Celiac disease may only affect one percent of the world population, but milder gluten intolerances can affect as many as 13% of people. Once you’ve experienced several symptoms of gluten intolerance and have confirmed with a doctor that you have a gluten sensitivity, you may be asked to reduce or completely cut out gluten from your diet.
This may seem difficult especially when you realize how much foods contain gluten. But if you’re willing to make the lifestyle change for a healthier life, here are some tips.
Look for Gluten-Free Alternatives
Plenty of stores, brands, and restaurants provide gluten-free options for those who need it. If you want to buy gluten-free desserts, you can easily find bakeries that are certified gluten-free for your health and safety.
When grocery shopping, it’s best to do your research beforehand to see what’s gluten or go to supermarkets and other stores that provide organic and gluten-free options. Going gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean you’ll have to give up everything you like. For example, there’s still plenty of snacks like chips, pretzels, crackers, popcorn, ice cream, and other guilty pleasures that are still completely gluten-free.
Replace Your Grains
Going gluten-free means getting rid of wheat-based foods like bread, pasta, cereals, and other baked goods. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot eat carbs anymore. You can still add grains, starches, flours, and nuts and seeds to your diet. Some of the foods you can add include:
- Potato/corn/soy/chickpea flour
- All nuts and seeds
The only thing you really need to look out for is warnings if products are not gluten-free. Oats are an example of gluten-free grains, but it’s possible for oats to have been handled in containers that handled wheat during manufacturing.
Increase Your Food Budget
With some food options no longer available, you might have to expand your weekly food budget to afford enough food. The cost of gluten-free foods is almost 2.5 times higher than regular food because of the way manufacturers have to have stricter testing and anti-contamination procedures.
If increasing your food budget is not an option, there are other ways to stay gluten-free without spending too much. To reduce your costs, try buying non-perishable gluten-free items in bulk. Shop in farmers’ markets for more affordable produce. And eat single-ingredient foods that cost less to make.
Adapting to Your Social Life
One of the hardest lifestyle changes of going gluten-free is the possibility that your social life may have to change. It’s common for social situations to involve food, and you may find that there are no gluten-free options for you in some cases. While some restaurants have gluten-free options, there’s no telling if your food can still be contaminated with gluten (e.g. using the same cooking tools for gluten and gluten-free dishes).
This is why around 21% of people with celiac disease avoid social gatherings in case of instances where they’re exposed to gluten. If you’re ever going out, you need to call restaurants beforehand to see if they have gluten-free options. In events like weddings or formal dinners, you may have to tell your host in advance that you need gluten-free options. Or, as a last resort, you may need to bring your own food in case you’re unable to eat what’s served.
The switch to a gluten-free lifestyle can be difficult for first-timers. But by adapting to your needs and reminding yourself why you need to avoid gluten can help you easily adjust to your new and healthier lifestyle.