7 Steps to Go Gluten-Free and Break the Gluten Habit
Everyone wants to offer advice these days. Whether it is your friend or a popular blog, everyone has an opinion and "knows the answer."
People are drowning with information on diet and health. Topics ranging from "what food to eat every day" and "which foods are bad for you" abound. It can get confusing to decide what you should and should not do.
This can be overwhelming. When you add in a health condition that is relatively unknown to many doctors. One that can only be treated through one's diet. This overwhelming feeling increases.
That is the world of gluten-related disorders. Celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity seem confusing and overwhelming to the point where you may want to bury your head in the sand like an Ostrich and ignore the dangers.
Gluten Free is not for everyone.
While gluten-free foods were once confined to health-food stores, they are now showing up everywhere. Not only are grocery store aisles stocked with products labeled as “gluten-free”; but many restaurants also now proudly offer gluten-free menu options.
Gluten can be found in wheat, rye, and barley. But this does not mean these foods have become "bad for you".
It has become trendy to go gluten-free. Without much evidence of gluten-related illnesses, people have been switching to gluten-free diets. They do it to treat a variety of health issues, including obesity, lack of energy, and autism.
The reality is that this popular way of life will not benefit everyone. People with a gluten sensitivity are likely to feel better on a gluten-free diet. But most people will not get any significant benefits from this practice, and will end up wasting a lot of money on expensive foods.
Regardless of gluten sensitivity, those that shift from a diet of the Pizza Hut menu to a gluten free diet will also see a marked improvement.
A gluten free diet is generally healthy, shifting to a gluten free diet from an unhealthy diet will improve your health. But mainly because your diet improved. Not necessarily because of gluten.
The decision to go Gluten free (or not) may seem confusing, but it is a MUST for some people.
In this article, we will discuss who should be on a gluten-free diet, and address seven steps to break the habit of depending on gluten.
Who Should Go Gluten-Free Diet?
People suffering from celiac disease and a gluten sensitivity need to be on a gluten-free diet. It is the only way for them to be healthy. Yet the diet is becoming more and more popular in the mainstream.
This is due to people who do not understand the gluten intolerance lending a host of ills at the door of gluten. The truth is that for those who are not gluten intolerant, gluten is not that big of a thing.
Let's take a look at the science. What is gluten? How does it effect people, and what can we do about it?
So, what is gluten?
Gluten is a general name for the elastic protein that is found in barley, rye, and wheat. This protein holds together pasta and baked goods, helping foods maintain their shape. It acts as a glue that helps hold food together, which explains why the name comes from the Latin word glūten, meaning “glue.” Gluten can be found in a variety of foods, even some that would not be expected.
The small intestine is lined with small tissues called villi, which create a large surface that absorbs necessary vitamins, sugars, and other nutrients from food.
When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, the immune system responds, and these small tissues flatten out, damaging the lining of the small intestine. In turn, this decreases the space in the small intestine that can absorb nutrients.
Sometimes, this inability to absorb nutrients can lead to malnourishment, stunt growth, and weaken bones. Without absorbing critical vitamins and minerals, one can develop further health problems such as anemia, osteoporosis, and growth delays.
However, not everyone who chooses to go gluten-free has celiac disease. Some people choose the gluten-free diet because they are allergic to wheat, barley, and/or rye, while others may have gluten intolerance.
People suffering from celiac disease will not always experience symptoms after eating gluten. But there is still damage being done to the small intestine.
Most people suffering from celiac disease will begin to feel improvements, after two weeks of quitting gluten. Symptoms disappear after three months on a gluten-free diet. But it can take six months on a gluten-free diet for the villi to become healthy again.
Now that you know who really needs gluten free diets, let's dig into some details on how to effectively create a gluten free diet.
How to Break the Gluten Diet in Seven Steps
It is not easy for everyone to accept the fact that they have celiac disease, a wheat allergy, or gluten intolerance. For the most part, it's not so much the diagnosis as the perceived limitations to diet that it brings with it.
If someone is used to going out to eat with friends often, or not looking at food labels, it is likely to seem daunting to have to track their diet so closely. It may even seem like an end of a certain way of life for some people, especially once they start doing research on what foods they have to avoid.
Accepting the fact that you have to begin a gluten-free diet is the first step to becoming healthy. Accept this, because in order to get healthy, you likely have no other choice. While you may want to change the situation, your body simply is not able to tolerate gluten.
This is your life and your body, so accepting your new reality is a must. If you are able to consciously make the decision that you are going to embrace your new way of life, you will feel better both physically and mentally.
