By Hannah Brown
Dietetic Intern and Master’s Student at Loblaw Companies Limited
Are you curious about following a gluten-free (GF) diet? Although it is not suitable for everyone, there are many reasons why you may choose to follow a GF diet, such as a gluten allergy, intolerance, or simply a personal preference. Regardless of the reason, eliminating gluten from your diet can be challenging, but it is possible and can be enjoyable! Although it is important to know what foods you can’t eat, it is encouraging to focus on all the foods that can be included in a GF diet while keeping in mind some helpful tips found below.
Gluten 101:Before venturing into trying new things, knowing what gluten is, is a crucial first step. Gluten is a natural protein found in wheat and other grains such as rye and barley. It is the element that contributes to most of the properties you associate with baked goods: elasticity, rise, shape, and spongy texture. It also acts as a glue to hold foods together, which is why some gluten-free goods can be quite crumbly. Thankfully, as a GF diet becomes increasingly popular, there is an increased awareness of what gluten is and a large selection of GF products and recipes to choose from.
Foods that often contain gluten
- Breads and Baked goods
- Sauces and gravies
- Salad dressings
- Malt foods (i.e. Milkshakes, malt vinegar)
- Brewers yeast
- Soy sauce
Foods that are usually GF
- All fresh fruits and vegetables
- Milk, cheese, yogurt
- Fresh meat, poultry, fish
- Legumes (i.e. Chickpeas, lentils, dried peas, kidney beans)
- Soy products i.e. tofu
- Nuts/Nut flours and Seeds
- Oils, butter, and margarine
- Rice and potatoes
- Tapioca, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, arrowroot, amaranth, teff, sorghum
Examples of hidden gluten
- Oats that aren’t specified GF
- Flour in the batter of fried foods
- Potato chip seasoning containing malt vinegar or wheat starch
- Creamy soups with added flour to thicken
- Salad dressings with malt vinegar or soy sauce
- Meat alternatives with seitan (a wheat gluten)
Quick Tip: Many gluten-free foods can be lacking in fibre, protein, and other nutrients. Increase these nutritious factors by including nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt, fruits and vegetables, and GF whole grains (i.e. quinoa, millet, brown rice, and buckwheat).
Flour fix:Using GF flour is typically where trial and error come into play to get the taste, texture, and colour you want! Try following GF specific recipes to become comfortable cooking with GF ingredients before trying to convert gluten recipes to GF ones. There are many gluten-free flours on the market to choose from, below are examples of just a few.
- GF flour blends typically substitute cup for cup, however, some require the addition of xanthan gum to help bind.
- Quinoa flour is ideal for cakes, cookies, and cupcakes, and as a bonus, is higher in protein!
- Coconut flour is high in fibre and has a light coconut taste and is also ideal for cakes and cupcakes, ensure to follow recipes specifying coconut flour as it likes to absorb liquid.
- Almond flour is another nutritious high protein flour, it is ideal for cupcakes, muffins, pie crusts, and French macarons.
Quick Tip: For longer shelf life, store your gluten-free flours in the fridge in between uses.
Familiarize yourself with:Cross Contamination is an important word to familiarize yourself with when following a GF diet. It is when a GF food comes into contact with gluten through touching other food or surfaces that have come into contact with gluten. For example, putting a knife in a jam jar after it spread jam on a non-GF piece of toast, or using the same toaster for gluten and GF products. Cross-contamination can happen in various settings including your home kitchen, a restaurant, manufacturing plants, and bulk food bins. This is why it is important to exercise caution when preparing and purchasing foods. Some notable kitchen items to be aware of are, toasters, utensils, pots, pans, cutting boards, colanders, and sponges.
Quick Tip: Call restaurants ahead to ensure they carry GF options and follow the proper sanitary procedures to avoid cross-contamination.
Reading ingredient labels is another important aspect to know about when following a GF diet. Gluten can be hidden in a lot of different foods. When you are unsure if a food is GF the safest thing to do is to read the list of ingredients and look at the ‘may contain’ statement. If you are still unsure, you can always call the manufacturer to check if the product is GF.
Quick Tip: Watch for the Canadian Celiac Association symbol on products, they are certified GF!
The main take away:It is possible to follow and enjoy a GF diet made up of nutritious and delicious foods! Be sure to familiarize yourself with gluten and GF items, always read food labels, and be mindful of possible points of cross-contamination. If a GF diet is something you follow, ensure to explore and make use of all the great GF options out there!
Are you looking to help optimize your health and nutrition through what you eat and drink? Registered Dietitian services are available through Shoppers Drug Mart at shoppersdrugmart.ca/dietitians. Book your personalized nutrition appointment today.
The information provided is for personal use, reference and education only and is not intended to be a substitute for a Physician’s advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific information on personal health matters. Please note: Dietitian services are currently only available in select Ontario stores. Please contact your store to learn more. ®/TM 911979 Alberta Ltd. ©2020 Shoppers Drug Mart Inc.