Gluten-Free Diet for Beginners – Your Guide to Start Healthy
When you begin to go gluten-free, the idea may seem daunting at first, tiresome after a few days and frustrating in just a few weeks. This emotional breakdown mostly happens when you are not fully prepared to follow a gluten-free diet or do not fully understand how a gluten-free diet works.
It is important to prepare yourself before taking your first step so that you can sail through the beginning weeks and get in the habit of following gluten-free as your second nature.
In this blog, I will explain the gluten-free diet for beginners, the benefits of gluten-free diet and how to best follow a gluten-free lifestyle sustainably.
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What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein complex in wheat grain, rye, and barley. The toxic protein fractions in gluten are gliadins and glutenins. These compounds are known to cause allergies, sensitivity and other human disorders.
What is a gluten-free diet?
A gluten-free diet eliminates all forms of gluten from the diet, including raw, processed, cooked and baked forms. Every gluten-free diet for beginners talks about the alternatives, which may seem impossible; however, thanks to the $4.3 billion (2019 stats.) industry of gluten-free products, there are several other options available today to consume daily instead of gluten and its derivatives.
Why Follow a Gluten-Free Diet
A gluten-free diet may or may not always be a medical necessity.
Individuals suffering from wheat allergy and Celiac disease are the ones who cannot tolerate gluten in their diets at all. However, studies show that only 1 in 133 Americans suffer from this disease. That makes the incidence less than 1%. When these people ingest gluten, an immune response is triggered in their bodies, leading to several other complications in their body systems.
The other group of people who are sensitive to gluten has a gluten food sensitivity or food allergy. A study shows that about 6% to 7% of Americans may suffer from gluten sensitivity.
There are many other gluten-related disorders like a brain-related autoimmune disease, gluten ataxia, or a skin-related disorder called Dermatitis herpetiformis. These disorders call for eliminating gluten, and symptoms are reduced or reversed with a gluten-free diet.
What Are the Benefits of A Gluten-Free Diet?
Mixed studies show varying results that Autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s and people with many other conditions show improvement with a gluten-free diet.
Then, many people only follow gluten-free as part of their general well-being and feel more energized and active in gluten-free.
There are various benefits of gluten-free diet, such as:
- Improvement in cholesterol levels
- Improved energy level
- Better digestive system
- Weight loss and others
All of these reasons have led to the popularity of a gluten-free diet.
But the primary question remains; what is the best way to go gluten-free?
Get started on the gluten-free diet in the simplest steps
1. Prepare for the Gluten-free Life-change
Going gluten-free is a life changer. Not just positive but also in many other ways. It is probably one of your biggest decisions because it pertains to your everyday life and habits. Like every other big change, coping with the new routine also requires education, practice and most of all, TIME.
- You have to be gentle with yourself. Do not reprimand or curse yourself but argue with your mind reasonably.
- Treat your cravings as methodically as you can by keeping your stomach full with light gluten-free snacks to stay away from cravings.
- Keep eating small portions in the beginning, to let your body and mind feel that it is full and keeps the pangs of hunger away that may lead you to break the routine.
- If you think gluten-free food is not as tasty as your deep-fried, crumbed chicken, then you must argue the benefits and damages of the food and look forward to a long and healthy life. Looking at food as something other than just food is the key. Look at it as a way to live healthier, smarter, younger and longer. Because food is the information that we feed to our bodies. It is about rebuilding your relationship with food. Think of food as a source of health, benefits, positivity and energy. It is something beyond the guilty pleasures and sugar cravings.
- The biggest of all is to give yourself time. A day or two may seem hard, but when you stick to it in the long run, it will all seem worth it. Give yourself at least 4 weeks to experience the benefits of this diet and settle with your new dietary routine.
Once you start experiencing the benefits of a gluten-free diet, you will never want to return.
2. Learn and Educate Yourself
Which grains contain gluten?
The following grains are essentially gluten-containing.
- Wheat and its derivatives include durum, spelt, semolina, couscous, bulgur, emmer, farina, farro, and einkorn.
- Triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye
- Wheat starch (unprocessed)
- Malt extract – derived from barley
- Malt vinegar – derived from barley
- Brewer’s yeast – usually derived from beer that is brewed from wheat, barley, or rye (although it can also be derived from sugar beets)
Oats are naturally gluten-free, but there is often a fear of cross-contamination in the processing facilities where the same facility processes oats and gluten-containing grains like wheat and barley.
3. Plan Your Meals Ahead
The second step is to outline a diet plan for yourself. Dividing fulfilling foods into your main meals and choosing healthy snacks leave you feeling less hungry and reduce cravings. If you add too many gluten-free snacks to your diet, you will still be eating an unhealthy diet.
The problem with gluten-free snacks is that they are made with refined grains, high sugar and calories. So, if you eat too many snacks, you start gaining more weight rather than reducing it.
What are the Gluten-free Alternatives?
Gluten-free alternatives are all the substitutes you could use instead of regular gluten-rich grains.
The following gluten-free alternatives could be low in gluten content or absolutely free of gluten. If you have Celiac, it is important to find out which grans contain absolutely no gluten.
- Grains: Rice, millet, quinoa and buckwheat.
- Pasta: Many gluten-free pasta options are available today, made of corn, quinoa or beans.
- Fruits & Vegetables: All fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils are gluten-free, so you only have to look for gluten-containing grains in the ingredient list.
- Grains and flours: Rice, corn, soy, potato, tapioca, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, cassava, coconut, arrowroot, amaranth, teff, flax, chia, yucca, bean flours and nut flours.
- Beverages: Distilled alcoholic beverages are gluten-free, but most beers, ales, lagers, and malted drinks are made from gluten-containing grains. Some beers are made with gluten-free sorghum, but if the label says “gluten-removed, ” it may not be gluten-free and should be avoided.
Gluten-free Recipes, Healthy and Easy
I have some amazing gluten-free recipes for a more yummy and healthy preparation of a gluten-free diet. Here are a few of them:
There are plenty more; please head to my Recipes section to find other gluten-free recipes that are healthy and easy to prepare.
Who said you cannot find gluten-free food at restaurants?
Almost every popular restaurant is kind enough to adjust to your food choices. When you eat out at a restaurant, it is important to ask questions like whether the dressing they used in your food was bottled or not. Because if it is bottled, the chances are high that it contains gluten. You can also ask what flour they use in dough and other such questions. You can simply request them to skip such ingredients that contradict your gluten-free diet.
Plenty of restaurants serve gluten-free alternatives in addition to their regular menu. You can have the list of such restaurants on your phone, and every time you plan a party out with friends and family, you can go for these options to cut out the ‘asking questions’ part if you want to.
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4. Stay Consistent for a Gluten-Free Lifestyle
After a few weeks of a consistent gluten-free lifestyle, your body starts to respond to its many benefits, and you will feel it to be your best decision. Sure, there would be many days where you may break down and just want to skip the gluten-free routine; however, if it is a medical necessity, you have no other choice. And if it is your personal choice, it is best to give yourself time.
Find Your Support System
Friends, family, gluten-free groups and communities are a great way to find your support and motivation. Like every big change in life requires a strong support system to stay put, you will need to have a caring, sharing and supportive group around you who understands your choices, approve of them and believe in you so that you can manage to follow them unfailingly.
Also, it would help you discover that you are not alone in gluten-free. Many people around you share your dietary pattern and would like a helping hand from you too.
A gluten-free diet is not a necessity for everyone. Everyone has a different body that reacts differently to the elements in our food. While considering whether to go for a gluten-free diet, it is best to get expert advice because you may be missing out on many essential components in your diet otherwise. It is best to discuss your symptoms and reasons to go gluten-free with a nutrition expert who can give you a test-based, not thought-based, analysis and show you if your body really needs this diet.
Gluten-free is a lifestyle. With this simplest guide to a gluten-free diet for beginners, you can easily get started on your journey to health and happiness.
This diet is for everyone, Kids, college students and even those who may be in an emergency. It may seem difficult initially, but the immense benefits of gluten-free diet lead you to continue this diet without regret. The benefits are sustainable, and the effort is paid off as you start following this diet.
You can always talk to me for more personalized information about starting a gluten-free diet.