Many people turn to a gluten-free diet in order to lose weight. With the promise of cutting out ‘heavy’ foods that make you feel bloated, it can seem like the dream diet.
But if you’ve recently chosen to cut out gluten, whether on the doctor’s orders or not, you’ll know it’s not as simple as that. A gluten-free diet can be demanding.
And just because something has been labelled gluten-free, it doesn’t mean that it’s some magical food that will keep the weight off.
We’ve compiled our top tips to staying healthy whilst on a gluten-free diet so that you can live your best life, whether you have Coeliac disease, a gluten sensitivity, or you’re just trying to sort your diet out.
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Facing a life without gluten can seem a little dire at first: look on the packet of about half of food on supermarket shelves and you’ll find it has some trace of gluten. People mistake wheat for gluten, but actually it’s a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and some oats. It’s in pasta, bread, couscous, gravy, and soy sauce.
But don’t worry — from potatoes to papaya, bananas to butternut squash, there is still a great deal of tasty food available to you — especially in the fruit and vegetable aisles. There are loads of exciting flavor combos you probably haven’t tested before: bulk up meals with things like cauliflower rice and courgette spaghetti.
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Living off just fruit and vegetables is great, but most of us need a bit more substance in our diet. For someone on the go, it’s not always possible to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner with no help from ready-made foods and easy supplements.
Luckily the gluten-free section is no longer limited to specialist stores. With more people choosing to cut gluten from their diets, the free-from industry is growing, meaning more choice for you than ever before! You can get gluten-free breads and pastas almost as easily as the gluten-containing varieties.
Stock up your cupboard with the gluten-free essentials. No longer do you have to miss out on certain foods – there’s almost certainly an alternative out there for you.
And look into things like beans and pulses — can they help you kick your starchy pasta cravings?
The one problem with new gluten-free foods is that quite a few of them replace the flavor that is lost when you take out regular flour with sugar. Uh-oh. It comes as a shock to many dieters – how could this miracle gluten-free food be bad for me?! It’s the secret that the free-from industry doesn’t want you to know. Gluten-free foods won’t automatically help you stay trim.
If you want to stay healthy on a gluten-free diet you’ll need to read the labels of your free-from foods. Rather than relying solely on processed food or only on fruit and vegetables, you need a good healthy mix. Remember, you shouldn’t have any more than ¼ cup of sugar per day.
There are still a great deal of foods available for you even on the regular shelves — you just have to know where to look. Rice, for example, is completely gluten-free. For a healthy option, go for brown rice: it will release its energy more slowly than white, making you feel fuller for longer.
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One of the best ways to avoid sugar is to join a weight loss club who’s primary focus is around sweet things for those with a sweet tooth.
While this little nugget of advice may be contrary to your usual ‘how to stay healthy’ spiel, it’s important to keep in mind: have a selection of go-to foods you reach for when you want to treat yourself.
Know what you can and can’t have on your gluten-free diet, and when your cravings come, stay clear of what you’re not supposed to have.
It’s important to recognize that now you’ve cut out gluten, you will be craving treats from your old life. Take these cravings and channel them into their gluten-free equivalents.
In the free-from section there will be plenty of sweet treats you can have, as well as some in the regular aisles. Just try and keep them to a minimum! Make it your mantra to read the labels and you’ll do just fine.
Eating gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean that you’re eating healthily. Keep your sugar intake low and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and you will stay healthy and trim. The most important thing about living gluten-free is teaching yourself how to get used to your new diet. Explore new foods; try new recipes. Find what you like and what you don’t. Staying healthy doesn’t have to be about holding back from what you can’t eat, but also exploring what you can eat.
EHI Primary Care is run by Cathy, a 20-something fitness guru and yoga enthusiast. This is my blog, where I cover all sorts of topics around my healthy lifestyle.