BE AWARE THAT YOU WILL GO THROUGH THE GRIEF PROCESS.
This is a perfectly natural process. It's the way we all deal with bad news. You may go through several stages including shock, disbelief, anger, and depression before you finally develop a sense of hope. Sometimes you will feel better for a while, only to slip unexpectedly back into anger or depression. If you need to get professional grief counseling, DO IT! If you don't want to follow that route, do the next best thing - make friends with someone who is successfully living life gluten free. They will understand what you are going through and help you see that life exists after Twinkies!
MAKE A LIST OF ALL THE THINGS YOU CAN EAT.
This is an important step to take. Because a diagnosis of Celiac or gluten-intolerance comes with a negatively phrased prescription ("You may NOT eat wheat, barley, rye, or contaminated oats"), it is easy to fall into the habit of listing all the things you can't eat. When you start listing all the things you can eat, your whole perspective changes. (We've included a short list in "Ideas For Regular Gluten Free Meals" to help you get started.)
Your list of Allowed Foods is almost certain to include some of the things you eat regularly. When Betsy was growing up, her family ate tacos, Spanish rice, baked potatoes, chicken fried rice (with a soy sauce that just happens to be gluten free), bun-less hamburgers with fried potatoes, and chili with rice at least once or twice a month. Her mom didn't realize that she liked these meals because they were gluten free. She just subconsciously gravitated toward the foods that didn't make her sick.
DECIDE TO COOK.
We live in a time when fast food and eating out are almost considered a necessity. Being diagnosed as gluten-intolerant changes that, but that's okay! Look at this as an opportunity to start feeding yourself (and your family) the healthier, fruit and vegetable-filled diet you've always dreamed of! You can also look at it as a chance to learn a new skill. Cooking is an art form that has fallen out of fashion in many circles. But when your 3 year old looks at you and says, "This is delicious! You're a great cook!", you'll feel a sense of accomplishment that going through a drive-thru could never match.
FIND A FRIEND TO BAKE WITH.
When you are trying new recipes, it always helps to have a friend around, and be sure to leave plenty of time for trial and error. There's nothing worse than making your own gluten free birthday cake, only to have it explode or collapse on you 30 minutes before party time. When you're cooking with a buddy and your cake comes out of the oven with a huge crater in the middle of it, at least you've got someone to laugh with. You've also got someone to discuss possible solutions with. (We decided to fill the middles with lots of frosting!)
BUY SOME BASIC GLUTEN FREE BAKING SUPPLIES.
Because non-wheat flours have differing amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fibers, etc. a mixture of different gluten free flours and starches works best to replace wheat flour in recipes. You could use plain white rice flour, but we don't think you'd usually be happy with the result! The basic ingredients you'll need for our baking recipes are:
White Rice Flour
Tapioca Starch / Flour
You should also probably buy some plastic containers with lids to keep your GF flours in. Don't forget to clearly label them, as many of the gluten free flours look alike! "Supplies: Gluten Free Flours And Baking Supplies" has more information about these flours.
CHOOSE A GLUTEN FREE RECIPE AND MAKE IT!
If you've never cooked anything but microwave popcorn, we suggest you start with something very easy (like Migas or Taco Soup). If you're a more experienced cook, choose something you've been missing (like our Soft Batch Cookies or Chocolate Cake). Or you could choose to make our White Sandwich Bread recipe, which can fill many different food needs (bread, toast, pizza crust, stuffing, sandwiches, hamburger buns, French toast, etc.). Successfully completing a delicious gluten free recipe raises your spirits considerably. You realize that you can do this!
IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED, TRY, TRY AGAIN!
This suggestion is unoriginal, but true. Sometimes things don't work out right. Other times you just don't like the flavor of the final product. But don't give up! Make some notes about what you liked and what you didn't like. Then try the recipe again later. As you get more experienced at cooking gluten free foods, you'll begin to realize what works and what doesn't. Soon you'll be creating wonderful gluten free recipes of your own!
SHARE WITH SOMEONE ELSE.
Once you've learned your way around gluten free foods, help someone else. If you see someone wandering forlornly around the gluten-free section of your health food store, start a conversation! Pass on some of the things you have learned that have made your life easier. As you share these insights, you'll realize how far you have come!
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