Is a gluten-free diet plan the right choice for you? It’s a question you might have asked, given the sheer number of articles about the possible benefits of going gluten-free. While we don’t recommend going gluten-free unless you have a medical reason to do so, this gluten-free diet plan for beginners will give you some ideas for healthy gluten-free meals for all hours of the day.
Breakfast can often be a wheat-heavy meal and you may despair about replacing your usual toast with something substantial and gluten-free. We’ve listed some breakfast ideas below that will give you the slow-release energy you need in the form of complex carbs and protein.
Celiac disease occurs in about 1% of the population, according to a study in Lancet (opens in new tab) journal, which may not sound like much, but it translates to millions of people who need information and access to good food and gluten-free meal ideas. So if you’re gluten-free for the first time, keep reading our comprehensive guide.
Gluten-free diet: foods to eat
Many foods are naturally gluten-free and can be a great starch base for your meals. Potatoes, rice, and pulses are a great alternative to wheat-based products, and you can find some gluten-free alternatives for things like pasta that use them as a main ingredient (e.g., gluten-free lentil noodles). Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite gluten-free meals, most of which rely on naturally gluten-free foods, as opposed to the gluten-free alternative you can buy at the grocery store.
We spoke with Naomi Leppitt, a nutritionist specializing in celiac disease at fit nutritionist (opens in new tab), who told us that celiacs can trust the crossed grain symbol. “While individuals with celiac disease should avoid gluten, it is safe to eat many foods, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, lentils and pulses, potatoes, corn, fruits and vegetables,” she says. “Gluten-free grains include rice, buckwheat, quinoa, corn, amaranth, arrowroot and teff. Foods labeled ‘gluten-free’ or showing the cross-grain symbol are also safe to eat, as are any pre-prepared foods that do not contain gluten, such as soups or ready meals.
“Some foods are originally made from wheat, but their end products do not contain gluten, such as glucose syrup or maltodextrin, and so are safe to eat. If a food label warns that a food ‘may contain’ traces of gluten, it may be best to speak to the manufacturer.”
Gluten-free diet: foods to avoid
You need to avoid foods made from wheat, barley, spelled and rye, which are all grains that contain gluten. If you have celiac disease, you will also need to be careful about cross-contamination. Some foods, such as oats, may be contaminated with gluten as they are usually processed in factories that handle oats and wheat. In that case, you might want to buy gluten-free oatmeal to be on the safe side. Also, many processed foods contain gluten as it is an inexpensive ingredient and used to bulk up, so it is best to eat freshly prepared meals to ensure they do not contain gluten.
Leppitt also advises special care with cross-contamination. “To avoid cross-contamination of gluten in food, it is recommended to use toaster bags in the toaster and to use separate spreads and jellies at home,” she says.
It also flags oats as a potentially problematic food. “Often, oats are produced in the same place they use wheat, barley or rye in their other products, so there can be a risk of cross-contamination. It’s best to buy gluten-free oats, however, some people with celiac disease are also sensitive to gluten-free oats because they contain a protein called avenin, which has a similar structure to gluten.”
7 day gluten free diet menu
- Breakfast: Oatmeal made with milk of your choice, topped with fresh blueberries and chia seeds
- Lunch: Rustic Potato with Tuna, Corn and Broccoli
- Dinner: Zucchini lasagna
- Breakfast: Buckwheat pancakes with golden syrup and strawberries
- Lunch: Mushroom sauce with poached eggs
- Dinner: Crispy tofu and sautéed vegetables with rice noodles
- Breakfast: Green smoothie and a slice of buttered gluten-free toast
- Lunch: Smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and arugula
- Dinner: Chickpea and coconut curry with rice
- Breakfast: Boiled Eggs with Spinach and Tomatoes
- Lunch: Red lentil pasta with pesto and pine nuts and parmesan
- Dinner: Meatballs and beans stew with a rich tomato sauce
- Breakfast: Hash browns with mushrooms, tomato and fried egg
- Lunch: Sweet potato stuffed with black bean sauce and smoked cheese
- Dinner: lamb tagine
- Breakfast: Gluten-free bacon, eggs and sausage with a slice of buttered gluten-free toast
- Lunch: Teriyaki Tofu with Broccoli and Rice
- Dinner: Shepherd’s Pie with Cheese Potato Topping
- Breakfast: Smoked Haddock Kedgeree with Peas
- Lunch: Spicy Spanish Tortilla
- Dinner: Roast beef with roasted potatoes, homemade onion sauce (thickened with cornmeal) and honey glazed carrots
Gluten-free diet: tips for beginners
Marion Sloan, UK GP and President of the Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology, recommends getting medical tests for celiac disease, gluten intolerance or wheat allergy. “It’s always best to test before adopting a GF diet,” she says. She also notes that relying on gluten-free alternatives to foods like pasta or bread can end up being expensive and unsustainable for some. “It’s potentially more expensive to the point where people say I can’t stick to this diet because it costs too much,” she says.
Leppitt adds that while diagnosing celiac disease can be challenging, there is light at the end of the tunnel. “It can be difficult to accept a diagnosis of celiac disease as it is a lifelong condition with no known cure, and the only treatment is strict adherence to a gluten-free diet,” she says. “With increasing awareness of the condition and dietary trends, gluten-free foods on the market are always expanding, so individuals with celiac disease have more options for ready-to-eat products than they would have a few decades ago.
“I would also recommend speaking to a nutritionist for expert advice and scheduling annual blood tests with your doctor to rule out related conditions and review nutrient levels as a way to confirm repair of the intestinal lining from following the gluten-free diet well. It is also important to remember that mistakes happen, and making an occasional mistake will not cause significant or lasting damage to the intestinal lining, but symptoms can be felt soon after exposure, which can last for several days.”
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice.