The gluten free movement is exploding. People are realizing that there’s a ton of benefit in cutting out toxins like gluten from the foods they’re eating.
Here’s a Google trends chart for the search phrase “gluten free.” There’s no mistaking that trend line.
The problem is that gluten is in a bunch of stuff. Big Agriculture loves wheat and they love feeding it to consumers, especially in America. I’ve ranted before about how the top three foods produced in the U.S. are wheat, corn, and soy.
If there’s only one takeaway from this article, let it be this: eating gluten free doesn’t automatically mean you’re eating healthier (tweet this).
Gluten free means one thing: what you’re eating doesn’t contain gluten. It may still contain numerous other ANTI foods that I recommend you stay far away from. The worst thing you can do — if you’re concerned with health at all — is to just walk around choosing foods that have a gluten free sticker on them.
How to Eat Gluten Free: Strategies for Success
Switching to gluten free eating can seem daunting at first, but as with anything the learning curve levels out and it starts to become automatic. Just know that if you’re going to do it, you have to do it 100%. There is no “mostly” gluten free because gluten has negative effects in trace amounts. It’s all or nothing if you want to rock the gluten free life.
In the rest of this article I’m going to lay out 13 effective strategies you can use to eat gluten free without pulling your hair out. If you’ve been eating gluten free for a while and you’re just checking this post out, I’d love for you to add anything I might have missed in the comments. If you’re a blogger and have a great article on going gluten free, send it to me and I’ll include a link.
Strategy #1: Look for gluten free labels, but don’t take them for granted.
I’m making the most obvious suggestion first, and reiterating the caveat that just because something is marketed as gluten free doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
It may be organic, “all natural” and gluten free combined — still doesn’t mean it’s healthy. In fact, I can almost guarantee that if it’s a processed food, in a package or a box, and labeled gluten free it has a bunch of bad stuff in it.
Use gluten free labels as a starting point. Of course, if you don’t care about health and just want to avoid gluten, just look for gluten free labels and hope for the best.
Strategy #2: Learn to read labels on products not labeled as gluten free.
Just because things aren’t labeled gluten free doesn’t mean they contain gluten. There’s a lot of things that never contained gluten in the first place and thus don’t require a sticker notating that they’re gluten free.
Bottled water would be a good example of this. Some bottled water labels sport a gluten free logo (who woulda thunk) just to attract foolish consumers to their particular brand, but for the most part water won’t be labeled gluten free because everyone knows it doesn’t contain gluten.
So how do you know if something is gluten free? You’re gonna need to check the ingredients list. Here’s a rundown of things to look for; if you see these, there’s a good chance that eating what’s in your hand will put a kink in your gastro-intestinals (or whatever your symptoms of gluten intolerance may be). (Yeah, made that word up).
p.s. have you seen that list? Holy ****! Now read strategy #3 and tell me what you’d rather be doing.
Strategy #3: Learn to avoid gluten by automation, aka eating healthy.
Meals don’t have to be a baking extravaganza. You don’t have to be an expert in the kitchen or study the craft of overweight Italian guys on the cooking channel.
Healthy meats, healthy veggies, some fruit, limited nuts and seeds, safe starches (depending on where you’re at in the process of transition), and water will get you really far really fast. So will the crockpot.
You know what, just eat real food! Gluten is a toxin delivered to us via modern agriculture (I doubt you’ve ever come across a stock of wheat and chewed it down). If it’s not processed, it’s likely naturally gluten free (with a small exception found in #4).
If you’re trying to replicate all of the SAD foods you used to eat (or that everyone else eats), you’re going to be in a whole new world of concoction craziness that I’m not prepared to help you with. Michelle can though.
Or you can avoid all of that by just learning how to eat really healthy as a lifestyle, which means you’ll be automatically gluten free AND you’ll live longer and perform better. I’m not knocking Michelle, I just don’t believe in SAD mimicry with technically approved ingredients on a regular basis.
Strategy #4: Source the best quality.
The thing with gluten is that it’s not always about just avoiding wheat and wheat based products, it’s about avoiding animals that ate wheat based products too. Even trace amounts of gluten can cause a reaction.
