Over the past several years, more of the general public has become aware of the impact that diet has on our health. I’m not talking about dieting to lose weight. I’m talking about how the food we use to fuel our body can impact how we feel.
More people are turning to therapeutic diets to improve their health, avoid medication, and live longer lives. This is great news! I’ve been practicing functional nutrition for years and have seen thousands of clients improve both their lives and their health outcomes by making shifts in their diets. So I’m excited to see this knowledge become more mainstream.
But let’s face it — changing the way you eat is a challenge for a number of reasons:
😒 We get attached to our favorite foods and have a hard time giving them up.
😒 Starting a new eating plan takes time. It’s easier to just do what you’re used to.
😒 There’s always a learning curve when you try something different. And figuring out a new eating plan or therapeutic diet takes energy and brain-space.
😒 If you’re avoiding specific foods, you have to pay a lot more attention when you eat away from home. You need to check menus, call restaurants, talk with party hosts, or bring your own food.
That’s why in my practice, I encourage my patients to use all the tools available that make their journey easier. If you’re eating gluten-free, you might want to bookmark this page because I’m going to share with you the best gluten-free tools and tips I know!
Gluten-Free Recipe Sites
If you’re eating gluten-free, you’re probably eating most of your meals at home. Let’s face it — it’s just easier. But there are lots of great gluten-free recipe creators out there who have your back. And many of these sites aren’t only focused on gluten-free eating. They center on healthy meals prepared with whole foods and real ingredients. And some of them even have options for other types of food restrictions like low FODMAP, nightshade-free, and AIP (autoimmune protocol).
Unbound Wellness by Michelle Hoover
Michelle creates tasty and fun recipes that work for people with even the most restrictive diets. Everything is gluten-free. But she also has options for AIP (autoimmune protocol), Whole 30, low carb, and paleo.
She creates “safe” recipes for old favorites, comfort foods, and “takeout fake-outs”.
Paleo Running Momma by Michele Rosen
Michele creates a wide variety of recipe types for all meals. Everything on her site is gluten-free and paleo, which means her recipes are grain and dairy-free as well. She’s a fantastic recipe creator. And she is THE ONE to go to for gluten-free baked goods.
This site also features recipes for a variety or dietary restrictions including vegan, egg-free, nut-free, and Whole 30. She also has a recipe category for “no added sugar”.
Gluten-Free Goddess by Karina Allrich
This website has a variety of gluten-free recipes. But it’s also a blog so she includes tips for eating gluten-free. And if you’re dealing with IBS and navigating the low FODMAP diet along with staying gluten-free, she’s got a whole section of recipes just for you!
If you’re not sure how to combine low FODMAP and gluten-free diets, check out this article.
Finding good gluten-free recipe creators
The recipe sites above are just the tiniest drop in the online gluten-free recipe ocean. A Google search will provide you with pages and pages of recipe creators and gluten-free bloggers. You’re sure to find someone you resonate with and who creates recipes in the style you enjoy.
But use your common sense. If you find a recipe that has an ingredient you think might contain gluten, check it out. Most likely the gluten-free recipe creators know their stuff. But nobody’s perfect.
And if you’re more of a cookbook person, you have many options to choose from. Cookbooks that avoid gluten-containing ingredients may be called gluten-free, Whole 30, or paleo. If you want to cook gluten-free foods for a busy family, Cook Once Eat All Week by Cassie Joy Garcia is a great choice.
But be careful, when I looked at Amazon’s list of the top 25 gluten-free cookbooks, many of them were not gluten free. So just make sure you’re paying attention.
There’s an app for everything. And for a gluten-free diet, there are lots of apps to choose from. Some will help you create meal plans and shopping lists. You can find apps that locate gluten-free restaurants, scan barcodes at the grocery store, or that contain their own recipe database.
If you’d like to read a credible article that will point you in the right direction to some of these apps, check out this one.
Gluten-Free Lifestyle Tips
If you’re new to the gluten-free diet, you’ll have some adjustments to make. And it can be overwhelming. But with time and practice, staying gluten-free will become second-nature for you.
