Being gluten-free can feel like a huge problem to tackle. So many staples include gluten! Well, we’re here to tell you that, with a little effort, not only can you navigate that gluten-free lifestyle, but you can even be healthier than before while doing it!
What exactly does it mean to be gluten-free?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (which, as we learned earlier today, is a cross between wheat and rye). This pesky protein can cause negative immune reactions in people who suffer from Celiac’s disease or even cause bloat or digestive pain in people with gluten sensitivities. The long and the short of it? Sometimes, avoiding gluten is just best.
Gluten-free means you’re choosing foods that don’t include gluten. This diet does, unfortunately, go past simply avoiding bread or pasta – gluten is a hidden ingredient in a lot of foods, and depending on the severity of your allergy, not being informed can lead to serious issues. That’s where we come in! From the general to the more specific, we’ve included tips about how to be gluten-free without breaking your back.
No pain, no grain
At the risk of skipping the basics: to be gluten-free, make sure you’re cutting out the heavy-hitter gluten foods. What do we mean by this? Well, (and we’ll cover alternatives further down) but to start, avoid:
- Fried food
- Pizza (crust)
- Cake made with flour
There are also some I-can’t-believe-there’s-gluten foods to double check before eating, including:
- Soy sauce
- Deli meats
- Processed meats like hot dogs
- Cheese sauces
- Canned fruits or vegetables, which may be canned with gluten-heavy sauces
The best thing(s) since sliced bread
Ok, we’ve gotten the ugly stuff out of the way. Now, the more fun of the two prompts: what can you eat?
- Rice, brown rice, gluten-free oats, quinoa, and wild rice
- Veggies! Fruits! Go nuts!
- Meat, chicken, seafood
- Soy foods like tofu or tempeh
- Milk, butter, cheese (yum), yogurt, sour cream, etc
- Wine and hard alcohol
Don’t count your gluten-free foods before they hatch
There are some foods that may or may not be gluten-free, and when that’s the case, some due diligence can easily answer the question. We recommend a two-step approach: (1) familiarizing yourself with what these foods are and then (2) learning the best way to check if they are, in fact, gluten-free.
In addition to the foods listed above, some of the following may contain gluten. Please note that this is an incomplete list – if you’re ever unsure, it’s always best to ask!
- French fries
- Hot dogs
- Salad Dressings
- Seasoned snack foods
Depending on the food and the location, you can look out for a few common gluten-free signals:
Gluten-free label. You can usually find this image or something close to it on restaurant menus, buffet signs, or other visual signals. In rare cases, you may also see the letters GF in a circle (GF = Gluten Free). That’s also a sign that, hey, this food is safe!
Nutrition Facts. If you’re buying food from a supermarket or other packaged food, you may see a few gluten identifiers. Look for:
- CONTAINS: Gluten. This is a sign that there is gluten in the food. It’s usually below the Nutrition Facts label, either above or below the Ingredients list.
- MAY CONTAIN TRACE: Gluten. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s gluten in the food. More often, that means the food was produced in a factory that may have also produced food that contain gluten. If you’re severely gluten intolerant, you may want to skip foods with this label, but mildly gluten intolerant people may be able to eat this!
- INGREDIENTS: Wheat flour/Malt/Gluten Stabilizer. Checking the ingredients list may be your last resort, and if so, watch out for words like “flour,” “malt,” “rye,” etc. If it’s wheat-based (like wheat flour) it will be specified in the ingredients.
Keep in mind that most supermarkets have dedicated sections where all of the food is gluten-free. Ask a supermarket attendant in your area, and cut your time spent roaming the supermarket for good options!
You can have your gluten-free cake and eat it too
Ok! We’ve covered foods you should avoid, and foods you can eat, but a bullet-pointed list is only so helpful. So, will leave you with an (incomplete) list of a few gluten-free meal options.
When in doubt, go with eggs. Eggs are gluten-free and jam-packed with healthy nutrients like Vitamin D. Better yet, you can cook them in basically any way imaginable. Cook up an omelet and throw in some spinach and bell peppers, add a side of bacon, or try some eggs with fruit! Even without that piece of toast on the side, you’ll feel energized and ready to go for the day.
Parfaits and overnight oats, oh my. Think of it as a build-your-own: grab your Greek yogurt or gluten-free oats, then top them with your favorite fruits or nuts. Not only are these meals colorful and oh-so-Instagrammable, they’re full of nutrients and healthier than most gluten breakfast options!
Smoothies are a great grab-and-go. While some store-bought smoothie mixes may have gluten, you can easily mix your favorite milk or yogurt with some fruits to get a delicious smoothie. Not sure where to start? Our go-to is 1 cup of strawberries, 2 cups of mango chunks, 1 cup of yogurt, and 1 ¼ cups of apple juice. Enjoy!
Salads are inherently gluten-free. If you’re struggling to figure out what to get, sticking to salad is not only healthy, but generally 100% gluten-free. You can enjoy toppings like cucumbers, edamame, or strawberries, or add fun crunch to your meal with some nuts. Just make sure you don’t add any croutons, and check to see if the dressing you’re using has gluten. Not sure? Try sprucing up your salad with some oil and vinegar!
Try less run-of-the-mill bases. If you usually have pastas and breads for lunch, aim for healthier (and gluten-free) alternatives like quinoa, brown rice, or chickpeas. You can top these bases with some veggies and protein, or stir fry the whole thing for a tasty treat!
Stuff it! If you’re not a huge quinoa or chickpea fan, you can also ditch the base altogether. Tomatoes, mushrooms, or bell peppers are great receptacles for diced veggies, ground beef, and cheese (yummm).
Healthy options abound. Most healthy snacks are actually already gluten-free. Try celery sticks or some baby carrots, or opt for plain fruit!
Go savory as long as it’s simple. When it comes to savory snacks, the fewer ingredients, the better. Look for all natural potato chips, plain nuts, and popcorn, to name a few.
Looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth? Mints, lollipops, and dark chocolate tend to be 100% gluten-free, so try starting there. Or opt for some candy classics like Hershey’s Kisses, Skittles, Starburst, or Tootsie Rolls.
Make-your-own chili. If you’re looking for something hearty to replace the nightly pasta routine, try whipping up a gluten-free, filling chili! You can add whatever ingredients you prefer, but make sure your chili seasoning is gluten-free – you likely won’t be able to taste much of a difference, but your stomach will thank you.
Focus on the protein. Dinners tend to heavily feature protein, and gluten-free dinners are no exception. If you’re struggling to get around the gluten, focus on the main (whether you prefer chicken, salmon, or veggies), and then sub the bread or pasta with some side veggies, side rice, or quinoa!
Dying for some pizza? Try cauliflower crust. We know it sounds kind of insane, but this new craze is actually pretty dang tasty. Try making your own or, if that’s too adventurous, find a local pizza place that offers this new option!