09/04/2012 04:59 EDT | Updated 11/04/2012 05:12 EST

Five Tips For Going Gluten-Free


Gluten sensitivities or intolerances can be frustrating and painful, not to mention inconvenient and downright dangerous. Thankfully, there are ways to eliminate gluten from your diet without radically altering your lifestyle. Knowing what alternatives are available, and where to look for them, can make the transition to a gluten free lifestyle easier.

1. Know your options. It used to be that eliminating gluten from your diet meant no more cereal, pasta or breads. These days, there are plenty of tasty gluten free options to choose from. Rice, corn or quinoa pastas are just as simple to prepare as traditional pasta, and are often more nutritious. Quinoa pasta is particularly healthy; it's a great source of protein. Breads can be made with a variety of flours; bean, chickpea, potato and coconut to name a few. Try cereals made with puffed rice or corn, or a chia or quinoa based hot cereal instead of oatmeal. Sometimes the gluten is less obvious, like the wheat content in soya sauce. Keep the flavour and lose the allergen by substituting a gluten free tamari.

2. Visit the grocery store. Many grocery stores now group gluten-free products into their own shelf or aisle for quick and easy shopping. Gluten-free products are often clearly labeled in full, or with a GF for short. Check the freezer section, as several brands of gluten free breads, waffles, and pizza crusts need to be kept frozen. Familiarize yourself with companies that specialize in being allergen-free; as you become aware of the alternatives, buying gluten-free becomes easier.

3. Do your research. There are plenty of blogs and websites out there with a gluten-free focus. Do a little reading, and try out recipes that appeal to you. Begin to build a repertoire of gluten-free dishes. Discover what works for you and what doesn't; sometimes gluten-free ingredients can be a little more challenging to cook with. Experiment with new dishes, and discover new favourite foods. Going gluten-free can be fun!

4. Be social. Deciding to eat gluten-free doesn't mean you can't enjoy dinner out with friends; it just requires a little extra effort before you choose your destination. Call the restaurant in advance and ask if they can make gluten-free substitutions; many will. Invite friends to discover specialty restaurants or gluten-free menus with you, or have a dinner party to share your new favourite recipes.

5. Get to know your neighbourhood. Next time you're picking up coffee, ask for gluten-free goodies and make a mental note of which places serve them. Learn the best places for take out gluten-free pizza, or the grocery store that stocks gluten-free burger buns. Frequent businesses that make it a priority to offer allergen-free options and in doing so support your community and your own commitment to your health.