Are you searching for a gluten-free diet plan for beginners? We have you covered! Going gluten-free can be difficult, especially figuring out what to eat.
Luckily, as awareness of gluten intolerance and celiac disease has spread, so has the variety of products and recipes available to make easy and delicious dishes. So, it has become easier to create a gluten-free diet plan!
Starting a Gluten-Free Diet
In the past 10 years, the trend of the gluten-free diet has resulted in an explosion in the diversity of substitutes for items such as bread, pasta, and pizza. This makes picking up a gluten-free diet plan for beginners significantly slightly easier.
Restaurants are now more aware of gluten-free cooking and are willing to edit their dishes and offer more options that are gluten-free. Here we bring you a gluten-free guide, with tips, common mistakes, and a plan on how to go gluten-free for beginners.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a duo protein found in certain grains, consisting of Gliadin and Glutenin, the former being more responsible for adverse health impacts.i
These proteins are mostly found in what is called “the big 3”: wheat, barley, and rye. While flour is a more common form of gluten, proteins can also be found in grain derivatives, such as beer and malt.
This protein is responsible for the elasticity in baked items such as bread, and gives them an airy, stretchy texture. It is also used as an additive for its ability to improve texture in creamy dishes, promote moisture retention, and help add a crisp exterior to foods.
Most people digest gluten without complication; however, some have trouble, and their body reacts to gluten in their system.
Why Can Gluten Be Bad for Some People?
Gluten, in general, is not a fantastic substance for human beings, especially since the majority of its forms are processed.
For people with celiac disease, gluten proteins cause an immune response that inflames the small intestine, making it more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients.
Most often, the symptoms appear as digestive problems, and/or symptom similar to ADHD. Lacking essential nutrients can impair health and lead to malnutrition.ii
Malnutrition, especially in childhood, is a serious issue and can impact immune responses to illness. It could lead to a higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
If you are celiac, long term inflammation of the small intestine could even lead to increased cancer risk.iii People with gluten intolerance and sensitivity have similar symptoms but do not appear to suffer the same intestinal damage and antibodies.
While these negative health impacts may be intimidating, learning how to go gluten-free could drastically reduce these risks.
Foods You Need to Avoid
“The big 3” are the most common sources of gluten. However, it also exists in other grains.
Look out for these gluten containing ingredients when choosing your next meal.
Some foods are obvious, but others are not. The foods that often contain gluten, but can be made gluten-free, include:
- Crackers and chips
- Breaded items
- Fried foods
- Baking mixes
- Creamy soups
- Protein bars
- Malt liquor
- Imitation crab
- Artificial flavors (especially caramel color)
Gluten-Free Food That You Are Allowed to Eat
While learning how to eat gluten-free can be difficult, there are so many great options and substitutes that do not contain gluten.
Fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, tofu, dairy, eggs, legumes, spices, oils, and are naturally gluten-free. They can enhance your diet (so long as gluten is not added to these items).
Here are some other foods which generally don’t have added gluten:
- Potato and Cassava
- Oats (that are non-cross-contaminated)
- Chickpea flour
Mistakes to Avoid
One of the worst things you can do when learning how to eat gluten-free is to assume something does not contain gluten.
While some gluten products are obvious, such as bread, pasta, and pastries, gluten can hide in some foods that you would not expect, such as burger patties, soy sauce, granola, and even salad dressing.
Searching for hidden sources of gluten in dishes can make the difference between a delicious meal and adverse symptoms.
If you are unsure, research the product or ask the manufacturer or restaurant server!
Sauces that have thicker consistency and items that have a coating may have wheat flour added to them (which is not gluten-free).
Furthermore, you do not have to feel like a burden when eating out with friends or family who eat gluten. If you see the gluten-free diet as a simple instruction or task, as opposed to a massive barrier to what you want to eat, it feels easier to follow.
Remember that you are the client, so ask politely to the restaurant waiters and chefs for the gluten-free items on the menu and they will be eager to help you.
Gluten-free Packaged Food – Is it Healthy?
Going gluten-free can drastically impact which packaged foods you buy, as many contain gluten as a filler.
There are many gluten-free packaged foods that are healthy, but others, such as Lays chips and Cheetos, are cross contaminated and not exactly nutritious. There are some alternative options, as we mentioned in a previous article.
At the end of the day, packaged foods are still packaged foods, and even if they are gluten-free, it does not necessarily mean that they are healthier.
Despite this, often times gluten-free packaged foods are combined with vegan or natural products, which are generally a healthier option.
Pay attention to the description of the ingredients as they usually have them listed on the back of the package.
Helpful Tips on How to be Gluten-free
Learning how to become gluten-free can take some time but is worth the effort. Cooking your own food is the best way to ensure that you are not consuming gluten by accident.
When you are the creator of your meal, you’re able to control what is added eliminate hidden sources of gluten. If you are ordering in a restaurant, when in doubt, just ask if something is gluten-free!
Asking about the ingredients and preparation when ordering out can play a huge role in avoiding both hidden and obvious sources of gluten that a menu may not display.
If you are buying food in a store, read the ingredients carefully to ensure it does not contain gluten.