Again, thanks to Big Agriculture, our animals are living in terrible conditions (which changes the quality of the meat and milk they produce), they’re eating stuff they were never meant to eat, and they’re passing that poor health along to us.
I’m a huge proponent of eating as close to the source as you possibly can, meaning organic and grass fed. Eat a cow that was eating grass and that’s the best you can get. Eat chickens and eggs from chickens that roamed freely eating bugs, not soy and corn and whatever else was considered cheap feed.
Not only will you be healthier this way, you’ll avoid trace amounts of gluten automatically. You can buy your meats online, which can get expensive, or you can do what I recommend and find local sources.
Strategy #5: Plan your meals and trips.
The last thing you want is to be caught off guard and forced to make last minute decisions. It’ll be 12:30pm and you’ll be like a gluten free Rain Man, walking around in circles panicking about finding non-breaded fish sticks.
When you wake up, decide what breakfast, lunch, and dinner are going to be that day. If you want bonus points, plan a few days ahead. If you want to be accused of having OCD, plan a week or more in advance. But plan!
If you’re going to be out of town, make sure you know what your sources of food are going to be. Google is a powerful tool. Find out what grocery stores and restaurants are nearby and give them a call to make sure they have some suitable sustenance.
Strategy #6: Have an escape route.
There’s going to be times when you’re caught in a pinch and are just out of options or caught off guard. Even the best plans go to crap. This is when you need to hit your escape route.
An escape route is a go-to meal that can be found almost anywhere. The escape route probably isn’t an optimal meal — it’s just about survival.
Or, if you’re fat-adapted, your escape route can be to skip eating and go with an intermittent fast. No harm no foul.
In my world, the escape route is bacon and eggs. And if I can’t make bacon and eggs and there’s no other viable options, I just don’t eat. No biggie.
Strategy #7: Stop confining yourself to the idea of “time based” foods.
Who said breakfast has to be eaten in the morning? Can’t I have grass fed steak at 9am? Can’t I have eggs and avocado and sauerkraut at 7pm?
Sure you can! And you should. Often. Let’s all stop pretending that certain foods are for certain times, that just makes it harder on everyone.
Strategy #8: Repeat Meals.
It sounds boring, but it’s effective. Just rotate a set of 10 or so meals. When something gets really boring, do the work to replace it with another meal and continue the rotation until you feel you need another substitution.
I’m the king of this. Just make sure each “meal” has a decent variety of foods so you’re getting a sufficient nutrient profile.
Strategy #9: Cook in bulk.
When you’re rotating meals, there’s no reason to cook the same meals every. single. time. Cook and freeze so when you decide to have that meal again you can just pull it out of the freezer and it’s already made. Talk about easy and convenient!
Strategy #10: Let everyone know you’re gluten free.
Gluten free is becoming so mainstream that you no longer have to fear being the weird gluten free person. It’s chic baby. Wheat is for suckers. Wear it as a badge of honor.
Strategy #11: Check your meds.
If you’re relatively healthy (reboot anyone?) and don’t take any medications, no worries. If you do take meds, be sure there’s no gluten hidden in them. Check with your pharmacist to make sure. I can’t say this enough: gluten has negative effects in trace amounts. There is no such thing as “mostly” gluten free.
Strategy #12: Don’t share, double dip, or reuse.
Have you heard that gluten has negative side effects in trace amounts? Yes, I’m going to keep drilling this point home.
That means you can’t pop something into a toaster oven after your husband used it to burn his toast. You can’t use the dip someone just dunked their gluten stick in. Be vigilant, my friends.
Strategy #13: Free yourself from hunger and the need to snack.
You can be gluten free and still be a sugar burner. Like I said, gluten free doesn’t mean healthy or optimal. Unfortunately, if you’re a gluten free sugar burner (rather than someone whose body prefers to burn fat), you’re going to need to be more prepared and have more options available to you because you’re going to need to eat more often (aka snacking).
Fixing your metabolism and freeing yourself from the land of sugar burning provides you with stable, long term energy, reduces cravings, and makes eating and meal planning less stressful.
Do you have additional strategies for helping people go and stay gluten free? I’d love to hear them — post them in the comments!
Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s helped tens of thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and now offers all of his signature programs through a “pay what you want” model.