Not all that glitters is gold is a common phrase and frankly it has never been more accurate. The label “gluten free” has sadly started to turn into a very ridiculous fad. You know things have gone too far when you see cosmetics being advertised as gluten free. The general public has picked up on the fact that gluten free diets can make you feel better if you have an intolerance. In that case it can clear your skin and might help you lose weight. While this is true you should not run to the store and buy everything that is gluten free in hopes of a massive weight loss and peachy skin.
There are plenty misconceptions about gluten. It is a natural protein that occurs in three grains: wheat, rye, barley. What gluten intolerance actually is and how it can impact your life is something I explained here.
The major problem is in the labeling. As I mentioned already many companies have started miss-using the term “gluten-free” to fool people into buying products for the wrong reasons. I split the problems that can occur with “gluten free” labelled food into into 3 categories to make it very clear what you need to look out for.
1. Too much sugar, fat and calories
Just because your breakfast cereal or bread is gluten free it does not mean it is healthy. Sugary cornflakes, chocolate covered breakfast bars, sweet rice crispies and rainbow coloured, fruit-flavoured breakfast cereals might be gluten free but are far from healthy.
The very same goes for ready made meals that come packed with ridiculous amounts of fat, sugars and salt.
Gluten free simply means it contains no wheat, barley or rye. You could label vegetable oil and white sugar as gluten free. But just because you do so doesn’t make it healthy.
2. Over processed, too little fiber and low in nutrients
Gluten free products in the ready made food aisle are generally overly processed. They are low in fiber and leave you hungry shortly after you have eaten them. This results in eating more than you normally would. A lack of fiber combined with a big amount of bad carbohydrates creates digestive issues. The bad carbohydrates in processed gluten free food usually come from starch that is added to replace the gluten that is found in wheat flour or simply comes from sugar. It is rather senseless considering digestive issues were the reason for going gluten free.
Another problem you might face is the lack of nutrients. Avoiding grains could mean that you will be getting less iron, calcium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid.
3. Pay more than twice as much for the same produce?
Gluten free products are on average twice as expensive. In addition quite a lot of them are gluten free by default and don’t even need the label gluten free. This is the case for all corn based breakfast cereals and literally anything that does not contain wheat, rye and barley. Compare the ingredients of gluten free labeled food with an item that does not have the label gluten free from the same range. You will see how in some cases the ingredients are literally the same.
How to go gluten free and still eat healthy
After having read this you might want to throw in the towel and just give up. It seems impossible to cut out the gluten and eat healthy, while eating the foods you like. That isn’t the case however. You might just need to do some initial research or read on as I have done this for you.
Eliminating all gluten
Your first step is eliminating all gluten which means getting rid of all forms of wheat, rye and barley. All forms of wheat would include semolina, spelt and durum.
Go for real food. Choose unprocessed foods like vegetables, beans, legumes and fruit.
Buying good produce
I would not ask of anyone to make everything from scratch. Ideally you would, but who wants to make their own pasta, breakfast cereal or bread or even has the time for it? Read the labels carefully. Avoid starches, excessive amounts of sugars and fats. If you are unsure about any product you can take a picture of the label and send it to me or tag me in it on social media. I will get back to you.
Last but not least you can replace wheat, rye, barley with a whole range of healthy grains. I will compile a list of gluten free grains over the next few days. In addition I will be adding recipes using gluten free ingredients the following weeks.