First of all, what is gluten? Gluten is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or triticale (a grain that is a mix of wheat and rye). These grains will be found in most breads and crackers. Gluten is normally a large part of one’s diet. However, cutting out gluten doesn’t mean that you have to live life without flavor. Not only can you enjoy your life, you can feel better. Here are five tips to help you on your gluten-free journey.
1. Read labels. Your number one friend will be the labels. You must read all labels carefully. This is vitally important!!! When a label reads “wheat-free,” it does not mean “gluten-free.” While wheat is one type of gluten, it is not the only form. A wheat-free product can still have gluten. Remember gluten also includes rye, barley, or triticale, so even if wheat is not present, one of these three may be.
If you are looking for gluten-free breads, crackers, or crusts, you can generally find those in the freezer section of your grocery store. Also, be aware of soups and sauces. Many times, soups will have wheat added as a thickener. If you check the label, you can avoid ingesting gluten. For the most part, you should be safe eating natural foods such as fruit, vegetables, meat, or milk. However, if a fruit or vegetable is canned, it can have gluten. You can avoid most of these traps if you check the label carefully.
2. Don’t eat it unless you are sure. If you are not sure or the label does not specify, do not eat it. It is better to be safe than sorry. Perhaps you are at a potluck, and you see a food that you think probably does not have gluten. However, you have a little doubt. You don’t know exactly what is in it. Even though it looks delicious, it is better to avoid the dish and the stomach pains at the same time. While you might enjoy eating it, it is dangerous to play with the possibility of consuming gluten. Always air on the side of caution.
3. Be careful with cross-contamination. There are two parts to cross-contamination. One can be done in the factory when your product is packaged, and the other can happen in your own kitchen. First of all, check the product you are buying for “processed on the same equipment as wheat” or “may contain wheat.” If your food was processed on the same equipment as wheat, wheat could have been left on the machine, which then transferred it to the food you are considering buying. That label is dangerous for you as a consumer. Unfortunately, there are no laws that require such statements to be made. As such, if you are not sure, you should avoid it to evade an undesirable result.
Secondly, if you are living with people who are not gluten-free, they will be cooking and consuming gluten-laden food. Make sure to carefully wipe down cooking surfaces and thoroughly clean all cooking utensils. By doing this, you will keep your cooking surfaces safe for your cooking purposes. Without taking this step, you risk accidentally consuming gluten through cross-contamination. Always make sure whatever you are using has been meticulously cleaned. By taking this step, you can assure your safety.
4. You can still eat out. If you want to eat out, you just need to do a little preparation. Most restaurants have online gluten-free menus. Many times, they also have these menus in-store, but I believe it is best to have an idea of your options before you enter the restaurant. The menus give you a list of alternatives that will be just right for you. For example, many pizza places now offer gluten-free crusts. All you need to do is ask! You can still enjoy nights out with your friends.
5. Carefully choose your alcoholic beverages. Not all alcoholic beverages are gluten-free. However, there are still many gluten-free options. Most beers and ales are made with gluten that will upset your stomach. Only drink beer, ale, malt vinegars, or lagers IF it is specified to be gluten-free. However, if it does not say, assume it contains gluten, as most beverages of this type do. Wine, hard liquor, and distilled liquors are always gluten-free. Many countries are now trying to make gluten-free beers. You can always ask if you are in a restaurant or check the label if in a store. However, following the general rule of thumb mentioned above is a way to stay safe from gluten-laden beverages.
Being gluten-free doesn’t mean you have to live taste-free. You can enjoy great variety and flavor by taking a few simple steps that will not only make you feel better but also make you happier.