Gluten Free Diet Gluten Free Recipes For Gluten Free Foods

A gluten-free diet is a necessary part of life for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. While cutting out certain foods–such as bread and pasta–can be difficult at first, many other food options exist to create a healthy, tasty diet. The number of specially made gluten-free foods has increased significantly in recent years, easing the process of going gluten-free. Use these tips to help jump start your efforts to live a gluten-free life.

Familiarize Yourself with Food Labels

In order to avoid consuming gluten, you must know the ingredients of the foods you eat. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. While it may be easy to determine whether some foods contain these ingredients, it can be trickier in others. Thus, if you need to follow a gluten-free diet, you should always read food labels, and then read them again. Even if you have purchased a product before, the manufacturer may have changed ingredients, and the product may no longer be gluten-free.

When reading labels, look at all of the ingredients, not just the allergy statement. In addition, be aware that wheat-free foods may not necessarily be gluten-free foods. If you are unsure of a product’s ingredients, contact the manufacturer.

You should expand your label-reading to some other products as well. For example, some medications and vitamins contain gluten in their fillers and coatings and may not be safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Learn Which “Safe” Foods Will Optimize your Nutrition

Following a gluten-free diet can put you at risk for nutritional deficiencies. While many people with celiac disease already experience nutrient malabsorption from their condition, they often don’t take in as many vitamins and minerals, because gluten-free foods aren’t vitamin-fortified like regular grain products. This can result in low levels of iron, vitamin D, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and zinc, among other deficiencies.

You can take gluten-free vitamins to counteract these deficiencies, but consuming as many nutrients as you can through food is important. Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free, making them an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. In addition, low-fat dairy products (or fortified soy products for those who are lactose intolerant), provide calcium and vitamin D. Many grains are off limits in a gluten-free diet, such as:

  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Wheat (including durum, graham, kamut, semolina and spelt)

Stick to gluten-free whole grains that are high in iron, calcium and B vitamins, such as amaranth, millet and quinoa.

Working with a dietitian can help you ensure that you are consuming the nutrients your body needs. A dietitian can also help you identify any hidden sources of gluten in your diet and provide you with nutritious, tasty gluten-free recipes. Many even provide useful information on stores, restaurants and manufacturers that offer gluten-free foods.

Avoid Cross-Contamination of Gluten-Free Foods

Even if you consistently follow a gluten-free diet, you may still experience uncomfortable symptoms of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. This is because gluten-free foods can become contaminated with gluten during the preparation and cooking process. To avoid cross-contamination, make sure that common surfaces are kept clean and free of crumbs. In addition, don’t share utensils or appliances commonly used for food with gluten, such as colanders, pasta pots and toasters. Using squeeze bottles for condiments can help cut down on cross-contamination, as can storing gluten-free foods in a separate part of the cabinet from their gluten-containing counterparts.

Although many manufacturers rigorously monitor their production to avoid cross-contamination at the factory, others are not so careful, leaving trace amounts of gluten in some gluten-free foods. To protect yourself against eating these cross-contaminated products, check the product label for warnings about allergens present at the factory.

While oats are technically one of the gluten-free and wheat-free foods, they are generally off-limits to people following a gluten-free diet due to the likelihood of cross-contamination during processing. However, if your celiac disease is well-controlled and you want to try adding oats back into your diet, make sure they are labeled “gluten-free.”

Speak Up When Eating Out

Navigating restaurants and dinner parties on a gluten-free diet can be challenging at first, but by thinking ahead and asking questions, you can ease the process. If you know the restaurant you’ll be visiting beforehand, review the menu to determine its gluten-free items. Calling ahead and explaining your restriction can also ensure a smoother (and safer) visit. This is especially helpful if you want the cooks to change their gloves and utensils before preparing your food to avoid cross-contamination. To further ease communication between you and the restaurant staff, carry a card that lists safe and prohibited foods. These are available from several national celiac support groups.

If you’re spontaneously selecting your restaurant, don’t worry. As gluten-free diets become more common, an increasing number of restaurants are offering gluten-free menu items or even full menus. Selecting a restaurant that includes a rice- or corn-based cuisine–such as Japanese, Thai, Indian or Mexican–will provide you with more gluten-free options. However, be aware that ingredients like soy sauce and soup bases often contain wheat-related products. You can add an alcoholic beverage to your meal, as long as you stick with wine and distilled liquors without added flavoring. Stay away from beer, lager and other malt beverages, which are made from wheat or barley.

You can also successfully attend–and eat at–dinner parties with some forethought. If you feel comfortable, call the host and explain your situation. That way, you can review the menu and determine which dishes you can safely enjoy. You can also use one of your own gluten-free recipes to share a dish with party-goers, while ensuring you won’t go home hungry.