What to Eat and What to Avoid on a Gluten Free Diet

By Kristen Mccaffrey on

With the increasingly popularity of a gluten free diet, many people are curious about what a gluten free diet is, who it works best for, and whether or not it is something that they should consider. Use this guide to help better understand what a gluten free diet is and whether it is a good choice for you.

The most important thing to understanding a gluten free diet, is first to understand what gluten is and the reasons that people choose or need to eliminate gluten from their diets.

What is Gluten?

There are a lot of questions out there about gluten is. Technically, gluten is a storage protein that is found in almost all grains including corn, rice, wheat, barley, rye, and more. However within this, there are two types of gluten and only one type (Pooideae gluten) is normally removed in a gluten free diet. Pooideae gluten is the gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye. When people refer to a gluten free diet, they almost always mean removing the gluten from wheat, barley, and rye from their diets.

Why Do People Go Gluten Free?

People remove gluten from their diets for a variety of reasons. One of the most common healthy reasons for removing gluten is Celiac disease. Other people remove gluten from their diets due to gluten allergies that cause intestinal issues and discomfort. Another reason some people remove gluten because they believe there are health benefits to a gluten free diet, simply feel better when they don’t eat gluten, or remove gluten to lose weight.

What Can You Eat On a Gluten Free Diet?

People following a gluten free diet shouldn’t eat any products that contain gluten from wheat, barley, or rye. Some people also eliminate oats. This means a lot of foods are off limits since so many foods contain wheat of some sort. Going gluten free means eliminating all bread, cereals, pasta, baked goods, chips, crackers, and any packaged foods that contain wheat products.

Due to these restrictions, many people on a gluten free diet look for goods that are labeled gluten free and made using corn, rice, soy or other non-gluten flours. Luckily as being gluten free grows in popularity there are plenty of gluten free breads, cereals, pasta, crackers, and baked goods available.

Pros and Cons of a Gluten Free Diet

Making the decision to go gluten free, especially if it is not for medical reasons, is a major undertaking and takes a significant shift in diet and lifestyle. Before deciding to go gluten free, make sure to understand the pros and cons of a gluten free diet.

PROS

  • If you have Celiac disease or a gluten allergy, being gluten free will help you feel better overall and avoid damage, inflammation, and discomfort.
  • Can lead to weight loss in some people
  • Can lead to people eating less processed foods overall
  • In many people, it increases the amount of whole grains like quinoa and high quality grains in the diet

CONS

  • Can lead to a lack of nutrients if dieter isn’t ensuring they are getting all nutrients
  • Can lead to a lack of fiber in the diet
  • Some people experience weight gain if they rely on gluten free packaged products which can be high in sugar and fat
  • Can be expensive
  • Difficult to learn what is allowed and what is not allowed on the diet especially because gluten hides in many products

How does a a Gluten Free Diet Work?

Starting a gluten free diet can be difficult because gluten is found in many foods that are common in many diets. In addition, in today’s processed and packaged foods there may be hidden gluten in many products where you wouldn’t expect to find it like yogurt, salad dressing, soy sauce, packaged soup, and many others. Use this guide to help you start a gluten free diet or enhance your understanding of being gluten free.

The core of being gluten free is understanding what foods contain gluten and learning to eliminate them from your diet. In addition it's important to learn common ways to replace some of your favorite gluten filled foods with gluten free replacements.

Common Foods That Contain Gluten

  • Wheat or any kind
  • Barley of any kind
  • Rye of any kind
  • Triticale which is a cross of rye and wheat
  • Bulgur
  • Durum flour
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Kamut
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Beer unless labeled gluten free
  • Breads unless labeled gluten free
  • Cakes and pies unless labeled gluten free
  • Candies which many times contain wheat
  • Cereals unless labeled gluten free
  • Cookies and crackers unless labeled gluten free
  • Croutons
  • Matzo
  • Pastas unless labeled gluten free

Hidden Gluten Sources

  • Processed luncheon meats which often contain gluten as a binder
  • Salad dressings which often include gluten as a thickener
  • Sauces, including soy sauce, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and many marinades which contain wheat as a thickener
  • Seasoned rice mixes which commonly use wheat as a thickener
  • Seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips
  • Self-basting poultry which commonly use wheat as a thickener
  • Soups and soup bases which commonly use wheat as a thickener
  • Vegetables in sauce which commonly use wheat as a thickener
  • French fries which are often coated with wheat
  • Gravies which contain wheat as thickeners
  • Imitation meat or seafood which usually contains wheat as a binder
  • Puddings and pudding mixes which often contain wheat as a thickener
  • Ice Cream which commonly use wheat as a thickener

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