When I discovered my gluten intolerance five years ago, most of the literature and information out there focused on how to cook gluten free, but I was stumped by ingredients like xantham gum, tamari and amaranth flour. I could barely make a grilled cheese sandwich without burning it, much less cook with these exotic ingredients. Going to the grocery store was another minefield. There was hidden gluten in everything, and I found myself confused by labels that just listed “natural flavors.”
As with any challenge, I adapted. I learned what foods are already naturally gluten free, how to avoid hidden gluten and how to cook for myself. I might still have trouble with a five-course dinner party, but now I love to try new recipes and new gluten-free products.
And it’s not just me who has changed. Adopting a gluten-free diet is easier today than it was for me five years ago. Almost every grocery store has a gluten-free aisle, or at least a few specially labeled shelves. More restaurants are offering gluten-free menus, and I feel like at least the waiter knows what I’m talking about when I ask my picky questions. Most importantly, more gluten-free foods are being produced by manufacturers. Other foods that have always been gluten-free are now being packaged with a gluten-free label.
I’ll be trying out some specialty gluten-free products soon, but before I get into the product reviews, I wanted to share some tips and the lessons I’ve learned over the last few years for following a gluten-free diet.
What does “gluten free” mean?
Gluten is delicious. I wish I could eat it. If you don’t have Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, please keep eating it. A gluten-free diet is NOT a weight loss program. You might lose some weight by cutting back on your carbs and eating more fruits and vegetables, but it’s no guarantee. You could follow a gluten-free diet by eating nothing but Snickers bars.
All gluten-free means is that it does not contain wheat, barley, malt, or rye. Wheat also masquerades under names like farro, spelt and semolina. Other foods, like oats, don’t contain gluten, but are often processed with gluten.
A gluten-free diet is simpler than you think, but it has gotten kind of a bad rap for being a “fad.” I’ll say again, if you don’t have Celiac or a gluten intolerance, I can’t imagine why you would want to give up gluten. But for those of us who have to, there are so many more options today than there was just a few years ago.
What food is naturally gluten free?
I adopted a gluten-free diet during the summertime, which was perfect. Farmers markets are overflowing with fresh produce and there’s no shortage of delicious naturally gluten-free food available. You might have another dietary restriction to consider, but if you’re only trying to eat gluten free, go ahead and enjoy:
- All fruits
- All vegetables
- Most meat and fish (check labels of processed meat)
- Most dairy (check labels of low-fat or fat-free products)
- All beans
- Rice, quinoa, corn, lentils
Surprised at how much you can eat on a gluten-free diet? I was! Once I got over eating bread with every meal just because, I found that I was eating a much greater variety of foods. Whole foods you prepare yourself are going to be “safer.” When you start buying processed and prepared foods, you run a great risk of stumbling into some hidden gluten.
Next time I’ll address how to shop for gluten-free food, how to find hidden gluten on the label, and review some of my favorite foods.
Have a favorite gluten-free food? Write a review!
Editor’s note: If you have professional experience with gluten-free foods or speciality diets, Viewpoints is recruiting experts in priority product categories to write for our blog. Check out this overview of the Viewpoints Category Expert Program, including qualifications, compensation and how to apply.