Perhaps you’ve been told you have a gluten sensitivity, or have just been diagnosed with celiac disease. Perhaps you have discovered on your own that gluten does you no good. You might be feeling overwhelmed, confused, and scared as to what this means for your future eating experiences. Here is the good news: you are not alone and you will not go hungry. Here is the great news: you are about to feel a whole lot better! Going gluten free is important to your overall health but it can be tricky so I hope this helps to clarify your options.
The first step is figuring out what gluten is and where it hides. Gluten is the elastic protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It’s what makes bagels doughy, angel food cake spongy, and French bread so irresistibly fluffy. Gluten, or more accurately gliadin and glutenin, damage the small intestines of people with celiac disease and make life uncomfortable for those with gluten sensitivity. It is part of the genetic structure found in grains such as spelt, kamut, durum, couscous, orzo, farro, semolina, einkorn, and triticale. If you can’t eat gluten, don’t eat these grains (even if you’ve never heard of them). While you’ve probably heard of couscous, rye, and orzo, you may not have realized that they contain gluten. Barley can be tricky because it hides in places you might not think, like beer, cornflakes, or malt vinegar. Although all of these grains contain gluten, wheat is where you will find gluten 90% of the time in the American diet. Hundreds of products advertise themselves as “Wheat Free!” but beware, that doesn’t necessarily mean gluten-free.
The best place to start is by focusing on foods that are naturally gluten-free. So much of the food you already love is void of gluten. For example, a piece of fresh fruit, satisfying proteins, or yummy sweet potatoes. While you are trying to get the hang of this new eating style, the best advice is to keep it simple. Real food is going to be your best friend. Additionally, it is easy to buy or make gluten-free versions of your favorite foods including pasta, pizza, and bread. What is more challenging is discovering that foods you didn’t think you had to worry about, actually contain gluten.
PLACES TO CHECK FOR GLUTEN
Soy sauce Miso
Imitation crab Some fermented kimchi
Licorice Fish sauce
Seasoning packets Oyster sauce
Natural flavoring Mole
BBQ sauces Beverages such as sports drinks
Salad dressings Malt vinegar
Hard candies Oats (only certified gluten free)
Cornflakes and rice krispies Chocolate
Ice cream Broth
Chipotles in adobo sauce Yogurt and other dairy products
NATURALLY GLUTEN-FREE FOODS THAT MIGHT BE CROSS-CONTAMINATED IN A FRYER
FOODS THAT ARE NATURALLY GLUTEN-FREE BUT ARE CONFUSED WITH CONTAINING GLUTEN
White wine vinegar and all vinegars
The easiest way to eat real food with wholesome ingredients is to cook it yourself. You’ll soon realize (after reading through a list of 15 other ingredients that you can’t pronounce) that many packaged foods are gluten free, but why ingest all of that when you can make it yourself. If time and preparation are an issue, take a step back. Start slow and make it enjoyable by cooking with family and friends who are supportive of your new journey. Plan ahead and be prepared with snacks so you’re not in situations with nothing to eat.
Finding places to eat may seem intimidating at first, but with a bit of practice and experience it gets easier. Gluten intolerance is an increasing issue, and many restaurants have adapted to this by labeling their GF (gluten-free) options on the menu. If this isn’t the case, opt for choices that are simple and aren’t covered in sauces with hidden ingredients. You can still eat a burger in a lettuce wrap, or tacos in a corn tortilla, and even a steaming bowl of pho. Don’t be afraid to ask your server about gluten free options. Last but not least, get creative!
There is the short and skinny on gluten. It is a tiny, elastic protein that is more prevalent than you might have imagined. After six months of changing your eating style, you’ll wonder that you ever ate gluten in the past. “Accept responsibility for your life. Know that it is you who will get you where you want to go, no one else.” – Les Brown