Living With Food Sensitivities: Gluten
So you reacted to gluten on your food sensitivity test, now what?
At the end of the day, you probably just want to know- what do I eat? Which, I promise we will get to. But first, it is important to understand what your culprit is so you at least have a general idea of where it’s found to better avoid it.
Gluten is a protein found in the following grains: wheat, spelt, malt, barley, and rye. While you may not necessarily be eating these grains whole, like pearled barley with your steak, a sandwich on rye bread, or cream of wheat for breakfast- these are all very common ingredients in a lot of processed and packaged foods. So if you want to see the best possible results with your food sensitivity testing and are currently eat packaged foods, you are likely going to be replacing a lot of these with alternative products.
The “obvious” foods that will contain gluten are baked goods and anything made with flour. This includes: bread, pasta, pizza, muffins, tortillas, cookies, pastries, cakes, etc. The not so obvious ones will be products like: flavored snacks, spices, sauces (soy, Marinara, Worcestershire), dressings, processed meats, gravies, beer, candy, seitan, panko, orzo, udon, couscous and grains that are derivatives of wheat like semolina, faro, durum, and bulgur.
By now, I’m sure you’re thinking “is there anything left for me to eat?!”
The good news is- YES! Yes, there is. For every food that contains gluten there is likely a gluten free alternative. To ensure complete avoidance, taking on the habit of reading ingredient labels is key. You’re not likely to find the word “gluten” listed. Instead, you want to make sure the aforementioned grains (or derivatives) are not listed anywhere on the ingredient list. The easiest way to seek these for these alternative foods is by looking for a “GF” or “gluten free” or “certified gluten free” label on the product. If a product is labeled only as “wheat free”, this does not necessarily mean that that it will be gluten free.
To add to the good news, you don’t have to go to a “special store” to find gluten free options. Many grocery stores carry a variety of gluten free products. Depending on the set-up, some may have it in the same aisle as the gluten contain food you may be looking for, or they may be in its own special section. If you are not sure, just ask an employee. One example, gluten free breads almost always come frozen; so be sure to check out the bread section in the freezer aisle for your gluten free options. If options are limited at your regular grocery store, then you may want to consider your local health food store, as they may carry a wider variety of gluten free products.
With the good news also comes the not-so-good news. Gluten free products will perhaps not taste like their gluten-containing counterparts and will likely be more expensive. Keep an open mind when it comes to these alternative options; if you didn’t like the gluten free bread or gluten free cracker you picked up, try a different brand next time you are at the grocery store. To try and keep your grocery bill from skyrocketing with this new eating pattern, consider naturally gluten free foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and the following whole grains: amaranth, buckwheat, corn (organic, non GMO), millet, oats (gluten free), quinoa, rice, sorghum, tapioca, teff, wild rice.
Lastly, a common misconception of gluten free products is that they are healthier. The truth is, a cookie is a cookie- gluten free or not. In fact, the gluten free alternative may have more sugar and processed fats compared to the gluten containing one. It is important to not lose sight of promoting positive eating to reach your wellness goals. Choose naturally gluten free whole foods first and implement your processed gluten free products as needed.
Changing eating habits is a difficult, sometimes intimidating, task to take on and may not necessarily be achieved overnight. However, with guidance, planning, and an open mind, living a gluten free life can be enjoyable and fulfilling!
If you’re looking for gluten free recipes, you’ve come to the right place! The majority of the recipes on this website are gluten free.. Here are some of our favorite alternatives to traditionally gluten-containing dishes:
Ashat, Munish. Kochhar, Rakesh. (2014). Non-celiac gluten hypersensitivity, Tropical Gastroenterology, 35 (2): 71-78.
“The Gluten-Free Diet.” Beyond Celiac, www.beyondceliac.org/gluten-free-diet/overview/.
Basilia Theofilou is a contributor on our blog as well as one of the nutrition advisors here at PreviMedica. You can read more about her here.