Tips On Going Gluten Free

Adopting a gluten free lifestyle can be daunting, but If you suffer from coeliac disease, gluten sensitivity, or you simply want to improve your health, going gluten free can offer many benefits. 

This article is designed to guide you through the process in a straightforward and simple manner, offering practical advice on how to incorporate a gluten-free diet into your life, which can be beneficial in managing gluten-related disorders and improving overall health.

This article details what gluten is, how to identify it in your diet, how to select the right gluten-free foods, and tips on how to adapt to a gluten-free lifestyle. 

By understanding the topics in this article, you will be able to make informed decisions about your diet, improve your health, and navigate the world of gluten free living with confidence, from reading food labels to finding appropriate gluten-free recipes.

Table of Contents

Identifying Gluten in Your Diet

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, and is also present in many processed foods, from soups to sauces. 

Identifying gluten in your diet starts with reading food labels; the Celiac Disease Foundation recommends looking for the words ‘wheat’, ‘barley’, ‘malt’ and ‘rye’ or similar on the ingredients list.

 A product labelled ‘wheat-free’ is not necessarily gluten free, as wheat is just one source of gluten. 

As well as food, many drinks, including beer and pre-made coffee drinks, can contain gluten. Even medicines and supplements can contain gluten as a binding agent, so the label should always be checked. Consult with a pharmacist if you remain unsure.

Eating out can be a challenge when you’re trying to avoid gluten. Many restaurants now offer gluten free options, but it’s always worth asking about preparation methods. Even a gluten free meal can be contaminated if it’s prepared with the same utensils as gluten-containing food.

Tips on Going Gluten Free

Going gluten free isn’t just about removing bread and pasta from your diet, but about making conscious choices about what you eat every day. 

The Mayo Clinic suggests that starting a gluten-free diet is essential for people with coeliac disease, the illness caused by an immune reaction to gluten. 

The list below outlines helpful strategies for eliminating grains containing gluten from your meals and snacks.

You can also watch this video on Youtube here.

1. Get informed

  • Read up on medical reasons, including ones other than coeliac disease, for following a gluten-free diet and what foods definitely contain gluten.
  • Learn how to identify hidden sources of gluten such as soy sauce and preservatives.

2. Clean out your pantry

  • Check all packages and discard any obvious gluten-containing flours, pasta, cereal, crackers and similar. Remain aware of possible cross-contamination from gluten foods to otherwise gluten-free ones.

3. Stock up on gluten-free staples

  • Shop for gluten-free bread, pizza bases, pasta, oats, crackers, flour blends and cereal.
  • Stick to certified gluten-free brands to avoid trace gluten contamination that occurs during manufacture.

4. Cook more meals at home

  • Prepare dishes from scratch using naturally gluten-free whole foods like meat, fish, eggs, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, fruit and vegetables; this gives you control over ingredients and helps you to avoid hidden gluten in when eating out.

5. Look for gluten-free swaps

  • If you miss gluten foods, seek out gluten-free replacement products for products like bread, cookies, waffles and beer.
  • Be sure to check labels, since some brands offer both regular and gluten-free versions.

6. Focus on produce and lean proteins

  • Fill your plate with gluten-free whole foods like fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, eggs and beans; this minimises any reliance on processed gluten-free speciality products

7. Be cautious about for sauces and dressings

  • Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, salad dressings and other condiments often contain gluten as an additive.
  • Opting for gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce or making your own dressings is a safer course of action. Be careful when dining out
  • Research the menu in advance and ask the staff questions in order to avoid gluten cross-contamination. .
  • Explain the medical nature of your gluten restriction to ensure that you are properly accommodated. 

8. Check medication and supplements

  • Prescription pills, over-the-counter medicines and vitamins may use gluten as a binding agent.
  • Consult your pharmacist about gluten-free options for the correct information.

9. Look for certification seals

  • Seek out food products certified as gluten-free by organisations like Coeliac UK.
  • This provides assurance their facilities and ingredients have been thoroughly vetted before being put onto the shelves.

10. Find community support

  • Join local or online gluten-free support groups to get recipe ideas, product recommendations, lifestyle tips, and just general inspiration from others.
  • Connecting with those on the same diet helps you feel less alone, enhancing mental health and wellbeing.

"Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, and is also present in many processed foods, from soups to sauces."

11. Allow exceptions

  • Make accommodations for special occasions like holidays and weddings to have the occasional gluten treat, if this is safe, so that you don’t feel deprived.

12. Use a separate toaster

  • Designate a specific toaster just for gluten-free bread to prevent cross-contamination from crumbs.
  • This also holds for any other appliances used for the preparation of foods containing gluten.

13. Enjoy gluten-free baking

  • Explore recipes for gluten-free cakes, cookies, breads and pizza dough that you can make at home.
  • Substitute oats, flours and binding agents like xanthan gum.

