Going gluten-free is the only effective option to treat people living with celiac disease. But the diet is also followed by many people who have gluten sensitivity or who want to ditch gluten for other health purposes.

Going gluten-free, like any major dietary changes, can be scary. But here are our top 7 tips to help you achieve a successful gluten-free diet.

Tip #1: Have a Clear Purpose for Why You Want to Start a Gluten-Free Diet

Choosing to eat a gluten-free diet because of a mild intolerance or by preference is different from adopting a gluten-free diet to treat celiac disease.

If you’re required to ditch gluten because you have celiac disease, you will need to be extra cautious with the foods you eat and ensure that you’re steering clear of all risks of cross-contamination. If you’re going gluten-free by choice or due to mild food intolerance, your diet does not need to be as strict. If you think a gluten-free diet is a healthier way to eat, talk to a health professional before changing your diet.

Working with a qualified healthcare professional is crucial when making any major diet changes to ensure you’re still getting all the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. Going gluten-free is no different. While going gluten-free can benefit people with gluten sensitivity, it doesn’t mean that going gluten-free is healthier than eating gluten products, especially when the gluten-free diet is done poorly.

Tip #2: Watch Out for Uncommon Sources of Gluten

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The most obvious sources of gluten are bread, baked goods, pastries, and pasta, and it’s easy to avoid them. However, gluten can hide in a variety of products, making them harder to recognize. This can prove to be a difficult aspect of a gluten-free diet.

Gluten is used as fillers and thickeners in several products, so it’s crucial to always go over the ingredients list. Look out for some of the following less known sources of gluten, such as:

  • Beer
  • Candy with wheat flour
  • Chocolate with barley malt
  • Condiments, salad dressings, gravies, and other sauces
  • Luncheon meats
  • Medications
  • Vitamins and herbal supplements
  • Soups
  • Soy sauce
  • Spices

Tip #3: Learn How to Read Food Labels

Some countries require that food manufacturers list the top 10 allergens, including gluten, on food labels. The ingredients may either be listed clearly in the ingredients list, or the product may contain a statement after the list.

Unfortunately, food manufacturers are not required to list whether or not the production of the food poses a risk of cross-contamination. You may need to get in touch with the food manufacturer to find out whether their production poses a risk of cross-contamination.

To make sure your food is completely gluten-free (meaning it contains less than 20ppm of gluten), stick to the list that has been approved by the Gluten-Free Certification Program.

Tip #4: Avoid All Risks of Cross-Contamination

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In Your Kitchen

It is important to rid your kitchen of all risks of cross-contamination as soon as you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease.

Start with your cooking utensils. Wooden spoons and cutting boards are quite absorbent and can easily be contaminated with gluten. Also consider anything with small holes, like colanders, and mesh sieves, where gluten can easily get stuck. You can avoid cross-contamination by buying new condiments, like butter, mayonnaise, peanut butter, or jam, which might have previously been contaminated through utensils that contain gluten.

Next, consider your appliances. Clean your mixers and other small appliances thoroughly, and use your toasters only for gluten-free products.

Some people with celiac disease try to make their kitchen entirely gluten-free. However, this isn’t practical for all families. Have dedicated cooking utensils, pots and pans, cutting boards, and a toaster for a family member who has celiac disease. Establish a house rule that no utensils should be double-dipped into condiments.

You may also consider labeling all condiments with a “gluten-free” label so everybody is reminded not to double-dip. Make sure to orient visitors about the gluten-free diet before you let them enter the kitchen.

At the Grocery Store

There is a high risk of cross-contamination in bulk bins and deli counters, so avoid them at all costs. Be cautious at prepared food counters, too. Make sure to ask the staff how the food was prepared, and if it has a risk of cross-contamination. Most prepared food in grocery stores is not guaranteed safe for people with food allergies or sensitivities.

Make it an effort to always find the gluten-free section. There is usually a dedicated section in one of the aisles and in the freezer section for gluten-free options.

When Eating Out

A gluten-free diet has become a popular choice even for people without celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. As a result, many restaurants started offering gluten-free options that aren’t really safe for people with severe allergies.

Beware of products claiming to be “gluten-friendly.” Gluten-free pizza crusts have become a popular option, but they are usually prepared on shared surfaces and contain shared toppings, posing a high contamination risk with regular pizza crusts. Gluten-free pasta is also a popular choice at many restaurants, but some restaurants cook it in the same water used for regular pasta. There’s also a high risk for cross-contamination in deep fryers, so always ask if the restaurant uses a separate fryer for gluten-free meals.

When eating out, make sure you’re asking the necessary questions about the food preparation process. Restaurants who truly understand food allergies will tell you that they use separate surfaces and utensils in preparing gluten-free foods and will change their gloves or wash their hands.

Tip #5: Don’t Ditch Your Favourites

This applies to your favorite foods and restaurants! There are several gluten-free options that are now available, so it’s no longer too challenging to indulge in your favorites without the risk of gluten contamination. Going gluten-free doesn’t mean you should feel deprived!

There’s an app called Find Me Gluten Free that can help you find gluten-free restaurants in your area. The app also features reviews from other people who have tried the restaurants. The app can help you determine whether a restaurant is safe for people with celiac disease or just gluten-friendly.

If you’re cooking your own food, find an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. You can use them in 1:1 measurement in your favorite recipes that usually require gluten-containing flours.

Tip #6: Eat Foods That Are Naturally Gluten-Free

It’s wonderful to have access to the growing gluten-free options offered in grocery stores, restaurants, and everywhere else, but it’s not good to rely solely on them.

Your gluten-free diet will be much healthier if you try to include whole foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as meat, gluten-free grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Whether or not you’re gluten-sensitive, making your plate as colorful as you can by adding different fruits and vegetables is the best way to put together a healthy meal. Try to swap out rice and corn for quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and more, especially if you tend to eat them a lot.

Tip #7: Don’t Go Through It Alone

It’s not easy to switch to a gluten-free diet, especially when you’ve recently just been diagnosed with celiac disease and you’re coping with the emotions that come with learning that you have an autoimmune disease. Food is central to almost all social gatherings, so a major diet change can make you feel quite isolated.

It will be helpful to include your friends and family as you do the switch. Tell them clearly the reason for your diet change, and how they can help make you feel more comfortable when you’re together.

It would also help to find support groups where people go through the same thing as you. There are several support groups you can find on social media, or there may also be one in your local community.

Of course, it’s also crucial to find a great professional healthcare team to support you! Not all healthcare experts are highly knowledgeable about celiac disease. For a healthcare professional to be able to give you the support you need, they need to completely understand the gluten-free diet, the nutrients that you need to consume more in your diet if you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, and the medical follow up that should be done after the diagnosis. Choose medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, and dietitians with experience in working with celiac disease.

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