Whether you are choosing to begin a gluten free diet for serious health reasons or simply to follow a more healthy lifestyle, you should know in advance that it requires planning. Until you choose to eliminate a food from your diet, you have no idea how prevalent it is, and this is especially true of wheat and gluten products. This handy guide will help you make the transition smoothly. Following are 5 tips for beginning a gluten-free diet right:
1. Read the Labels
Read, read, read. Gluten is present in almost anything containing wheat, barley and rye. So, not only will you need to eliminate wheat products, you will need to eliminate rye bread, pumpernickel, couscous and barley malted drinks from your diet.
Those are the obvious products. Gluten also shows up in a lot of processed foods as well. So, carefully read the labels before consuming anything. It is present in thickenings, fillers, flavorings, starches and seasonings. This means you will have to be very careful eating any kind of processed meats (such as sausage), soy sauce, soups and gravy.
2. Talk to Your Pharmacist
Believe it or not, gluten is often used in pharmaceutical products and toothpastes. Be sure to alert your pharmacist to your gluten-free needs before having a prescription filled. If you are unsure of your toothpaste, consult with your pharmacist or read up about it online.
3. Be Wary of Fast Foods
Fast foods are notorious for containing fillers, and gluten is the most common one (soy is another). So before eating out, access the restaurant menu online and see what allergens each product contains. Fast food restaurants are becoming more savvy about providing this information to consumers, and some of the biggest chains (Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Chik-Fil-A among them) are providing detailed information about their products at the click of a mouse.
4. Look for Alternatives
The more educated you become, the more easy you will find your new gluten-free lifestyle to be. That’s why it’s so important to find gluten-free sites online or look for gluten-free cookbooks at your local library. These resources offer a wealth of information about how you can substitute other grains in your cooking. These recipe alternatives will allow you to still enjoy your favorite foods without putting your health in jeopardy.
5. Try Some New Things, a Little at a Time
Before you shell out $25 for that 5 pound bag of amaranth flour at your local health food store, try a little bit first. Some grains and flours make amazing, almost seamless substitutes. Others are an acquired taste. Others take a little trial-and-error. The main thing is to try a little new every week.
Even mainstream stalwarts are getting into the gluten-free lifestyle, like Betty Crocker. These companies and others that are solely dedicated to producing gluten-free foods, and offer mixes and products tailor-made to your dietary needs. They are definitely worth checking out, because they have taken a lot of the guesswork out of gluten-free baking.
Think of your new gluten-free diet as an adventure, or a challenge to your culinary senses. As Americans, we have been raised thinking we can’t make it without wheat products, but the truth is, there is a whole world of food out there ready for the tasting! And, in that world are a bunch of gluten-free alternatives that will help you stick to your new lifestyle with ease.