Whether you suffer from celiac disease or simply wish to eliminate gluten from your diet because of a suspected intolerance, there are more options than ever before to live your life happily without gluten. With a few tweaks and adjustments to your daily habits, you can easily go gluten-free and not feel outcast by friends and coworkers -- all while learning to enjoy some of your favorite meals and comfort foods in a healthier manner.
These 10 tips will ensure success and ease with your new gluten-free lifestyle.
1. Fill up on Veggies
Fresh vegetables are naturally gluten-free and should be the bulk of your meals. If you've been using breads, tortillas, and pastas to provide satiety at meal time, transitioning to a gluten-free way of eating may be tough at first. Fill your plate with nutrient-rich vegetables and a variety of them.
2. Don't Go Crazy With Gluten-Free Alternatives
While transitioning from a gluten-heavy diet to one that is gluten-free, a common mistake is to eat a ton of processed and packaged foods that are gluten-free. While one could argue that these foods are healthier than ones containing gluten, they are still processed and could amount to an increase in sugar consumption and calories. A gluten-free brownie doesn't give one freedom to binge on a dozen of them, and gluten-free cereals can be hard to moderate possibly wrecking blood sugar levels.
3. Be a Vigilant Label Reader
If you're trying your best to avoid gluten and foods containing this type of protein, it is imperative that you learn how to spot the most common forms that it may be disguised as when reading food labels. Grains such as wheat, rye, and barley will all contain gluten, while ingredients such as modified food starch and malt should also be avoided that may be commonly added to packaged foods. Buyer beware! Do your research and realize that gluten is frequently added to condiments, dressings, and many commodity items.
4. Experiment With Other Whole Grains
While traditional pasta and wheat flour may be off the table, consider all the non-gluten containing grains that you can still cook and enjoy. Quinoa, millet, buckwheat, rice, and teff are all gluten-free options. Once you begin to venture into eating these other types of nutritious whole grains, you'll soon realize that your prior diet may have been monotonous -- consisting mostly of the all-too-familiar wheat and its derivatives. Think of this whole, new world of other wholesome alternatives from which you can now choose.
5. Stock your Pantry with Alternative Flours
If you're a baker and want to make gluten free versions of your favorite baked goods -- no problem! There's a range of gluten-free flours available. From coconut to a variety of nut-based flours or garbanzo bean flour, there is really something to suit all needs and taste preferences, as well as gluten-free flour mixes that can be used in place of all-purpose wheat flour.
6. Use a Spiralizer
The spiralizer tool is a fantastic and fun way to create pasta alternatives and increase your vegetable intake while doing so. Zucchini, cut into long spiral shapes resembling noodles then tossed with garlic, your favorite pasta sauce, and fresh herbs will allow you to feel like you're still enjoying pasta without the detrimental effects of gluten. Try spiralizing beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes too.
7. Greens Galore
Eating your meals over a bed of greens is a healthy way to increase your vitamin, mineral, and fiber content and a smart strategy to cut back on the (gluten-free) bread. Enjoy a tasty burger without the bun, instead served over a spring medley of greens or arugula. Replace gluten favorites like flour tortillas and pita bread with lettuce wraps so you can enjoy tacos and wraps without the guilt of the carbs and gluten that usually comes along with them. Try a variety of lettuce types until you find the one that suits your needs. Butter lettuce and iceberg work well, while cabbage can add a different type of flavor, texture, and nutrient content as well.
8. Eat More Healthy Proteins and Fats
If the majority of your meals prior to going gluten free were sandwiches, pizza, and breads, consider eating more protein and fat now to ensure satiety -- and to provide healthy sustained energy levels. Ading more protein to a meal can be as easy as eating a hard-boiled egg if you still feel hungry. Or try adding healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut, or olives to a dish.
9. Know Your Booze
Gluten is present in grains such as wheat and barley, therefore alcohol choices like beer and whiskey are off limits. Abstaining from these types of drinks and electing gluten-free ones instead will allow you to adhere to your new lifestyle, while at the same time kicking back with friends over happy hour. Wine is safe, as well as spirits made from agave and sugar cane such as tequila and rum, respectively. For true celiacs or those very sensitive to gluten, use caution as certain brands may still have trace amounts of gluten remaining.
10. Make Dining Out Work for You
Restaurant meals on a gluten-free diet can be challenging but embrace the challenge. Be aware of hidden gluten in sauces and salad dressings and be prepared to ask your server some questions. Know that flour is commonly used in batters and fried foods, so opting for baked, grilled, or steamed meat or fish is ideal. Pass on the bread basket and ask for olives or veggies to fill up on.