These days it seems like everyone is gluten-free! So much so, that I just ASSUME my FemFusion friends will know what gluten is, sources of gluten, where gluten hides, and why you might want to avoid it. But the reality is that although gluten is a buzzword, there are still many people who don’t know much about it. Let me share some basic info about gluten (including what foods contain gluten), how to go gluten-free, and a list of sneaky places where it hides.
Sources of gluten + basic info:
Gluten is a protein found in wheat (all kinds, including spelt, kamut, einkorn, and farro), barley, and rye that is hard for some people to digest. Oats are sometimes included in lists of gluten-containing grains, but this is largely due to cross-contamination since oats and wheat are often grown and/or processed near each other.
Gluten isn’t the “devil,” and not everyone needs to be completely gluten-free… However, many people would benefit from decreasing — or eliminating — gluten from their diet. Why? Because over the years, gluten-containing grains have changed. Especially in the West, wheat now contain MORE gluten than ever before due to hybridization and genetic modification.
Add that to the fact that many of us eat gluten multiple times throughout the day, every day (cereal for breakfast, bagels for lunch, crackers for snacks, and pasta + garlic bread for dinner) and your body might respond with “TOO MUCH!!! Give me a break!!!”
Gluten is inflammatory to many people’s gut linings, and if you repeatedly expose your body to gluten, day after day after day, you may develop problems over time. These can range from joint pain to gastrointestinal issues to brain fog and fatigue.
Going gluten-free? Here’s how to start:
If you want to try going gluten-free, simply eliminate wheat-based (or gluten-based) products! Easier said that done, right? Turns out, it’s not too hard. Read on for common sources of gluten, and healthier swaps:
Ditch your morning bowl of cereal and/or slice of toast. Try eggs and fruit instead! If you can’t give up starchy carbs in the A.M., try certified gluten-free oats or play with gluten-free breads (there are plenty in grocery stores these days). I encourage you to go grain-free as much as possible, so you might enjoy my grain-free protein pancakes and/or my flax foccaccia.
Lunch and Snacks
Forego sandwiches on bagels or bread. Make a lettuce wrap instead!
Skip crackers when you need a mid-day snack. Enjoy fresh veggies and/or fruit, paired with a healthy fat and/or protein such as mashed avocado, a slice of ham, or a handful of raw nuts. Want more options for gluten-free snacking? Try these crunchy GF snacks!
Instead of bread with dinner, add MORE VEGETABLES. It’s such an easy swap, and much healthier even if you DON’T have a gluten sensitivity!
Craving a carbohydrate-rich side-dish with dinner? Focus on naturally gluten-free grains and carbs such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, rice and/or rice pasta, quinoa, and corn (only use organic + non-GMO corn). Use these items instead of traditional wheat pasta, couscous, and orzo.
Where gluten hides:
Gluten hides in many unsuspecting places such as candy, seasonings, sauces, and malt ﬂavoring. Reading labels is very important. Thankfully, most labels will list the word “wheat” to indicate the presence of wheat; however, beware that labels do NOT have to list other gluten-containing grains such as barley, rye, spelt, kamut, or triticale.
Here are some of the sneaky places gluten can hide:
- Soy sauce (choose gluten-free tamari or Bragg’s liquid aminos instead)… Beware when you go out for sushi or Asian food!
- Thickening agents found in many restaurant food items and processed foods (i.e. frozen meals; even certain frozen vegetable mixes)
- Thickened sauces and gravies almost ALWAYS hide gluten…
- Pre-mixed seasonings (i.e. taco seasoning packets)
- Pan-fried meats and fish… Even if you don’t see a breadcrumb coating, often times meat and fish are lightly coated with flour before being seared, sauteed, braised, or pan-fried. If you’re at a restaurant, ask your server to confirm with the chef!
- Trail mixes, dried fruits, and nuts are USUALLY okay, but some brands use gluten-containing ingredients to coat the individual pieces.
- Malt flavoring is usually made from barley (and thus, not gluten free). The same is true for malt extract, malt vinegar, malt syrup, and malt flour.
- Note 1: Labels do not have to specify the source of malt flavoring, but some companies voluntarily note which grain is used. In instances where malt is made from corn, it would be gluten free.
- Note 2: Maltodextrin is gluten free. According to glutenfreeliving.com, “It can be made from a variety of starches, including corn, potato, rice or wheat. However the source does not matter because maltodextrin is such a highly processed ingredient that the protein is removed, rendering it gluten free. If wheat is used to make maltodextrin, ‘wheat’ will be appear on the label. Even in this case, the maltodextrin would be gluten free.”
- Modified food starch is gluten free unless it is made from wheat. If modified food starch is made from wheat, “wheat” will appear on the label.
- Believe it or not, certain medications contain gluten! I’ve personally experienced this with a prescription medication (the generic form contained gluten whereas the name brand did not), and a friend recently informed me that a member of her family was exposed to gluten from his prescription thyroid medication. No need to be paranoid, just keep this info in mind and notice the signs of gluten exposure if you’re taking meds.
There are many websites that can provide you MUCH more detailed information, as well as blogs dedicated to gluten-free living, books, cookbooks, and more. All you have to do is “google” it and you’ll find a plethora of resources!
Note that ALL OF THE RECIPES here, on my blog, are 100% gluten-free, and my (upcoming) Healthy Change Coaching Club is 100% gluten-free as well.
If you’re curious about sources of gluten (and how to avoid them), you might also like: