A good step-by-step gluten-free diet plan for beginners shouldn’t just be a list of what to eat and what to avoid. It should also explain the potential risks and benefits of this type of diet.
Going gluten-free, or ditching “the sticky protein” from your plate can be a sticky business (pun intended).
That is why this guide aims to simplify your gluten-free transformation. At the same time, it’s looking to explain what gluten-free is for beginners and the best diet plan to achieve just that.
So, looking to learn all there is to know about the gluten-free diet?
Well, dive right into the benefits your friends were bragging so much about.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is not just one but a family of plant proteins that make the starchy filling inside various grains. In fact, plants produce gluten primarily as food storage for their embryos during germination.
What’s more, for Westerners, a gluten-free diet plan can seem somewhat restrictive (to say the least) as gluten makes a huge chunk of their daily diet.
The name itself comes from the Latin word for glue (gluten) because it gets sticky when mixed with water. In pastries, for instance, these proteins provide the dough its elasticity and chewiness.
Officially, gluten proteins are known as prolamins. And among these, the most frequent ones are glutenin and gliadin.
What’s All the Fuss About?
For over 10,000 years, humans cultivated and ate gluten-filled crops without a problem. But ever since the industrialization of wheat flour, people started experiencing grain-related digestive issues.
In response, more and more people seek a practical gluten free-diet plan for beginners — hence why the demand for gluten-free products exploded in the past 30 years. For example, in 2018 alone, the US gluten-free market reached a value of a whopping $8.79 billion!
We don’t yet know all the reasons behind it, but Grainstorm points to these potential culprits:
- Grain-selective flour technology
- Use of pesticides and other hazardous chemicals
- Selective crop breeding
- GMO-boosted gluten content
Who Should Follow This Gluten-Free Diet Plan for Beginners?
In short, if you often have digestive discomfort, you are the perfect candidate!
This includes symptoms like:
- feeling exhausted
If this is true for you, chances are, you are suffering from food sensitivity or even celiac disease. Ideally, your GP will establish the diagnosis after some additional testing.
That said, you can also have an asymptomatic, but equally dangerous gluten-related disease. However, the vast majority of followers of the so-called gluten-free diet plan for dummies do so only for the sake of their wellbeing and boosting the same.
On the other hand, there are those that have to avoid gluten for medical reasons. These people are most often diagnosed with:
- Coeliac Disease (CD)
- Gluten Ataxia
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)
- Gluten Intolerance
- Wheat Allergy
You’ve probably noticed that obesity is missing from this list of medical issues. Yet, this is no coincidence. Following a gluten-free diet plan to lose weight is medically proven to be effective; at least partly.
Nevertheless, every individual is different and not everyone responds to a gluten-free diet the same way. Hence, the only way to find out whether this diet will aid your digestive tract or help lose some weight is to try it. Testing gluten-free eating will also allow you to self-diagnose an eventual gluten intolerance.
Gluten-Free Diet Benefits and Drawbacks
Ditching gluten brought a lot of health benefits to many. However, there are only a few scientifically proven health gains; most of which are related to digestive health conditions.
Yet testimonials from numerous non-gluten dietitians also claim that it provides a much-needed energy and health boost.
IBS and Gluten-Related Digestive Problems
Results from several studies confirm that this diet eases the symptoms of IBS and NCGS. Of course, this also goes for gluten-related conditions too.
Following a gluten-free diet and meal plan eases or completely reduces the following issues:
- stomach cramps
- migraines and headaches
- atopic diseases (eczema, asthma, and rhinoconjunctivitis)
- some chronic pain
Anyway, you’ll have to be patient!
It can take weeks before gluten is entirely out of your system and you start feeling better. Similarly, it can take a few months to get rid of the digestive discomfort; at least most of it.
Also, celiac sufferers need at least six months of strict dieting to calm their symptoms — they need more time to heal since they suffered damage to their intestine. Worse yet, most are also lactose intolerant. So celiac patients may need both a dairy and a gluten-free diet plan.
A Gluten-Free Diet Experiment
The best part of this diet plan is that it’s not reserved only for those with digestive issues and gluten intolerance; everyone can benefit from this diet.
