A gluten-free diet doesn’t have to be hard. Our infographic Gluten-free Substitutions Guide will help you enjoy delicious gluten-free meals with ease.
Gluten-free options are popping up all over the place, but a gluten-free diet can still feel complicated or overwhelming. With our downloadable Guide to Gluten-Free Foods & Substitutes, we help empower you to easily enjoy every meal with a little creativity and cooking know-how!
Read on to find out more about the gluten-free diet, what foods to avoid, which ingredients are great alternatives, and how a gluten-free meal plan can help.
What is a Gluten-Free Diet?
Eating “gluten-free” means having a diet that omits all foods that contain gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, certain oats, and grain hybrids like spelt and triticale. It’s what causes the elastic, chewy texture of dough and maintains a food’s shape.
Going gluten-free is a must for those with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia, dermatitis herpetiformis, and wheat allergies. But gluten can also affect people in other ways without them knowing about it. Many people don’t realize that they have negative reactions – such as heachaches, fatigue, bloating, and joint pain – until they try a gluten-free diet and experience the difference.
This special diet has been reported to help people with digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well. Omitting all gluten is also a key part of an anti-inflammation diet and FODMAP diet which can alleviate some symptoms in people with a wide range of conditions like lupus, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.
What Foods Can You Eat on a Gluten-Free Diet?
When you think of gluten, thoughts of breads, cakes, donuts, and pastas probably swim around in your mind. But in addition to these common foods, gluten can be found in ingredients like soy sauce, semolina, and alcohol. It is also hidden under names like “natural flavors” and “modified food starch.”
Gluten is not only used to provide elasticity in baked goods, it is also used as a thickener and stabilizer, so you should never assume a food is gluten-free unless it is labeled as such. That’s why we’ve created this helpful list of what foods to avoid and enjoy on a gluten-free diet:
Foods to Avoid:
- Common Gluten-Based Foods – breads, pastas / noodles, cereals, dumplings, soy sauce, fried / breaded foods, pastries, cake, crusts, cookies, crackers, tortillas, gravy / thick sauces, beer
- Wheat Products – foods made with all-purpose flour, bulgur, couscous, durum, farina, graham flour, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, kamut, regular soy sauce, seitan, semolina, spelt, maltodextrin, matzo, modified food starch, wheat berries, wheat germ, wheat starch
- Barley Products – malt, malt barley syrup, malt extract, malt flavoring, some brown rice syrups
- Rye Products – breads: rye, pumpernickel, crispbread
- Alcohols – beer and any wheat / barley-based alcohols that are not properly distilled
Foods to Enjoy:
- Everyday Gluten-Free Foods – meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, seafood, oils, chocolate, gluten-free products (breads, pastas, etc.)
- Grains – rice, quinoa, amaranth, corn, buckwheat, sorghum, teff, montina, gluten-free oats
- Alcohols – fruit-based (wine, sherry, port, brandy, cognac, triple sec, ouzo), tequila, rum, sake, gluten-free beer and vodka, most ciders
Guide to Gluten-Free Foods & Substitutes
Our substitution guide makes it easy to cook delicious gluten-free meals with ease and no worries.
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Is it Hard to Make Gluten Substitutions?
Now that you know what foods to avoid when on a gluten-free diet, you may be thinking, “It’s too hard to cut out all gluten!” But, that doesn’t have to be the case! Although gluten is found in so many foods, it is becoming easier and easier to enjoy a gluten-free diet with delicious substitutes. We are excited to make eating gluten-free even more accessible through our Guide to Gluten-Free Substitutes which you can download for free above.
However, if you do have trouble tracking down a gluten-free substitute, we recommend looking into online stores like Thrive Market to stock up on gluten-free ingredients. And if you want to keep your pantry stocked with the essentials, make sure to check out our Gluten-Free Pantry Essentials Guide.
Substitutes for noodles / pasta:
Noodles and pasta are some of the biggest gluten contenders out there, but nowadays, you can find a variety of delicious gluten-free alternatives made from corn, rice, beans, and quinoa. Spiralized veggies are also a great way to avoid gluten while eating more vegetables.
