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Going Gluten-Free

You should always check with your doctor before making any changes in your diet. Many people benefit from a gluten-free diet these days. But before considering a gluten-free diet, let's get to know our culprit. Gluten is a specific type of protein, but one you won't find in meat or eggs. Instead gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley. Going gluten-free means avoiding these grains. A gluten-free diet is essential for most people with gluten allergies.

The gluten-free diet isn't always easy. People who benefit generally need to stick with the diet for life. That means officially giving up many staples such as bread and pasta, and also treats like cakes and cookies. But it's getting ever easier to find gluten-free alternatives and careful planning can help you stay gluten-free long-term.

People on a gluten-free diet need a sharp eye for labels. Some ingredient red flags are obvious, like wheat, wheat gluten, barley, or rye. But some foods have “stealth” gluten. Two terms to watch for are malt (which is made from barley) and hydrolyzed vegetable protein (it often contains wheat).

Perhaps the most difficult step in a gluten-free diet is bidding farewell to bread as you know it – that includes white, wheat, marble, and rye. Also off limits are bagels, muffins, croissants, hamburger buns, scones – you get the idea. Don't despair – there are alternatives. Say hello to rice and potatoes! You can top them with just about anything, mix them into meals, or enjoy them on their own. If you’re still mourning the loss of your favorite pasta or really craving a bowl of spaghetti, it is possible to find gluten-free pasta. Just think rice noodles.

Many health foods stores and some major supermarkets now carry gluten-free products, including an assortment of breads. These are often made with rice or potato flour instead of wheat. Just check the label to make sure it says, “100% gluten-free.”

Corn and rice-based cereals are good breakfast alternatives, but it's crucial to read labels carefully, as some may also contain malt. Who needs crackers when rice cakes and corn chips can host all sorts of spreads and dips? Oh, and another gluten-free crunchy snack: POPCORN! Check your supermarket's health-food section for gluten-free products.

While a gluten-free diet won't contain most traditional cakes, pies, cookies, and other celebratory treats -- which are loaded with wheat flour -- there are still lots of ways to satisfy your sweet tooth. Marshmallows, gumdrops, and plain hard candies are all usually gluten-free. However, they are not sugar free and this is important to know if you're a diabetic. Look for specialty bakeries that may be able to create custom-ordered gluten&sugar-free cakes, pies, and other treats.

Remember - always check with your doctor before making any major dietary changes!


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