I wrote a post not too long ago about wheat allergy symptoms and how to figure out if you’re a candidate for Celiac Disease or other wheat sensitivities/intolerances. That post resulted in a bunch of emails and questions about going gluten free and how I did it myself. I was so happy you all reached out to me, I decided to put some simple tips together for going gluten free. These tips don’t just list a bunch of foods you should and shouldn’t eat—they address some of the key emotional issues with going gluten free and how you don’t just need to change your diet, but also your attitude towards wheat and eating.
1. Accept the fact that your entire attitude with food will change.
So many of us eat cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pasta for dinner. If you’re going gluten free and follow the SAD (standard American diet), clearly you’re going to encounter some struggles. Realize that your entire attitude towards eating and food will change. With certain foods off limits, you’re going to have to change the way you structure meals and even the kinds of recipes you prepare. Instead of trying to keep your diet exactly the same, try opening yourself and your pantry to all the naturally gluten-free alternatives out there! This is the age where every food we could have ever imagined is available to us. Don’t be afraid to eat differently and try new foods you wouldn’t have tried before.
2. Seek out naturally gluten-free alternatives.
Many of my clients complain about how expensive gluten free pastas and breads are. If you like the occasional gluten free bagel, that’s cool and I totally understand that. But what about ditching the bread altogether? By turning towards naturally gluten-free foods like brown rice, quinoa, and other ancient grains, you’re eating a much more wholesome diet than if you were to eat gluten free products all day. Remember that these gluten free products aren’t exactly better for you either. They often are loaded with preservatives and additives, so choose wisely. If budget is of concern for you, you can’t go wrong with white rice and white potatoes. These are some of the cheapest carbs out there, not to mention they’re gluten free!
3. Let vegetables take center stage.
Americans are supposed to get between 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. But studies show that many Americans struggle to get a mere four! Don’t succumb to being a statistic; incorporate more vegetables into your diet as way to keep your palette from getting bored. Many people who are newly going gluten free spend so much time wallowing in all the foods they can no longer have, when in fact they’re forgetting about all the invigorating vegetables they can use to jazz dishes up. I love making quinoa salads and brown rice pilafs with whatever extra vegetables and herbs I have lying around, and over the years I’ve made some pretty interesting gluten free dishes to say the least.
4. Do your research.
You might notice after going gluten free that you get into a carb rut. You find yourself eating the same rice or potatoes night after night. Not only does this get boring from a flavor profile perspective, but you could be skimping on valuable nutrients from other grains. To stay inspired, continually research and index gluten free recipes you’d like to try. It’s as simple as cruising Pinterest, Foodgawker, Tastespotting, or Yummly and pinning a few recipes or articles. Staying educated will not only give you new dishes to make, but it will also keep you motivated to stay gluten free.
5. Learn to enjoy protein (both animal AND plant).
If you previously ate a diet that pretty much celebrated carbs, why not turn things around and embrace all the sumptuous protein you get to eat?! Most Americans eat way too many carbs to begin with, leaving little room to play around with different animal and plant proteins. Over the years, I’ve learned to cook chicken, beef, pork, seafood, and beans/legumes about a million different ways. All it takes is swapping out a few spices here and there to go from one cuisine to another. People always rave about pasta dishes and breads, but if you ask me it’s the proteins and vegetables that are actually the most innovative.
6. Stay away from baked goods for a while (but not forever).
I did (and to some respect, still do) suffer from a major sweet tooth. When I gave up gluten and wheat, it was really hard for me to resist some of my favorite treats. I understand how many of you have personal attachments with your carbs, and how your day isn’t quite right if you don’t have your morning muffin or bagel. As difficult as it might be, maybe you should try getting rid of all baked goods for a while. Over time, your palette will adjust. I know some of you might be weary of going cold turkey or don’t understand why you can’t eat a gluten free bagel/muffin instead, but I really think it’s important to see how you feel without any of that crap. If it’s not the gluten that’s going to make you sick, chances are it’ll be the processed ingredients from the gluten free product that could give you problems. Ditching all baked goods could also teach you how to modify your behavior. Reaching for gluten free bread at home, for instance, might make you more inclined to reach for regular bread at an Italian dinner.
7. If you bite it, you write it.
Keeping a food diary or journal isn’t just for people who want to lose weight or cut calories. Journaling is one of the best kept secrets for figuring out your eating habits, tendencies, and trigger points. Try to get into a habit of writing down what you ate, the amount, the time, and how you felt upon eating. Remember, you don’t need to keep a food journal forever! Try it for a few days or weeks and see if you notice any trends and make adjustments as needed. When you feel like your falling off the bandwagon, simply go back to journaling again.
Going gluten free might seem really challenging at first. But if you have the right arsenal of foods and the right attitude, it’ll be a much smoother transition that you thought. What are some of your tips for going gluten free?
Photo credit: Matt Barber of Flickr