Beginner’s Guide: How to Start a Gluten-Free Diet
Starting a new diet can be daunting and confusing. It may be especially difficult if the diet requires specific types of food, which a gluten-free diet requires, instead of simply cutting calories.
When starting a new diet, it is important to know what it entails. More knowledge makes it easier to acclimate to the change and maintain the diet. It might also be exciting!
Starting a gluten-free diet can be healthy and rewarding, but we need to know where to begin in order to be successful. In this article we will be discussing the benefits of starting a gluten-free diet, examples of gluten-free foods, and how to start a gluten-free diet.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a family of proteins generally found in some grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. Gluten is what gives dough its elasticity and glue-like texture when flour is mixed with water.
Side Effects of Gluten
People who are most negatively affected by gluten are those with celiac disease. Even people who may not suffer from this disease might still be sensitive to gluten and experience its negative side effects.
Common side effects of gluten may include:
- Regular Diarrhea or Constipation
- Bloating (or general abdominal discomfort)
- Skin Problems (rashes and eczema)
- Unexpected Weight Loss
- Autoimmune Disorders
Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet
Along with avoiding all of the side effects from gluten, eating a gluten-free diet comes with many benefits. The following benefits of doing a gluten-free diet include:
- Increased Energy
- Improved Digestion
- Healthy Weight Management
Preparing for a Gluten-Free Diet
Before we get into healthy food choices for a gluten-free diet, it’s imperative that we identify foods that we should absolutely steer clear of because they contain gluten.
What to Avoid (Food with Gluten)
When starting a gluten-free diet, we must avoid foods that include wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. The following food items contain gluten and it is best to avoid them (unless they are clearly labeled as gluten-free and made with gluten-free grains):
- Most Baked Goods
- Soy Sauce
- Most Processed Foods and Junk Foods
- Imitation Meat
What’s nice about a gluten-free diet is that it is naturally healthy. It includes fresh vegetables and fruits as well as certain grains. Foods that we can enjoy on a gluten-free diet include:
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: greens like broccoli, spinach, and kale are especially good for replacing iron we might be missing from foods containing gluten
- Healthy Fats and Oil: avocado oil, olive oil, butter/ghee, coconut oil
- Legumes: beans and lentils
- Dairy Products: milk, yogurt, cheese, sour cream
- Nuts and Seeds
- Animal Proteins
- Whole Grains:
- amaranth (which you can easily grow yourself)
- oats (make sure the label says “gluten-free” as oats may be contaminated with gluten in the packaging process)
There are many pastas, breads, flours, and cereals made with these grains that are safe to eat on a gluten-free diet.
It is good to avoid processed foods because many contain gluten, but when you do buy packaged foods, make sure to check the labels. Look at the ingredients and make sure the words “gluten-free” are clearly on the label.
Still unsure about switching to a gluten-free diet? Reach out to Z.E.N. Foods. We offer healthy meal delivery plans that you can customize according to your dietary needs and budget. Let us help you!