Tips on How to Eat Gluten-Free

glutenf-154-tMany people are avoiding gluten these days for various reasons: Celiac disease, gluten intolerance or sensitivity, inflammation issues, weight-loss, thyroid concerns, or a realization that going gluten-free seems to improve their everyday health. And of course there’s the curious contingent of folks who like to taste what all the fuss is about. For them, accidentally ingesting gluten is no big deal, but for the people who need to avoid it, going gluten-free can be tricky at first.  Especially at this time of year with all of the sweets and treats all around at the office and at holiday gatherings.  The good news is that a gluten-free lifestyle isn’t nearly as difficult as people think. And it’s unexpectedly tasty, too!  In fact, its all about eating real food and ditching all that devitalized, sugar-laden packaged stuff anyway. However, its a process and it doesn’t happen overnight, so here are some things to think about as you are moving toward more real food and weeding through all those pre-packaged foods:

  • Relying on pre-made ingredients, convenience foods, and restaurant meals is difficult for gluten-free folks, but if you cook your own food and avoid using processed ingredients, it’s easy to avoid gluten. The ONLY foods that contain gluten are wheat, barley, rye, and their derivatives. That said, those derivatives include grain-based products containing semolina, durum, bulgur, couscous, spelt, kamut (all variants of wheat) and oats that have been cross-contaminated with wheat. A full list of safe/not-safe ingredients can be found on the Celiac Support Association’s “Grains & Flours Glossary”: http://www.csaceliacs.org/grains_and_flours_glossary.jsp.
  • Obvious potential sources of gluten include baked goods, cereals, multi-grain products, anything thickened with a cream sauce (which is typically made with roux, a sauce based on wheat and butter), beer, soy sauce (look for wheat-free tamari instead), and malted ingredients (typically malted with barley).
  • Not-so-obvious sources of gluten include salad dressings, soups, broths, processed meats, vegetables with prepared sauces (Asian sauces in particular tend to include wheat-based soy sauce), and ice cream flavors with ingredients like cookie dough, graham crackers, and brownie chunks. It’s always wise to check for a label stating that a product is gluten-free.  Better yet, make your own sauces and homemade salad dressings.  A little drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, some apple cider vinegar or balsamic and some great seasonings like Celtic sea salt, pepper and garlic can make for a delicious and quick salad dressing.
  • Remember that while all packaging is required to clearly list wheat since it’s a major allergen, “wheat-free” is not necessarily gluten-free; the item could still contain barley or rye. But wheat-free is a good starting point, and for those who are allergic to wheat but don’t have problems with gluten, deciphering food packaging is much easier than it used to be.  Always read labels no matter what it says its free of on the front of the package.
  • Nowadays, it’s easy to find gluten-free pastas, baked goods, and breakfast foods. The problem? Most of these products are made with stripped-out starches such as white rice flour, corn starch, potato starch, tapioca starch, and arrowroot starch. Starchy foods send blood sugar levels skyrocketing and can lead to problems of their own, so look for products containing whole-grain and whole-food flours. Better yet, make your own! Most baked goods do just fine in a whole-grain/whole-food, gluten-free form: pancakes, brownies, crepes, muffins, quick breads, waffles, granola, you name it.
  • Try nuts and seeds ground up to make flours and to use in baked goods such as cookies, cakes or pies.  You don’t have to avoid all sweets/treats this holiday season, but be sure to make something you can have and take it with you so you have an alternative!  Get more ideas and recipes in my book The Guide to a Gluten-Free Diet.
  • Of course, eating real food and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables it a great way to stay gluten-free and be healthy.  Making soups, tossing salads, cutting up raw with some hummus or guacamole, steaming your vegetables with a little butter/coconut oil and sea salt, adding them to stir-frys, making smoothies, and the list goes on and on!

Going gluten-free is much simpler than you think, yet it does take some planning and preparation!

For more tips, tricks, recipes and more check-out my book The Guide to a Gluten-Free Diet, co-authored with David Brownstein, M.D. and be sure to download my FREE Shopping or Restaurant guides HERE

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this article. Just when I think I’ve completely removed gluten from my diet, I learn something new.

    Most recently, I learned that balsamic vinegars aren’t always gluten free. I did a search and thought this article provided a good overview… http://www.glutenfreeclub.com/balsamic-vinegar-gluten-free/

    Mustard is potentially problematic too. I recently found and switched to a mustard that is labeled gluten free.

    As a result of these experiences, I’ve begun to do internet searches with phrases such as “is mustard gluten free”. This is a good way to check any condiment that you assumed is safe but now are not sure.

    I’ve also learned that any food that is fried is a potential problem even if the food is labeled gluten free in a deli case. Recently, I tried a gluten free fried food. After inquiring, I learned that the deli fried all gluten free foods at the beginning of the week with a fresh batch of oil, which might be fine for some, but I’m not willing to take the risk. I assumed that they were pan frying their gluten free foods. They weren’t.

    I have no symptoms when I ingest gluten, but I have autoimmune diseases so have to be very careful.

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