Going Gluten-Free 101
Gluten refers to a group of proteins found in specific grains (see below). It gives these grains the soft, chewy texture they're known (and loved) for.
There are various sensitivities that people can experience as it relates to gluten, from autoimmune conditions like Celiac Disease, which affects the small intestine, to non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, which is not an autoimmune condition and can result in both intra- and extra-intestinal signs and symptoms.
To learn more about gluten, and who might want to avoid gluten in their diet, definitely check out this post here.
If you have recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, or another health issue which benefits from a gluten-free diet, this article is for you.
The following are gluten-containing grains, and should be avoided if you plan on removing gluten:
Wheat (and all wheat-containing products like bread, pasta, crackers, baked goods, etc.)
Oats (unless certified gluten-free)
It’s really important to check the labels of any foods you are consuming, as gluten tends to sneek it’s way into packaged good like spice mixes, sauces, packaged foods, etc. It’s good practice to get used to checking, and familiarizing yourself with food labels!
What about Oats?
Oats are a hot topic in the gluten-free community! Naturally, they are gluten-free, but the concern with oats in gluten is typically from exposure to, or contact with gluten-containing grains in storage, during farming and processing, and in packaging.
When looking for oats, it’s important to ensure that they are certified as gluten-free (which guarantees that the oats were grown, harvested, processed, stored, and packaged without being exposed to other gluten-containing grains).
Ensure that you’re opting for “certified gluten-free oats,” which are third-party tested. And if possible, go for organically grown oats!
Luckily, there are many gluten-free grains to choose from! In lieu of gluten-containing grains, try using some of these naturally gluten-free options in soups, as sides, or anywhere you might cook a whole grain.
When it comes to baking, you also have a wide range of options. I recommend searching for recipes designed to be gluten-free, as replacing wheat flour with gluten-free flour can be a bit of a science. That said, many brands make gluten-free "all purpose" flour that you can try swapping 1:1 for wheat flour in family recipes or favourites you made before going gluten-free.
Some gluten-free flours you can experiment with are:
Oat (certified gluten-free)
These are some of my favourite gluten-free pasta brands:
Healthy, gluten-free bread is getting easier to find, some of my favourite brands are:
Note: You will need a dedicated gluten-free toasted to prevent cross-contamination or to replace your toaster upon your entire household going gluten-free.
In lieu of soy sauce, go for tamari (which is a gluten-free alternative) or coconut aminos (grain and soy-free).
Always check to ensure that your sauces and condiments are gluten-free as many do contain gluten.
For items that come in jars or are spread with a knife like butter, nut butter, mayonnaise, you will need to add a dedicated gluten-free container to prevent cross-contamination if others in your household are using the products on gluten.
Dining Out Gluten-Free
Eating out can be really challenging for those who are gluten-free. Here are some things to think about to help you navigate eating out, plus some questions you can be sure to ask your servers:
Research restaurant choices ahead of time to see whether they have gluten-free (and even Celiac-safe) options available. This can relax a lot of stress and worry around navigating this.
Mention that you are Celiac/gluten-free.
Ask about whether house-made condiments, sauces, etc. contain flours (such in the case of rue’s), or soy sauce (which is a gluten-containing condiment). When unsure, opt to be safe, and don’t go for those dishes!
Ask about cross-contamination, and ensure that they aren’t using the same tools, utensils, kitchen appliances for both gluten-containing foods and gluten-free foods. Especially if you have Celiac.
For more information on how to improve and optimize digestion beyond avoiding gluten, grab my free Beginners Guide to Gut Healing (it's jam-packed with tips on how to heal and improve your gut!).