Don’t let your food allergy be a burden. Learn six easy ways to handle it like a pro.

It can be completely overwhelming when you first find out about a food intolerance or allergy. You may sit in one aisle of the grocery store for 30 minutes not knowing what to buy and feeling like you’ll starve for the rest of your life.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease five years ago, meaning I have an allergy to foods containing gluten. Fortunately, I’m surrounded with people who have food intolerances, including my family and friends, so I have people to lean on and complain with. While having a support group helps, it can still be very overwhelming when preparing food for myself.

That’s why I’ve created a list of things I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully these tips will help make your food intolerance easier on you. (I promise it gets better!)

1. Use Google.
Google will be your best friend. Research as much as you can about foods containing your specific intolerance so you know exactly what to stay away from. Your intolerance could be in foods you’d never guess, so never just assume. I’m still googling foods in the aisles at the grocery store to see if they’re gluten free.

2. Use an app.
There are so many great apps that will tell you if a food item contains your intolerance. These apps will also show you restaurants that cater to your intolerance or allergy. I use Find Me Gluten Free and it’s a lifesaver.

3. Stick to your diet.
The best advice I could give is to stick to your diet and never cheat. Cheating makes it too easy to cheat the next time. It will also help you get the hang of it faster and make it easier over time.

4. Stay on the safe side.
A particular food may not say it’s dairy free, soy free, or gluten free, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t contain dairy, soy, gluten, etc. I never assume a food item is gluten free. If it doesn’t specify on the label, I won’t buy it. Better safe than sorry!

5. Find a local group.
You’d be surprised what types of food intolerance groups are formed in your community. Joining a group can help you get new recipes, discover new foods, and help you feel less overwhelmed.

6. Be careful when eating out.
If you have a food intolerance or allergy, beware of cross contamination. Some foods may be free of your intolerance, but could be fried or boiled in the same water of foods that do contain your intolerance. Watch out for this and make sure you ask lots of questions.

You’ve got this! I promise you’ll get the hang of it. Leave a comment below if you have any helpful tips or questions on getting started with a food intolerance or allergy.

Kendra Baylis