Finding gluten-free brands that have a dedicated factory or production line can play a massive role in avoiding it. The Certified Gluten-free TM label is the first thing you should look for when purchasing a product. There is even a CGF website that you can go to check what products are gluten-free certified.
If there is no obvious marking, then read the ingredients. Most items feature a segment saying “contains:” at the bottom of the ingredient list that shows common allergens. If the packaging does not have this list, read the ingredient list and avoid any gluten related additives.
Gluten-Free Diet For Beginners: A Week of Ideas to Start your Diet
If you have never eaten gluten-free before, you are probably wondering “What does a gluten-free diet look like?” Surprisingly, with just a few changes and substitutions, it looks just like a normal menu!
We have created a plan on how to start a gluten-free diet, offering a variety of options to mix with and match. One of the most important skills is learning to cook rice, as it is simple, yet versatile. Learn how to make the perfect rice here.
Anyway, here is a weekly plan for you to follow, without overspending.
- Avocado toast with gluten-free bread: avocado toast can be a delicious way to start your day and using gluten-free bread makes it safe to eat. There are so many ways to make avocado toast that you can find here: 10 recipes to mix it up with your toast.
- Gluten-free pasta with your choice of sauce. Today there are so many different kinds of gluten-free pasta! Rice, brown rice, corn, quinoa, and potato flour can be combined to create great flavors. Pair with your favorite gluten-free sauce for an easy lunch.
- Salmon with rice and vegetables: A simple combination that is easy to mix and matches different sauces/seasonings and vegetables.
- Fried rice using leftover rice: If you make too much rice the night before, fried rice is a great way to use what you have left to create a great meal.
- Soup: There are dozens of types of soup that are gluten-free! Canned soup is gluten-free most of the time (with the exception of noodle soups) but be sure to double check. You can also make your own soup.
- Taco night with corn tortillas. Taco Tuesday is a classic, and you don’t need to worry about gluten! Be sure to use corn tortillas that are gluten-free, as some companies add wheat flour in the preparation, and use gluten-free seasoning.
- Classic American breakfast: bacon or sausage, eggs, and hash browns or toast are a classic breakfast combination and are easy to make gluten-free. When buying products, be sure to double check the labels.
- Sandwich with gluten-free bread: fast and easy to make, there is a massive diversity of bread options to mix and match to create your perfect sandwich. Be sure to use gluten-free bread and sauces; and make sure any meat you use is also gluten-free.
- Stir fry with rice: stir fried vegetables with your choice of protein, over rice, is a great dinner option, just make sure your sauce is gluten-free.
- Power smoothie: Easy and fast, smoothies are a great way to start your day! If you use protein powder be sure to double-check that it is gluten-free. There are also so many different kinds of smoothies, click here for some easy smoothie ideas.
- Tofu lettuce wrap: This is our own creation for an easy lunch item that is high in protein and healthy fats. Fry some tofu in a pan, then top with black beans mixed with hot sauce and cheese (optional) with freshly cut tomatoes. It is a light but hearty meal.
- Lasagna with gluten-free pasta sheets: lasagna is almost never gluten-free in restaurants, so creating your own can be a way to recreate one of your favorite lost meals. Be sure to buy gluten-free pasta sheets and sauces.
- Yogurt and gluten-free granola with fruit: Yogurt is a great start to any morning but be sure to make sure you use gluten-free granola.
- DIY bowl: grains, leafy greens, and yummy toppings are a great lunch item, and there are so many different ways to make a bowl, from Poke to Buddha!
- BBQ vegetables and meat: the barbecue can be a gluten-free delight and adds a depth of flavor to any meal. Make sure the marinades and sauces are gluten-free before digging in.
- Breakfast tacos: corn tortillas are a gluten-free staple that can be used in any meal, including breakfast! Be sure to heat the tortillas before using, because corn tortillas tend to be very breakable, then add all of your favorite breakfast foods.
Our recommendation is sausage, eggs, beans, bacon, and a slice of avocado with your choice of salsa.
- Acai or smoothie bowl: a bowl of cut fruit over a smoothie-like bowl is a great way to start the morning. You can buy acai packets to make bowls at home. If you order from a restaurant, be sure to check if the granola is gluten-free, or if they have a substitute.
- Baked potato: potatoes are another great option when learning how to eat gluten-free, and there are so many ways to spice up your baked potato! Click for easy ideas for baked potato recipes.
- Gluten-free waffles or pancakes: these are items that rarely come gluten-free in restaurants, but are easy to make at home, especially with the rise of gluten-free baking and cooking mixes. We recommend Pamela’s pancake mix for its flavorful and fluffy results.
- Salad: a great salad can be a huge life saver in a time crunch but can also be filling and nutritious. If ordering out, ask the wait staff to remove croutons or other bread-like toppings and ask if the salad dressing is gluten-free.
- Roasted potatoes, chicken and vegetables: roast potatoes can be dressed up or down and paired especially well with beef and chicken.
Going gluten-free is not as hard as you think! Get started today and join our gluten-free community.
Download the Allergy Project app today, to help your everyday life shopping for gluten-free products to become much easier.
It will save you time and it will be an inseparable tool for people with celiac disease and those who have opted for a gluten-free diet on their own.