As a clinical nutritionist it’s my job to help people make dietary changes to improve their health and symptoms. But changing your diet can seem really daunting, particularly if you are doing it to help manage chronic disease. I know, I’ve been there (read about it here)!
I initially made changes to my diet about 6-7 years ago, when I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (read about that here and here), so the tips I’m giving here are what worked for me, plus a few things I learned along the way.
How to Start
This is the hardest part, so let’s make it as easy as possible
- Once you’ve made that step to have an appointment with a nutritionist you’ve probably (hopefully) made peace with the idea that there will be some dietary changes on the horizon! That is the first important step, being ok with making changes
- Only make up to 3 big changes at a time unless discussed with your nutritionist. This tends to be the most number of changes we can successfully manage. So here we’re starting with 1, cutting out gluten
- Give yourself some grace. You may need 1 or 2 weeks to finish up the food you have in your cupboard, get to grips with which of your current faves contain “hidden gluten“, begin a new way of shopping and work out the gluten free options at your fave cafe
- Once you start for real and do your first proper shop, read the ingredients panel on ALL the packaged foods you buy to make sure they are gluten free, check out the link above to see alternative names for gluten / wheat products
- Try tackling one meal at a time. Breakfast is often the hardest to get your head around – no toast??!! Well, yes, you can have toast, but find a good quality gluten free one (I like this – no affiliation!) and try increasing the protein and good fats you have with it (ie 2 boiled eggs and 1/2 avocado)
- For dinner, you can try transitioning to things like rice noodles, sweet potato noodles or rice and quinoa pasta, to replace your standard pasta. You can also try gluten free grains such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat And lunch is easy – leftovers! Or if you have none, try rice crackers with tinned wild salmon (Aldi are my affordable go-to for this) and a colourful salad
- After the first month or so, when you start feeling confident with your choices, start looking at the proportions of the foods on your plate. I used to have pretty much 50% meat 50% pasta when I’d make something like spaghetti bolognese! Ideally we’d be looking at something more like 1/3 protein (meat, eggs, fish, etc), 1/3 carb (your gf noodles, pasta or starchy veg like potatoes) and 1/3 leafy green and bright coloured veggies, with a good dose of extra virgin olive oil as dressing
- Eating out – this is easier now than ever. Ask the server if they have a gluten free menu, or what the gluten free options are / what can be made gluten free. It may be as simple as taking off the bread. Sometimes I take my own bread with me and ask them to toast it, because I’m fussy like that! Don’t be embarrassed, this is your health we’re talking about, it’s important
How to “Add On”
For some, just cutting out gluten may be such a huge success that they are happy to sit where they are for the time being. And that’s great! But for others they may be seeking even greater health benefits. And this is where “adding on” comes in.
- Look at the processed / packaged foods you’re buying and see if they can be replaced with a wholefood alternative. i.e. your gluten free pasta option can be replaced with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash, rice can be replaced with cauliflower rice (you can also make broccoli rice, carrot rice, endless possibilities!). Potatoes and sweet potatoes are also a staple in my house, boiled, roasted, mashed, wedges, yum! And yes, rice is gluten free, but veggies are a more nutrient dense option, so try to mix it up your gluten free grains with wholefood alternatives
- Make your plate look as colourful as possible, so you’ve got your 1/3 protein, 1/3 carb and that remaining 1/3 should include as many colours as possible, read here for more info!
- Add fermented foods to support gut health (and that supports ALL health). Start small with 1 tsp added to meals, work up to 1 tbsp if you don’t notice any issues (bloating, etc). You can buy good quality brands from health food shops, or try making your own – here’s my fave sauerkraut recipe (because it’s sooo simple). The fermented tea drink, kombucha, is also available pretty much everywhere or, you can make your own!
- Add in gut healing foods, such as bone broth (can be added anywhere you’d usually add water or stock, or drunk alone), gelatin gummies (great snack)
- Add in inflammation reducing spices, such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon,
What to Do If You “Slip Up” or ” Get Glutened”!
- Do not stress. Seriously, don’t worry about it. Stress makes everything worse, mentally, emotionally and physiologically, so whether it was a purposeful action or an accident, let it go and move on
- Don’t start a downward spiral! Get straight back on that gluten free horse
- Drink lots of water to flush out your system and keep you hydrated
- Be extra kind to your body with nourishing, gut healing and fermented foods (mentioned above) and anti-inflammatory spices
- You may find yourself feeling more tired than usual as your body repairs, so rest and sleep as required and cut out any unnecessary obligations for the next day or so
This should be enough to get you started and well on your way to thriving on a gluten free diet. Some find it simple enough to navigate on their own, others prefer the support of a qualified nutritionist. If you’d like to get in touch please email me at email@example.com