20. Stock your pantry well.
When you have little or no time to make dinner, it’s great to have a few ready-made meals in the pantry or freezer. It used to be impossible to find any that were gluten free. Now, a growing number of companies make gluten-free frozen meals from pizza to pasta to breaded chicken and fish. The gluten-free diet won’t seem like such a burden if you have a few meals you can count on for days when you or the kids have an evening activity or you just don’t feel like cooking. Everyone needs a break from the stove every once in a while.
Also be aware that during the spring Passover season, Jewish law forbids eating any food that contains “chametz,” which refers to wheat, rye, barley, oats or spelt, the exact grains forbidden on the gluten-free diet. So it’s a good time to stock up on foods labeled “Kosher for Passover.” They are certified to be gluten free with one very important exception – matzo. This is a special form of unleavened bread made with wheat flour and water. It is eaten as is in the large square crackers that substitute for bread during Passover. It is also ground into matzo meal or processed further into flour.
To assess Passover foods, first make sure the label clearly identifies the product as “Kosher for Passover” (must include all three words). Then read the ingredient list. If you don’t see matzo or any form of matzo (matzo meal, matzo flour, matzo anything or cake flour), the item is guaranteed to be gluten free.
21. Don’t stay home.
You can travel and eat out while following a gluten-free diet, but you do have to be cautious. When you travel, plan ahead. Try to bring as many food items as you can without making your trip uncomfortable. If you are traveling in this country, use the Internet to find a local support group at your destination. The group may have a website listing sources of gluten-free food or a phone number you can call.
If you are traveling abroad, make sure to bring a translation that explains your dietary needs. Go to triumphdining.com or glutenfreepassport.com for translations and other travel aids.
Eating out takes on a new twist when you lead a gluten-free lifestyle. Think in terms of small, ethnic (many ethnic cuisines are corn-or rice-based), or standard American, which can be good choices. If you develop a relationship with a restaurant (tipping well doesn’t hurt), your confidence level will rise. When dining out, clearly explain your dietary needs. You can talk to the server, the manager, or, preferably, to the chef. When you are sure that you have been understood, relax and enjoy yourself. An increasing number of restaurants, both local and chains, now have gluten-free menus. While these are a great place to start, still make sure the chef understands your needs. A gluten-free menu is only as good as the staff that prepares and serves your food.