Going gluten-free can feel difficult — especially at first — but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of foods out there that are naturally free of gluten, but these tips will help you keep an eye out for foods with hidden sources of gluten, while providing a few ideas on snacks or substitutions to try instead.
Stash some snacks in your bag.
Keys? Check. Wallet? Check. Snacks? Check. When you’re out and about, a healthy snack can be hard to find; a gluten-free healthy snack, even harder. Always keep healthy and hunger-quelling eats in your bag. Try stashing a small container of almonds or walnuts on you. These crunchy morsels are packed with good fats, which help you stay full, as well as fiber and nutrients like selenium and vitamin E. Best of all, they’re gluten-free.
Master the rice bowl.
Eating gluten-free doesn’t mean having to giving up all starchy carbs. Rice is a great gluten-free base for your favorite vegetables (sauteed, roasted or even raw), chicken, beans, avocado and more. Start with a whole-grain variety — brown, wild — and pile on whatever nutritious toppings you might be craving. When you get bored of brown rice, try quinoa — a healthy whole grain with a lovely nutty taste.
Roast them with a little olive oil and sea salt (and perhaps some rosemary). Bake them and top them with goodies: broccoli and a little cheese, black beans and salsa. Trade up to sweet potatoes to get a nutrient bonus: beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant compound that your body transforms into vitamin A, a nutrient needed for a healthy immune system.
Check your meds for gluten.
Gluten often is found in unexpected products, such as medications and mouthwash. If you can’t tolerate gluten, check with a pharmacist about whether any medications you’re taking may contain it. You may need to contact the manufacturer for more ingredient information, since medications aren’t required to be labeled the same way foods are.
Be aware of what wheat “meets.”
If even small amounts of gluten give you trouble, avoid cross-contamination by using a toaster dedicated to gluten-free breads only. Beware of fried foods; even if they are “gluten-free,” the oil used to make them may have been used for flour-battered foods too.
Keep reading food labels.
If you can’t tolerate gluten, be vigilant about reading labels, particularly for common sources of hidden gluten, like broths, cold cuts and condiments. Food manufacturers can change ingredients without notice, so double-check even brands you use often to be sure that they’re still gluten-free.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)