Part 1 of a series by Manhattan-based culinary nutritionist, Amie Valpone, on creating a healthy, tasty and safe gluten-free kitchen.

It’s not easy being newly diagnosed as celiac or learning you have gluten intolerance or sensitivity. One step into your kitchen and BAM- right in your face is gluten, gluten everywhere. What’s a gal to do when she’s in love with fresh bagels, hearty sandwiches, soy sauce and pasta? Well, there’s only ONE thing to do: revamp your pantry with fun, healthy alternatives that will keep your taste buds happy, your body free of gluten and your mind off cravings for your childhood favorites.

I learned about gluten-intolerance back when I was in college, living in a small, itty bitty dorm room filled with ramen noodles, saltine crackers and oatmeal.  I thought my life was over, but I slowly started to toss the foods that contained gluten and could possibly be contaminated. I restocked my room with fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, turkey and chicken, popcorn, peanut butter and a bucket of mixed nuts n’ seeds.  It wasn’t so bad, and I learned to adapt pretty easily. But that was many, many years ago- long before there was even gluten-free bread on the market. Yes, I am that old.  Anyway, the moral of the story is that if I could turn my tiny dorm room into a gluten-free living space, you can do the same to your kitchen!  It’s easier than you think, and just takes a few tricks and swaps before you’re on your way to gluten-free cooking and eating in the safety of your own home.

For many of my clients, the scariest part about gluten is that it can be hidden in so many foods that don’t necessarily say gluten on the label, such as soy sauce.  Who would have ever thought soy sauce had gluten in it? Well, it does.  As do Twizzlers  licorice, Play Dough, malt vinegar, beer, Communion wafers, couscous and farina.  You can even find gluten hiding in certain hot dogs, sausage, deli meats, salad dressings, instant coffee, vitamins, curry powder, mustard, chocolate, canned baked beans, boxed soups and blue cheese.  So, it’s important to check the labels on these foods to make sure they are certified gluten-free and the company has confirmed there is no gluten in the product or the facility where the product is made.

The best way to be certain a food is gluten-free is to email or call the company to ask them.  The contact information is usually on the packaging or the website and you can easily ask them about their production facilities, as well as their packaging and product ingredients to ensure you don’t get sick from cross contamination.

Now that you’ve got an idea about how sneaky gluten can be we will explore what to toss from your pantry and how to restock it next!

Written by Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP, Editor-in-Chief of The Healthy Apple and a Manhattan based Culinary Nutritionist, Personal Chef, Professional Recipe Developer and Food Writer specializing in simple Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free ‘Clean’ recipes for the home cook. Amie is also the Publisher and Marketing Director of our Easy Eats Magazine. Visit Amie on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.