What reasons do you have to consider when thinking about trying a gluten-free diet?
Does it overwhelm you that you won’t be able to eat the same foods you once enjoyed?
Like with anything in life, sometimes what you believe to be true about something will determine how you act on it.
Truthfully, if you believe that starting and sticking to a gluten-free diet is hard and just not fun, you’ll probably take steps to make that a reality.
On the other hand, you may believe that eating gluten free can be fun and an improvement to your life and possibly your overall health.
You are just as right.
I shared recently about the thyroid and your optimal TSH level.
You may have been made aware that you needed to make a diet change based on your individual symptoms.
Thankfully, there is a very personal decision-making process when it comes to going gluten free.
1. Gluten-Free Diet: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
You can read article after article about the benefits of having a gluten-free diet. There’s nothing wrong with reading any of that.
When it comes down to making a diet decision that is going to affect your life, there is not one size that fits all.
The bottom line is, you have to make that decision based on your own personal health.
If you eat something that contains gluten you’ll know how it affects you. For me, I would feel extremely tired after I ate something with it.
As an example I remember eating whole wheat pasta and wanting to take a nap right afterwards. This was years before I was diagnosed with thyroid disease.
Maybe a person can’t handle that kind of impact on their blood sugar. Wheat is high glycemic and can send you into a sugar spike.
It’s not necessary to eat pure sugar to spike your blood sugar. Food such as potatoes can have the same effect.
I’ll share more on how food affects your blood sugar another time.
Personally, I don’t demonize gluten for everybody. There are some people out there who are fine eating it. It doesn’t bother them. I think that’s awesome. I’m not interested in restrictions for no reason.
Some people can eat pizza with no problems at all. Gut health plays a huge role in how you can digest and handle foods.
That being said, things can be done to help heal your gut, and your sensitivities can go away.
2. Gluten-Free Diet: The “Gold-Standard”
Let’s get something out of the way here.
People with a thyroid issue or autoimmune disease should stay away from gluten entirely. A thyroid problem can cause your body to mistake gluten for your own thyroid tissue. Your body can actually attack your own thyroid!
One way to tell if you should go gluten free is to eliminate gluten from your diet for a while to see how it affects you.
You can add it back in after that period of time, after which you should be able to tell if it causes you any symptoms.
That’s what they call the “gold-standard” to finding out if you are sensitive to a certain food.
An elimination diet is not meant to be a forever thing.
Because of this, eventually you would add gluten back in to see what happens and what symptoms manifest.
3. A Gluten-Free Diet is Not Just a Fad
As I said earlier some people need to go gluten free for health reasons.
I have noticed that the gluten-free diet is treated lightly in some respects. People are often teased just because others think they are “trying this new diet because it’s cool.”
I would venture a guess that most people who eat gluten free are not looking for attention.
And while I don’t believe it to be the “end all be all” to perfect health, it can certainly help with quality of life.
Most people in my opinion would not choose to eat gluten free if they didn’t feel it was in their best interest.
Do you really want a salad over that slice of pizza?
If you like vanilla ice cream and I prefer chocolate, that doesn’t make you wrong and me right. It just is my preference and it works for me.
The same goes for choosing to eat gluten free.
4. Creativity in the Kitchen
You may be the type who likes to try new recipes and new ways of eating.
If that is the case, going gluten free may be right up your alley.
When you can’t just have a sandwich for lunch, you may be inclined to find recipes that use other ingredients as a substitute.
Maybe you’d throw together a quinoa salad with fresh vegetables or make a quick omelet.
Or you may find a way to eat a certain food that you really like in a more health-conscious way.
I like to make big ol’ salads with lots of yummy protein and a creamy dressing. Recently, I’ve discovered a new love for ranch dressing.
Why did I never eat ranch before on a salad?
Your tastes can change over time.
Ya’ll, I don’t skimp on calories with my salads. For the most part.
One thing that I miss that I don’t eat anymore is fettuccine Alfredo.
You can make a meal that is similar to that carb-loaded, creamy-goodness by topping steamed broccoli with diced chicken breast and Alfredo sauce. So good!
How about a stir fry over a bed of cauliflower rice? You can use chopsticks for the same effect as getting take out.
Or do your tastes lean to the sweeter side? Chocolate cake that is gluten free is just as yummy when there’s lots of buttercream frosting.
I like to make cookie dough in a bowl for a quick snack. With no flour in sight!
The point is that going gluten free lends itself to all sorts of creative solutions.
5. You’re Not Missing Out Eating a Gluten-Free Diet
When someone decides it’s for the best that they go gluten free they usually have a specific reason in mind.
It may be to lose weight, or stop bloating, or to try a new diet because their friend says it works for them. Maybe it’s because they know that it works better for their body overall.
If you slip up and accidentally eat something with gluten you may be in pain or exhausted after you eat it. You may have a very full feeling that is so uncomfortable that you know something just isn’t right.
After the elimination period of eating a gluten-free diet you may find you are extremely sensitive to gluten. When you eat something that has come in contact with it or have ingested a tiny particle of it you’ll know.
This reaction may not happen right away but it could come back to haunt you tomorrow.
Then you would know for sure you should eat gluten free for the long term.
Trust me, it’s easy to say no to the foods you once ate freely when you have negative experiences eating them.
6. Gluten Has Sneaky Little Friends
When you eat gluten free, you also have to be aware that gluten hides in so many foods.
It’s important to read the labels of anything you buy that is in a bottle, bag or box, just to make sure there aren’t any ingredients that will affect you.
