• leighmcswan

A Beginner's Guide to Going Gluten-Free

Updated: Apr 21

If you want to remove gluten from your diet, you’re in the right place. Whether you’re going gluten-free for medical and health conditions, you’re being proactive with your health, or you simply want to experiment with a gluten-free lifestyle, the basics for doing so are right here.


A loaf of gluten-free bread peeks out of it's brown paper wrapping tied with twine. It sits atop a wooden table with a bread knife lying next to the loaf.

In this blog post I’ll give you 7 suggestions that were most helpful for me 10 years ago, when I started living an intentionally gluten-free diet.


Make sure you download the PDF below. This guide briefly explains what gluten is, the grains you want to avoid/consume and grain-free options which align well with a gluten-free lifestyle. The guide also shares some information on household products that commonly contain gluten.



1. Keep a Food Journal


A food journal for at least 5 days (7 is best), including weekends is a helpful for transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle for two reasons. The first is so that you can start associating foods with symptoms. This will be especially helpful if you’re coming into this lifestyle for health reasons.


You’ll gain valuable insights into the foods that upset your digestive system, affect your mood, deplete your energy and/or cause inflammation, pain headaches and the like.

The second reason is so that you get a birds-eye view of the foods you commonly eat that contain gluten so that you can switch those foods over to a gluten-free version.



2. Stock your Fridge, Freezer and Pantry


Fail to plan, plan to fail. Especially when you’re in a hurry and need to make food and eat quickly. Before you go gluten-free: make sure you have plenty of gluten-free foods in your fridge; your freezer has easy-to-prepare or pre-made gluten-free meals; and you have a pantry abundant in gluten-free flours, sauces, condiments and spice blends.



Some freshly baked gluten-free muffins sit on top of a wooden serving board. In the background on the counter is a half-eaten muffin with the liner still attached and crumbs surrounding it. Next to that are measuring spoons and cups strewn from baking.


3. Evaluate Your Diet


By keeping a food journal you can identify the foods you may want to let go of for good because they aren’t benefiting you in any way. You can evaluate whether or not you want to remove the item completely or find a gluten-free alternative. For example- you may decide you want to remove bread from your diet all together but you’re not ready to give up beer so you go for the gluten-free alternative beer or cider.


4. Focus on the Abundance


In today’s grocery stores, gluten-free options are abundant. You can find a gluten-free option for pretty much anything that you desire. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy- keep that in mind! It just means you have the option to make a lateral switch from whole wheat bread to gluten-free bread. Now is also the time to expand your palate.


Try new foods that are naturally gluten-free, explore grain-free baking and have fun with making your own spice blends!

There are so many options and new foods on the horizon. Focus your energy and excitement there instead of on what you ‘can’t’ have.


Gluten-free chocolate chip cookie missing a bite sitting on a striped mint green plate on top of a white placemat with black x's. Next to the placemat is a gluten-free beginner's baking cookbook as well as a old-fashioned glass with milk.

5. Give it 3+ Months


Gluten creates an immune response within the body and unfortunately this means that even trace amounts of gluten can set you back with your health goals. It’s important that you’re strict and diligent with a gluten-free lifestyle for at least 3 months- even if you don’t have any obvious symptoms of gluten intolerance.


Consuming gluten, for anyone, causes the release of an inflammatory protein known as “zonulin” which opens up the junctions in the intestines, releasing food particles into the bloodstream where they don’t belong.

This is what triggers an immune response and creates systemic inflammation. For the lining of the intestinal tract to heal from the irritation caused by zonulin and for the body to reduce the immune response, it’s a long process- 3 months minimum and up to 6 months for some individuals. Until those junctions are healed (gut healing), inflammation is lowered and the immune system stops reacting, you likely won’t notice any changes in your body and mind.


6. Have a Backup Plan for Dining and Takeout


Much like the grocery stores, restaurants are well equipped to handle gluten-free requests. It’s a good idea to call ahead, speak to the manager or kitchen staff and ask whether or not they have dedicated gluten-free fryers, prep stations, and utensils for gluten-free guests. Ask what menu items they can verify with 100% certainty to be gluten-free and keep a list of those restaurants and menu options in case you plan on going out or ordering take-out.


Gluten-Free beginner cookbook open next to a bowl of cracked eggs and some gluten-free flour in a measuring cup.

7. Get a Cookbook


Whether you enjoy cooking or dread it- getting a great gluten-free cookbook is a wonderful investment. You can learn how to prepare gluten-free foods as well as transition your current dishes to the gluten-free alternatives. There are thousands of gluten-free cookbooks on the market, some of my favourites can be found here. Spend some time browsing your local bookstore or library to get inspired and excited about cooking gluten-free meals for yourself and your family.


With love,


Leigh



Get the Beginner’s Guide to Going Gluten-Free here.



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