The most commonly experienced health benefits for non-digestive sufferers include:
- better digestion
- higher energy levels
- losing weight (in combination with a low carb diet and/or exercise)
- improving overall well-being
- restoring hormonal balance in women
However, there’s one thing to keep in mind. As previously mentioned, using a gluten-free diet plan for weight loss makes sense only in “combo diets.” These include low-calorie or low-carb plans.
While going gluten-free means fewer food options, substantial weight loss is not guaranteed.
Plus, a gluten-free diet is not a substitute for an organic, healthy diet. Therefore, you should still consider picking a healthy meal plan, for instance, Martha and Marley Spoon that we reviewed offers a variety of gluten free options.
Possible Setbacks of a Gluten-Free Diet Plan for Dummies
Nutritional Imbalance and Deficiencies
As with any other diet, if not done properly, a gluten-free diet can cause a lack of essential nutrients and vitamins. To prevent this, an adequate substitution is required — namely, supplements.
Vitamins and Minerals
When gluten-free, you’ll need to increase your intake of:
- B vitamins (B1-Thiamin, B2-Riboflavin, B3-Niacin, B6, B12, B9-Folate)
- Vitamin D
Even the best gluten-free diet plan can lack fibers — essential helpers of digestion. Luckily you can always supplement these. High-fiber foods are perfect for this and they include fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, chia seeds, or flaxseed.
Planning, preparing, and cooking fresh ingredients can be burdensome. Luckily, modern food delivery services like Home Chef can make your dieting considerably easier (and tastier).
If there’s one thing that studies agree upon is that people tend to eat more sugars when they get gluten out of their diets.
Consequently, people start eating gluten-free snacks, which often contain more sugar than regular treats. Thus, if you want to stay healthy and lose a few pounds in the process, following a gluten and sugar-free diet is the way to go.
There’s no definitive answer on whether or not a gluten-free diet can lead to a higher fat intake. Some studies have “confirmed” it, but not conclusively. Whatever the case, you need to be careful not to replace pastries and cakes with equally bad fatty foods.
Gluten is a protein, and when you avoid it, your intake of protein is naturally lower. Still, finding healthy, protein-rich replacements is not all that difficult; unless you’re following a vegan gluten-free meal plan, which can make things a bit more complicated.
In that case, you’ll have to compensate with protein-rich, plant-derived foods (such as beans and legumes in general). Fortunately, this is something you can find in almost every supermarket.
But still, if you’re not the culinary type, there is a vast number of gluten-free food delivery services which are also vegan. For example, Purple Carrot — a meal delivery service that we reviewed in detail.
Following a vegetarian or a vegan and gluten-free diet plan can be challenging; especially if you aim to get a healthy amount of protein. Hence, teaming up with other like-eaters can be a good way of getting invaluable tips and recipes, as well as motivation for your new lifestyle.
Eating gluten-free naturally comes at a cost, and you’ll probably have to stretch your budget to:
- buy high-quality gluten-free foods
- purchase gluten-free supplements
- find adequate replacing foods (in case you’re also going vegan)
- visit expensive restaurants or order expensive menus
Indeed, gluten-free products are harder to find and not as affordable as regular ones. Additionally, restaurants that offer a gluten-free meal plan on a budget are sparse. But still, there are affordable meal subscriptions out there whose menu is entirely gluten-free; you just have to find them.
The Gluten-Free Social Life
If you eat gluten-free, you’ll get to be the alien at the table when eating out with family and friends. However, there’s a good possibility that this will soon change.
Moreover, adhering to a gluten-free meal plan on a budget means avoiding restaurant dates, business lunches, etc. Also, pubs (beer) will no longer be your hangout place if you go gluten-free.
Yet, worry not as more and more food services offer gluten-free dishes. Hence, you’re not set out to destroy your social life by going gluten-free. On the contrary, eating gluten-free is rather trendy at the moment.
What Does the Gluten-Free Diet Plan Include and Exclude?
Eating gluten-free means skipping foods and drinks that contain gluten. Plus any of those that have been in contact with gluten. This means foods derived from several types of grains.
- wheat and all its varieties (durum, einkorn, emmer, kamut, spelt, wheat berries)
Sadly, this means refraining from some of the most popular foods on the planet. Indeed, bread, pasta, pizza, and beer are a huge no-no for gluten-free dieters.
