Your Personal Meal Planning Assistant
April 04, 2016

Going Gluten Free? Our Guide to Get Started

Spinach salad with grapes and goat cheese

The idea of embarking on an entirely gluten-free diet can inspire fear in the hearts of any carb-lover: No bread? What about cheese and crackers? Pasta? The very thought might make the benefits of this way of eating—improved digestion, better mental clarity, healthy body weight, clearer skin—seem inconsequential. Who cares about a healthy glow when you can’t have your favorite childhood cereal?

Fear not, friend: although wheat-based foods don't have a place in a gluten-free diet, there are infinite ways to nourish yourself and avoid feeling deprived, meaning you’ll get all those great benefits and still savor every bite. You just need to know where to start (and what to do to keep those new foodie practices in place).

Here's the PlateJoy starter guide to going gluten free:

Make time to grocery shop and cook
When you have nourishing, delicious options ready to go, you’ll be less tempted to veer away from your goals. Set aside an hour each week to visit the farmers market or grocery store; you can use PlateJoy's handy shopping lists to stock your kitchen for several days worth of gluten-free meals.

If you have time, aim to prep veggies right after your shopping trip to make midweek eating a breeze.

Stock up on staples
When you’re first getting started, ensure your pantry has the essentials. (It’s frustrating to be in the middle of making dinner and realize you don’t have the right sauce/oil/spice on hand.)

Oils—like olive, avocado and sesame—can be used raw or as a healthy cooking fat.

Spices—think cross-culturally, like chili powder, curry powder, garlic powder, oregano, Chinese five spice—in addition to good sea salt and black pepper can turn blah veggies into masterful works of culinary art.

A few selections of bulk grain and legumes, such as quinoa, buckwheat, lentils and black beans, will serve you well, as will a small selection of nuts and seeds (like almonds, pumpkin seeds and sesame). Store these in airtight containers in the pantry.

Know your grain options
While you’ll need to break up with wheat, rye, barley, there are tons of gluten-free grains that can be worked into your new lifestyle easily. Buckwheat, amaranth, teff, quinoa and all varieties of rice make great complements to dinners. Craving pasta? Look for quinoa- or brown rice-pasta if you’re after noodle substitute.

Millet and gluten-free oats are great breakfast cereal swaps. For baking, explore nut flours, like those made from almonds or brazil nuts, as well as fruit-based flours like plantain and coconut.

Buy real food
Many products market themselves as gluten-free and all-natural. But often they’re no better for you than the gluten-full versions: they likely contain just as much sugar and preservatives. You’re far better off buying whole, unprocessed ingredients like fresh produce, beans and grains, particularly brightly colored options with no additives. (Think sweet potatoes, citrus and dark leafy greens).

Read labels carefully and make sure you feel good about whatever the product would introduce to your body before you bring it home.

Keep up your healthy fat intake
If you’re worried a gluten-free diet will mean feeling hungry and unhappy all the time, the fiber, protein and fat available from the wide range of foods you can eat can be highly satisfying to the body, particularly when meals are well balanced and well planned. For maximum satiety, include a little fat with every meal, be it a few of the nuts and seeds from your pantry, avocado, toasted coconut or nut butter. When paired with your gluten-free grains of choice and your favorite proteins, you won’t miss a minute of fullness.

Focus on what you can eat, not what you can't (or won't)
This is perhaps most important of all. There is an enormous spectrum of gluten-free food readily available most everywhere you go. Rather than defeat your forward momentum and great intentions by getting down about what you can’t have, give attention to what you can have. The side dishes on most menus will offer some hope, even if the appetizers and entrees all seem to scream “deep fry” and “bread basket.” Get creative and don’t be afraid to experiment with new things, at home or out in the world. A little “Wow! I can eat all of these things?” can go a long way for motivation.

Ready to get started the easy way? Create your custom gluten-free meal plan on PlateJoy.

- Amy Height

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