Gluten is a type of protein that is primarily found in wheat products but is also present in barley, rye and some other grains. People with celiac disease typically must avoid gluten in food to prevent painful flare-ups and other problems. Others prefer to avoid gluten because they feel better or believe that it is a healthier way to eat. The best tips for those committed to eating gluten-free include learning the types of foods most likely to contain gluten and finding favorites among those that do not. In addition to learning these basics, anyone who wants to live a gluten-free lifestyle should become practiced at reading food labels and planning meals ahead of time.
Wheat, rye, barley and many other grains are used as ingredients in so many products that eating gluten-free often can prove to be a challenge. Foods made with these grains, such as many kinds of breads, some beverages, and a large number of pre-packaged foods, should be avoided on a gluten-free diet. Even some products that go in or near the mouth, such as toothpaste or lip balms, may contain gluten, which can cause problems for someone who is sensitive to it. There are gluten-free breads and other food items available for those who do not want to give up certain items completely. A better option, and a less expensive one, may be finding favorite foods among those that are usually gluten-free.
Many staples of an ordinary diet are naturally gluten-free, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, potatoes and most dairy products. There are also a number of gluten-free grains such as rice and cornmeal, and specialty flours, such as soy or nut flours, that can help someone committed to eating gluten-free. Purchasing special gluten-free breads and baked goods, or learning to cook these items with the right flours, means that it will probably not be necessary to give up most favorite foods because of a gluten intolerance.
Gluten-free recipes and cookbooks can be a great help as well. People eating gluten-free may also wish to make a list of favorite foods to keep on hand, including some easy-to-grab snack foods. Planning meals ahead also is a great tip for avoiding gluten. If appropriate meals are planned and shopped for, and gluten-free snacks are available, a person is less likely to get stuck going hungry or having to settle for something that might cause stomach problems later.
One of the most important tips for eating gluten-free is to never assume that any processed food, baked good or pre-packaged food is safe to eat. A variety of foods from beer to frozen dinners often contain large amounts of gluten. If a product label states that it is gluten-free, then it can probably be considered safe. It is important to read the labels of other foods carefully for any gluten ingredients before eating them, however. Prepared foods such as sauces, salad dressings, candies and even deli meats or packaged lunch meats that are not labeled gluten-free could contain enough grain products to cause digestive problems.