14. Focus on how you feel

  • Pay attention to any improvements in digestion, and inflammation, and to increased energy after eliminating gluten.
  • This will help to motivate you to stick to the diet long-term.
How to Choose Gluten Free Foods

How to Choose Gluten Free Foods

Choosing gluten free foods is easier than it may seem, as many common foods are actually naturally gluten free; this includes fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and most dairy products. The key is to choose whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible.

When shopping for packaged food, look for the ‘gluten free’ label. 

According to the Food Standards Agency, foods in the UK labelled as ‘gluten free’ must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, the lowest level that can be reliably detected in foods using validated methods.

To start with, it might be helpful to follow a gluten free diet plan and to research gluten-free recipes. 

There are many resources available online on the reputable Celiac Disease Foundation and Mayo Clinic websites, and these can be a great starting point for learning how to cook and eat gluten-free foods.

It is important to note that just a food being gluten-free does not automatically make it healthy, as many gluten free products are high in sugar and fat to make up for the lack of gluten. Again, always read the label in order to make balanced food choices.

Adjusting to a Gluten Free Lifestyle

Adjusting to a gluten free lifestyle takes time because it does not just concern changing your diet, but also learning to navigate social situations and dealing with the emotional impact of dietary change. A sense of loss, frustration, or isolation is normal, especially in the early days.

Both online and in-person support is available. Joining a support group, either in your local area or online, can be incredibly helpful in proving that you are not alone. 

According to Coeliac UK, one in every 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease, and many more have gluten sensitivity or choose to eat gluten-free for other health reasons.

Eating a gluten-free diet can also have an impact on your nutritional intake, because gluten free products often contain less fibre and B vitamins than their gluten-containing counterparts.  

An extra effort may be needed to include these nutrients in your diet, by eating gluten free grains and taking B vitamin supplements, for example.

Mistakes happen, especially in the early days, so being kind to yourself is hugely important. If you accidentally eat gluten, learn from the experience and move on. It will take time for living gluten-free to become second nature.

Adjusting to a Gluten Free Lifestyle

The Pros and Cons of Going Gluten Free

Deciding to follow a gluten free diet comes with its own set of key advantages and disadvantages, as detailed below. 

Pros of Going Gluten Free

1) Relief for People with Coeliac Disease and Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity

– For those with coeliac disease, a gluten free diet is the only known treatment; it can ease symptoms and promote intestinal healing.

– A gluten-free diet can also help to manage the discomfort and health issues that come with having non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, regulating symptoms and improving overall well-being. 

2) Potential Weight Loss

– Gluten free diets often result in an increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, which can lead to weight loss.

– However, this weight loss is not guaranteed as it depends largely on the individual’s overall dietary choices, as well as the physical exercise and genetics.

3) Improved Digestive Health

– Many people experience improved digestive health when they remove gluten from their diet, including less bloating, gas, and stomach discomfort.

– However, these benefits are typically seen in individuals who have a diagnosed sensitivity to gluten.

4) Focus on Whole Foods

– A gluten free diet often encourages a shift towards whole foods, as many processed foods contain gluten; this can lead to a healthier overall diet that consistently includes more vitamins, minerals, and fibre

5) Increased Awareness of Food Intolerances

– Following a gluten free diet can make you more aware of your body and how it reacts to different foods, helping you to identify other food intolerances and improve your overall health.

Cons of Going Gluten Free

1) Difficulty Finding Suitable Foods

– Gluten is found in many foods which makes finding suitable alternatives a challenge

– Dining out or eating pre-packaged foods can be particularly challenging, as gluten is often hidden in many sauces, dressings, and seasonings.

2) Risk of Nutrient Deficiencies

– Gluten free products often lack the fortified vitamins and minerals found in gluten containing grains, leading to certain deficiencies such as B vitamins, iron, and fibre.

3) Potential Weight Gain

– Some gluten free foods are high in sugar and fat to make up for the lack of gluten, which can lead to unexpected weight gain.

– It is always important to read food labels carefully and to make balanced food choices.

Potential Weight Gain

4) Increased Grocery Costs

– Gluten free products are often more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts.

– This often leads to increased grocery bills, especially if you rely heavily on packaged gluten free foods, which can become problematic for those with tighter budgets.

5) Risk of Cross Contamination

– Even trace amounts of gluten can cause symptoms in people with coeliac disease.

– Cross contamination can occur at home or in restaurants, making it difficult to ensure foods are 100% gluten free.

Gluten Free Recipes and Meal Ideas

Going gluten free does not mean that you have to miss out on your favourite meals. 

There are plenty of gluten free recipes that are just as delicious as their gluten-containing counterparts, meaning that everything from gluten free bread to baked goods can be enjoyed in the same way; all that is needed are the right ingredients and some creativity.

Finding gluten free recipes can be as easy as doing a quick online search, given that many websites and blogs are dedicated to gluten free living and offer a wealth of recipes to try. From breakfast to dinner, snacks to desserts, there is plenty of inspiration available. 

When preparing gluten free meals, reading the food label is crucial because even ingredients that seem harmless can sometimes contain gluten; for example, some brands of soy sauce and salad dressing contain gluten.

