gluten free

We’ve all seen “GLUTEN-FREE” labeled all over foods, menus, and even medications. More and more people around the world are going gluten-free every year. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 1 in 5 people avoid gluten in their diet. But what exactly does it mean? What is this strange little ingredient that so many of us are avoiding?

Gluten, in basic terms, is a protein conglomerate commonly used as a binding agent in several foods. It is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Foods with gluten include pizza, cakes, pastas, bread, and even brownies. It’s a hard life being gluten-free.

Whether you’re a Celiac, gluten-intolerant, or just choosing a gluten-free lifestyle, look no further! As someone who has been living with Celiac disease for five years, I have the pro tips you need to stay healthy and happy in terms of your diet.

Shop outer perimeter

This means shopping mostly in the outer perimeter of the grocery store where the refrigerated and perishable items are located. Mostly, these include more natural, less processed foods such as meats, fresh vegetables and fruits, and dairy products. Not only is it healthier, but more cost-effective, as items that are made gluten-free but are not naturally gluten-free are generally more expensive. These items include gluten-free breads, gluten-free pretzels, and similar items.

Gluten-free bread is crumbly and not entirely satisfying… you’ve been warned.

Since gluten is used as a binding agent, one might conclude that gluten free bread is a bit (a lot) more crumbly. Sandwiches are fairly difficult to keep clean, and are surely not first date go-tos. Corn bread is delicious at Thanksgiving, but disappointing as the base of a BLT. Pro tip: get friendly with salads. If that doesn’t appeal, try corn tortillas. Spoiler alert: they also break easily. But who dosen’t love a taco?

The secret to good gluten-free cakes and brownies is packing them full of chocolate chips.

I cannot emphasize this enough! Chocolate makes everything better. But chocolate especially makes gluten-free better. I recommend milk chocolate Ghirardelli chips. They will not disappoint, but you might have to loosen your belt.

You CAN eat rice, potatoes, and corn-based products!

Are you still craving carbs? Don’t worry! Use it as a chance to eat a lot of Mexican and Asian foods that come with rice. I live off of rice and would not have it any other way. Potatoes are also technically vegetables, and are gluten-free naturally. Corn, of course, is also a vegetable. These starches will soon become your life-long friends.

Most restaurants are very accommodating to gluten-free guests.

As more and more people switch to a gluten-free lifestyle, restaurants have become more and more accommodating to these types of guests. Some restaurants even have exclusively gluten-free menus available upon request. If you believe something is gluten-free on the menu but you aren’t sure, just ask! The kitchen is trained to know these things, and it is always better to ask for the sake of your health.

Most importantly… ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS read the ingredient list!

Alert! You can sometimes be surprised by what is and is not gluten-free. It depends entirely on the ingredients used, so ALWAYS check the label. Some barbecue sauces are safe, but some are not. The same applies to french fries. And watch out for soy sauce. It is NOT gluten-free! But gluten-free soy sauce is available at most grocery stores. In any and all shopping circumstances, just be careful. Your body will thank you!