With more and more people limiting the amount of gluten in their diet, understanding how to maintain a tasty, interesting and nutritious meal plan is increasingly important.
Contrary to popular contention, gluten-free does not necessarily equate to healthy. “Many gluten-free products contain ingredients that are high GI and have empty calories,” says dietitian and culinary nutritionist for The Food Crafters and Healthy Home Cafe Caroline Trickey.
“Shoppers need to look closely at the labels on their food and determine the nutritional integrity of a product before adding it to the trolley.”
There are several ways to ensure your body continues to get the best treatment without the intake of gluten. Keep in mind the following tips when doing your weekly shop:
Read the Label
It might sound like a no-brainer, but reading exactly what goes into your food – any food, not just gluten-free items – should be part of your shopping routine.
Know what you are putting into your body by analysing the ingredients and choosing the best ones for you.
“Gluten-free products use a much higher GI, highly processed products to replace wheat flour like rice and corn flour, they also often include emulsifiers and stabilisers to enhance texture and flavour,” Trickey says.
“Some of these additives have been linked to gastrointestinal upsets and other functional gut issues.”
Avoid processed foods and foods with high sodium and sugar content or low fibre content. “Choose products that contain healthier ingredients such as coconut flour, almond meal, and buckwheat,” Trickey advises. “You may pay a little more for these, but your health is worth it!”
Be mindful of empty calories, Trickey cautions. The term does not mean food has no energy or calories; rather, it has energy without the nutritional value.
“When you consume high GI, empty calorie foods, it is quickly converted into sugar which can easily be stored as fat, and ultimately lead to weight gain,” Trickey says.
“In contrast, nutrient-dense low GI foods are metabolised more slowly, this can provide a more sustained release of energy and will keep you feeling full for longer.” Foods that are high in nutrients give your body minerals that are essential for functioning.
If you are gluten-free by choice, rather than for dietary reasons, keeping some gluten in your diet is a good idea, Trickey says.
“Keep your health top of mind.” Often products without gluten are less processed. Comparatively, gluten-free products – especially convenience products – can be very heavily processed.
“Be super-vigilant when selecting convenience packaged products and choose wisely,” Trickey warns.
“There are some healthier, low GI, high fibre, gluten-free options that contain less sugar and include natural ingredients like dried fruit and no added preservatives.”
Try our favourite gluten-free recipes…