Here are some of my best tips to get you started:
Gluten-free Tip #1: Look for Gluten-Free alternatives
Just because you aren’t eating gluten doesn’t mean you have to give up bread and pasta. As the gluten-free diet gains traction, more and more gluten-free alternative foods are becoming available.
You can find gluten-free alternatives to all of these beloved comfort foods:
😀 Pasta — in all shapes and sizes
😀 Bread products — everything from sandwich bread, to english muffins, rolls, and bagels
😀 Crackers — in a wide variety of textures and flavors
😀 Breakfast cereal and granola — old favorites and new varieties of cereal both have gluten-free options
😀 Baked goods — cookies, cakes, brownies, and more are ready-made at your favorite store
😀 Pizza — either a crust for you to top, or a ready-made pizza. There are frozen gluten-free options at most stores. Be careful about gluten-free pizza from a restaurant though. Many of them are made using the same equipment as regular pizza so there may be some cross-contamination.
Gluten-free Tip #2: Get in the habit of checking labels
The FDA has strict guidelines around the official gluten-free label on packaged foods. So if you see that, you should be good to go.
But not all foods that lack the gluten-free label contain gluten. There are clues you can look for on labels that can help you determine whether or not a food is safe to eat. For more tips on label-reading for the gluten-free diet, check out this article.
Gluten-free Tip #3: Focus on naturally gluten-free foods
Many of the healthiest foods are naturally gluten-free. If you’re weary of trying to figure out what’s gluten-free and what isn’t, you can always focus on whole, naturally gluten-free foods.
For protein you can look to sources like beef, chicken, fish, and eggs. And as long as you don’t add gluten-containing ingredients like flour when you cook them, you should be good to go. You can add in some fresh veggies and fruits, and some gluten-free grains to make a hearty and healthy meal. Just be mindful of any additional ingredients you add like toppings and salad dressings. Gluten can hide in these places! For more info about where gluten hides, check out this article.
Gluten-free Tip #4: Clean out your pantry
The best way to avoid accidentally ingesting gluten is to keep gluten-containing foods out of your house. And if you’re new to the gluten-free diet, you probably have a lot of foods lying around that are not compliant.
If you have family members who are not gluten-free, having a pantry shelf just for you can help you avoid accidentally grabbing something with gluten. And make sure everything is clearly labeled, especially if you take it out of its original container.
Gluten-free Tip #5: Work with a dietitian
Starting a restrictive diet on your own can be challenging. But working with a qualified practitioner can help. Look for a dietitian who has experience with patients who are gluten-free — someone who provides you with the support and resources you need to incorporate the gluten-free diet into your lifestyle.
I recommend you find a practitioner BEFORE you go gluten-free. Before you start a therapeutic or restrictive diet, it’s important to find out for sure which diet you actually need. Unless you work with a practitioner who knows their stuff, you may choose the wrong therapeutic diet for your specific symptoms and their underlying causes.
Gluten-free Tip #6: Make room for your feelings
Food nourishes our bodies, providing energy and nutrients that keep them functioning efficiently. But food is much more than just fuel.
Most everyone has emotional attachments to their food. It’s hard to give up the foods we love. Starting a therapeutic diet can even change our relationships. You may not be able to go to the same restaurants or eat the foods you’re used to sharing with friends or family. And you’re going to have feelings about this.
If you’re starting your gluten-free diet after a troubling diagnosis, your emotions are going to be additionally magnified.
It’s okay to feel all the feelings — anger, sadness, frustration, hopelessness. These emotions (and more) may show up for you as you go through this process. Don’t forget to acknowledge them. It’s okay to feel. You deserve compassion, both from others and from yourself.
And if you need help, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out and finding someone to talk to. This can be a family member or friend, your health practitioner or a therapist. The important thing is to recognize your unique emotional needs and do what you can to take care of yourself.
And if you need a functional nutrition dietitian on your team, I’m here for you! I offer a consultation call where we can talk through your concerns and start figuring out which therapeutic diet is right for you.