Other foods that should be avoided when on a gluten-free diet plan for beginners are:
- all types of regular bread and cereals
- biscuits and crackers
- soups and gravy
- cakes, cookies, pancakes, waffles, and ice cream cones
- pastries, french toast, and pretzels
- malt vinegar
- noodles and pasta
- malt-sauce and soy sauce
- some vegetarian meat products
Drinks can also contain gluten, and the most likely culprits are:
- beers, ales, lagers, and dessert wines
- flavored or colored alcoholic beverages
- some smoothies
This restricted food list may look extremely daunting (and even depressing), but fear not! The list of foods that you can eat is way bigger.
Gluten-Free Food List — Things You Can Eat
Luckily, there are many gluten-free starches, flours, and grains that can replace wheat. These include:
- Buckwheat, amaranth, and arrowroot
- polenta labeled gluten-free, cornmeal, grits, and corn
- soy, sorghum, and flax
- gluten-free flours — soy, rice, corn, bean, and potato
- millet, hominy (corn), rice, wild rice, and quinoa
- tapioca (cassava root) and teff
So, worry-not! There’s an easy gluten-free meal plan for every preference. In addition, there are plenty of other foods that are also gluten-free. These include:
- most dairy products (check labels)
- meat, poultry, fish, and seafood
- fruits and vegetables
- nuts and legumes
- eggs and caviar
- butter, olive oil, and vinegar
- rice, wild rice, and quinoa
- amaranth, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, and teff
- oatmeal (if not cross-contaminated)
- singular spices (no mixes)
- any other products labeled as gluten-free
Gluten-Free Diet Plan: Combo Diets
Following one diet plan is hard enough, but following two can be nerve-, and wallet-breaking. That said, some quick tips and tricks can make it more manageable.
- Focus on what you can instead of what you can’t eat.
- In times of crisis, pay attention to the benefits that you’re about to experience.
- Don’t fall for substitutes, but change your diet completely.
- Be persistent.
However, specific diets require specific things. Here’s but a few examples:
Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Diet Plan
Lactose intolerance and celiac disease go hand-in-hand. This is why, many people with celiac disease follow both dairy-, and gluten-free diets. Yet, they are not the only ones who follow such a strict diet plan.
Many follow it simply to reduce inflammation. Indeed, dairy and gluten are the most likely inflammation-causing foods — hence why most dietitians call it the “anti-inflammatory diet.”
The good news here is that you can still eat most of the food groups (meat, fruits, vegetables, eggs, oils, etc.). Meaning, you can still have a diverse meal plan without much fuss.
Gluten-Free Diet Plan and Vegetarian Diet
Going both vegetarian and gluten-free means having fewer options to fulfill your recommended daily protein intake. Hence, your diet plan should focus on plant sources and grains that are rich in protein.
Following a vegetarian and gluten-free plan is not a walk in the park. Mainly because most meat alternatives contain gluten. This makes it harder to come up with meal plans and ideas. Luckily, vegetarian delivery services like Blue Apron can provide you with some much-needed inspiration for your meals.
Gluten-Free and Vegan Meal Plan
Ditching gluten and animal products altogether may seem nigh impossible. Yet, this couldn’t be farther from the truth, if you are all for cooking experiments, that is.
Indeed, if you’re open to discovering new recipes and ingredients, you’ll be able to enrich your diet in a way that you’ll never feel out of energy or tired ever again.
Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Meal Plan
This meal plan includes a lot of dishes rich in healthy fats, vegetables, and meat. It’s similar to the so-called keto diet, only without the gluten-containing grains of course.
What’s great about this particular meal plan is that you’ll get the chance to lose a few pounds as it’s fairly low in sugar content.
And if you’re having trouble finding the inspiration, you can always check out the low-carb recipes from Freshly that we reviewed.
Potential Pitfalls of the Gluten-Free Diet Plan for Beginners
Making gluten-free your new food lifestyle requires a fair amount of effort. But, for it to work, you’ll need to anticipate a few troubles along the way. The following are the most common mistakes that people make while on a gluten-free diet.
- Starting a gluten-free diet before figuring out what gluten is. This is bad primarily because people expect a miracle when on a gluten-free meal plan and are not realistic when it comes to the outcomes of this plan.
- Not reading the labels. Reading labels is an excellent way to know whether there’s gluten in whatever you’re buying. Usually, the gluten-free part is visibly marked on the packaging.
