Top Tips for Going Gluten-Free

Going gluten-free can seem quite daunting at first but don’t let that bring you down, especially if you are eliminating gluten due to health reasons. We live in a day and age where many of us have access to so much research and knowledge – including great recipes – as well as fantastic alternatives and increasing awareness regarding dietary requirements and choices. I personally went gluten-free last October. Many of my favourite foods were glutenlicous; pizza, pasta, cake (birthday cake especially), cookies, biscuits, bread (I’m talking to you, tiger loaves). My daily diet contained gluten at some point, even every meal some days! I soon learnt that many things that weren’t gluten-containing in themselves were popular contaminated foods – oats, chocolate, crisps, chips, etc. And goooodness me, do companies love to produce things in cross-contaminated kitchens and needlessly add gluten to things that would otherwise be naturally free from gluten. Anyway, whatever your reason, once you learn some things, being gluten-free is not hard at all. It becomes second nature and you do not have to go without anything – not even those naughty foods we sometimes like to indulge in, like cakes and biscuits and bread! You can lead a healthier, cleaner, gluten-free lifestyle and still live your best, happy life – believe me, I am out here doing it!

1) Be Kind to Yourself.

When I wrote my ‘Top Tips for Becoming Vegetarian’, this was also my top tip. And it is true! Take it slow and forgive yourself if you make mistakes. The reality is we all make mistakes but the best way to deal with that is to learn from them. And the best way to learn is by doing, which in turn can involve making a few mistakes. You will end up being a gluten-free guru!

2) Do Your Research.

In short, find out what foods are a no-no. Find restaurants that provide gluten-free food. Find gluten-free recipes. To give you a head start, gluten is a protein generally found in wheat, rye and barley. You must avoid:

> Wheat / Bulgar Wheat / Durum Wheat /Einkorn (ancient wheat variation) / Emmer / Farro / Freekeh (green wheat, harvested early) / Khorasan / Kamut (ancient wheat variation) / Spelt (ancient wheat variation) / Semolina (course wheat particles) / Couscous (made from Semolina).

> Rye, which is related to wheat and barley.

> Triticale, which is a cross between wheat and rye.

> Barley / Pearl Barley (where the hull and bran has been removed).

> Potentially Barley Malt Extract, although this can be fine if such a small amount that there is less than 20 PPM of gluten in it (this will be explained below).

> If going gluten-free due to health reasons, keep a beady eye on Oats. They are often contaminated during the harvesting process. In this case, you need to be eating ‘pure’ or gluten-free guaranteed oats. Even then, a small portion of people can still react to avenin, which is a protein found in oats that is very similar to gluten.

You also need to watch out for hidden gluten in foods, as gluten can be used in cereal fillers, edible starches, rusk, thickeners, modified wheat starch, binders, and hydrolyzed protein. You’ll learn how to spot these below.

3) Learn Label Language.

Regardless on why you want to go gluten-free, learning labelling lingo is a must. In the U.K. most companies adhere to certain rules. Potential allergens (which include cereals containing gluten) are usually listed in bold or highlighted in some way. And depending on how strict you want or need to be, cross-contamination should be flagged up on labels through a ‘May Contain’ warning or a notice that the product has in someway been in an environment where gluten was and thus there is a risk of contamination. To be truly gluten-free, cross-contamination is something you will want to avoid. Even tiny amounts can cause damage – so this means seperate cooking surfaces, toasters, utensils, washing up, sponges, towels, etc. Also, remember that labels like ‘Wheat Free’ or ‘No Gluten’ actually don’t mean gluten-free. This is where labelling gets pretty technically precise, because neither signal alone purports to be free from gluten, which could indicate cross-contamination or that another source of gluten is present. All ingredients must be declared on pre-packaged food/food packaged on-site, and food services must be able to supply allergy information on request. To be labelled as ‘gluten-free’, the food in question must contain less than 20 parts per million (PPM) of gluten and ‘low gluten’ foods must contain less than 100 PPM of gluten.

4) Focus On What You Can Have.

Veggies, potatoes, fruits, nuts, pulses, legumes, milk, eggs, cheese, meat, and fish are all naturally gluten-free. But in terms of grains, as well as plants and seeds that alternatives can be made from, you have an abundance of choice. You only have to eliminate a handful of grains, so don’t feel constricted. At least in the Western world, wheat, rye and barley have been the most popular grains for an age. I think this is where issue with the gluten-free diet comes from, as these gluten grains are unnecessarily overused. Some of the naturally gluten-free grains, plants and seeds commonly used to replace gluten grains include:

> Agar – made from algae.

> Arrowroot.

> Amaranth – an African plant.

> Buckwheat.

> Carageenan – a red seasweed.

> Cassava / Manioc – makes tapioca starch.

> Chestnuts.

> Corn / Maize.

> Flax / Linseed.

> Gram / Besan – ground chickpeas.

> Hemp.

> Hops.

> Millet / Bajra.

> Mustard.

> Polenta – boiled cornmeal.

> Potato.

> Quinoa.

> Rice.

> Sago – a starch from Sago palms.

> Soya.

> Teff – a form of grass with small seeds.

> Urid/Urad/Urd – ground lentils.

5) Explore Food.

Be adventurous with your food! Don’t stick to the same old and embrace the gluten-free lifestyle, which is all about trying new and alternative things. Be playful and get stuck in with cooking your own meals. You will feel healthier, and you will learn so much about the things you are consuming.

I hope these tips will help you on your way to becoming gluten-free, if that is something you are looking to do. If you need some inspiration, check out some of the vegan and gluten-free recipes right here on The Eleuther. If you enjoyed this post, please drop a like and let me know your thoughts in the comment section. And of course, if you want more lifestyle content like this delivered straight to you then please subscribe!


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