Decided to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon? Or perhaps it wasn’t your choice at all and you've just been told you have to cut it out for health reasons. This is genuinely upsetting and I’m sorry. Anyways, now is your chance to embark on a healthy life, free from gluten, which isn't actually as easy as it seems. These are my seven life hacks to stick to a gluten free diet, stay healthy and not gain the title of that annoying 'gluten free' friend.
Just Because it’s Gluten Free, Doesn’t Mean it’s Healthy
Many people have the misconception that because something is gluten free, it’s the healthy option. Many times I’ve gone out for a pizza, cleaned the plate then complained about how I have no self control and didn’t need the full thing. Nine times out of ten this gets the response ‘yeah, but it was gluten free though.’ Thanks for trying to make me feel better, but that’s not how it works. Just because it’s gluten free, doesn’t mean it’s in any way healthier. Just slightly bland and dry. So, if you’re going on a gluten free diet to attempt to be healthier, click here for some gluten free brands that are actually good for you.
Don’t Bother Asking
Having worked in a restaurant, I understand the stress involved in asking the kitchen if a dish is gluten free. Think about it. Would you be able to rapid fire the explanation of gluten in a hot and stressful environment? Now add the probability that the chefs only speak Spanish (the case in many North American kitchens). ¿Como se dice "gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye” en español? Many a time the lovely chefs I worked with innocently glutened me with steak tips secretly marinated in soy sauce or french fries/chips that went on a trip to Glutenville (put in a shared deep fat fryer). So, if it isn’t specified on the menu or if there is no allergen list, don’t chance it.
Sauce on the Side
Having said that, you don’t want to be that person that makes everyone get up and leave because nothing on the menu caters to your annoying dietary requirements. Maybe it’s a genuine health thing and maybe people should understand but realistically you’re a bit of a pain in the behind. In these cases, I suck it up and get a salad with the dressing on the side. Many salad dressings contain gluten so I'll either leave them on the side or ask for balsamic vinaigrette. Balsamic vinaigrette is an old reliable. Every restaurant has it, it’s gluten free and unlike Caesar dressing, it won't drown your salad leaves in cream. I always add chicken to whatever salad I order just to make it a little more substantial.
Do Your Own Research
To avoid this situation completely, you should take control and know where you want to eat already. When choosing the restaurant, don’t make your decision based on where TripAdvisor reckons is ‘gluten free friendly.’ Many times these recommendations have only the salad mentioned above. If you’ve just started the gluten free diet, you’re hungry and your thrown into this scenario, it’s likely you’ll break. Do your proper research beforehand so you won’t be left disappointed or full of gluten. On my Instagram in the 'stories section', I have all of my favourite Gluten free spots in various locations I have visited. You can also head over to the 'Gluten Free Travel' section of my blog to find more in-depth guides of where to eat in holiday destinations around Europe and America.
Carry Your Own Snacks
If I’m trying to be healthy, I don’t leave the house without my own snacks. Many food brands deceitfully market themselves as ‘healthy’ and ‘gluten- free’. My favourite example is the very bland “vegetable chips”. They have health written literally all over the packaging. However, if you look at the nutritional value on the back you’ll find that the calories, fats and carbs are equal to a much tastier bag of corn tortilla chips. If you really want a low-fat, gluten free alternative to your average pack of crisps, I’d recommend a ‘popped’ or ‘baked’ version rather than fried. I personally love Snack a Jack’s or Popchips. Quest Nutrition are my go-to low-carbohydrate option.
Back to snacks, I always have Nairns crackers in my bag. They’re surprisingly substantial and satisfying for a little cracker. Plus, they're separated into little packets of five, so they're easy to carry around. I am also a big fan of veggies and hummus, (red pepper, cucumber and carrots). I carry them around in this specific tupperware which you can get here- it has a section for the dip!!
Bring packed lunches… everywhere
Honestly, I rarely leave my house without a packed lunch either. It can be difficult to find a gluten-free lunch on the go that isn't a condensed salad box that expires in ten years time. You can click here for some of my favourite, healthy, portable lunches. Perhaps you'd rather not walk around with bags of food and want to leave this one out, fair enough. However, I would definitely recommend this point if you’re doing any travelling. Firstly, aeroplane food is vile, gluten free or not. Secondly, I no longer trust ANY airport or station of any sort to be able to provide me with a gluten free meal, especially small European ones (I starved flying back from Vienna). Plus, you'll save money and you can make it to be tastier and healthier than all of the gluten options!
Avoid these foods
As you can gather from my second point -’Don’t Bother Asking’, there’s a lot of unsuspecting gluten sources. You’ve gone through all the effort of investing in healthy gluten free bread, resorting to chicken and leaves and hours of restaurant research. Don't put all of this to waste with a bit of gravy. What do I mean by this? Gravy contains gluten. Gluten can be hidden in the places you expect it the least. Click here for my list of the biggest gluten-containing culprits.
There you have it. My top seven tips to staying healthy, sociable and gluten-free. Hope you enjoyed!