A balanced and nutritious diet is essential for good health along with maintaining a gluten-free diet, which means that a variety of foods such as lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and gluten free grains should be included in your diet.

The Basics of Gluten Free Baking

Baking can seem especially daunting when you first start a gluten free diet, as traditional baking relies heavily on gluten for texture and structure. With a few adjustments and the right ingredients, however, you can create delicious gluten-free substitutes to regular bread and baked goods.

The key to successful gluten free baking is understanding the different gluten free grains and flours available. 

Flours made from brown rice, corn, and gluten free oats can all be used in baking, and each one has its own unique properties, contributing to the texture and flavour of your baked goods.

Another important aspect to consider is the binding agent. Gluten acts as a binder in traditional baking, giving bread and pastries their structure; in gluten free baking, other ingredients like guar gum are often used instead.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Gluten free baking can be a bit of trial and error, you will need to try different recipes, play around with different flours and ingredients in order to find out what works best for you.

Living Gluten Free

Going gluten free isn’t just about changing your diet, but also about making changes to other aspects of your lifestyle from dining out to shopping for groceries.

As mentioned,it’s important to communicate your dietary needs clearly to the restaurant staff when eating out, because although many restaurants now offer gluten free options, hidden sources of gluten and the risk of cross-contamination in the kitchen still exist. 

Shopping for groceries can also be an initial challenge. The skill of reading food labels carefully to identify any gluten containing ingredients needs to be acquired, although most supermarkets have a helpful dedicated gluten free section dedicated to gluten-free foods.

It is crucial to be aware of non-food items that may contain gluten, such as medicines, cosmetics, and personal care products.Always check the label or consult with a pharmacist in the case of uncertainty.

Living Gluten Free

A Case Study on Adopting a Gluten Free Lifestyle in the UK

Considering a case study will help to bring the discussion on switching to a gluten-free lifestyle. , providing a relatable perspective on the realities of adopting a gluten-free diet in the UK.

Sarah is a 35-year-old woman living in London. Sarah was experiencing persistent digestive issues, fatigue, and headaches, and after several visits to the doctor, she was diagnosed with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. 

Her doctor advised her to adopt a gluten-free diet, which meant eliminating all gluten-containing foods from her diet.

Initially, Sarah found it challenging to identify food that contains gluten. She was surprised to find gluten in many of her staple foods, such as certain brands of soy sauce, salad dressings, and even some processed meats. 

She had to learn to read food labels carefully, looking out for ingredients like wheat, barley, and rye.

Sarah soon discovered that she needed to replace many of her regular ingredients with gluten free alternatives and began to experiment with gluten-free grains like brown rice and quinoa. 

She also tried baking her own gluten free bread using a gluten free recipe she found online, which resulted in a delicious and satisfying baked good, almost indistinguishable from the version containing gluten. 

Eating dairy-free was also crucial, as Sarah noticed her gluten intolerance was often accompanied by lactose intolerance, which can be a common occurrence for many.

Living gluten free affected Sarah’s social life; eating out became a challenge, as she had to communicate her dietary needs to restaurant staff and double-check all ingredients, and had to be aware of the risk of cross-contamination.

Despite these challenges, Sarah noticed positive changes in her health within a few weeks. Her digestive issues improved, her headaches were less frequent, and she had more energy. 

Adopting a gluten free lifestyle also led to unexpected benefits, as Sarah found herself eating a healthier diet with less processed food and filled with more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.

Despite the challenges, Sarah’s journey to a gluten free lifestyle was worthwhile. Her case serves as a reminder that, with education and persistence, living gluten-free can lead to improved health and wellbeing.

Key Takeaways and Learnings

This article covered a range of topics related to going gluten-free. 

From understanding what gluten is and how to identify it in your diet, to choosing gluten free foods, adjusting to a gluten free lifestyle, and exploring the pros and cons of such a diet, it will hopefully act as a  comprehensive guide for anyone considering a gluten free diet.

Here are the key takeaways;

– Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, causing health issues for people with coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

– Gluten can hide in many foods, including processed foods and drinks. Therefore, reading food labels is crucial to identify gluten containing ingredients.

– Many foods are naturally gluten free, including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and most dairy products. Packaged foods labelled ‘gluten free’ must meet strict standards.

– Adapting to a gluten-free lifestyle involves not only dietary changes, but also changes to other aspects of your life, such as dining out and shopping for groceries.

– The benefits of a gluten free diet can include symptom relief and improved health. However, it can also present challenges, such as difficulty finding suitable foods and risk of nutrient deficiencies.

Adopting a gluten-free diet is a significant lifestyle choice, particularly for those diagnosed with coeliac disease or a gluten related disorder, or for those considering going gluten free for health reasons or simply to improve their  overall wellbeing. 

Everyone’s experience with a gluten free diet is unique; what works for one person may not work for another, and it is important to listen to your body, consult with healthcare professionals, and make the choices that are best for you.

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