How to Stick to a Gluten-Free Diet
Eating plans and popular therapeutic diets are easier to follow when we’re first starting out because we’re motivated and excited to make changes. It’s like being in the honeymoon stage of a new relationship, where everything is warm and fuzzy and special. Then you catch a whiff of freshly baked bread or have to choose a boring salad at a restaurant again and find yourself wondering if this whole gluten-free thing is worth all the effort. (It is.) If you’re on the verge of faltering, here are a few ways you can regain your fondness for a gluten-free diet.
Remind yourself how you feel when you eat gluten
Sure, that rosemary-flecked focaccia seems like a good idea, until you’re doubled over with cramps, have raging diarrhea, feel like your joints are on fire or you can’t concentrate because a gauzy film is ensconced in your brain.
Ask yourself if any of the symptoms you experience in the aftermath of eating gluten are worth the short-lived pleasure of consuming that glutenous temptation. Think about how gluten affects you before that gluten passes your lips. If it helps, write those symptoms down and post them where you’ll see them. You can also ask your friends and loved ones to remind you of the consequences when you’re feeling vulnerable.
For me, eating gluten isn’t worth the cost. That’s partially due to the immediate consequences, but also because I know that every time I eat gluten, I’m chipping away at my immune system and causing distress on a cellular level that I can’t even consciously feel.
Plan your meals and snacks
Circumvent gluten cravings by having an arsenal of delicious gluten-free food at your disposal. Carve out time every week to plan your meals, wash and prep vegetables so they’ll be ready when you need them, use dinner hacks, and cook food in advance. Think big batches. Use your slow cooker or Instant Pot for easy meals.
- Bake treats like muffins, granola bars, and cookies using gluten-free flours and store them in the freezer
- Create snacks like trail mixes, portion them into small containers and grab them on your way out the door
- Make a few dips and spreads to pair with veggies, crackers or bread
- Try fermented foods like sauerkraut or pickled vegetables
- Blend up a dairy-free smoothie, smoothie bowl or elixir
- Source recipes from 25 Best Gluten-Free Snack Ideas, 25 Nut-Free Lunch Ideas, 20 Best One-Pot Meals, 25 Best 30 Minute Meals or 30 Best Gluten-Free Dinner Recipes
Then you won’t miss gluten ‘cause you’ll have a heap of other things to eat.
Surround yourself with inspiration and support
Find the people in your life that will encourage you and motivate you to stay on the gluten-free track. Rely on friends, family, or your favourite health practitioner for advice, or look to blogs and websites written by those who thrive on a gluten-free diet.
Search out like-minded people in an online community or at a support group. I attend my local Canadian Celiac Association chapter meetings, and I don’t even have celiac disease – they’re welcoming to the gluten-intolerant, too.
Make gluten-free eating fun
Browse your favourite blogs or healthy cookbooks for jaw-droppingly delicious recipes. Approach gluten-free cooking with an open mind, an exploratory spirit and a friendly heart.
Cooking is usually more fun when you have company. Invite your friends over to prepare dinner with you, or transform cooking into a family activity where everyone has a job to do. Have a gluten-free cookie swap, soup exchange or salad jar trade, or begin your own cooking cooperative.
Focus on everything you can eat
Alright, you’re not eating gluten. There are way more things you can safely eat. Focus on the abundance of health-building, tasty, nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, gluten-free grains, sustainable fish and lean meat you can enjoy in your daily diet.
What are your tips for staying on a gluten-free diet?