A Beginner’s Guide to Going Gluten-Free

April 27, 2022
A Beginner’s Guide to Going Gluten-Free

Starting a gluten free diet is becoming more and more popular as people strive to keep intolerances and allergies under control. The gut is increasingly being seen as a way to improve our overall health and so, if you are eating gluten and finding it difficult to digest, you may find that you benefit from cutting it from your diet so that your gut is not consistently irritated. 

Gluten is in a lot of foods, however, so starting a gluten free diet can be difficult. It is far from impossible though and there are many gluten free diet plans out there that even help you when eating out gluten free. In fact, gluten free diet plans can be a great way to quickly and easily see gluten free diet benefits. 

Here, we investigate what going gluten free really means and what those gluten free diet benefits really are. This guide should help you decide whether going gluten free is right for you and the best way to make it fit into your life. For example, we look at some of the easiest ways to go gluten free and what you should hope to happen if you start a gluten free diet plan. 

What is Gluten? And What is Gluten In? 

Gluten is a type of protein found in a number of common foods like wheat, rye and barley. When a food contains gluten, it is the gluten that helps that food keep its structure and shape. It is commonly found in bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, mass-produced soups and gravy. Many baked goods like cakes, doughnuts, pies, pancakes and waffles will also contain gluten as they are made with flour which has gluten in it. 

What Happens When You First Start a Gluten-Free Diet?

The hope, when you start a gluten free diet is that you begin to feel better. Gluten has long been seen to be a common irritant for many individuals. There are some people who are allergic to gluten, called coeliacs. If that is the case, when they start a gluten free diet they will be doing so to stop strong allergic reactions occurring in their body that makes them feel incredibly unwell. For those that are simply intolerant to it, they may find that they just suffer from bad stomach aches after they have eaten foods high in gluten. 

As a result, when you first start a gluten diet, the hope is that those stomach aches stop - as well as any allergic reactions. Additionally, over time, you should find that your intestine starts to heal from having eaten gluten frequently before giving it up. That’s important because a happy gut can have many positive implications on your life. The gut is not as well understood by the medical profession as many would like, but it is thought that a healthy gut can improve your immune system and improve your energy levels too.

As a result, you may find that after a period of time has passed, you start to feel better in general. That you get sick less with the common cold or flu. You should also find that you have more energy and feel less lethargic. That can have a knock on effect on other aspects of your life. You are more likely to want to get out more and even do more energetic activities, which can keep you fitter and stronger too. 

You will likely see a big reduction in IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) type episodes. That means in general you will feel more comfortable and know that you will not suffer an attack as a surprise or at an inopportune time. Many people, therefore, find that their confidence grows as a more ‘normal’ life is available to them. 

Some people even claim that after a few weeks they lose weight, though medical professionals often dismiss weight loss when following a gluten-free diet as being solely down to eradicating gluten entirely from a diet. Instead, they will often assert that losing weight on a gluten-free diet can often be as a person naturally ups their intake of low GI foods which leaves them fuller for longer. Additionally, some people simply eradicate gluten including ingredients and replace them with fruit and veg. By having a diet higher in fruit and veg, you will often be reducing your calorie intake in general over a week. Additionally, as gluten is often found in foods like cakes and biscuits, when a person cuts gluten from their diet they are often also cutting foods that include high amounts of fat and sugar. 

How Long Does it Take for a Gluten-Free Diet to Work?

Going gluten-free will not see you enjoy the benefits of such a diet immediately. It will usually take a number of weeks for you to see the advantages of cutting it from your diet. That will be particularly the case for those who have been eating high gluten foods for a long time and for those that find gluten irritates their digestive system a lot. However, you may be lucky enough to see a difference in just a couple of weeks. 

You will know if the gluten free diet is working if you start to take a diary of how you are feeling from the day that you have started eradicating gluten from your food. Write down whenever you suffer from any symptoms or feel any negative side effects that you believe stem from having been on a gluten inclusive diet beforehand. Give your new diet a few weeks and regularly note down how you are feeling every day. Then, review your diary and see the difference in what has happened to your gut and the effects of going gluten free. 

What is The Easiest Way to Go Gluten-Free?

Going gluten free can be tough at first. To begin with, people have to read the ingredients list on food they buy to ensure that it does not include gluten to prevent against inadvertently including it in their diet. However, it does get easier. You’ll soon start to learn what does contain gluten and what does not. Or what is likely to contain gluten too. Your eating habits will naturally change as you start to fill your fridge and cupboards with foods that don’t contain any gluten whatsoever. 

