Gluten can be found hiding in many common foods in the Standard American Diet. While you might not have a gluten allergy, known as Celiac Disease, it is possible that you have a nonceliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). This condition, NCGS, is often overlooked as a potential root cause for conditions such as inflammation, IBS, joint pain, multiple sclerosis, eczema, and fatigue.
What Is Gluten?
In case you are new to learning about gluten-containing foods, a good place to start is by understanding what gluten is and where it is commonly found. Gluten is a protein molecule that is found in certain grains such as wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and semolina. Unless otherwise specified, oats are also considered a gluten-containing ingredient because it is usually processed on the same machinery as gluten-containing cereal and grains.
The truth is that most products that contain gluten are some form of a processed food. Think about it: bread, pasta, crackers, cereal, cookies, and cakes are typically made up of some type of processed flour and sugar combination. If your goal is to eat a more nutritious diet for optimal health, then you could benefit from at least reducing your processed carbohydrate intake, which would also reduce your gluten intake. Keep in mind that there are some places that you might not expect to find gluten such as in sauces, soups, and some dips.
Contrary to what some mainstream nutritionists and dietitians might say, there is no risk to removing gluten from your diet. So why not try it?
Here are four ways to cut back on your gluten intake this year.
1. Ask for a Gluten-Free Menu at Restaurants
Most restaurants nowadays have a gluten-free menu or at least a few items on their regular menu that are marked as “gluten-free” (it will have a *GF symbol). The gluten-free menu is usually very similar to the regular menu except there are modifications for the ingredients that contain gluten. If you ask for a gluten-free menu, the work has already been done for you and you don’t have to worry about asking the waiter for substitutions when you order. Asking for a gluten-free menu takes the guess work out of the process at restaurants.
2. Focus on Increasing Your Vegetable Intake
I like to call this the “crowding out” method. When you add more nutrient-rich foods like vegetables to your diet, you naturally start crowding out the processed food. Simply put, if you are eating a lot of vegetables, you will get more full and won’t have as much room for the extra piece of bread or the side of macaroni salad. When you start eating more vegetables, your taste buds will also naturally start to shift and you won’t crave sugar/white flour products as much.
Here are some ways that you can add more vegetables into your diet to crowd out the gluten-containing products.
- Lettuce wrap your burger or eat your burger patty on a salad instead of getting a bun.
- Order a salad instead of a sandwich for lunch.
- Use zucchini noodles also known as ‘zoodles’ as a base for a pasta dish instead of noodles.
- Instead of getting a side of fries, ask for a side of roasted vegetables or a side salad.
3. Swap Carbs for Natural Gluten-Free Carb Options
You don’t need to cut out carbohydrates completely from your diet if you eat a gluten-free diet. There are some great nutrient-dense carbohydrate options that are available to you on a gluten-free diet. You can substitute the bread and pasta for complex carbohydrates like quinoa, sweet potato, brown rice, wild rice, beans, or gluten-free oatmeal. These carbohydrates will provide your body with good energy throughout the day and can help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
4. Use Gluten-Free Substitutes
There are plenty of gluten-free substitute products to choose from at your local health food store. Keep in mind that just because it is gluten-free doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. What I mean by that is that if you just start to swap out all of your gluten-containing foods for the gluten-free version, your diet will still contain processed ingredients.
For example, if you bought gluten-free crackers, instead of eating regular crackers that are made out of white flour or whole wheat flour, it is still not going to be a very nutrient-dense snack. Some gluten-free products use higher quality ingredients than others. You’ll want to read the ingredients list to look out for processed ingredients.
With that being said, it is important not to deprive yourself of having dessert and some of your favourite foods every once in a while. So, go ahead, treat yourself to a gluten-free dessert, cookie, or brownie every now and then. Or better yet, look up a recipe online to try making a healthy dessert option at home.
If you are trying to reduce your gluten intake but you completely restrict yourself from all of your favourite foods, it is going to be a lot harder to stick with your goals because you will very likely crave gluten-full foods.