Going gluten-free can be a huge lifestyle change, especially since most of us have consumed gluten and wheat for most of our lives. Regardless of whether you’re doing it for health or diet reasons, there can be a huge learning curve for gluten-free beginners because gluten isn’t just restricted to wheat and flour; it can often hide in a number of everyday products. If you’re just starting a gluten free diet or want to see if it’s right for you, here’s a quick guide on how to navigate your new gluten-free food life:
1. Create a Food Diary
If you’re not sure exactly what it is that’s making you uncomfortable, food-wise, creating a food diary to track what you’re eating is extremely helpful. Sometimes the process isn’t cut and dry and you may not be able to narrow down exactly what food allergy you have right away. Try eliminating the main culprits from your diet– in this case, gluten and wheat. After a few weeks, introduce them again and see how you feel. If those foods trouble you, then you have a better idea as to what you need to avoid.
2. Check the Label
Gluten can hide in a lot of grocery store products – even ones you wouldn’t expect! Did you know that soy sauce has gluten in it? Some brands carry gluten free soy sauce or you could use coconut amino’s as a replacement.
Always check the labels for sauces and dressings since gluten is likely to hide in there too. There are a lot of junk food products that you wouldn’t expect to have gluten or wheat either, like red liquorice and certain chip flavours. Many companies list their gluten-free products on their website, so be sure to also check there before you shop.
3. Try New Alternatives
Many grocery stores have dedicated gluten-free sections so you can enjoy safe versions of the foods you love, like rice pasta, gluten-free bread, and desserts. However, some of these products contain other ingredients that can make people feel sick, like dairy, corn, and soy.
With alternative diets like the paleo diet, there are now a lot of new and creative alternatives to the carbs you’re sure to miss on a gluten-free diet. If you love pasta, you could use a vegetable spiralizer to create noodles from vegetables – a totally safe, grain free alternative.
Rice is safe for gluten-free eaters. But if you’re like me, you may also have a bad reaction to a lot of grains including rice. Cauliflower rice is a great substitute and is, again, 100% guaranteed gluten-free. Plus, replacing carbs with vegetables can also help you manage your weight and increase the amount of vitamins, fibre, and minerals you consume daily.
There are also a number of different alternatives for breadcrumbs and flour. Almond flour, coconut flour, and arrowroot flour can easily be used as replacements in recipes. Just be sure to check a conversion chart to ensure you get the right texture.
I’ve been gluten free for a few years now, so I have a good grasp on what to eat and what to avoid. That being said, I am not an expert. The best piece of advice I can offer is to listen to your body and avoid the foods that don’t make you feel well. Be sure to visit your doctor or a nutritionist if you have questions about going gluten-free.
Article Imagery: BBC Good Food
Featured image source: Healthy Kids Association