Contributor Emma Foote
Whether you need to follow a gluten-free diet because you have celiac disease or to help manage another health problem related to gluten sensitivity, making the switch to a diet free from gluten is oftendaunting. While Better Batter flour and mixes can help you to enjoy tasty and affordable gluten-free baked produce, understanding the range of foods naturally free from gluten from the outset can also help to ease your worries and make sure that you look forward to meal and snack times just as much.
It’s not uncommon for people to feel anxious and even low when faced with the prospect of a gluten-free diet, as hearing that you can no longer eat wheat, barley and rye, which find their way into all manner of foods, it can sound very restrictive. However, avoiding gluten is not as restrictive as it first appears, and appreciating this can indeed have a positive impact on your outlook and how well you stick to gluten-free eating. For instance, research shows that if you view a gluten-free diet as manageable to follow, you are more likely to have a better quality of life and adhere better to it, offering you all round benefits (1). This not only keeps you in good mental health, avoiding the need for prescription medication, which is not without its adverse affects and is potentially addictive (2), but it gives you a good chance of seeing results from keeping strictly to gluten-free foods.
EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT GRAINS
Although wheat, rye and barley are off the menu when eating gluten-free, there are plenty of other grains that are open to you. This not only offers you a range of alternative grains to choose from, but you may actually find that you start cooking with a wider variety of foods and experiment with new recipes, which is a plus point both nutritionally and for keeping your meals interesting. While rice and corn are both gluten-free, why not try quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, sorghum, teff or millet? These grains are less widely used in cooking in the US than elsewhere in the world, but they are very versatile. For instance, you can serve quinoa as an alternative to porridge, team it with meat or fish, or stir through nuts, seeds, pulses or vegetables to make a side dish (3). Alternatively, you can use millet as an ingredient in soups, salads or stuffing. These grains are also generally superior to wheat in their nutritional content, offering more micronutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium and riboflavin (4).
Although oats are technically free from gluten, contamination with gluten is often an issue, so you should only buy oats from suppliers that can guarantee their produce is gluten-free.
CHOOSE FRESH PRODUCE
Beyond enjoying a variety of grains that naturally don’t contain any gluten, you can reduce you anxiety surrounding food choices by remembering that you can’t go wrong by selecting fresh produce that you know is gluten free (5). For instance, unprocessed meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, natural yogurt, pulses, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables are all safe bets when you want to avoid gluten. Not only do these foods form the basis of a balanced diet, but by including a range of these foods you can also make sure that you more than make up for any of the nutrients provided by gluten containing items. For example, pulses are high in both fiber and B vitamins, so make a great addition to a gluten-free diet (6); just watch out for any that are canned in a sauce or dressing. Fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds also make similar nutritional contributions.
FEEL CONFIDENT CHECKING LABELS
Even if you largely opt for fresh foods, there may still be times when you need to use a more processed item in your cooking. However, if you always check the packaging for the presence of gluten before making your purchase, you should have no worries about using these foods. In the grocery store you will notice that some products are labeled “gluten-free” which offers you a guarantee that they contain less than less than 20 parts per million of gluten, a level that most people with a sensitivity to gluten can tolerate. However, as this labeling is voluntary, not all naturally gluten free produce is marked as such and you will still need to check the ingredients if there is no mention of gluten is made. Knowing which alternative words for wheat, barley and rye may be listed and the common processed foods in which these are found can help to guide you when reading labels (8).
1 Stephen Barratt, John Leeds & David Sanders, “Quality of life in celiac disease is determined by perceived degree of difficulty adhering to a gluten-free diet, not the level of dietary adherence ultimately achieved,” Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 20(2011):241, accessed June 27 2014
2 “Withdrawing from anxiety medications,” Detox, accessed June 27 2014
3 “Cooking with gluten free whole grains,” Bastyr University, accessed June 27 2014
4 “Whole grains and the gluten-free diet,” The University of Virginia, accessed June 27 2014
5 “Going gluten-free,” Cleveland Clinic, accessed June 27 2014
6 “Pulses: the perfect food,” North Dakota State University, accessed June 27 2014
7 “New rules on gluten-free food labeling,” Dr Weil, accessed June 27 2014
8 “Label reading 101,” Celiac Support Association, accessed June 27 2014