What to eat if you’re avoiding gluten
It seems as though every other person is avoiding gluten these days. The reasons for doing so are varied, ranging from medical conditions like Coeliac Disease to simply thinking it’s the healthier thing to do (I’m looking at you, Bondi hipsters).
Sure, going gluten-free is of utmost importance if you have a medical need to do so, but for the rest of us, cutting out foods and food groups altogether isn’t the best idea with good nutrition in mind. After all, variety is the spice of life.
You see, foods that contain gluten can be very nutritious. Wholegrain bread, for example, provides us with loads of fibre for a healthy gut and long-lasting energy to keep you feeling energised.
The idea that a gluten-free diet is healthier probably stems from the fact that cutting gluten also coincides with removing a lot of processed and energy-dense foods (read: sayonara to most of the junk food aisle).
Nonetheless, if you need to avoid gluten, it can be a bit of a minefield when you’re first starting out – but trust me, it gets easy pretty quickly. If you need a little help on your gluten-free expedition, here’s my top tips on stocking your kitchen.
Go with the grain
Going gluten-free means you’ll need to cut out most of your usual grainy foods (think regular bread and pasta). What’s key is that you don’t just remove these foods, but find suitable replacements.
Gluten-free bread has come a long way in recent years – it’s much more palatable and similar to ‘normal’ bread than it’s ever been. As with gluten-containing bread, opt for a grainy variety, and check the nutrition panel to find one with the most fibre.
Regular pasta is also off the cards, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. San Remo Pulse Pasta is my gluten free go-to; it’s made from the flour of legumes, so it’s super nutritious and packed with fibre and protein.
Gluten-free cereals can also be a good option. They usually have the words ‘gluten free’ plastered all over the box, so they’re pretty easy to find. For a convenient trick, use the Health Star Rating to find a healthier option by looking for the most stars.
There’s plenty of other gluten free grains that you can use to replace gluten-containing ones. Stock your pantry with rice (my top choices are brown or basmati), quinoa and buckwheat. Other gluten-free grains include sorghum, millet and teff – you’ll probably notice a lot of gluten-free foods are made with a mixture of these grains.
Don’t forget about fibre
When you give up gluten, it’s easy to forego all-important fibre which not only supports gut health, but can be helpful in the management of blood sugars and cholesterol, too. That’s why it’s important to include gluten-free grains, but you can bump up your fibre intake in other ways, too.
Fill up your fruit bowl with seasonal fruit and aim to eat two a day, for a fibre-filled and cheap snack.
Those all-important veggies are a great source of fibre as well, so stock your crisper with fresh produce, your freezer with frozen veggies and your pantry with tinned legumes (think chickpeas, lentils and beans).
While you’re at it, fill up those shelves with nuts and seeds. A small handful makes for a nutritious snack or crunchy salad topper – and they’re packed with fibre, too.
Bring it back to basics
Gluten is rife amongst processed and packaged foods. One of the simplest things you can do when going gluten free is to minimise the amount of processed and packaged foods in your kitchen and eat more whole, natural foods.
Of course, not all packaged foods are unhealthy – some are actually very nutritious, but you’ll have to don your super sleuth label reading glasses to make sure there’s no gluten in sight.
While you might be bringing it back to basics, you don’t have to skimp on flavour. Fresh herbs, spices, citrus, chilli and garlic are all naturally gluten free and they pack a flavoursome punch. So, you might have to forego that seasoning mix or packet sauce, but you can say hello to flavour in a different way.
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Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can follow her @honest_nutrition.