Do I Need A Dedicated Gluten Free Household?
If you have stumbled across this post I imagine you or someone you love is a newly diagnosed Celiac. First off I want to say, it will all be ok. A celiac diagnosis is difficult at times, but manageable. I believe in you, and feel free to reach out if you need anything.
So you are probably thinking where do I go from here? Do I need to buy a whole new kitchen, maybe burn down the house and start fresh? Unfortunately I do not have a straight answer for you, but I am here to tell you my experience. Some families, and individuals chose to live in a dedicated gluten free household. That is amazing and I respect that so much. I imagine this would be the easiest way to deal with kids with celiac. Then the kids can freely eat what they want and not accidentally ingest gluten. My family decided that was not the right choice for us. I have only lived in a dedicated gluten free household for a short period of my life.
How My Family Dealt With Celiac Diagnosis
When my dad was first diagnosed I was still relatively young. I obviously was not a participant in the conversations about how our family would move forward to keep us all as safe and as healthy as possible. My parents decision was to not have a dedicated gluten free household. Cost is definitely something that needs consideration when determining if switching to a gluten free household is feasible. I imagine this consideration took precedence when this decision was made. At the time three of the five of us still were eating gluten, me included (learn more about my when I went gluten free here). Despite the fact that we did not throw out everything in our kitchen and start fresh, there were big changes.
My dad and sister went gluten free immediately after diagnosis. To deal with that our parents bought new pots and pans as well as a toaster for gluten free food only. They bought all of these new utensils and cookware in red. I do not know why red, it was just the color our family chose. Only gluten free foods went into the red cookware. As far as I can remember this worked out well for us. I was not really old enough to cook by myself at the time, so I cannot say much more on that subject. We also had multiples of many different food items and condiments. We often labeled food items, or bought different brands of items for gluten free and not. I fondly remember the land of lakes butter always being the dedicated gluten free butter in our household.
This is how our household dealt with the gluten free lifestyle until my mom moved out. I was already gluten free by this time and my brother had already moved out of the house. This meant all three of the residents in our house were gluten free. This was the only time I have ever lived in a 100% gluten free household. And for me it was only for a little over a year. After that year I moved away to college.
Dorm Life Gluten Free
One thing I say pretty often is that I am glad I went gluten free when I did. I imagine it would have been a much more difficult transition for me if I transitioned to the gluten free lifestyle while I was in college.
Eating gluten free in college was not too difficult for me (you can learn more here). Not only do I have THE Ohio State University to thank for that, but also my roommates. During my freshman year I lived in a room with three other girls within a suite of 11 other girls in Morrill Tower. Right after we received our room assignments our one roommate started a group message. I do not remember when exactly I mentioned Celiac, but that was a conversation we had. And they were so great about it.
From home I brought my own toaster and kept it with my belongings. We all had our own desk space where we kept our own non-perishables. And everything in the fridge was labeled. I was very lucky to be placed with the roommates I had, and this was just one of the many reasons for that. They looked out for me and for my health.
One fun memory I have from dorm life and living with roommates happened within the first weeks of school. I honestly did not drink much my first couple of years at school. I worked most weekends and that hindered my ability to go out. But this night my roommates and I decided to have a roomie date and really get to know each other. One of them had alcohol and I reminded them of me being gluten free. So she decides to call her mom and ask if this specific alcohol was gluten free. I was like this would never be something I would do with my mom… It was definitely a bit of a culture shock for me, but something I will remember forever.
Another time my other roommate found a dating website called Gluten Free Singles. She sent it in our group message and I thought it was the funniest thing. Although it was funny I never did make a profile on the Gluten Free Singles website. I have never imagined dating someone else that was gluten free, although that would mean I could have a dedicated gluten free kitchen…Oh and that our grocery bills would be astronomical…pros and cons my friends…
Although I do not talk to most of my suite mates any more, they did have my back that year. They watched out for me, and texted me when they found gluten free foods somewhere. Without their support and willingness to learn about my disease life could have been much more difficult that year.
Apartment Life Gluten Free
My class was the last class that was allowed to move off campus their second year at Ohio State. After our class they enacted the two year campus living rule. I had the choice to stay in campus housing, or live in an apartment. After much contemplation I decided living in apartment was what I wanted to do. If I was not gluten free I may have stayed on campus and applied to be an RA. But my friends wanted to me to continue living with them, and they wanted to live off campus.
The remaining three years of college I lived in apartments. I moved every year, I definitely do not suggest this, unless absolutely necessary. But in each of these apartments I lived with girls either from my room or suite from freshman year. So they already knew all about my dietary needs. This made it super easy for me to live. On top of that in the apartments we had full sized refrigerators. I used the same techniques that I had used when living in the dorm. I just labeled all my food, wiped down surfaces before preparing food and made it work. Living in apartments gave me the freedom to learn more about cooking. It also gave me the opportunity to not eat the same meals all the time.
While living in apartments I did not have a separate set of pots and pans. I did have my own toaster and stayed away from wooden spoons and cutting boards. In all of my apartments I was lucky enough to have a dishwasher, and I just checked to make sure there was no residue on any dishes before using them. I think this is common sense, like I would do this whether or not I was gluten free. Nobody wants to eat from dirty dishes. The most important thing is that to the best of my knowledge I was never glutened when eating in any of my apartments.
My Current Situation
Currently I am living with family members in Texas. None of which are gluten free. They are from my mom’s side of the family and my dad’s family is where the Celiac genes come from.
I still have the same toaster I bought when I was moving away to college. It has its own place. Right now it has a box on top of it, so that nobody accidentally uses it. For the most part they do not eat much toasted bread. The things I do here to keep me safe are pretty much the same as every other living situation. I am helping educate them, I get my servings of food first most of the time, and I label pretty much everything. On top of that the meals that are made are often times naturally gluten free, which makes everything a bit easier.
For a majority of my gluten free life I have not lived in a dedicated gluten free household. And honestly I do not ever imagine a time that I will. I went gluten free at seventeen and already had a decent amount of knowledge about Celiac and the gluten free lifestyle beforehand. This made not living in gluten free households pretty manageable for me. Obviously everyones situation is different, as well has their own comfort zone. If you decide to not have a dedicated household I would suggest labeling everything especially at the beginning.
Along with that just always do your best to educate. Educate your friends and family when they come over. Simple things other people never think about us Celiacs have to. For example I have had to open so many new bags of corn chips because family members put their gluten hands in the bag. Now we are working on dumping chips from the bag on our plate. It is a learning process for everyone, but if they love and care about you they will embark on the journey with you.
If you chose to clean out the whole pantry and start fresh with a new 100% gluten free kitchen that is awesome. Again education is key. You will need to decide what others can bring into your house and set those expectations. I am not a mother, and have no intentions of becoming one anytime soon, but I would imagine this would be beneficial for living with kids with celiac.
The bottom line is there is no right or wrong answer here. It really depends on you and what you want and how you want to proceed with life with this disease.
Please let me know if you have any questions, or comments. I would love to hear from you.