The gluten-free diet is given to people who have been diagnosed of the celiac disease and gluten allergy. The idea of avoiding gluten and gluten containing food might sound easy but it is not. This is because almost all of the products in the market these days contain gluten like pasta and wheat food products like bread and pizza dough. You might think that getting into a gluten-free diet is simple but there are a lot of things you should know about it.
What to Avoid
Following a gluten-free diet means you have to avoid food that has rye, wheat, or barley. This is because these grains have the type of gluten that is bad for you. The wheat bread that you see at the supermarket contains this type of gluten. It is the thing component that makes it everyone’s favorite. It gives the bread the texture that one won’t get from the regular white bread.
Pasta based dishes also have this type of gluten. Pasta noodles have high concentration of gluten to keep them from disintegrating. Glutens also serve as thickeners in soup. This makes it possible to use less cream and other pricier ingredients. Beer and other liquor also have gluten since they are made by fermenting grains. Barley is the most commonly used grain but sometimes wheat, rye, and maize are also used in brewing.
Here are more foods that contain gluten:
- Soy Sauce
- Ice Cream
- Salad dressings
- Sauces and condiments
- Yogurt and milk products
Other Names for Gluten
Make sure to check the label of your grocery-bought food products. Anything that has “natural flavor” listed on its ingredients is sure to have gluten. Gluten is usually disguised under different names. Getting rid of food that contains the above list is piece of cake (although it is pretty heartbreaking to know I’ll never be able to eat pizza again). The real challenger here is to have eyes that are keen enough to spot the disguised gluten. Your favorite canned soup that has starch in it might contain gluten. The candy that your little sister loves so much may have “natural flavors” also known as gluten. It seems like gluten is everywhere we look. We need to be smart enough and not miss a trick.
Here are the other aliases of gluten. Make sure you check food labels from now on:
- Wheat germ extract
- Vegetable protein
- Modified Starch
- Natural flavoring
- Artifical Flavoring
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
- Caramel color
Non-Disclosure of Gluten Content
Due to the fact that the gluten-free diet is somewhat complicated gluten-free foods were once only available at health food stores. Since the growing population has become more and more aware of the benefits of the gluten-free diet it has become so popular that every neighborhood grocery store has a whole aisle different kinds of gluten-free food products intended for gluten-free food products.
It can be very tricky finding out which of these products actually are free of gluten. The fact that the United States Food and Drug Administration does not insist upon manufacturers to disclose the gluten content on their food labels mans you have to check the ingredients of each product you buy from the supermarket.
The good thing is a lot of manufacturers voluntarily label their products as gluten-free since they know that a lot of people are now following the gluten-free diet. This will make your grocery shopping easier and quicker. In addition, one more good news is that there are independent organizations that are devoted to providing certification programs to foods that are gluten-free. The three organizations that are doing this heroic deed are:
- Gluten Intolerance Group’s Gluten Free Certification Organization GFCO)
- Celiac Sprue Association (CSA)
- The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA)
Starting a Gluten-Free Diet
Reading all these stuff about gluten, gluten-free certification, and gluten pseudo names, it does feel like starting a gluten-free diet might need some sort of super powers. Here are a few steps to get you started:
- List the food products that contain gluten. Many gluten intolerance groups and celiac disease websites have comprehensive bulletin dedicated to this.
- Make sure to read food labels. Although manufacturers are not required to disclose the presence of gluten in their products, they are required to do so if wheat is one of their ingredients. If you find something that is labeled “gluten free” in its packaging but has wheat listed on its ingredients, you already know the label is just a marketing concept.
- Eat only real food. Most processed foods contain gluten. It might be hard to keep away from them since almost every food product around us today are processed. The trick here is to stick to fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, brown rice, and quinoa.
- If there are foods that you really can’t live without but may contain gluten, search for a recipe that uses ingredients that don’t have gluten. There are many websites that are dedicated to gluten-free diet. You will surely find a recipe you will like. Maybe you will stumble upon smart cooking tips too.
- Go to online forums, online communities, and support groups. The Celiac Sprue Association and The Gluten Intolerance Group will gladly offer their support to anyone who needs it.
- Consult a nutritionist. He or she will be the most knowledgeable person you can turn to when it comes to the gluten-free diet. This step will not only make sure you are able to avoid gluten but will also make it possible to stick to the diet but still get enough fiber and important nutrients that your body needs.
- Find a good restaurant that caters to people who are into the gluten-free diet. There will be times that you will feel too lazy to cook. Knowing where to go for gluten-free meals will help you stick to your diet.
You will eventually get used to this diet but at first you will need to become a smart shopper and a gluten detective. You might make mistakes along the way but don’t worry. Everyone who is trying out something new rarely does it perfectly the first time.