- Rice noodles, 100% buckwheat noodles, quinoa pasta, and legume-based noodles (like black bean noodles and lentil pasta)
- Veggie noodles made with a spiralizer (such as zucchini, sweet potato, carrots, potato; learn how to make veggie noodles here)
- Spaghetti squash
- Kelp noodles
- Shirataki noodles
Substitutes for grains containing gluten (farro, barley, bulgur, spelt, kamut):
While common whole grains like farro and barley are tasty and healthy ways to bulk up a meal, you can easily replace these with the following alternatives without sacrificing flavor and health:
- Cauliflower rice
Substitutes for wheat / all-purpose flour:
Flour is not only for baked goods, it is also commonly used as a thickening agent for soups and stews or as a breading agent for crunchy, crusted proteins. The following substitutions can be used in various ways depending on what you’re baking or cooking:
- Coconut flour, cornmeal, oat flour, rice flour, almond flour, tapioca flour, chickpea flour, cassava flour, sorghum flour, amaranth flour, buckwheat flour, teff flour
- All-purpose gluten-free flour (like Namaste Perfect Flour Blend)
- Arrowroot powder
Substitutes for breadcrumbs:
Breadcrumbs are perfect for adding crunch to a meal or for absorbing moisture and creating a binding in meatballs. These alternatives work just as well as their gluten-free counterparts:
Substitutes for flour tortillas:
You don’t have to miss out on cheesy enchiladas and tacos just because you’re eating gluten-free. The following options are even healthier than flour tortillas; just make sure that the corn tortillas you buy are not blended with a bit of wheat!
- Corn tortillas
- Coconut-flour tortillas
- Lettuce or cabbage wraps
Substitutes for pizza crust:
Gluten-free pizza crust has come a long way, and some of them are so good you can’t even tell the difference between wheat and wheat-free! You can always use vegetables as bases, though, to add more good-for-you veggies to your meal.
- Gluten-free pizza crust
- Cauliflower crust
- Portobello mushrooms (get our favorite recipe for Portobello Pesto Pizzas here!)
- Zucchini boats (learn how to make pizza-stuffed zucchini with this video)
- Italian eggplant (try our Eggplant Bolognese Pizza recipe)
Substitutes for soy sauce:
It’s not immediately obvious but soy sauce does contain gluten. Luckily, the alternatives below are widely available in stores now, so you can stir-fry to your heart’s content!
If you want to know exactly what substitutes you need at a moment’s notice, enter your email to get our free PDF here:
Cook Smarts Gluten-Free Meal Plans Can Help
Now that you know what you can and can’t eat and what foods to swap out for a GF-friendly meal, wouldn’t it be great to have someone make a gluten-free meal plan for you? Well, it’s your lucky day! Sending you a weekly gluten-free menu is one of the many things that our meal plan service does!
Our weekly gluten-free meal plans and helpful features make eating gluten-free easy:
- Every week, we send a gluten-free menu right to your inbox.
- You select the gluten-free recipes you want to make and the serving sizes.
- You instantly get a grocery list generated for you. (Or you can send the list to Instacart from within the Cook Smarts website to have your groceries delivered!)
- Each of our recipes come with 4 versions — Original, Gluten-Free, Paleo, and Vegetarian — so you can instantly adjust your meals to fit any guest or whim.
If you’re hoping to lose weight on a gluten-free diet, we give Weight Watchers points and integrate directly with MyFitnessPal —the largest nutrition and calorie database app that makes food tracking quick and easy.
4 Tips for Going Gluten-Free
With your new knowledge of gluten-free substitutes and how our meal plan can help, you’re ready to try a gluten-free diet. If you decide to go gluten-free, here are 3 tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t assume a food is gluten-free unless it is labeled as such. Gluten hides under all kinds of names like “natural flavors” and “modified food starch.” Download our PDF guide above – it includes the list of Foods to Avoid – and take it to the store with you!
- As you begin to cook and bake gluten-free, don’t get overwhelmed by trying the most ambitious recipes you find online that use 5 types of gluten-free flours. Instead, start with a simple all-purpose gluten-free flour like Namaste Perfect Flour Blend that you can use in any regular recipe that calls for “flour”.
- Find local or online stores that carry dozens of delicious gluten-free products like Thrive Market!
- Make sure you get enough vitamins and dietary fiber on a daily basis. Since vitamins have been added to many grains in the U.S. and whole wheat is a common fiber source, cutting them could result in deficiencies if you don’t make your meals well balanced. Luckily, vitamins and dietary fiber are plentiful in fresh produce, non-gluten grains, and quality supplements.
Has a gluten-free diet helped your health? Do you have any gluten-free substitutes to share? Let us know in the comments!
For more substitution smarts, check out our Cooking Ingredient Substitutions. And if you would like more cooking tips and resources sent straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter below, and we’ll help you raise your kitchen IQ and cook with confidence!
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