The past few years have seen a rise in the number of people going “gluten-free.”
For those of you who aren’t aware, a gluten-free diet involves eliminating foods that contain the protein gluten. According to Healthline, this includes wheat, rye and barley.
Why go gluten-free? Well, your body might have an intolerance to one of these grains. If so, this commonly causes a histamine effect, resulting in Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms like bloating and abdominal pain.
You may even have celiac disease, which is a condition where your immune system attacks your own tissues when you eat gluten.
Either way, switching to a gluten-free diet may seem challenging if you’ve never done it before, but it’s actually more straightforward than you think. Here’s how you can do it quickly and effectively.
Swap Bread and Pasta for Gluten-Free Options
First things first, bread and pasta both contain gluten. That said, you don’t have to stop eating either of these foods completely.
Instead, swap them for gluten-free alternatives made from rice, quinoa, corn, buckwheat, millet, polenta, amaranth and tapioca. You can find these in most supermarkets and health food stores.
There are also different gluten-free options available for:
And the good news is that you can still bake your favourite treats — just use cornflour instead of wheat flour. Result!
Use Gluten-Free Foods as the Basis of Your Meals
Keep in mind that many foods are naturally gluten-free, such as:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Meat and poultry
- Fish and seafood
- Eggs and cheese
Therefore, you can use these foods as the basis of your meals.
Need more ideas? Check the gluten-free aisle of your local supermarket for varied meal options you never knew existed, like gluten-free puff pastries with several fillings and gluten-free pizza.
Read the Back of Food Labels
When you switch to a gluten-free diet, you have to get used to reading the back of food labels and checking for any unwanted ingredients.
Look out for mentions of wheat, spelt, rye, oats, barley in bold as these all contain gluten. If any of these ingredients have been blended together, this is also a no-no.
Additionally, the label should tell you if there has been a risk of contamination in the factory where the product is made. This is where gluten-free foods may come into contact with gluten during preparation or processing, essentially making them non-gluten-free. If so, steer clear.
Beware of Drinks Containing Gluten
It’s not just foods that can contain gluten — drinks can too, such as:
- Beers, lagers, ales and stouts
- Malt beverages
- Dessert wines
- Wine coolers
Having said that, most alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are naturally gluten-free. Hurrah!
Beware of Sauces Containing Gluten
There are many pasta sauces, soups, gravies, stocks and condiments that contain wheat flour, ergo, gluten.
That’s why it’s so important to check the food label of anything you want to eat.
Alternatively, consider making your own gluten-free pasta sauces with cornflour, potato starch or arrowroot to thicken them.
Ask About the Menu When You Eat Out
Lastly, there are now lots of restaurants that have adopted gluten-free menus, or at least have a selection of gluten-free options. Therefore, you can still eat out as you usually would.
However, celiacs should always check with their server that there hasn’t been any cross-contamination in the kitchen.
After all, coming into contact with even the tiniest bit of gluten can cause them to experience severe symptoms.
Smoothly Transitioning to a Gluten-Free Diet
Everybody has their reason for needing to go gluten-free. Even so, it can take some getting used to.
If it’s not urgently required that you switch to a gluten-free diet, we recommend starting small (by opting for gluten-free bread and pasta, for instance) and going from there.
Most people find that they feel healthier and experience less IBS symptoms on a gluten-free diet and are therefore happier in their day-to-day lives.