Is this diet a fad? Or can it help you? For some, it’s their only option. But if you’re feeling tired, bloated and generally aren’t feeling well, it’s worth a try to go gluten free.
How do you make the transition, how do you change your habits and can it help you feel better?
Loads of people that have removed gluten from their diet have felt healthier and more energetic. With more gluten free products available in grocery stores and more restaurants including gluten free options on their menu, it’s never been easier to make the transition. But is it really that simple…
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, and acts as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, and is used as an ingredient under many different names. For a complete list of foods that contain gluten visit The Celiac Disease Foundation website.
Why to Choose a Gluten Free Diet?
Changing your diet is a big decision and gathering information is the key to a successful transition. For some, going gluten free isn’t a choice, they’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, or have a sensitivity, allergy, or intolerance to gluten. Nowadays, a blood test can identify if this is the case for you. There is also some evidence that following a gluten free diet can (1) help with skin issues such as psoriasis and acne; (2) reduce joint inflammation and reduce the symptoms of arthritis; and (3) prevent recurring migraines.
Whether it’s because you’ve recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, have a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten, or suffer from inflammation or skin issues, going gluten free is a big change to your daily life. The following is a guide that will help you transition more easily.
Pros and Cons of a Gluten Free Diet?
Eating gluten free isn’t equal to a healthy diet. Many people think that gluten free pasta is healthier and has less calories than wheat pasta – which is not true at all. Many gluten free products are high in processed carbs and are just as unhealthy as any junk food, but at a higher cost. So it’s important to choose gluten free products that are made with whole grains, and are high in fiber and B vitamins.
- A gluten free diet can help reverse the damage caused by inflammation if intolerance to gluten is established
- Can help you feel more energetic and less bloated
- Helps establish good label reading habits
- Possible skin improvements, migraine and arthritic pain reduction
- Increased creativity in the kitchen
- Higher cost of quality products
- Problematic when invited out
- Difficulties when travelling abroad
- Possible weight-gain from eating gluten free products with low fiber, and high levels of fat and sugar
Where do I start?
Transitioning can’t be done in stages if you’ve identified a problem. You can’t just change your bread and pasta and keep eating your Weetabix. You’ve got to go 100% gluten free for at least a month to see any kind of improvement. Those that have been diagnosed with celiac disease might not even see an improvement for many months due to the damage that was caused to their intestines.
Choosing quality replacement products
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. So most commercial starchy foods have gluten – including bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust, crackers, cereal, and baked goods.
Wow… all your favorite food… and it doesn’t end there!
While many products today clearly indicate if they’re gluten free, there are also many commercially available products like sauces, spices, and soups that contain hidden gluten. So going gluten free also means learning to read labels and understand all the names that can be used instead of gluten.
Start a list with the products you already use, and replace the ones that aren’t gluten free.
Choose products that have whole grains/legumes and that are high in fiber and minerals (e.g. quinoa, kaniwa, millet, amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, sorghum, chia, chickpeas, lentils, and flax. And avoid products that have more than 50% corn starch or potato starch because they are very high in carbohydrates and sugar, and low in fiber and minerals.
“Reading the ingredients label on the foods you buy and knowing what to look for are the keys to identifying and avoiding gluten,” says Shelley Case, RD, author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide.
Check the label for ingredients such as: wheat, barley, rye, malt, spelt, triticale, oats (it’s usually contaminated with gluten unless it specifically says “pure oats”), seitan, semolina, and farina, emmer, etc. (for a complete list visit: The Gluten Free Society)
Here is a list of foods that surprisingly usually always contain gluten unless clearly identified:
- Beer, lager
- Broth, soup, soup bases
- Cookies and crackers
- Chocolate bars, licorice
- Flavored coffees and teas
- Imitation bacon bits, imitation seafood (like crab sticks)
- Medications (check with your pharmacist)
- Processed foods
- Salad dressings
- Sausages, hot dogs, deli meats
- Sauces, marinades, gravies
- Soy sauce
Depending on how much prepared food you buy will depend on how many products you have to replace. Fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry, fish, cheese, and eggs are all naturally gluten free.
Packaged products with a label must be read.
Nowadays, most medium to large grocery stores will have a gluten free section with many options to try. Once you’ve determined the replacement product, you’ll have a decent list and you’re shopping experience will get easier.
These are a few of my Gluten Free Pantry/Fridge must haves (click on the links for a list of safe options):
|GF Bread Crumbs
GF Pancake mix
Tamari Sauce (replacement for soy sauce)
GF Soup Base
Apple cider vinegar
|GF All Purpose Flour
GF Starch for sauce thickening (tapioca starch, corn starch)
Quinoa Flakes (can be used instead of GF oats)
Pure Oats (non-contaminated with gluten)
|GF Frozen Pizza Crusts
GF Frozen waffles
GF Bread (keep in the fridge of freezer)
Adapting favorite recipes
Making your own food from scratch will become part of your lifestyle even though there are more gluten-free products available than ever before. There still aren’t as many options as in the non-gluten-free isles, and you won’t find everything you’re looking for. – believe me.
To adapt your favorite baking recipes:
- Add an extra egg (or egg substitute)
- Exchange the flour quantity for a GF all-purpose flour *
- Add ½ tablespoon Xanthan Gum or Guar Gum (this replaced the gluten) or 1 mashed ripe banana
*make your own GF all-purpose flour mix: for 4 cups of flour: 1.5 cups of Brown Rice Flour + 1.5 cups of Tapioca starch + ½ cup of quinoa flour + ½ cup of chickpea flour/kaniwa flour/sorghum flour)
Even Tamales can be gluten-free!
Here are a few the recipes I use every week:
This granola can be made in advance and used on yogurt or eaten as a snack or with milk like a breakfast cereal. You can add nuts, seeds and dried fruits to the recipe as well. This recipe uses it as an ingredient in a Parfait.
I use this dairy free and GF dressing with crunchy romaine lettuce, potato salad as well as salads that don’t contain lettuce such as coleslaw or a broccoli-slaw. I use apple-cider vinegar, white balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar in this recipe.
I sometimes also add the juice and zest of an orange and reduce the honey by half for a slightly different taste. You can also use tapioca starch instead of corn starch as a thickener (tip: Always dilute starches in water before adding it to the sauce for thickening, so that the sauce doesn’t clump. One part starch for two parts water).
This is my eggplant parmesan recipe, but the crust is what I use to coat chicken, fish, tofu and any other soft veggie (ex: zucchini).
This cake recipe can easily be made into muffins. The cooking time is shorter, around 30 minutes. And use a non-stick muffin tin lined with paper muffin cups.
Easily made into a loaf or muffins. Old bananas never go to waste and are a fantastic binder for gluten free baking!
Always a hit with my kids. And since it’s made with quinoa flakes and chia seeds – it’s packed with protein and fiber!