What Does Gluten-Free Mean?

What Does Gluten-Free Mean?

Twenty years ago, most people didn’t know anything about the word gluten. In fact, we brushed over “the gluten-free diet” in my dietetics class and that was just 10 years ago. Now, gluten free foods and the gluten-free diet have become all the rage, sadly for all of the wrong reasons.

Many of my patients follow a gluten-free diet for a variety of reasons including; celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), GI diseases and autoimmune disorders. These patients use this therapeutic diet in order to remain symptom free, decrease internal damage and improve energy and mood levels. Unfortunately, many others have also tried to follow a gluten-free diet strictly for weight loss, which is not an appropriate reason to follow this difficult and restrictive diet.

So what is gluten? Gluten is the name of a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It helps foods maintain their shape and act as a glue to hold food together. It is added to everything from deli meats to French fries and to salad dressings.

A gluten-free diet is a very restricted diet that is mandatory for many. I don’t recommend it, unless medically necessary. When recommending gluten-free foods, I encouraged aiming for naturally gluten-free foods rather than packaged alternatives. These include olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocadoes, seeds, nuts, meats and seafood, eggs, vegetables and fruits. If tolerated, legumes, quinoa, rice, cow’s milk, yogurt and cheese can also be part of a balanced diet.

I personally have followed a gluten-free diet and try to keep my house as gluten free as possible. I love using romaine lettuce as a bun for sloppy joes and hamburgers. I also utilize sweet potatoes for buns, as well as stuffed with barbecue chicken or taco meats. Spaghetti squash and veggie noodles are my go-to swaps for pasta.

Nixing the gluten-filled processed rolls and breads and swapping in fiber and vitamin filled veggies is a breeze when you have sharp and high-quality cutlery. I love my Cutco Vegetable Knife and 7-5/8" Petite Chef for slicing through even the hardest veggies.

If you choose to follow a gluten-free diet for medical reasons or if you are just trying to include less processed grains, give the above swaps a try.

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