2. Focus on the foods that you CAN eat.
A gluten-free diet is similar to a traditional healthy diet. You can still eat vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, and lean meat.
You will not go hungry.
You can still eat a rib-eye steak. A colorful and flavorful salad. Homemade guacamole. And even mashed potatoes and lamb kebabs. There are a lot of delicious foods that you do not have to go without.
Instead of thinking about the foods that you can't eat at first, think of the good foods you can eat. Many foods that you love that can still be a part of your diet. Focusing on the positive is always a good way to start any new habit.
Start exploring new foods that are naturally free from gluten.
There are a lot of gluten-free grains that you may not have heard of before. Since living gluten free closes the door to some grains, why not open the door to other grains.
Top 9 Gluten Free Grains:
**There is debate about oats being gluten free. Oats are inherently gluten-free, but are often grown in the same fields as wheat and may get some gluten that way. Check the packages of any oats you but to make 100% certain they are gluten free.
3. Figure out where gluten hides.
The three grains that you need to avoid are wheat, rye, and barley. Avoid eating any kind of food, taking medicine, or using products (such as lipsticks, makeup, or shampoos) that may contain these.
When it comes to fried foods, the foods themselves may be gluten-free, but they could be contaminated with gluten if they were fried in the same pan as gluten foods. And beware, many products advertise themselves as being "wheat-free," but that does not mean that they are definitely gluten-free. Barley can also be sneaky because it hides in unexpected places, like beer and malt vinegar.
Here is a list of foods that contain gluten:
Some other surprising common foods that may contain gluten are:
4. Learn how to cook and bake gluten-free.
It’s easy to focus on foods you can no longer eat, but fortunately, the Internet can provide you with a lot of gluten-free recipes that will not make you feel deprived. If you already love cooking, you will certainly be fine. While there may be a period of shock in the beginning as you find out some of your go-to ingredients contain gluten, you will learn how to work around it.
Cooking is one of the best paths to healing when it comes to eating gluten-free. It might be hard for other people to cook for you if they are not well-educated on gluten. But once you are comfortable with speaking up for yourself, you can offer your loved ones some advice. In the beginning, just focus on cooking for yourself. You can also go to restaurants that offer gluten-free options, which many do. But the easiest and safest way to eat real food with high-quality ingredients is to prepare it yourself.
Here are a few resources to help you get started with learning how to cook gluten-free meals:
5. Find and use gluten-free substitutes.
There are a lot of gluten-free replacements for common foods sold these days that taste great. You don't have to sacrifice flavor or texture like you may have had to 10 years ago if you are eating gluten-free.
Here are some great substitutes to consider:
Gluten-Free Snack Bars
KIND Healthy Grains Granola Bars, Dark Chocolate Chunk
These chewy bars have heart-healthy whole grains such as amaranth, millet, and quinoa, as well as essential vitamins.
Larabar Gluten-Free Bar, Cherry Pie
The fruit-and-nut bars are made with only three ingredients: dates, almonds, and unsweetened cherries. They are great to take on the go, and are also non-GMO, vegan, soy-free, and dairy-free.
Enjoy Life Soft Baked Cookies, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free and Soy-Free, Variety Pack
These cookies do not contain any artificial ingredients, and are free from the top eight allergens. They contain healthy ingredients such as quinoa, buckwheat, and honey.
Sahale Snacks Balsamic Almonds Glazed Mix, Gluten-Free Snack
These almonds are mixed with dry apples, a rich yet tart balsamic glaze, flax seeds, and cayenne pepper.
Snyder's of Hanover Gluten-Free Pretzel Sticks
Not only are these pretzels gluten-free, they are also free from dairy, eggs, and milk.
Gluten-Free Baking Mixes
Betty Crocker Bisquick Baking Mix, Gluten-Free Pancake and Waffle Mix
This pantry staple contains no artificial flavors or preservatives.
Krusteaz Gluten-Free Honey Cornbread Mix
The cornbread mix is made with real honey and can be baked in squares, muffins, or even a skillet.
Simple Mills Naturally Gluten-Free Almond Flour Mix, Banana Muffin & Bread
This product is made with an almond flour blend and coconut flour so it is nutrient-dense. The real bananas in it add a great taste as well.
Gluten-Free Makeup, Lipstick, and Beauty Products
Afterglow Cosmetics products are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). Here are some of their most popular products, along with some other cosmetics that are gluten-free.
Afterglow Cosmetics Organic Infused Foundation (Bisque)
This powder is available in 16 different shades, and it blends easily without creating creases in the skin.