And just because something doesn’t say there is wheat in the ingredients, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe for you to consume.
For example, soy sauce would likely be in a pre-packaged meal or Chinese food. You may not know that soy sauce usually contains wheat. Look for a gluten-free, Tamari-based soy sauce instead.
Eating a food with gluten would probably cause some level of reaction from your body depending on how sensitive you are.
Unfortunately, if a food is fried in the same oil as something with gluten or wheat in it, you could be consuming small particles of that as well.
When eating a gluten-free diet, be familiar with foods and extra careful when choosing what to eat.
However, unless you have celiac disease, there’s no reason to be obsessive.
7. Other Names for Gluten
To be safe, you should know some of the other names for gluten.
This is just a small part of a huge list to be aware of.
- Grains and flours like barley, oats (unless specifically labeled “gluten free”), bulgur, couscous, durum, einkorn, farina, farro, graham flour, kamut, matzo flour/meal, orzo, panko, semolina, spelt, triticale, udon, wheat, wheat bran, wheat germ, wheat starch
- Modified food starch (Wheat will be listed in the ingredients if it’s not gluten free.)
- Brewer’s yeast
- Sourdough bread
- Natural flavors
- Monosodium Glutamate (Otherwise known as MSG; rarely sourced from wheat, but best to avoid)
Other items that may surprisingly not be gluten free:
- Gummy bears
- Bacon bits
- Canned soups
- Vanilla extract
- Hot dogs
- Candy bars
- Boullion cubes
- Potato chips
- Cereals (Like Rice Krispies)
- Non-dairy creamers
The list could go on and on.
This is not to overwhelm someone new to the gluten-free diet.
It is good to know though, so you don’t end up with any unpleasant side effects.
8. Be Prepared with Snacks
One thing that has changed my life considerably is the need to be prepared with my gluten-free diet.
When I go out and don’t prepare my own meals at home, sometimes I will bring a snack with me, like a small baggie of almonds for example.
I’m not always this organized.
You probably have a good idea of the kinds of places you visit, and if you eat every three hours like I try to, having a snack on hand is super important. I like to bring a big bottle of water or tea with me on-the-go so I don’t get too thirsty.
My husband and I love to go to convenience stores. It’s our thing. I know when I go there I can usually find something to snack on.
First of all, it sounds obvious, but I look for items that are actually labeled gluten free.
I try not to eat chips and candy and things like that.
So instead I might have:
- A small package of mixed nuts
- Cheese/and or pepperoni
- Beef jerky (If gluten free of course)
- Coffee (Am I the only one who thinks this is a snack?)
- Unsweetened iced tea with lots of lemon and stevia
- A hotdog or two (I make sure it’s gluten free) with no bun, chili sauce and/or cheese sauce and all the yummy toppings
Since I eat sugar free as well, I find it hard to find sweet snacks that work for me at a convenience store. So I usually stick to something savory.
9. Cook at Home When Possible
It’s far easier to make sure you’re staying on track when eating a gluten-free diet when you cook for yourself at home.
I have a list of go-to recipes that I make again and again so I never feel deprived.
One thing you can do is try is to find recipes that mimic your old favorites.
Making your own takeout or having a theme night is fun. You could do an Italian night and make meatballs with zucchini pasta made from a spiralizer, gluten-free garlic bread and a big salad.
When I was in culinary school, the conference center I worked at had a Picnic on the Pavement on Saturday night.
They had fried chicken, hotdogs and hamburgers, dinner rolls, all sorts of cold picnic salads. I have fond memories of the vanilla cupcakes with buttercream and rainbow sprinkles on top. (Of course, that menu would change for me now.)
But you get the idea. Just about anything you crave can be made gluten free, and you can have fun coming up with ideas.
10. Have Fun Eating Gluten Free
This leads me to my final point. Hopefully by now you know a little more about trying a gluten-free diet and are ready to jump in.
I have tried all sorts of different diets. Some are easier than others. Especially because I’m dealing with thyroid disease, I’ve run the gamut of different ways to eat.
In the meantime, I’ve come back to the idea that for me, if a diet isn’t fun, then I won’t stick to it.
We spend so much time of our lives eating and enjoying food.
Why shouldn’t it be fun?
Would you want to stick to a diet that you don’t even like or enjoy? Happiness is a big part of being healthy.
Now, going gluten free isn’t a diet in the typical sense of the word. But leaving gluten out of your diet can definitely be a big challenge for some people.
If you are one of those like me who don’t like to place restrictions on yourself, please take the process of going gluten free slowly and see how you do.
You may find you discover new favorite foods to replace the bread, pasta and cookies you always loved.
You probably are asking yourself if it’s worth it for you to try a gluten-free diet.
I don’t blame you.
It’s not easy to overhaul your entire way of eating. But there are so many resources for you to make the change more manageable. Recipes are just a click away and people are willing to help.
I can tell you that for me the changes to my body and overall lifestyle have been well worth the effort.
That being said, if you have any questions for me, please ask!
If you have a thyroid issue or other health problem, consider it part of your healing journey. Find something about the gluten-free diet that appeals to you and something you look forward to.
And then just go for it!
No diet can make you decide to be happy. It’s your mindset and attitude towards what you are eating that will determine how well you do.
I have, however, found something that works well for me right now. I don’t really like the word diet.
But when something works for you, it’s nice to be able to stick to it.
When I found out I needed to make big changes because of my thyroid condition, I made another big change to my diet.