Between 0.7 and 1.4 percent of the global population suffers from celiac disease. This disease causes the body to have a severe autoimmune reaction when it’s exposed to gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley.
In addition to the growing population of people with celiac disease, there’s also a high number of people throughout the world who are intolerant to gluten.
If you fall into either category or are just a part of the gluten-free movement, chances are you’re looking for ways to make the transition to gluten-free living easier. Mastering gluten-free cooking at home is a great way to do this.
If you’re not sure where to start with this, keep reading. Listed below are some tips that can help you make gluten-free cooking much easier.
Know Where to Find Gluten
When you first go gluten-free, there’s a pretty steep learning curve. One of the first things you have to learn is all the grains that contain gluten.
Most people know that wheat, rye, and barley are off the table for gluten-free eaters. There are quite a few other grains that you need to avoid, too, including the following:
- Oats (unless they’re certified gluten-free)
- Grains like rice, corn, millet, quinoa, and buckwheat are naturally free from gluten. They’re fine to consume on a gluten-free diet as long as none of the grains listed above are mixed in with them.
Learn to Read Labels
There are lots of different grains that contain gluten. If you notice any of these grains listed on the back of the package, you should avoid it if you’re trying to eat gluten-free.
Gluten tends to hide in a lot of packaged foods, so you need to get in the habit of reading labels with a careful eye. The following are some sneaky foods that tend to contain gluten:
- Salad dressings
- Packaged snacks (chips, crackers, etc.)
- Fried foods
- Seasoning and spice blends
When shopping for these foods, get in the habit of checking the label. You’d be surprised at how many manufacturers include gluten to help preserve and thicken their products.
Stock Up on Naturally Gluten-Free Ingredients
There are lots of foods that contain gluten. However, there are plenty of other ingredients that are gluten-free. Stock your kitchen and pantry with these items so that you can easily whip up gluten-free dishes without having to make a million trips to the store.
Some good gluten-free ingredients to have on hand include the following:
- Rice noodles
- Tamari (a gluten-free soy sauce)
- Coconut aminos (a gluten-free soy sauce alternative)
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Tapioca flour
Tapioca flour is especially good to have at the ready for thickening sauces and soups. It works just as well as flour, without any risk of a reaction from gluten exposure.
When you’re gluten-free, especially if you’re gluten-free because you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, you need to do more than avoid eating foods that contain gluten.
You also need to avoid coming in contact with gluten through cross-contamination. For example, if someone cooked a sandwich in a frying pan and didn’t wash it carefully, you could get exposed to gluten when you go to use that same frying pan.
Avoiding cross-contamination can be tricky, especially if other people in your family aren’t gluten-free. To make things easier on yourself, try implementing these strategies:
Buy separate appliances and dishes like pans, pots, and toasters and label them for your use only
Keep them in a cupboard separate from other appliances and dishes
Keep your gluten-free products in a separate cupboard from gluten-containing ingredients
Buy new storage containers for gluten-free leftovers and keep them separate from other containers
This might feel a bit extreme at first. It can make a huge difference, though. Also, once everyone gets used to the separation, it won’t be as big of a deal.
Remember, Gluten-Free Does Not Equal Low-Carb
Some people are under the impression that a gluten-free diet and a low-carb diet are synonymous. That’s definitely not the case, though.
Most people who eat low-carb eat gluten-free or eat very little gluten by default. You can still be eating a high-carb diet while avoiding gluten, though. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with eating a diet higher in carbs.
If your doctor has recommended that you reduce your carb intake, though, or if you want to for other reasons, be aware that not all gluten-free foods are low in carbohydrates.
Bake by Weight
If you do a lot of baking, it can be hard at first to get the hang of doing so without wheat-containing flour.
If you’re struggling to get the right ratios when baking with other, gluten-free flours, try baking by weight instead of by volume. Weighing your ingredients using a food scale can help you get more accurate numbers than if you use measuring cups and spoons.
Changing the way you measure your ingredients can have a big impact on the outcome of your recipes, so you definitely ought to consider investing in a scale.
Add Extra Spices
The gluten-free market is growing at a rapid pace, so manufacturers are starting to fine-tune their recipes and make their foods more palatable. Some are better than others, though, and a lot of gluten-free flours and products have a unique taste to them.
If you’re preparing a recipe using gluten-free flour or a gluten-free baking mix, you may want to try adding extra spices or flavors like vanilla to the dish. These spices and flavors can help to offset the taste of the flour.