Guidelines For Successfully Following A Gluten Free Diet
A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye.
A gluten-free diet is used to treat celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and other auto-immune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s Disease and Rheumatoid arthritis. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. Eating a gluten-free diet helps people with celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.
Initially, following a gluten-free diet may be frustrating. But with time, patience and creativity, you’ll find there are many foods that you already eat that are gluten-free, and you will discover substitutes for gluten-containing foods that you can enjoy.
Read on to learn some easy to follow guidelines on how to successfully follow a gluten-free diet including what foods are allowed, foods to avoid and what to do about cross-contamination.
Gluten-Free Diet Guidelines
Switching to a gluten-free diet is a significant change, and like anything new, it takes some getting used to the diet. You may initially feel deprived by the diet’s restrictions, especially if you weren’t having troubling symptoms before your diagnosis.
It may help to try to focus on all the foods you can eat instead, however.
While there is a wide variety of gluten-free products available now, many of them are full of unhealthy ingredients and have been shown by research to be contaminated with gluten.
A healthy approach to following a gluten-free diet is to avoid eating too many processed foods and where practical try to cook your meals from scratch.
If you’re just starting with a gluten-free diet, and are feeling overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to consult a holistic nutritionist who can answer your questions and offer advice about how to avoid gluten while still eating a healthy, balanced whole food diet.
Allowed foods on a Gluten Free Diet
Many healthy and delicious foods are naturally gluten-free:
- Beans, seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
- Fresh eggs
- Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
- Fruits and vegetables
- Most dairy products
It’s important to make sure that they are not processed or mixed with gluten-containing grains, additives or preservatives. Many grains and starches can be part of a gluten-free diet, such as:
- Corn and cornmeal
- Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
- Hominy (corn)
Foods to avoid on a Gluten Free Diet
Avoid all food and drinks containing:
- Barley (malt, malt flavouring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley)
- Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
Avoiding wheat can be challenging because wheat products go by numerous names. Consider the many types of wheat flour on supermarket shelves — bromated, enriched, phosphated, plain and self-rising. Here are other wheat products to avoid:
- Durum Flour
- Graham flour
Avoid unless labelled ‘gluten-free.’
In general, avoid the following foods unless they’re labelled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:
- Cakes and pies
- Communion wafers
- Cookies and crackers
- French fries
- Imitation meat or seafood
- Processed luncheon meats
- Salad dressings
- Sauces, including soy sauce
- Seasoned rice mixes
- Seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips
- Self-basting poultry
- Soups and soup bases
- Vegetables in sauce
Certain grains, such as oats, can be contaminated with wheat during growing and processing stages of production. For this reason, I recommend avoiding oats unless they are explicitly labelled gluten-free.
You should also be alert for other products that you eat, or that could come in contact with your mouth that may contain gluten. These include:
- Food additives, such as malt flavouring, modified food starch and others
- Medications and vitamins that use gluten as a binding agent
Watch for cross-contamination
Cross-contamination occurs when gluten-free foods come into contact with foods that contain gluten. It can happen during the manufacturing process, for example, if the same equipment is used to make a variety of products.
Some food labels include a “may contain” statement if cross-contamination is likely. But be aware that this type of declaration is voluntary.
Foods may also be labelled as “gluten-free.” If a product, made in the US, carries a gluten-free label, the Food and Drug Administration requires that the product contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Be aware that products labelled “wheat-free” may still contain gluten.
You still need to check the actual ingredient list. If you’re not sure whether the food contains gluten, don’t buy it or check with the manufacturer first to ask what it includes.
Cross-contamination can also occur at home if foods are prepared on common surfaces or with utensils that weren’t thoroughly cleaned after being used to cook gluten-containing foods. Using a common toaster for gluten-free bread and regular bread is a major source of contamination, for example. Consider what steps you need to take to prevent cross-contamination at home, school or work.
Be careful about eating out at restaurants. Ask restaurant staff members if they have choices that are truly gluten-free, including being prepared to avoid cross-contamination.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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