do this, you'll be constantly weak and on the verge of nausea from malnutrition. Seriously. If you do just one thing, do this. Don't make my mistakes.
11. You'll most likely lose weight and muscle mass, so keep up with regular exercise and sleep. I didn't get much of either of these when I was on the diet, and when I finally quit, I had dropped almost 18 pounds, and had absolutely no muscle. I looked like a pale, sickly twig.
12. Every person who has gone gluten free for a long time will tell you how easy it was for them. Don't believe it. Sure, it gets easier after a while, but for the first 6 months, it's a constant battle not to run to the store and buy every gluten product you can find. But if you force yourself to believe it will be easy in the beginning, you're going to be hugely disappointed. You might even get hungry enough to eat the cute dog that lives next door. RESIST.
13. The kids meals taste better than the "real" gluten free stuff. Just saying. This is largely due to the fact that they contain a bit more fat and salt, but if it helps you find something tasty, go for it anyway.
14. If you want pizza, make your own with a frozen crust or order from Naked Pizza/Dominos. Avoid the frozen pizzas. I found that every frozen pizza I tried tasted like cardboard. I don't know about now, but that's how it used to be. If making your own is too daunting, both Naked Pizza and Dominos sell gluten free pizzas, which are pretty good.
15. Don't beat yourself up if you accidentally eat something with gluten. You already ate it, there's nothing you can do. Just pay attention next time.
I hope some of y'all found this helpful! If anyone expresses some interest, I'd be happy to do a post about my tips for going dairy-free as well.