Gluten-free diet is not as hard as people think it is. Gluten is a kind of protein found in three main grains. These grains are:
Therefore, you don’t eat breads, pasta, noodles, cracked wheat know as bulgur, couscous, cake, pies, cookies, bagels, flatbreads made with these three grains. You don’t consume things that have malt in it such as beer. Rice, oat, millet and corn does not contain gluten. However, especially oats can be contaminated with gluten from other grains because of being processed in the same environment.
I am going to approach following gluten free diet from two different perspectives. I am going to list what you can eat at home and out of home (restaurants or social events).
For me, there are two different types of gluten-free diets:
- Gluten-free diet by only consuming meat, veggies, greens, nuts (sometimes legumes) and dairy products.
- or in addition to the above, by replacing gluten containing grains with gluten-free grains.
The type of gluten-free diet I try to follow is #1. In its simplest form, it includes grass-fed red meat, local and organic vegetables and fruits (non GMO, no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides), organic dairy products like yogurt, kefir, cheese and eggs.
I don’t eat gluten-free pasta, bread, cake, pie, cookies. I cook home made food for myself and my family every evening.
I don’t (or try not to) focus on what I cannot eat. I can eat all veggies of all colors, salads and green leaves. I can eat all fruits. Isn’t that nice?
The reason why I avoid gluten-free foods that replace gluten counterparts, is that mostly they contain high sugar and carbs. They increase my blood sugar rapidly which are bad for my body. Instead I consume protein or veggies and fruits. I eat three large meals and don’t eat junk food as snacks.
Eating out (Restaurants and Social events)
When I eat out, I stick with meat and salads if available. Otherwise I just eat vegetarian meals but make sure it doesn’t contain any gluten sauce. What you have to pay attention to when eating out is not just making sure that a meal’s main ingredients are gluten fee but other ingredients are as well.
One example is rice in restaurants is made with chicken stock containing gluten. Also in soups made with touch of flour or made with certain broths or meatballs with bread in it might not be exactly gluten free. Be careful with products made with gluten free ingredients. For example, cornbread recipes usually has wheat flour.
I choose simple foods, grilled meat, salads with olive oil, greens with yogurt. Anytime you have doubts, ask the server. Knowledge of gluten allergy or sensitivity is becoming mainstream. When I tell people I have allergies for flour and bread, everyone immediately asks whether I have celiac. I explain, my condition is not that serious but similar. Do not say “I don’t eat bread” because then people think you are simply on a diet and insist. Tell them, bread and anything with flour makes you sick. Beware than whenever you bring up gluten allergies or sensitivity, conversation might extend with questions.
When you are invited to a meal at a friend’s, it is up to you to inform with your friends in advance and ask whether there will be some gluten free options or not. I usually don’t mention, assuming that I will find something to eat. Almost all my close friends know that I eat gluten free foods.
If you are invited out to a job related lunch or dinner, wedding, cocktails, some snacks with you such as fruits and nuts to munch on and eat something before you go just in case. By now, I am used to informing event coordinators about y dietary restriction and make my travel arrangements around it. Even if I feel really hungry and there aren’t many options, I try not to give in and eat anything that has gluten in it. I drink lots of water. It is important to be ready for emergencies.
At grocery shopping, my main rule is to stick to things that have one ingredient. Basic needs like milk, eggs, honey, cheese, sun dried fruits, and nuts are pretty basic things you can consume. If I am going to buy something that has two or more ingredients, it is important to be able to buy foods with labels easy enough to read.
Let’s say you are buying yogurt, it should only have milk and cultures in it. (I prefer to make my own yogurt at home). If you are buying chocolate, it should only have cacao, sugar and oil in it. If there are other ingredients, you should ask question it…. The additives in products usually have interesting names. They sound nice. If it is not something you can buy from the market by itself, avoid it. Some of things you buy which have ingredients with names you can’t even pronounce usually come from genetically modified organisms and are usually bad for your body and on the top of it, their main ingredients might not contain gluten but might include sub ingredients that are made from gluten containing grains.
Canned soups, ketchup and canned foods are absolutely to stay away from. The preservatives in them definitely contain wheat protein and some sort of starch in them.
In my opinion best way to follow a gluten free diet is to buy things that don’t have complicated names, easy to read, simple items and cooking home made foods. Stay away from rest of the stuff. Food Rules is a great book to read about what to eat, regardless of the gluten content .
For those people who insist “they cannot live without grains”, your roadmap to a healthy gluten free diet you can follow and, in fact, enjoy is in my next post.