Gluten free living does not equate to eating healthy.

Being healthy on a gluten free diet takes knowledge, work, and dedication, but it is possible. Once you know the simple changes to make in your food choices it becomes easy. Breads, pastas, and other packaged and processed foods are full of starches and empty calories that can be harmful to your overall health. For example, the additional starches can elevate glucose levels, cause bloating and fatigue and increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.

Here are 5 simple ways to make gluten free living easier and healthier.

1- Focus on products that are naturally gluten free

This saves money and helps you eat more single ingredient foods.

Examples of nutrient dense, naturally gluten free foods are:

A – Fruits and vegetables

Focus a large part of your diet on plant-based foods. Mix kale into your lentil soup, stir fry vegetables with tofu, make green smoothies with spinach or kale, or avocado toast (on gluten free bread) with micro greens (I get my micro greens from Hamama). You can make salads with dark green leafy veggies and add Quinoa for more substance and protein. These are just a few ways to add in plant-based, naturally gluten free foods.

B- Dairy or dairy alternatives

I recommend using non-dairy milk to avoid the high sugar content of dairy milk. In addition, people who have celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity often have an intolerance to dairy products. I do sometimes use organic milk for baking because the quantities are minimal. I recommend that you buy organic dairy as often as possible. Dairy products can be a good source of protein and calcium. I recommend unsweetened Greek yogurt and cultured cottage cheese. One of my favorite brands of cottage cheese is Good Culture. It is high in protein, cultured, and low in sugar. For those who don’t do dairy there are many nut milks and dairy-free yogurts that can be used. Unsweetened almond milk or Oat milk are a great alternative for cooking and baking too.

C- Organic meat, fish and eggs

Eggs are a great source of protein and vitamins. They contain healthy fats, B vitamins and A, D, and E. High-quality meat and fish are also a good source of vitamins, protein, and omegas.

D- Whole grains, nuts, and seeds

Experiment with a variety of grains that are gluten free. Some examples of gluten free whole grains are millet, gluten free oats, sorghum, quinoa flour, coconut flour, teff, buckwheat, and amaranth. Millet and oats are great hot breakfast cereals. Quinoa is a healthy seed that is a great replacement for rice and other starches such as rice pasta. It is a complete protein, high in fiber, low glycemic index food and is a good source of B-vitamins, iron, and magnesium. Add in whole flaxseeds, ground flaxseed, or chia seeds to yogurt or make chia pudding or add them to oatmeal. In addition, a variety of nuts like walnuts or almonds are healthy additions to your diet. Chia seeds and flaxseeds are also a great way to get omegas, fiber, vitamins, and protein.

E- Legumes and soy products

Legumes are a food group that consist of beans, peanuts, peas, soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas. Legumes are full of protein, fiber, iron, folate, and magnesium. Tofu is made from soybeans and is a staple of our gluten free diet. I always buy organic non-GMO soy. It is best to avoid soy products that are processed or that are GMO.

2- Stay away from refined starches

Tapioca starch, potato starch, corn starch, and rice flour are the main ingredients in most gluten-free flour blends, baked goods, pastas, and breads. These are high glycemic and lack nutrients. I believe that to be healthy, everything we eat should have some nutritional value. Rice flour is in a large variety of gluten free product on the market today. It is inexpensive and therefore used a lot. But it is high in arsenic and low in nutrition. While it’s ok to use a little rice or rice flour in your diet, a gluten free diet can have an excessive amount of it, so try to limit rice and other non-nutrient rich starches as much as possible. Use quinoa instead of rice. Try millet recipes. Eat oats or oat bran for breakfast. Eat Banza pasta instead of rice pasta. Experiment with adding sorghum flour instead of rice flour in recipes.

3- Plan to cook and bake more

Cooking and baking may sound time-consuming, overwhelming, and not be something you like to do. However, cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or take hours to do. Throw some chicken in a crock pot before work, or the ingredients for Lentil soup. You can buy an organic rotisserie chicken from your local grocer and add some quinoa and veggies to it. These are simple ways to make home cooking easy.

Home cooked meals are also healthier and save money. Plus, as a celiac patient or those with gluten sensitivity, it is safer to eat at home. Going out to eat can be a challenge due to the cross contamination with gluten containing foods. Allow time to be creative in your cooking and baking. Once you have gotten a plan for healthy meals it will become a habit and will seem much easier.

4- The Importance of Supplementing your gluten free diet with a multivitamin, probiotics, Omegas, and cultured foods

Those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance have inflammation of the gut lining and coeliacs have actual issues with absorption due to loss of villi in the small intestine. This can impede nutrient absorption due to the irritation of the gut lining. I recommend taking a multivitamin, probiotics, Omega 3 fatty acids, and eating more cultured foods. Make sure the vitamin contains B vitamins and Vitamin D. I also recommend iron, but only if you are iron deficient. It is a good idea to have baseline labs drawn by your healthcare provider to identify if you have any nutrient deficiencies before starting on any vitamins. Even though the gut heals with a gluten free diet, some people still experience irritation of the gut lining due to cross-contamination and this can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Probiotics, prebiotics, and cultured foods help keep a balance of good bacteria in the gut. There has been more and more research done on the importance of a healthy microbiome for mental and physical health. A good way to get probiotics is by eating fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut, yogurt, and cultured cottage cheese. There are also drinks like low sugar kombucha, ollie pop, kefir, and a variety of other prebiotic/probiotic drinks. I like the brand Garden of Life for vitamins and probiotics and BioK for probiotics.

5- Keep it Simple

Gluten free living means learning to read labels.

When I started reading labels, I was shocked at how many ingredients there were in so many foods. I didn’t know how to pronounce them and certainly didn’t know what they were. I have a rule that if I don’t know what it is, I don’t buy it. It usually means it’s processed, made in a lab, could contain gluten, or is not healthy. It is a good rule of thumb that foods with fewer ingredients are healthier. We go over reading labels in my coaching sessions.

I was also shocked by how much sugar is in foods. Keep sugar to a minimum. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that daily sugar consumption be less than 25 grams for optimal health. Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply eat a diet with whole, nutrient dense foods that help you feel your best. Avoid things that you are allergic to or you don’t tolerate. Drink lots of water and be grateful for all the food you CAN eat.

Gluten free living does not have to be about what you cannot have. Look at all the benefits, which far outweigh the challenges. You can look and feel your best by eating nutrient dense foods that are readily available to you. Likewise, another benefit of gluten free living is that you will likely have more energy and less brain fog. You will also likely experience fewer to no stomach aches.

And the best part of gluten free living, is that you can be healthier than you’ve ever been because you are learning to look at ingredients and make educated choices about your overall health.

If you feel you need help making the transition to a gluten free diet or have further questions feel free to book a 15-minute discovery call with me.

Photo by: Ella Olsson