Of course, if you do not want to read the ingredients list on all the foods you put into your trolley at the supermarket, one way to circumvent that problem is to purchase a gluten free meal kit in the UK. Gluten free meal kits (UK wise) are a great way to cook food without gluten, without having to invest time in researching recipes that do not contain gluten as well as cutting down the time you spend in a supermarket buying ingredients. Gluten free meal kits simply turn up at your door once you have ordered them and you can be confident that everything included does not contain gluten, and therefore you can follow your gluten free diet easily. 

What’s also great about that is that, in the process of using these meal kits, you are educating yourself about what foods are safe for you to eat, as well as what meals you can make. Your confidence and ability in the kitchen will improve too, while your repertoire of gluten free dinners will also increase. That’s a really good way of ensuring that you stay on this type of diet for as long as possible. You will learn how to make delicious recipes without the inclusion of gluten including culprits like pasta and bread, and be given great ideas for yummy meals instead. 

When eating out gluten free, many restaurants highlight what foods are gluten free or even what foods contain gluten so that diners can make an informed decision about their meal. Increasingly, restaurants and cafes have to ask their customers if they have any food allergies and that can be a good opportunity to ask your waiter or waitress what foods include gluten so you can order accordingly. So, while eating out gluten free may seem like a difficulty at first, it will soon become a far easier activity that does not phase you in the future. 

Gluten Free Swaps

One final easy way to ensure that you are going gluten free is to swap any gluten including foods for gluten free ones. There are many alternatives on the market nowadays where manufacturers have extracted gluten so you can be confident that what you are going to eat will not upset your stomach or cause an allergic reaction. Plus, simply subbing out one ingredient for its gluten free alternative makes life very quick and easy. 

However, some gluten free products are highly processed - particularly convenience food. As a result, if you are trying to go gluten free with the intention of becoming healthier, you may find that the exact opposite is happening. Just because a pizza, for example, is marked gluten free does not mean that what you are eating is good for you. There will be many store bought, ready made gluten free pizzas that are still likely loaded with salt, sugars and preservatives. 

Also Read: The Best Gluten-Free Breads to Try At The Moment

Bearing that in mind, it can be a good idea to zone in on naturally gluten free alternatives. These too can make for quick and easy swaps that are easily integrated into your cooking and lifestyle. Great examples would be:

  • Swap couscous for quinoa or buckwheat. Couscous is a great convenience. It does, sadly, include gluten. If you cook with couscous a lot, try subbing it for quinoa or buckwheat which are both naturally gluten free and almost as quick to cook. You could even try buying the packs of precooked quinoa or buckwheat to make your life even easier. 
  • Swap oats for amaranth. Oats are so good for you, but they sadly contain gluten so can irritate your stomach if you have even a slight intolerance. Amaranth is like a grain but it's gluten free and can be a good way of making porridge if that is your go to in the morning. It’s delicious and also incredibly good for you too. 
  • Swap wheat pasta for rice pasta. Pasta is delicious, so there is no denying that cutting it from your diet is hard in terms of your enjoyment. However, there are lots of alternatives now on the market that are not overly processed and still taste great. Rice pasta is one of them, but there is also pea pasta or quinoa pasta too. Of course, you could just swap pasta straight out for brown rice, or even try using vegetable pasta like courgetti. 
  • Swap egg noodles for buckwheat noodles or rice noodles. Like pasta, egg noodles are delicious to eat. Putting them in a stir fry is one of the quickest meals you can make. However, they contain gluten, so try giving buckwheat noodles a go or even rice noodles (though you may need to double check the back of the packet to ensure they are 100% gluten free). 

Going Gluten Free

Going gluten free may sound daunting at first. But, once you get used to eating in this way, going gluten free becomes second nature. One of the reasons that it is difficult to many at first is that so many of our much loved products contain gluten. Bread and pasta are stalwarts of any kitchen for good reason. They’re cheap and quick to eat when time is short. Let’s also not forget that they are utterly delicious to eat. Cutting them from your diet however is all down to finding equally delicious alternatives, or simply making food that is so yummy you don't notice that you have not had a pasta dish for months on end, or a sandwich for your lunch. 

Researching what foods are gluten free is therefore one of the best things you can do. In doing so you are arming yourself with the knowledge that will enable you to make many different dishes which pique your interest forevermore. Keeping your taste buds interested is key to staying on any type of diet and especially so for the gluten free lifestyle.

Rachel Lee
Having worked at Morgan Stanley and BNYMellon for over 10 years in pensions and investments, Rachel now works as a full-time business and financial writer.

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