Afterglow Cosmetics Infused Glow Bronzer
Available in two shades and does not contain any parabens, nanos, bismuth oxychloride, gluten, or talc.
Afterglow Cosmetics Infused Lip Love Lipstick
This is a great product because it is available in 13 different shades, including matte, shimmer, and sheer. It is a highly pigmented product that is nourishing and contains soothing botanicals.
Other Gluten-Free Beauty Products
Ecco Bella FlowerColor Natural Lipstick for All Day Lip Protection
A moisturizing lipstick stays on all day without using preservatives.
Ecco Bella FlowerColor Natural Liquid Foundation
This water-based liquid foundation offers full coverage using essential ingredients.
Mirabella Pure Press Mineral Powder Medium Coverage Foundation - III
A blended pressed powder is an essential addition to anyone's makeup collection. It delivers medium to full coverage foundation using all-natural minerals.
Mirabella Skin Tint Crème Full Coverage Liquid Mineral Foundation - III
This medium coverage crème foundation is skin-perfecting as it blends, builds, and buffs the complexion. It uses a mineral-based formula that quickly dries to a bright finish.
Lip Balm Egyptian Fennel - Grapefruit & Sweet Orange
This lip balm helps rejuvenate dry and chapped lips with plant extracts and essential oils.
Pangea Organics Body Wash | Pyrenees Lavender With Cardamom: A highly concentrated wash contains a blend of soothing essential oils.
Pangea Organics Hand Soap With Canadian Pine With White Sage: An antibacterial soap that helps maintain healthy skin.
Pangea Organics Eye Cream | Turkish Rose & White Tea: This anti-aging product gently smoothes delicate eye skin and helps diminish fine lines.
6. Plan ahead when eating out.
Dining out with your friends and family is a fundamental part of a happy and fulfilling life. While it does present some challenges if you are on a gluten-free diet, nothing should keep you from enjoying going out to restaurants to eat. Many restaurants these days offer gluten-free menus or note the items on their menus that can be prepared without gluten.
The most trustworthy restaurants when it comes to gluten have a certification through a celiac disease support group. If this is the case, you know the restaurant is well-versed about gluten-free dining. These restaurants make an effort to offer options using gluten-free ingredients and prepare their meals in a way that prevents cross-contamination.
Do not be afraid to ask your server questions about the menu so you can make good choices. Always make sure to tell your server that you have celiac disease or are intolerant to gluten. So they understand your need to avoid anything that may contain gluten or have been cross-contaminated with it.
If you choose to order a salad or another food that has toppings, make sure to tell your server that you cannot have croutons or other toppings made with bread.
When it comes to preparation and cross-contamination, some things you may consider asking would be:
Are gluten-free foods made in their own dedicated area using only dedicated pots and utensils, or, alternatively, are they cleaned thoroughly between uses?
Is the grill thoroughly cleaned before any gluten-free meals are prepared?
If you have a question that they do not have an answer to, chances are that the chef of the restaurant will be able to provide you with some guidance. If you are nervous about going to a certain restaurant, call them ahead of time and ask about their experience with cooking gluten-free food, and how gluten-free-friendly they tend to be.
If you are in a restaurant and are unsure about how strict their gluten-free policies are, order items on the menu that are not likely to be exposed to cross-contamination. For example, ordering a plain baked potato is a better idea than ordering fried potatoes that may not have been prepared in a dedicated fryer.
You can also ask your server to make sure that the grill or pan that is being used to cook your food is thoroughly cleaned before your meal is prepared. Also, plain fruits and vegetables are always safe.
Once you find a restaurant that has several options that you enjoy, start a list of these places so you can always have a few ideas in your back pocket of where you can go out to eat. You may also want to note some places that do not have much to offer you so you know to avoid them in the future.
7. Find your community.
Join a local gluten-free support group, or find some online support. You can meet some very helpful people, both virtually and in person, who are living the same situation that you are. It is great to be able to share ideas and recipes, and even get a sense of support if you are feeling frustrated or down.
Here are a few helpful links:
Even if you meet someone who is on a gluten-free diet for a different reason than you are, they can still provide you with help and inspiration. Many people have been in your shoes before, so if you are new to a gluten-free lifestyle, this is a great way to learn how to adjust.
Remember, not everyone has to go gluten-free, and doing so will not necessarily benefit your health unless there is a medical reason why you need to avoid gluten. But if you do realize that gluten is causing harm to your health, then using these seven steps should help you get started with your new eating lifestyle.
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This article contains a lot of great information that may seem overwhelming at first if you are just now diving in. Review this article a few times and take the first step of "acceptance" to removing gluten from your diet.
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