Dietary restrictions are always difficult to deal with, especially if they cut out a huge chunk of what people eat in general. This struggle is felt by people who are on a gluten-free diet, every single day.
Whether you’re gluten intolerant or sensitive to gluten, it’s important to have a few tips up your sleeve to ensure that you’re eating right and staying healthy. Here are a few that will help you do just that.
1. Read Labels Carefully
Most products in the supermarket today claim to be “gluten-free.” And, since 2014, the FDA has been monitoring all packaged foods, dietary supplements, fruits and vegetables, shell eggs, and fish to ensure that any claims of being “gluten-free” are true.
However, it’s important to take labels with a pinch of salt. This is because foods with up to 20 parts per million of gluten are permitted to use a gluten-free label. And, while this might seem minuscule in itself, if you tend to overindulge sometimes, it might cause trouble.
Additionally, there isn’t an FDA approved logo for gluten-free products, which means that there are (slim, but possible) chances of you taking home a product that isn’t gluten-free. Besides this, alcoholic beverages, meat, and certain egg products aren’t screened for their gluten content.
Hence, it’s important to check the ingredients list for any presence of gluten. If you’re trying a new product, start off slow and don’t eat too much of it. When it comes to beverages, steer clear of beer and check for malt flavoring.1
2. Eat Right
Having to give up gluten gives you an excuse to eat healthier. But, if you don’t pay attention to your nutrition, it’s important to remember that gluten-free food can get extremely unhealthy. Especially if you’re loading up on processed food which can be high in calories and sugar.
In addition to this, gluten-free diets might not provide the required amount of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that the body needs including vitamin B complex, fiber, iron, and calcium. Hence, it’s important to load up on fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. Talk to a professional before opting for any supplements.2 3
Additionally, if you have celiac disease, it’s important that you keep up with your calcium intake since you might be at risk of osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about what your ideal intake should be like and don’t just rely on the average numbers given online.4
3. Soak Your Grains
Most grains contain phytic acid, which reduces the bioavailability (absorbability) of nutrients in the body, hence paving the path for nutritional deficiencies. If your diet consists of a lot of rice, millet, amaranth, quinoa, and other gluten-free grains, then you should definitely soak them overnight before consuming them. This process breaks down phytase.
Additionally, roasting the grains might also reduce phytic acid content, but it might not be as effective as soaking them. Nutrients most affected by this acid include calcium, zinc, and iron.5
4. Eat Local And Seasonal
A good way to increase the nutritional quotient of your diet is to load up on local and seasonal produce. Not only are they gluten-free, but they’re also considered to be healthier options when compared to shipped and off-season produce.
This might be because food that’s shipped tends to lose its nutritional value due to exposure to air, artificial lights, and temperature changes. On the other hand, the local and seasonal produce is fresh, flavorful, and at its peak state, which makes it full of nutrients.6
If you tend to spend a lot of money on exotic ingredients and other gluten-free products, opting for local and seasonal food will also cut down the cost of grocery shopping for you, making it a win-win situation.7
5. Stock Up On Alternatives
Eating the same set of things can get boring and if you’d like to try something new, you should definitely stock up on some alternatives. This includes gluten-free pasta, bread, and desserts.
If you’d like to experiment further, try making a cauliflower-based pizza, spaghetti made with vegetable slices, and almond flour based desserts. This will keep you from cheating on your diet and facing the wrath of gluten. If you’re bad at cooking, get yourself a fun cookbook and experiment.8
6. Stay Informed
It’s important to keep a few things in mind when it comes to being gluten-free, especially if you’re headed to a restaurant. This includes knowing what foods can accidentally include gluten.
Canned or packaged soups and noodles might contain wheat flour or barley. Some might even have refined flour as a thickening agent.9
Additionally, shredded cheese might contain gluten-based anticaking agents, while dry fruits might be dusted with wheat flour as thickeners.10 Salad dressings, ice-creams, and processed meat might also contain gluten. So, when in doubt, go for local produce instead and talk to the salesperson regarding any possible contamination before placing things in your cart.
At first, having to give up gluten can be very overwhelming. But, it’s possible to have a healthy diet sans gluten. Be sure to opt for healthy, fresh produce and get all the nutrients that your body needs.
|↑1||Gluten and Food Labeling. US Food And Drug Administration.|
|↑2||Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Celiac Disease. US Department Of Health And Human Services.|
|↑3||Hallert, Claes, M. Svensson, J. Tholstrup, and Björn Hultberg. “Clinical trial: B vitamins improve health in patients with coeliac disease living on a gluten‐free diet.” Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics 29, no. 8 (2009): 811-816.|
|↑4||What People With Celiac Disease Need to Know About Osteoporosis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.|
|↑5||Gupta, Raj Kishor, Shivraj Singh Gangoliya, and Nand Kumar Singh. “Reduction of phytic acid and enhancement of bioavailable micronutrients in food grains.” Journal of food science and technology 52, no. 2 (2015): 676-684.|
|↑6||Morningstar, Amadea. Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners: Familiar Western Food Prepared with Ayurvedic Principles. Lotus Press, 1995.|
|↑7||Eating local produce has great benefits. Indiana State Personnel Department.|
|↑8||Bronski, Kelli, and Peter Bronski. Gluten-free Family Favorites: The 75 Go-to Recipes You Need to Feed Kids and Adults All Day, Every Day. Workman Publishing, 2014.|
|↑9||Smit .B. A. A New Kind of Normal: Back to the Basics A Comprehensive Survival Guide for Eating Sugar — Gluten — Dairy and Yeast Free. Trafford Publishing, 2011.|
|↑10||The Gluten-Free, Hassle Free Cookbook: Delicious, Foolproof Recipes for Every Day and Every Occasion. Demos Medical Publishing, 2015.|