If you are newly diagnosed with coeliac disease or are avoiding gluten for other health reasons, switching to a gluten-free diet can be a massive lifestyle change because gluten is present in several staple foods. Getting familiar with which foods you can and cannot eat is the key to making a gluten-free diet easy and enjoyable. My dad has been diagnosed with coeliac disease since I was born, so I have grown up experimenting with gluten-free alternatives. You will find that once you get to know about the foods you can eat, there are so many satisfying and tasty gluten-free options! If you want a foundation for easy gluten-free meals read on for Gluten-Free Diet: 5 Must-Eat Staples!
Pulses (including peas, beans and lentils) are all naturally gluten-free making them a great replacement for pasta, bread, and other grains. They are very low cost and provide an excellent source of carbohydrates, fibre, and protein. You can also look out for pastas made from pulses (eg. chickpea pasta) which are naturally free of gluten and provide a lot more protein and fibre than regular ‘gf’ pasta.
Oats are a great source of soluble fibre and slow-releasing carbohydrates which can help control blood sugar levels and keep you satiated for longer (1). They are also a great staple for gluten-free baking, and I like to blend them into a flour which works great in cakes and biscuits (see below). Whilst oats do not contain gluten, not all varieties will be labelled gluten-free because cross-contamination can occur if the oats are processed with other gluten-containing grains. Gluten-free oats are now widely available, however a small percentage of people with coeliac disease are still sensitive to them so always consult a health professional if you experience any symptoms.
Rice grains naturally don’t contain gluten, so we always stock up on different varieties to add to risotto, chilli, stir fry, and salad dishes. Many dishes in Asian cuisine use rice or rice noodles so it’s a great option for when dining out, which can sometimes otherwise be challenge! We love to go out for Asian food as a family because there are often naturally gluten-free options on the menu. You can also buy rice noodles from most supermarket which are useful to add to Asian inspired recipes like these Korean style noodles:
4. Gluten-Free Flours
You may not be aware that many sauces and condiments are not gluten-free, so always check the label. Stocking up on different gluten-free flours means you can make your own, without worrying about hidden gluten! Cornflour or polenta are excellent gluten-free substitutes which you can use to thicken pasta sauces and gravies. For baking sweet treats, I find using a blend of coconut and oat flour works best!
Following on from my last point, soy sauce is one condiment to look at cautiously because most brands contain gluten! If you add soy sauce to everything like me, don’t worry – tamari is a fermented and naturally gluten-free sauce which is very similar to soy and is available at most supermarkets. It’s a great pantry item to add flavour to rice dishes or Asian recipes. I find it a lot less salty than regular soy sauce, but it still gives a great umami flavour.
I hope this article has reassured you that a gluten-free lifestyle is achievable and can still have plenty of variety! The key is to be prepared and focus on simple ingredients, big flavours, and nutritious foods. Whilst you may have to pay more attention to labelling, there are more naturally gluten-free foods around than you realize!
If you’re dealing with gluten challenges or know some other delicious foods sans gluten let us know in the comments below and join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Now you’ve taken care of your food-fuel, go ahead and Keep YOUR Fit ON!
1. Butt MS, Tahir-Nadeem M, Khan MKI, Shabir R, Butt MS. Oat: unique among the cereals. European journal of nutrition. 2008;47(2):68-79.