Without question, truly following a gluten free diet takes conscious effort and full determination. While the effort is well worth the rewards of feeling better, reducing internal inflammation, improving energy and mood, or treating medical conditions such as coeliac disease, there is no question that actually being gluten free takes a little bit of work.
The last thing that anyone who does the work of cutting gluten out of his or her diet wants is to unknowingly consume gluten. Unfortunately, the prevalence of gluten in so many food and drink options today means that it is all too easy to accidentally consume gluten, if you are not vigilant. Don’t let unknown gluten sneak into your diet. These top tips will help you make sure your efforts to be completely gluten free are not unintentionally sabotaged.
Easy Tips for Avoiding Gluten
Learn the Gluten Lingo
Many people know that wheat, rye, and barley contain the gluten protein, but gluten also hides out behind many other aliases in addition to these more straightforward terms. Knowing the other names gluten lurks under empowers you to spot it on labels and in recipes and thus be able to avoid eating it. Some common terms to watch out for include triticale, malt and/or malt flavoring, farina, and couscous.
Additionally, terms such as modified food starch, maltodextrin, natural flavouring and hydrolysed plant protein may be made from sources that contain gluten and should be treated with caution if their sources cannot be ascertained. Finally, though oats themselves do not contain gluten, growing practices typically leave them cross contaminated. Unless oats are specifically labeled as being certified gluten free, consider them to be a source of gluten. Always reading labels carefully will go a long way to guard against these gluten sources sneaking into your diet.
Ask Questions About Ingredients
The key to avoiding accidentally consuming gluten when you are dining away from home lies in asking a few important questions. Whether you are eating at a restaurant, a party or a friend’s home, asking questions about ingredients and preparation can make the difference between having a safe, healthy gluten free meal and accidentally consuming a gluten filled meal.
In efforts to not bother anyone, some people on gluten free diets will remain quiet, but a polite, well-intentioned question is almost certain to be well received. Before beginning your meal, ask about what ingredients are included in the meal. It is also key to ask about preparation methods, an otherwise gluten free meal may become contaminated in situations you may not immediately suspect, such as flour being used to coat a pan.
Watch Out for Suspicious Gluten Sources
You know the importance of passing on cookies, crackers and bread in your gluten free diet, but there are a few other foods that often contain gluten as well. Knowing these suspicious sources to watch out for will help keep you from suffering the ill effects of gluten without realizing how you got the gluten in the first place. Sauces and dips, salad dressings, pre-mixed spices and broths all are likely suspects for including ingredients with gluten in them.
Closely read labels, even on brands you have used for years as recipes and formulations are apt to change without notice. Or for an even better option, make your own versions at home. Not only will this enable you to keep gluten out of your food, you’ll also be able to avoid the refined sugars and processed oils that many store bought versions contain and save money over the packaged versions.
This last tip for avoiding accidentally consuming gluten is particularly important for people who live in homes where some members of the family still include gluten in their diets. For those of you who have shared kitchens with people who do not adhere to gluten free lifestyles, keeping food items organised and separated is particularly vital.
Keep gluten free foods on the top shelves to avoid crumbs from gluten-containing foods falling into your food. Label foods like peanut butter as being gluten free to avoid a knife with bread crumbs being used in the jar. While some people this level of contamination may not cause an issue, for others, especially those with medical conditions necessitating a gluten free diet, even this small amount of gluten can have major negative consequences.