Going gluten-free is gaining popularity these days even for those who do not have a gluten-sensitivity. People are jumping at the opportunity to participate in a diet that is going to help them lose weight and shed pounds fast, even if that means eliminating such things as grains, breads, and most other carbohydrates from their diet. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, have a gluten-sensitivity, or are simply interested in how to start a gluten free diet, we have 5 steps for you to take that will make the transition into a gluten-free diet an easy and painless one.
Don’t worry, there are plenty of delicious alternatives and gluten-free options that you can incorporate into your meals when figuring out how to start a gluten free diet.
Step 1: Educate Yourself
Once you get to know more about gluten, you will probably be surprised as to how many different foods actually contain gluten. The best thing to do before you commit to any diet or lifestyle is to educate yourself about it first. Especially with gluten, there are going to be a lot of things you’ll have to get used to.
- Know the difference between “wheat-free” and “gluten-free”. Something that is labeled as “wheat-free” may contain gluten products.
- Know the FDA’s standard as to what gluten-free means. A product is allowed to be called “gluten-free” if it has less than 20 parts per million of gluten in its final product. Just so you know—this is very low.
- Especially if you have a gluten allergy, do not eat anything without knowing what is in it. Read the packages and labels on your food and be politely persistent if you are at a restaurant.
- Be aware that certain household items and medications can contain gluten as well. Not just food contains gluten, so do your online research, check labels, and address any doubts that you may have before using or purchasing a product.
Step 2: Prepare Yourself
Once you know you are going to go gluten free, rearrange your home, lifestyle, and meal plans to make it easier to go gluten free and to protect your health. Little methods of preparation can make going gluten free seem less overwhelming and more approachable.
- Allocate a certain cupboard or shelf for all of your items that are gluten free. If you have roommates, make sure that you be wary of sharing certain products that might have gluten in them.
- Be sure that you clean all the utensils that are used in your household that are being used to prepare gluten food as well.
- If you know you are going to attend any social gatherings or parties, prepare ahead and plan to bring some gluten free options that you can enjoy as well. There are plenty of gluten free foods that are delicious and can easily be enjoyed be others who are not gluten free.
- If you are going to travel, keep travel packs of snack food that you can enjoy and take on your trip.
- To make the transition into a gluten free lifestyle easier, it can also be helpful to find others who are gluten free or gluten sensitive as well. You can get a lot of support from other gluten-free individuals, whether they are in person or online. Also, by researching online, you can also find hints, tips, and coping tricks that can come in handy.
- Educate your friends and family. A hardship that you may encounter when going gluten free is having your friends and family understand the restrictions of your diet, as well as how important it is to you that you follow a gluten free lifestyle. To make it easier for them, thank them profusely when they help you prepare gluten free food, and also share your gluten free food with them as well. Try to encourage them to take your gluten free lifestyle seriously to help prevent any future slipups or mishaps.
- A great tip for preparing yourself for a gluten free lifestyle is to have a positive outlook. Think about all the things you can eat and the alternatives that can taste just as good as the originals.
Step 3: Know What Foods to Avoid
There are a number of foods that contain gluten. Know what you need to avoid, because this is going to help you discern the good foods from the bad when it comes to gluten. The four foods that you need to avoid at all costs in the gluten free diet are: wheat, barley, rye, and triticale.
- Different varieties of wheat to avoid can go under the names of: Bulgur, Durum flour, Farina, Graham flour, Kamut, and Semolina.
- Be wary of oats and oatmeal. Although white oats do not contain gluten, they are sometimes processed in the same facility as wheat. To keep things simple, avoid oats and oatmeal that do not specify that they are gluten free.
- Know that you can still drink distilled alcohol, but avoid beers unless they are specifically gluten-free. Stick with potato-based vodkas, tequilas, mescals, or rums. None of these alcohol-infused products contain gluten or grain sources.
- Avoid these foods unless they specifically indicate that they are gluten free: Breads, croutons, cereals, crackers, cookies, cakes, candies, imitation meat, imitation seafood, processed lunch meats, poultry, salad dressings, gravies, sauces, vegetables in sauces, pastas, “seasoned” rice mixes, soups, matzo, and processed snacks.
Step 4: Know What Foods You Can Enjoy
- Not all grains contain gluten. Feel free to eat: rice, maize, quinoa, tapioca, sago, buckwheat, and sorghum.
- Certain flours are fine, such as: rice, corn, potato, maize, graham, soya, chickpea, sorghum, tapioca, and chestnut flours.
- As for breakfast cereals, make sure you check the labels for any traces of wheat. There are certain gluten free cereals that might look a little bland. However, you can easily spruce these up with some fruit for added flavor.
- For meat, fish, and eggs, know that all of these options are pretty much fine. However, if there are fried or battered options, you will want to make sure that you do not order these as they may be made with flour. Coats, sauces, and spices also could contain gluten, so be careful and wary of any additives onto the basic fish, meat, and eggs.
- Most dairy products such as milk, cream, cheese, and yogurt should be fine as well. As always, however, check the ingredients to make sure that flour is not added. If you are lactose intolerant or have to avoid dairy, you can opt for soya or rice milk – just be sure to check the label for wheat contamination.
- Go crazy with your fruits and vegetables, because naturally all of these will be gluten free.
- Butter, margarine, and oils are fine to use as fats, but stay away from low-fat spreads that could contain other additives.
- When reaching for desserts, most meringues, jellies, ice cream, and sorbets will be fine. However, you will want to make sure that any cheesecakes or pies that you decide on are labeled as gluten-free.
- Try to be in charge of your own snacks so that you can conduct the right concoction for yourself. Add in things like nuts, raisins, and seeds, as these are naturally gluten-free. Be wary of processed snack items such as chips, cookies, or other savory snack items.
- Spices and cooking ingredients such as salt, pepper, herbs, and vinegar are fine to work with. Other more complicated ones like mustard powder and baking powder, for instance, could contain flower.
Step 5: Drink Carefully
Beverages can seem hard to manage because you never know that there could be added gluten in drinks. Of course, water is completely gluten free, but there are some restrictions to be aware of when it comes to your beverages.
- Be sure that your soft drinks, coffee, tea, juices, cocoa, fizzy drinks, and most squashes do not contain barley or “cloud”. An easy way to regulate this is to avoid drinking beverages that come out of vending machines.
- Pure fruit juices and probiotic drinks are fine and gluten-free. Plain and unsweetened tea, as well as plain coffee, is also a good gluten-free option— just make sure that there is no added milk or sugar.
- Smoothies are questionable because many contain gluten products. Stick to smoothies that have only the basics, such as fruit juice and yogurt. However, be sure to ask if you do not make your own.
- Wines are generally gluten-free regardless of what type they are, but it is still best to read the label.
Gluten Free The Easy Way
Going gluten free may seem overwhelming at first, but the longer you stick to your diet, the easier it will be to get the hang of things. Sales of gluten-free products are expected to exceed 5 billion by 2015, so you are not alone in your gluten free journey. For a handy step by step plan on how to live gluten free, check out this gluten tutorial for tips, recipes, and helpful resources.