7 Tips to Cope With Starting a Gluten-Free Diet

It's a difficult diet to learn, but you can do it

baking with gluten-free ingredients

photographer and designer / Moment / Getty

Going gluten-free permanently is a huge life change that requires major emotional and physical adjustments. The gluten-free diet means eating no wheat, barley, or rye in any form, and in many cases, no oats, either. Because gluten is included (and sometimes hidden) in so many products, it can be very difficult to avoid.

If you've just been diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity and you feel overwhelmed, no one can blame you. But don’t despair. Lots of individuals, organizations, and resources are available to help you learn to do well and thrive while gluten-free. Use these seven steps to help you learn to follow the gluten-free diet.

1. Don’t Be Ashamed to Grieve

There is no way around this painful truth: the gluten-free diet requires that you give up foods and food rituals that you love. It will get easier after a while, and you’re going to feel much better than you did before. In fact, you’re going to feel strong and healthy. But there's no denying that at first, it’s going to be tough to cope with your emotions when you're newly gluten-free.

2. Learn as Much as You Can About Your Condition

Whether you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it will help you to get familiar with your condition and its associated health risks. For the most part, following the gluten-free diet carefully can help ward off many health risks, but you still should be aware of them. That way, if you notice new or different symptoms, you can talk to your doctor about any additional tests you may need.

3. Tell Your Family and Friends

It’s important to tell your family, friends, and even selected co-workers about your gluten-free diet. One reason to tell your family is that celiac disease runs in families. If you have the condition, your relatives might also have it but not realize it. There is genetic testing available. Also, by telling your friends and relatives about your celiac disease, you’ll be giving them a chance to rise to the occasion and help you stay safely gluten-free. As hard as it can be to follow a gluten-free diet, it is almost impossible to do it in secret.

4. Clean out Your Kitchen

The gluten-free diet is not like other diets. It’s not just a matter of buying the right foods—your whole kitchen needs to be made safe for gluten-free food preparation, and everyone in the household needs to cooperate to keep you from getting glutened. Depending on your living situation, you may need to set up your kitchen to share with gluten-eaters.

5. Make Your Gluten-Free Shopping List

Yes, there are lots of foods that are now off-limits because you're gluten-free. But there are tons of items you can have, and a list of gluten-free foods probably includes many of your old favorites. There has been an explosion of gluten-free food products, and many companies are now labeling foods gluten-free. Before you head to the grocery store, make a list and ​double-check it for gluten.

6. Go Shopping

As you head for the grocery store, be prepared for your first few trips as a gluten-free shopper to be long and difficult, even with all your prep work. You’ll need to read labels, and you’ll have some unpleasant surprises as you discover that gluten lurks in unexpected places. At first, it's best to stick with plain, fresh foods from the meat counter and produce department, along with a few products that are labeled "gluten-free." 

7. Go out to Eat Safely

When you're gluten-free, restaurant dining can be intimidating at first, but it gets easier. In the beginning, go with companions who are patient and supportive, and look through restaurant guides to identify eateries that offer gluten-free menus or gluten-free dishes. You'll want to memorize basic rules to follow for dining gluten-free in a restaurant. You need to learn the menu terms that mean the dish contains gluten. If you go to chain restaurants, prepare before you go by exploring their gluten-free menus.

A Word from Verywell

All this probably seems like an awful lot of work, and there's no getting around the fact that the gluten-free diet often is inconvenient and time-consuming. You won't be able to stop at any restaurant and get a burger (although many fast food and casual dining restaurants offer gluten-free options), and you can't always order a gluten-free pizza (although you can find gluten-free frozen pizza in most supermarkets). But the health benefits you experience from carefully following the gluten-free diet should be worth the effort.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. McAllister BP, Williams E, Clarke K. A comprehensive review of celiac disease/gluten-sensitive enteropathiesClinic Rev Allerg Immunol. 2019;57(2):226-243. doi:10.1007/s12016-018-8691-2

  2. Gujral N, Freeman HJ, Thomson ABR. Celiac disease: Prevalence, diagnosis, pathogenesis and treatmentWorld J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(42):6036-6059. doi:10.3748/wjg.v18.i42.6036

  3. Miller K, Mcgough N, Urwin H. Catering gluten-free when simultaneously using wheat flour. Journal of Food Protection. 2016;79(2):282-287. doi:10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-15-213

Additional Reading

By Nancy Lapid
Nancy Ehrlich Lapid is an expert on celiac disease and serves as the Editor-in-Charge at Reuters Health.