If you’ve ever wondered how some of us manage life without pizza, bagels, and beer, read on.

When I first began eating gluten-free in 2008, my impression of my new dietary options was mostly characterized by the words bland, crumbly, and cardboard. Nothing seemed to taste or feel the same, and I couldn’t help but long for pizza, bagels, pretzels, Cheese-Itz, and donuts. To be quite frank, it was boring and terrible. I also felt restricted to very few options. The following are three things I wish I knew earlier in my gluten-free journey:

  1. Keep variances in mind. Because gluten-free foods substitute key ingredients for less traditional ones, texture and bind-ability will differ, as will taste. That said, some brands and ingredient combinations work better for some dishes than others. For example, you may want to avoid toasting cheese-based breads because they become more soft and pliable than crispy when heated.
  2. European flour. In 2011, a visit to Germany resulted in my discovering that I can eat wheat flour from many European countries without (or with few of) the side-effects of American wheat flour. While I am no physician, I can speak from my own experience that this may be a viable solution for people with light to moderate gluten sensitivity. Some say the reason foreign flour does not illicit the same reactions is due to the high amount of genetic modification that occurs in the U.S. food industry in order to produce gluten-laden products.
  3. Consider taking a gluten-zyme. Let’s be real. Sometimes you just have to let loose and have a donut binge, or taste that killer pizza. If you’re going to “cheat” the gluten-free lifestyle, or even if you’re going to eat foreign flour, I highly recommend supplementing your intake with digestive enzymes. These can be found at your local health food store, or through online vendors. But remember that the pills will lessen, not eliminate, the effects of gluten intake.

What are your secrets to living with food allergies?