- Not planning. Are you going on a trip? You’ll have to prepare your gluten-free meals in advance. Chances are, you’re not going to find a quick gluten-free fast food stop along the way. Even more so if you’re implementing both the gluten-free and dairy-free meal plan.
- Eating out. Going to a dinner party or a restaurant is challenging for gluten-free eaters. They need to find a place where they serve not only gluten-free food but also non-contaminated food (contaminated with gluten that is).
- Eating oats. Pure oats do not contain gluten and are the perfect gluten-free substitute. Yet, more often than not, oats are processed with gluten-containing grains. So most are cross-contaminated and considered unsafe unless marked gluten-free.
- Using the gluten-free diet as a weight loss meal plan. Although losing a few pounds can happen while you’re gluten-free, it’s not the best option out there. In order to see some results, you still need to exercise and restrict calories and your intake of sugar.
- Eating gluten-free junk food. A gluten-free diet is not a synonym for a healthy diet. Quite the contrary! There are many gluten-free products whose sugar and fat content puts them in the junk food category.
- Giving up on convenience foods too soon. You might be surprised to find out but there are many gluten-free meal plan delivery services. Subscription boxes like Factor 75 can save you time, effort, and money.
- Underestimating cross-contamination. Celiac sufferers can get sick from minuscule amounts of gluten (not even visible to the naked eye). So gluten-free ingredients and foods should be kept away from gluten-containing ones.
- Hidden gluten. You can consume gluten and not even know it. Medication, supplements, toothpaste, lipsticks, and other beauty and care products can contain gluten.
What can you not eat on a gluten-free diet?
A gluten-free diet means avoiding foods made from all types of wheat, triticale, barley, and rye. But that is not all! You should also skip those ingredients that have been in contact with these grains.
The list of foods that you cannot eat is long, yet don’t lose heart as the list of the allowed foods is even bigger! Plus, if you can’t make heads or tails of it, there are delivery services that can aid you in figuring out what to, and what not to eat.
What foods are high in gluten?
Some foods contain more gluten than others. These include.
- french toast
- malt vinegar
- soy sauce
What is the best gluten-free diet to lose weight?
A gluten-free diet can help you drop a size, but it is simply not enough for more significant weight loss.
The main reason for this is that substitutes for gluten-containing foods are everywhere. Plus, they can be even more caloric and sugar-stuffed.
But the good news is, nothing is stopping you from starting a weight-loss diet and a gluten-free one at the same time. To be able to lose more weight, basically, the same rules apply as with any other weight-loss diet.
Are potatoes gluten-free?
Like rice and other vegetables, potatoes are gluten-free. That is if they are in their natural form. Still, be wary of cooking them next to gluten-containing food.
This is why restaurant-made potatoes can contain gluten due to cross-contamination. Thus, these should be avoided unless you’re completely certain that they are harmless.
How do I start a gluten-free diet?
Restaurants and other food services are adapting to a gluten-free diet at the speed of light. But you can’t order out all the time (it’s expensive). However, going gluten-free should be easy if you keep in mind a few things.
- Do your homework — find out if gluten-free is the appropriate diet for you.
- Know the main culprits (wheat, spelt, rye, barley, bread, triticale, pasta, cereals, beer, cakes, cookies, and pastries, etc.).
- Read product labels.
- Consult a gluten-free meal plan for a week.
- Beware of gluten-containing drinks.
- Be clear when talking to waiters.
- Watch out for cross-contamination — keep your gluten-free food away from gluten-containing ingredients.
- Check your cosmetics and oral care products for gluten.
- Avoid medication and supplements (brewer’s yeast) that contain gluten.
- Join a gluten-free group. In these groups, people share more than one gluten-free diet plan for beginners and meal ideas.
Starting a gluten-free diet might sound daunting at first. Yet, with all the craze going around about not eating gluten, it shouldn’t be that hard; especially if you live in an urban area.
It’s true, gluten-free lists are swarming the internet, but if you follow them blindly you’ll get tired pretty soon. Let’s face it, consulting websites each time you want to grab a bite is unnerving at best.
That’s why we did our best to explain what and where gluten is and how to properly avoid it. In this gluten-free diet plan for beginners, you’ll also find the most common mistakes and more easily prepare for this life-changing move.