Even if you don’t avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, chances are you know someone who does. One in 141 people is affected by celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction to gluten. For people with celiac disease, eating foods containing it can cause their immune systems to damage the lining of the small intestine, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. If you’re following a gluten-free diet – or cooking for someone who is – use this guide as inspiration for a healthy gluten-free day.
On the go: Blend up a smoothie. The whole fruits contribute fiber and vitamin C; the nonfat yogurt delivers a satisfying combo of carbs and protein.
Puree 1 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt with 1/4 cup fruit juice until smooth. Push 1 1/2 cups frozen fruit, such as blueberries, raspberries, pineapple or peaches through the hole in the lid of the blender and puree until smooth. 355 calories; 14 g protein; 6 g fiber.
At home: Cook up some gluten-free grains. Go for certified gluten-free oats (some brands of oatmeal can be cross-contaminated with trace amounts of gluten-containing whole grains), or make a batch of apple-cinnamon breakfast quinoa instead. Quinoa provides about twice the fiber, which may help you feel fuller longer.
To Go: Pack up grains to go. Hearty (gluten-free) grains-based salads can be prepped and dressed in the morning without wilting by lunchtime. Make a large batch of quinoa or brown rice on Sunday and customize it all week long by adding a variety of fresh, in-season veggies and tossing with a gluten-free dressing. Aim to try some new-to-you-grains also, such as millet, teff, buckwheat or amaranth.
At home: Eat in season. Top a green salad with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Add a source of lean protein, such as chicken, beans or seafood, and toss with a gluten-free dressing.
Afternoon snack: Fruit is a great to-go snack, as it often has its own convenient (and natural) packaging. Or try making your own granola bars with gluten-free oats or packing a handful of nuts and dried fruit.
Eating out: Dinner can be one of the easiest meals to eat out, since most menus offer veggie or lean protein-based options that go beyond pasta dishes. But hidden sources of gluten can lurk in surprising places, so don’t forget to ask questions about food prep. Will the chef use flour or soy sauce in the dressing or sauces? Does the restaurant have a dedicated prep area for gluten-free foods? It’s always a good idea to call ahead to ask.
At home: Start with the vegetables. Try this trick: Fill your cart like you should fill your plate, with lots of fruits and veggies, sources of lean protein (e.g., poultry, lean beef, tofu), low-fat dairy and whole, gluten-free grains and starches. Plan your meal using the same hierarchy: vegetables first, supplemented by lean proteins, dairy products and starches.
EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.