If you’ve been in a health food restaurant over the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly spotted the little “GF” signs behind some menu items. Gluten – a protein contained in grains like wheat, rye, and barley – has some properties which make it great for baking and cooking. That’s why it’s pretty much everywhere.
So what’s the fuss about? Why are so many people going gluten free? And how exactly do you eat a gluten free diet?
The Health Impact of Gluten
About 1% of the population must avoid gluten due to an autoimmune disease called celiac disease. However, gluten seems to bother a much larger group of people. Bloating, inflammation, and irritable bowels are only some of the symptoms that affect people who are sensitive to gluten. As opposed to celiac, gluten sensitivity isn’t a disease exactly, but more of an intolerance – similar to lactose intolerance.
Going gluten free helps both gluten-sensitive people, and those diagnosed with celiac disease, to manage their digestive problems and achieve much higher energy levels, better mood, and overall improved well-being.
Is eating gluten free healthy?
If you’re not gluten intolerant or sensitive to gluten, then eating a gluten free diet is not necessarily healthier. However, many foods which are high in gluten, such as bread and pasta, are also high in calories and low in nutrient density. So limiting portion sizes of these foods can still be beneficial to your health, especially while on a weight loss journey. To avoid such “filler foods,” which will make you feel satisfied but don’t provide many vitamins and nutrients, choosing gluten free meals can be helpful at times.
Don’t be fooled, though. Just because those chocolate chip cookies are labeled gluten free doesn’t automatically mean they’re healthy. They might still contain loads of sugar and fats. If you’re not managing celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, the key is finding a balance between the gluten-free foods and the gluten-filled foods that keep you feeling happy and healthy.
Planning for a gluten free diet
So you’re gluten intolerant, sensitive to gluten, or simply curious what a gluten free diet might do for you? Good news: Although gluten seems to be everywhere, (e.g. baked goods, pasta dishes, and even soy sauce and yogurt), it’s quite simple to get around it.
Look out for certain types of grains, namely wheat (in all of its forms), barley, rye, and triticale. These need to be avoided, but can be replaced with gluten free options like tapioca, quinoa, and amaranth.
Many foods are naturally gluten free. Vegetables and fruits as well as nuts, seeds, legumes, meat, fish, eggs, and dairy can be enjoyed without worry.
Gluten free meal preparation
Avoiding gluten is easiest if you’re the chef since most products you’re currently using in the kitchen have gluten free replacements. Just Google your favorite foods and add “gluten free” to the query, and you’re sure to find some great recipes.
For instance, if you’re a big fan of bread, you can replace the wheat flour with coconut or almond flour for a gluten free alternative. The same goes for pizza and pasta. Your options are practically limitless.
Of course, most foods are already gluten free by nature. And that’s great news if you’re ready to explore new staple recipes. Simply choose from the large pallet of foods which don’t contain gluten in the first place. Your day could look something like this:
Breakfast: Oats with almond milk, fruit, and chia seeds. Add some maple syrup for extra deliciousness (if diagnosed with celiac disease, it’s best to use caution with oats–there’s a risk of gluten contamination during processing and some people with celiac have noticed symptoms after consuming large amounts of oats while others haven’t).
Lunch: Marinated tofu cubes or salmon filet with spinach and sweet potatoes.
Snack: Apple slices with almond butter.
Dinner: Green salad with avocado, edamame beans, seeds, artichoke hearts and an oil and vinegar dressing (if you use a store-bought dressing, make sure to take a close look at the label since many salad dressings do contain small amounts of gluten).
Or how about this mouth watering meal plan:
Breakfast: Banana smoothie with some nut butter and other fruits of your choice.
Lunch: Chili sin or con carne with corn tortilla chips (check the package for wheat, most brands are fine).
Snack: Dark chocolate and a cup of tea.
Dinner: Chickpea salad with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and avocado with a lemon dressing.
Easy, healthy and all naturally gluten free.
Gluten free when eating out or buying processed foods
This one is a bit tricky. Many processed foods like cheeses can contain gluten even though you wouldn’t expect them to. First, check the package for GF logos or allergy references. If you still have doubts you can always email the manufacturer directly. Restaurants are required to have allergy information on hand for all of their meals. Make sure to check with the chef, especially if you can’t tolerate any gluten at all.
Still feel a bit overwhelmed?
We get it! Going through a dietary change without a buddy who has your back can be a daunting task. That is why Noom exists.
When you work with Noom, you’ll have thousands of recipes to choose from. We can help you determine which ones are gluten free and which ones will fit best into your own personal food system. We also help you track progress towards your health and weight loss goals. And on top of that, our experts will coach you, every step of the way. Come see what we have to offer!