Anyone discovering that they have a food allergy or are sensitive to certain ingredients in everyday foods can make life tricky. Figuring out what foods are okay to eat and which will cause a reaction is quite an adjustment. One of the most common food sensitivities today is gluten. Many today find that they cannot digest gluten and must completely cut it from their diet. However, others may decide to eliminate gluten because of certain health benefits. Either way, starting a gluten-free diet on the right foot is essential to ensure a person’s health and happiness.
Know What It Means to be Gluten Free
First and foremost, it is crucial to understand precisely what it means to eliminate gluten from one’s diet. Some may find it surprising that switching to a gluten-free way of life is similar to a traditional healthy diet. Avoid overloading on carbs and instead focus on naturally gluten-free foods such as lean meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds.
That is not to say that they need only to eat those foods and nothing else. There are ways to incorporate grains into one’s diet. For example, a gluten free flour substitute is available, making it possible to eat things like bread and pasta if they are made with gluten-free flour. In addition, some grains, such as rice, corn, potatoes, quinoa, buckwheat, and millet, are naturally void of gluten. It is surprising how many food items already do not contain gluten, and the amount of gluten-free substitutions is impressive.
Look Out for Sneaky Gluten
Just as it is impressive how many things do not contain gluten, it is also surprising how many things do have gluten. This is because there are so many ways gluten can be used in various food items that it is sometimes difficult to keep up with them. In addition, food companies are required to list specific allergens on their packaging, so to ensure the food one is buying is gluten-free, it is a good idea to turn it over and confirm there is no gluten.
It may require a person to read through the ingredient list to be sure since certain ingredients could be contaminated with gluten. When reading through the packaging, look to see if there is any wheat, barley, rye, brewer’s yeast, oats, and malt. These ingredients are often contaminated with gluten; if a person’s sensitivity is severe, they will want to avoid those foods. Gluten is also sneaky on flavored chips and nuts since their seasonings usually contain gluten. Also, be wary of energy bars, creamy soups, salad dressings, marinates, and soy sauce. Each of these usually contains some gluten.
Find Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants
Another difficult adjustment one must make when beginning their gluten-free journey is ordering food at restaurants. In the beginning, this is not going to be easy. A person must learn to ask the right questions to ensure they will not consume gluten. An example is questioning the salad dressing used on a salad to make sure it is gluten-free.
Thankfully, many restaurants these days have a separate gluten-free menu that makes it a bit easier when ordering. However, if someone has a severe sensitivity, even with a separate menu, they need to ensure that their food is not being cooked on the same pan where a food item containing gluten was also cooked. For example, ensuring that the fries ordered will not be fried in the same oil as something battered or that their gluten-free pasta is not being boiled in the same water regular pasta was in. It may feel awkward at first to ask a server all these questions, but it is important to advocate for oneself and not feel bad.
In the end, understand that starting on a gluten-free lifestyle is a big adjustment and requires quite a bit of planning. However, being gluten-free is nothing to be ashamed of, and knowing there are many substitutions and a large number of people who are also gluten-free will help in the adjustment process.