Okay, so you're going gluten-free. This lifestyle change can be confusing, but trust us when we say "there's life after gluten" and eating will get easier. When you are starting out, it's important to remember to keep things simple.
Before you start thinking about all the foods you may have to cut out, wrapping your brain around substitutions, and the new and strange food options let's start with the basics.
First, always look for fresh foods. The more processed your food is, the more likely it is to come into contact with foods containing gluten, have additives and flavourings with gluten, or be made in a facility that also processes gluten on the same equipment leading to cross-contamination.
Fresh food is often more nutritious and more environmentally friendly. As a general rule â€“ eat fresh whenever possible.
Now, which foods are safe to eat?
Choose lots of fresh produce. All vegetables (including beans, legumes and starchy roots such as potatoes) as well as fruits are gluten free and should be eaten in abundance. We always recommend that you opt for local, organic, and seasonal fruits and veggies whenever possible.
Meat Fish & Eggs
Plain, fresh meat, eggs and fish are naturally gluten free. Be extra careful to not select anything with added flavours or seasonings that may contain wheat starches. Always read the labels! You can find free-range eggs as well as fresh, local and organic meats in our store and at your local farmers market.
Vegetarian or Vegan? No problem. Learn more about animal free options here.
A large proportion of those intolerant to gluten are also intolerant to dairy. Although milk, cheeses and butters and other dairy products are gluten free, you may want to check with your healthcare professional to find out if you should also avoid dairy products.
Learn more about going dairy free here.
If your stomach is okay with dairy, that's great! Choose real cheese â€“ look out for highly processed versions that may have additives or flavourings containing gluten. Go for good quality block cheeses first, remembering to always read the packaging. Later you can explore a little with softer cheeses, paying attention to your what your stomach tells you as you go.
Nuts & Seeds
Besides being a great source of protein, fiber and essential fatty acids, nuts and seeds provide a lot of great flavours and textures to any meal or quick snack. Choose all-natural nut and seed butters (the kind without the added fats and sugars), and don't forget about eating nuts on their own such as raw or toasted almonds, pumpkin seeds or brazil nuts. Be careful with prepackaged nut mixes that are already seasoned â€“ they may contain gluten in the added flavouring.
The gluten containing grains you will need to avoid are:
- Some Oats (Oats naturally contain an extremely small amount of gluten, but they commonly come into contact with gluten-containing grains via grainbelts. It is still possible to get oats that are safe for gluten-free diets!)
Any breads, pastas, cookies, crackers, cakes and a variety of other products containing these grains are discouraged. Some items containing gluten are predictable, but sometimes it's not so obvious. Salad dressings, medications, as well as personal care and cosmetic products may also contain gluten and should be avoided
There are many grain options. Some may already be familiar.
Choose Rice. Rice is a gluten free grain that is frequently used in the making of gluten free foods. Plain rice, rice pasta, crackers, cakes, breads, and baked goods are all gluten free options. Brown rice is more rich in nutrients than white rice â€“ so choose the whole grain rice option whenever possible.
Choose Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah"). This impressive grain is based in South America and packs quite the nutritional protein punch. First and foremost it is considered to be a complete protein source having all 8 essential amino acids. It easily digestible, high in magnesium, phosphorous, iron and a good source of dietary fiber. All this and it's gluten free ... need we say more?
It cooks up to make a lovely, delicate flavored fluffy grain that can be used in many dishes. Try it alongside stir-fries and stews, in hot or cold salads, as a breakfast porridge and even in baked goods. Versatile, healthy, and delicious.
Get to know Millet. Millet is an easily digestible, highly nutritious grain. It contains a similar protein content to wheat, is rich in B vitamins, vitamin E and is particularly high in iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorous. It cooks up to have a mildly sweet and slightly nutty flavour. It can be good as a 'first food' for infants or a nutritious breakfast cereal for seniors.
Buckwheat deserves your attention. Even though it has "wheat" in it's name, this food is actually gluten free. Although it's technically classified as a fruit rather than a grain, it's uses are very similar to those of wheat. Buckwheat is loaded with protein â€“ a great plant source of all essential amino acids. Although buckwheat is more known for it's use in pancakes and soba noodles, this wonderful food is good for gluten free baking, salads and alongside main dishes.
You can try out Sorghum. This grain is grown extensively across the world, and has traditionally been used for porridges, flat breads and in a variety baked goods. It is relatively high in iron, phosphorous, and B vitamins. We love to use sorghum in our baking â€“ it allows for a better texture of muffins and cookies while maintaining great flavour. Try it out!
Let's talk about Amaranth. This is another 'super grain' similar to quinoa and buckwheat. It's very high in protein, and has a complete set of essential amino acids. Furthermore it's a great source of lots of vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, copper, zinc, and manganese. You may have heard that Amaranth is also high in calcium. This is true, however, the calcium in Amaranth is not very bioavailable making it a poor dietary source. Amaranth is a highly nutritious grain and wonderfully gluten free, but we'd suggest that you don't rely on it for your calcium intake. You can cook it up for delicious porridges, alongside main course meals, or use amaranth flour in your baked goods!
We're almost done!
The last grain we're going to mention is Teff. Don't be fooled by it's tiny size â€“ Teff is very nutrient dense. With high levels of phosphorous, iron, calcium, copper, aluminum, barium, and thiamin and large amounts of fiber it would be a beneficial addition to any diet. Teff is suitable for those on gluten-free diets and is versatile in it's uses. Try it in pancakes, stir-fries, soups, stews or cold grain salads!
It's important to take your time with a gluten free diet. Remember that it may seem challenging at first, but you will get the hang of it. Give yourself time to check out the gluten free products available to you, and let your tastes adjust to foods that may be new.
Have more questions?
You are always welcome to visit us! Our knowledgeable staff â€“ which includes registered nutritionistsâ€“ are happy to answer your questions and provide more information.