Hacks to Simplify Your Gluten-Free Life
Because life is complicated enough without doing things the hard way
Going gluten-free for the sake of your gut is hard. Googling the phrase “gluten-free” will leave you awash in waves of information. Sorting through hundreds of recipes or hundreds of articles takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a lot of mental space to store it all in.
What is needed is a quick reference to get started, and that’s what we have for you here. Though more in-depth research will be beneficial, this list of going gluten-free hacks will give you the highlights before you fall into any rabbit holes.
To start, reading food labels is your new favorite, or at least necessary, pastime. Food manufacturers are required to list all of the ingredients on every food package they put out there, and the reason for that is so people like you can make sure the food is safe for you to eat. The big names to look out for are wheat, rye, and barley, plus any ingredients that include those in the name. For a more detailed list, check out our post on finding gluten in your food[a].
Another way to make your life easier is to look for gluten-free or certified gluten-free labels on your food. Though you don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) rely solely on these labels, it is a good shortcut when you need to grab a quick bite. For more on labels, what they mean, and how to use them safely, read our post on gluten-free labels[b].
We all want to believe that switching to a medically indicated diet means responsible eating from here on out—fresh produce, delicious quinoa or corn-based carbs, and all snacks will be rice cakes or oranges. The reality is, responsible change is incremental; some days, pretzels are just going to sound good.
With that in mind, be prepared. Try many brands and types of gluten-free snacks, ranging from chips and pretzels to cookies and brownies, so you know what tastes good to you, then keep some on hand. Being prepared will give you something to look forward to (or grab out of your desk!) when you hear that Jan from accounting brought cupcakes today. Knowing you have something delicious to eat later can boost your ability to say no to the glutinous treats sitting right in front of you.
Check all your sauces, condiments, soups, and anything else you eat consistently that has a gloopy texture—many of them will include gluten. Wheat is an excellent thickening agent, so it ends up in a lot of foods.
Once you find something with gluten in it, don’t just nix it from your diet permanently. Instead, look for gluten-free alternatives. You may need to try out a few before finding the right one, but patience is better than trying complete denial.
One other sauce you might not think to check—your soy sauce. Wheat is often fermented along with the soy, so gluten might be lurking in your otherwise gluten-free sushi night (assuming you skipped the breaded sushi. You did, right?). Ask your server to see the bottle when eating out, or just take along a small amount of a gluten-free version. Eating out gluten-free can be hard, but it’s not impossible[c].
If you bake or cook at all, it’s probably already occurred to you that wheat-based flour, the most basic of flours, is no longer an option. Fortunately, as the market continues to feed into the gluten-free diet, plenty of alternatives are showing up on the shelves. If you want to save yourself time, look for one-to-one, gluten-free substitutes that include guar or xanthan gum.
Not sure which one-to-one flour will work best for you? We have a deeper dive into just that here.[d]
If you’re a little pickier in your cooking and baking, building your own gluten-free flour mixes is likely a better choice for you. As you can read about here[e], each gluten-free flour has a slightly different taste profile and behaves differently once incorporated into a dish. That means some flours will work better in, say, brownies, while others will be best in a savory gravy.
The key to using your own mixes of gluten-free flours, though, is to make sure you include guar or xanthan gum. While guar is less expensive than xanthan, some people have unpleasant reactions when eating it, so be sure to try out both!
In that same vein, gluten-free bread is notoriously crumbly, mostly because it lacks the thing that makes bread chewy—gluten. Even the best-made store brands will seem dry when compared to wheat- or rye-based loaves of bread. A quick fix is to heat the bread first, either in a toaster [f]or the microwave. Many who eat gluten-free swear by this trick for bringing more of that springy, chewy, bready texture that you love back into your life.
Another favorite carb is pasta. There are a lot of delicious, gluten-free kinds of pasta on the market. One quick tip to keep them from getting too chewy or goopy; double the amount of water you would typically use to cook the same amount of wheat-based noodles. This can save you from ending up with a gluten-free ball of pasta that looks like it’s welded itself together.
When it comes to eating out there’s a lot to navigate, but if you find yourself in a situation where others have provided gluten-free options, don’t be shy about serving yourself first. This will circumvent the possibility of eating food that has been cross-contaminated by someone dipping into gluten-free and glutinous dishes indiscriminately.
As mentioned before, banning entire food types from your diet because you now have to eat gluten-free can be counterproductive. While we support your healthy eating habits, moderation in all things is the best way to find success.
That means finding gluten-free desserts that you love, and they don’t have to be substitutes; many delicious delicacies are gluten-free by nature. Sorbet, as long as it has no glutinous mix-ins, is a great example. Others include chocolate fondue, marshmallows, rice cereal treats, and the quintessentially French macaron.
As always, read the label of any pre-made dessert, in case the manufacturer has added wheat-derived preservatives, flavorings, or add-ins. But overall, there is no reason not to indulge your sweet tooth and keep to a gluten-free diet.
It may be hectic and complicated, but your life is yours to live. Simplify it as you can so that gluten-free can be as stress-free as possible.
[a]Hyperlink to blog 5
[b]Hyperlink to blog 9
[c]Hyperlink to blog 8
[d]Hyperlink to blog 14
[e]Hyperlink to blog 13
[f]Hyperlink to blog 7