If you have chosen – or have been directed by your healthcare professional – to follow a gluten-free diet, then here are 10 tips to help you get started in a healthy, balanced way.
Do take a look at my article on Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (link to go in) for more information on choosing to go gluten-free. Remember – gluten-free does not necessarily mean healthier or better! I would only advise a trial of going gluten-free if you suspect gluten sensitivity but I urge you to rule out coeliac or other underlying illness first.
- If you haven’t already done so, it is always a good idea to discuss any major dietary changes with a registered and qualified nutrition professional. If you are excluding any food from your diet, especially if you are excluding more than one type of food, this is particularly important to help you avoid any potential nutritional deficiencies or imbalances. It’s also a good idea to get checked out for possible coeliac disease before going gluten-free. Click here for more information on finding a nutritionist.
- The most important point when eliminating gluten from your diet is to ensure that you are eating mainly naturally (unprocessed) gluten-free foods – these tend to be more balanced and complete choices than processed gluten-free foods, and are therefore likely to be better for both your body and your wallet in the long run.
- Be skeptical of claims on packaging. ‘Gluten-free’ is now frequently used as a marketing term, which can trick you into thinking it also means ‘healthy’.
- Pack your diet full of foods which are naturally rich in iron, B vitamins and folate (such as dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, meat and fish) to replace those nutrients that you would normally find in gluten-containing grains.
- Try, as always, to make sure you are getting a minimum of 5 portions of fruit and veg a day (although aiming towards 9 portions a day is even better). Fresh produce is low in energy but high in vitamins, fibre, minerals and all sorts of other health-giving phytochemicals. There are lots of recipe ideas on my website if you’re stuck for inspiration.
- If you are missing bread (and sometimes, a slice of toast is the only thing that will hit the spot!), then do look out for organic options where possible. I therefore tend to stick to Biona millet or buckwheat bread. Alternatively, you could try making your own; I will often make a batch, allow it to cool completely, then slice and freeze it. You can then just take out a slice and toast it as and when you need it.
Carrot & Caraway Bread
Beetroot, Rosemary & Walnut Soda Bread
Five-seed gluten-free bread (page 164, Cook. Nourish. Glow.)
Herby Green bread (page 104, Cook. Nourish. Glow.)
- People who choose to exclude gluten from their diet may also be excluding other foods from their diet, too – such as milk and dairy products, nuts, vegetables or fruit. 2 Be conscious that the more food groups you exclude, the more careful you need to be to make sure that you are getting all the essential nutrients you need to be healthy.
- If you do not have coeliac disease or wheat allergy, it can be a good idea to try to re-introduce some gluten-containing grains every 3-6 months or so, and see if your symptoms return. Some people find that after a break, they can go back to eating small amounts of gluten, or specific types of gluten and stay symptom free – which liberates your diet. You could always try starting off slowly with some organic spelt, sprouted bread, rye or sourdough to start with, which many of my clients have found less irritating than the usual sliced white.
- Pseudo-cereals (like amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat) are a delicious and healthy alternative to gluten-containing grains. They’re also a good source of protein, fibre, vitamins, carbohydrates and polyunsaturated fatty acids.1,3 It’s a good idea, however, to soak, sprout or ferment these grains before cooking them, as this can help to reduce the level of phytates in the grains (a so-called ‘anti-nutrient’, as it can bind to essential minerals in the food and stop them being absorbed by your body). Do take a look at my three naturally gluten-free grains recipes (link to go in)
- Oats are a (cheap!) and useful addition to a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free oats are labelled as such because processing of standard oats may often be contaminated by gluten-containing grains. Gluten-free oats are processed in a clean and separate facility to prevent this from happening. They are also a source of iron, fibre, thiamin and zinc.1
Why not try out one of my new recipes for naturally gluten-free grains to give you a little inspiration to get started?(link to go in)
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- Nijeboer, P., Bontkes, H., Mulder, C. and Bouma, G. (2013) ‘Non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Is it in the gluten or the grain?’, Journal of gastrointestinal and liver diseases : JGLD., 22(4), pp. 435–40.
- Ciacci, C., Bucci, C., Zingone, F., Fortunato, A., Napoli, M. and Morra, I. (2013) ‘What non celiac gluten sensitive patients do not eat (beside gluten)’, 15th International Celiac Disease Symposium Book of Abstracts: . p. 61.
- Dyner, L., Drago, S., Piñeiro, A., Sánchez, H., González, R., Villaamil, E. and Valencia, M. (2007) ‘[Composition and potential contribution of iron, calcium and zinc of bread and pasta made with wheat and amaranth flours]’, Archivos latinoamericanos de nutricion., 57(1), pp. 69–77.