Thinking of going gluten free? Whether you’re battling an intolerance or simply want to test the waters, it’s easy to be put off by all the foods on the chopping block. Here are five common mistakes made by many who go gluten free and how to avoid them.
Think gluten-free brownies are healthy? Think again. Many packaged gluten-free foods lure you in with the false promise of being a healthier choice – not to mention coming with a hefty price tag. Many packaged gluten free goods like biscuits, flour and bread mixes are made from purified or refined starches (including maize, white rice flour, potato flour or tapioca starch), which often contain fewer vitamins, less fibre and more sugar or fat to simulate the satisfying fluffiness of gluten.
There’s a common misconception that gluten-free means waving goodbye to all grains, however there’s a whole other realm of gluten-free grains out there, such as millet, polenta, corn, sorghum, wild rice, and not to mention seeds like quinoa, buckwheat or amaranth. These grains also contribute key nutrients in the Australian diet, such as iron, iodine, magnesium, zinc, B-group vitamins and fibre, which Aussies are clearly lacking.
In fact, less than 50% of Australians are eating enough fibre, which we know plays a key role in reducing the risk of developing diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
According to Dr Gina Levy, Senior Nutrition Manager at Kellogg’s, grain fibre is the most protective of all the fibres so gluten free grains are an important addition to your diet. “To achieve a balance of fibres on a gluten-free diet, experiment with different gluten free whole grains,” she says. “Make sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables with their skin on as well as legumes and nuts.”
Reading food labels is no easy feat. But being able to decode them is vital to your gluten-free success. Often gluten is hiding in unassuming places, so always check the label and know what you’re looking for. Be on the hunt for things like wheat, barley, rye, malt, yeast or oats. Even foods like veggie burgers, salad dressing, gravies, seasonings, sauces and medications can contain these things. And be wary of products that say ‘may contain gluten’. Foods that display the words ‘gluten free’ contain no detectable gluten, so they’re guaranteed not to trip you up.
Diets aren’t about eliminating foods – they’re about enhancing them. So don’t think about what you can’t eat, think about what you can. Get your chef hat on and do some experimenting with different gluten free grains, flours and baking aids. You’ll be sure to find one that satisfies your taste, so you can have your cake and eat it too – literally!
Often gluten or wheat is the go-to culprit for belly bloat or poor digestion. While gluten can be linked to these issues, there are many other ingredients that could be the cause. Truth is, we all want to be able to explain why we feel a certain way, so it’s much easier to blame the gluten in pasta rather than looking at the true cause of our weight gain issue, such as the second helping of creamy tortellini. In other words, large portions could be the real issue here, not the gluten.
If you’re cutting out gluten and not seeing results, focus on a bigger picture. Limit processed foods, hone in on real foods and see how that works for you. Remember, every body is different and there’s nothing wrong with a little trial and error.