Written by Mary Garth, Guest Writer
A gluten-free diet helps relieve symptoms of celiac disease, an autoimmune illness that inhibits nutritional absorption and hinders gluten digestion. However, many people go gluten-free even if they do not have celiac disease or other related health concerns that demand avoiding gluten. Nonmedical gluten-free dieters may be looking for weight loss, improved focus, higher energy, or a less-bloated stomach, all of which are possible advantages. You can find gluten in wheat, barley, rye, and many of its derivatives, such as malt and other foods. Therefore, it’s sometimes hard to avoid or give up on it. The good news is that a gluten-free equivalent for wheat or barley-based foods is always available. It’s simply a matter of learning and experimenting. Keep reading to learn some simple ways to substitute gluten in your diet.
Learn what foods to eat or avoid
While avoiding specific foods is the foundation of a healthy diet, you must also understand which foods are acceptable. Numerous naturally gluten-free meals are both delicious and healthful. Therefore, when you shop at your grocery store, start with vegetables, fruits, fish, poultry, meats, and dairy. These foods are gluten-free in their original form, with no possibly gluten-containing flavorings or additives added, and are staples of a gluten-free diet.
At the same time, if you are going gluten-free, you should avoid the following gluten-containing grains: wheat, barley, and rye. Furthermore, it would be best if you avoided varieties of these grains such as semolina, durum, bulgur, couscous, or emmer. Other derivates of the three main grains are malt extract and vinegar, brewer’s yeast, or triticale. Instead, eat rice, corn, soy, potato, tapioca, quinoa, buckwheat, cassava, coconut, amaranth, flax, chia, yucca, bean flours, and nut flours which are all naturally gluten-free.
Read the labels
Reading packaged food labels is essential for successfully following a gluten-free diet. That includes gluten-free claims on packaging and ingredient listings. And because ingredients might change over time, it’s good to check labels every time you go shopping. A gluten-free product with third-party certification, such as the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) tag, is safe for gluten-free consumers. If a product is not gluten-free but bears a “gluten-free” label and got approved by the FDA, it is safe to consume. The gluten-free labeling standard of the FDA also applies to items labeled no gluten, free of gluten, or without gluten. At the same time, if a product is neither certified nor labeled gluten-free, you should read the ingredients. As we learned in the previous point, if the product contains wheat, rye, or barley, it is not safe to consume by gluten-free dieters.
Substitutes for gluten-containing foods
If meal plans free of gluten constitute a diet that fits you, you might want to know some simple ways to substitute gluten foods. Here are some changes that you can make in your kitchen:
Substitutes for bread
When it comes to bread, the alternatives are many and offer a great diversity of textures and flavors. Mexican-style corn tortillas are a popular gluten-free and flavorful alternative to regular bread. You can use this cornbread to make sandwiches, wraps, burgers, or a pizza base.
Arepas and tamales are two other types of bread from Latin America that are great for sandwiches and wraps, also made with corn flour. Other flatbreads contain chickpea or lentil flour, such as socca, a crispy bread typical of southeastern France. Furthermore, buckwheat crêpes are a good alternative as they are a popular choice as a wrap in Brittany, northwest France. However, if you want a healthier option for your wraps, you can always use lettuce or collard greens.
Substitutes for flour
Flour is not only used in baked foods. You can also use it as a thickener in stews and soups or as a breading agent for crunchy proteins. Fortunately, flour also has a variety of substitutes that don’t contain gluten. For instance, you can use coconut flour, cornmeal, oat flour, rice flour, almond flour, tapioca flour, chickpea flour, cassava flour, sorghum flour, and amaranth flour. At the same time, buckwheat flour is an excellent alternative, and you can keep a 1:1 ratio when using it instead of wheat flour. Furthermore, you can use this flour to coat meat and other proteins for the same crispy effect.
Substitutes for breadcrumbs
Even if you can make your gluten-free breadcrumbs from gluten-free bread, there are other alternatives. For example, you can always use chickpea crumbs, flax meal, chia seeds, or ground nuts. Among other foods you probably already have in your kitchen that may also serve as a gluten-free substitute for breadcrumbs are cornflakes. Corn flakes are a delicious way to coat chicken, but keep in mind to use gluten-free flakes since sometimes they can have added malt.
Substitutes for pizza crust
Gluten-free pizza crust has improved a lot, and some varieties are so delicious that you can’t tell the difference from wheat. For instance, you can always use vegetables as a base to add more whole foods to your diet. Cauliflower, zucchini, and eggplant are the perfect examples of such veggies. In addition, you can use Portobello mushrooms topped with tomatoes and cheese and get a meaty and juicy alternative for pizza.
Substitutes for pasta
Noodles and pasta are some of the strongest gluten competitors out there. However, nowadays, you can find a variety of tasty gluten-free alternatives made from maize, rice, beans, lentils, and quinoa. Spiralized vegetables are also a fantastic way to consume more vegetables and avoid gluten. Zucchini, sweet potatoes, potatoes, or carrots are perfect for making pasta. Also, don’t forget about the spaghetti squash. It got its name for a good reason!
Whether you’re removing gluten from your diet due to sensitivities, allergies, or digestive issues, making the switch might feel like a sacrifice. There are, however, many excellent gluten-free meals available, as well as many new packaged foods and alternatives to your favorites. And as you get more familiar with gluten-free living, you’ll learn how to read food labels and substitute gluten ingredients in your diet as needed.
About the Author
Mary Garth is a dietary consultant for Personal Trainers and a passionate blogger. With years of experience researching and developing diets for her clients’ needs, Mary has found her niche. She’s now free to write on the side with a creative outlet for her writing abilities. In her free time, Mary travels the world looking for new ingredients and recipes and loves cooking delicious, healthy meals at home.