Going gluten free has become a popular choice for people who are trying to improve their health. In my last blog post, I looked at why one might choose to go gluten free and how to know if it right for you. If you have decided to trial a gluten free diet, read my tips for success.
Why cutting out gluten can be challenging
Grain-based baked goods make up a considerable part of the average Western diet, so cutting out all bread, pastries, cakes etc. can be a big step for many people. Flour and other grain-based additives are also found in many other types of foods, often in hidden or unexpected ways. In order to go completely wheat free, you will need to be vigilant about reading labels on everything you eat and you may need to make significant changes to the foods you eat every day. Be aware that products labelled ‘wheat free’ may not necessarily be gluten free, they may still contain other gluten grains like spelt, rye or barley.
What to avoid
Gluten can be found in these grains:
Wheat in all forms, including whole wheat, wheat flour, wheat germ and wheat bran
Wheat-like grains: rye, barley
“Ancient wheats”: einkorn, spelt, triticale, kamut, emmet
Others: bulgur, couscous, semolina, durum flour, farina.
The following will usually contain gluten (unless labelled gluten-free)
Bread, pasta, noodles
Breakfast cereals and bars (may contain wheat or other gluten grains or non-gluten-free oats).
Cakes, pies, pastries, cookies, crackers, biscuits
The following are very likely to contain gluten (unless labelled gluten-free)
Gravies, dressings and sauces (including soy, teriyakji and hoisin sauces which are fermented with wheat)
Beer, malt beverages (including malt vinegar), grain alcohols
Chips/ french fries: unless home-prepared these are often coated in flour for extra crunchiness and there may be cross-contamination from fryers also used for breaded foods.
Processed / packaged foods often contain gluten
Soups, and stews thickened with wheat flour
Meat substitutes (e.g., seitan) are often made from wheat protein
So what can I eat?
There are lots of healthy and nutritious foods which are naturally gluten free:
Meats: beef, chicken, pork, lamb etc.
Fish and seafood: salmon, haddock, tuna, prawns etc.
Nuts: almonds, macadamias, brazils etc
Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, chia etc
Healthy fats: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil etc
Herbs and spices: pepper, garlic, parsley etc
Gluten free grains: quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, millet, brown rice.
Healthy gluten free snacks
If you absolutely have to have a snack, then here are a few ideas for gluten-free snacks:
A piece of fruit
A handful of nuts or seeds
Some plain yogurt, with berries
Gluten free oatcakes
Hard boiled eggs
Leftovers from the night before!
Are gluten free packaged foods a good option?
Nowadays, there are many gluten free alternatives for packaged and processed foods like bread, cakes, cookies and snacks. In most cases, these products are highly processed and contain high levels of sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and a wide range of additives. Like other highly processed food, such gluten free products are low in nutrients and some of the additives may even be harmful your health. Aim to choose foods which are naturally gluten free, rather than gluten free junk foods.
Eating out when gluten free
Most (probably all) restaurants now have gluten-free options and will likely label these on the menu. You could check the website or call ahead to ensure that the restaurant you are about to go to has gluten-free options. Other tips for eating out:
Skip the bread!
Choose a protein source (meat or fish) with veggies, and a potato or rice on the side
Ask whether any sauces are gluten-free and request a gluten free version or sauce-free version if necessary
Tell the waiting staff that you are on a strict gluten free diet, most are more than happy to help you choose from the menu.