This post, 10 Gluten-Free Diet Mistakes You’re Probably Making, contains affiliate links.
If you’re following a gluten-free diet, like me, chances are you’re making a few mistakes that might be sabotaging your chances of fully benefiting from the lifestyle change.
Implementing a gluten-free diet is tough, but sticking to it is tougher. While it gets easier with time, it’s a constant challenge in the lives of the 20+ million of us living a gluten-free lifestyle.
For me, the gluten-free diet has been life changing. I’m finally healthy and my celiac disease symptoms are in remission. The gluten-free diet has helped me rid of my painful bloating, embarrassing gas, weird geographic tongue, unexplained red bumps on my arms (keratosis pilaris), dark circles under my eyes, bouts of low energy and annoying canker and cold sores. (Read 8 Roaring Symptoms of Celiac Disease.)
Once I learned I had celiac disease, and that the gluten-free diet was my magical cure, I was all in!
However, it’s not so easy for most people to go gluten-free, especially if they’ve never received a clear cut diagnosis. (Please make sure you get tested for celiac disease BEFORE ditching gluten as you must be eating gluten to get accurate test results. Learn more about getting tested for celiac disease in this article.)
Instead, many people go gluten-free as a test. They try it and see if it helps with their XYZ symptoms. If it does, great, if not, they give up. Sound familiar?
What most people don’t realize is that the gluten-free diet must be implemented perfectly; there’s no room for mistakes, and there’s and certainly no room for intentional cheat days. To err is human, however, such errors may be holding you back from fully healing and benefiting from the gluten-free diet.
The truth is, if you want to be successful at eating gluten-free, you must be strictly gluten-free. Not even a crumb.
Top 10 Gluten-Free Diet Mistakes
I put together this list of the top 10 gluten-free diet mistakes to show you some of the most common errors I see people making when it comes to the gluten-free diet. If the diet isn’t working for you, you may soon find out why by reading this list.
1. Assuming Something is Gluten-Free Because It Looks Gluten-Free
For many years, I had no idea that licorice was not gluten-free. It looks like it should be, right? Remember, looks can be deceiving. The very FIRST ingredient in licorice is wheat flour! No kidding.
Remember, hidden gluten is found in things like chicken broth, seasonings, BBQ sauces and salad dressings. Just because it looks gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s gluten-free. Read 10 Surprise Products that Contain Gluten.
2. Assuming a Gluten-Free Menu Actually Means a Restaurant Knows Gluten-Free
Many people, including those in the restaurant industry, do not understand what “gluten-free” really means. I had a server once tell me I couldn’t eat a dish because it had rice in it (rice is gluten-free) and then another server insisted that farro was gluten-free (it’s not).
Never take your server’s word. Instead, ask questions about what’s in the dish, how it’s seasoned and ask your server to check ingredient labels and discuss your “allergy” with the manager and whomever is preparing your food. Always be on the lookout for cross contamination too – this is the biggest gluten-free diet saboteur. The more questions you ask, the more likely you’ll get a safe meal.
Another way to become more certain whether or not your meal is gluten-free is to test it with a Nima Sensor. A Nima Sensor is a portable device that allows you to detect your food for gluten. Read more about the Nima Sensor in this article, 13 Things You Need to Know about the Nima Sensor, and check out my list of 20 restaurants I tested for hidden gluten using this gluten detecting device.
3. Stocking Up On Gluten-Free Packaged Foods
Gluten-free packaged foods are often loaded with sugars, inflammatory oils, corn and soy products, and all sorts of other white refined grains and starches. Just because it’s labeled “gluten-free” doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
In fact, loading up on packaged gluten-free foods will most likely keep you sick and cause weight gain too. If you really want to heal your body from the ravages caused by gluten, it’s time to clean up your entire diet, not just take out the gluten.
This is something I learned only after being gluten-free for several years. I share the story of how I put my celiac disease into remission and finally healed my body in this article, How I Healed Myself from Celiac Disease.
4. Thinking a Little Gluten Won’t Hurt
Think again! Even a little gluten can undo all the progress you’ve made. Don’t do it!
If you have celiac disease, even a little gluten will launch an autoimmune attack in your body. If you suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance, a little gluten will fire up inflammation in your tummy and all the symptoms you’ve worked hard at repairing will reappear. Remember, eating “just a little” gluten CAN hurt you. It’s. Just. Not. Worth. It.
Please take a moment to read and bookmark this article, Don’t Cheat On Your Gluten-Free Diet. Did you know that cheating puts you at a MUCH higher risk of early death? In fact, people with celiac disease live long than those with “just” a gluten sensitivity. Why? Read this to better understand this phenomenon.
I also compel you to read more about the differences and similarities between celiac disease and a gluten sensitivity in this article, Gluten Sensitivity vs. Celiac Disease. If you think that just because you don’t have celiac disease that you don’t have to take your gluten-free diet “as serious,” this article will make you rethink your approach.
5. Not Properly Investigating a Product for Gluten
Gluten goes by many names so it’s important that you do your due diligence when shopping at the grocery store. I’ve created a cheat sheet that lists 100 Alternatives Names for Gluten, which is a handy tool for uncovering alternative names for gluten in packaged foods.
The best way to avoid gluten, however, is to eat as naturally gluten-free as possible. Load up on lean meats, fatty fishes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Always be mindful (and ask loads of questions) related to how your food was prepared before digging in.
6. Not Vetting Beauty Products for Gluten
Research indicates that shampoos and beauty products that contain gluten cannot be absorbed by the skin and therefore won’t harm someone with celiac disease. This means you can touch gluten; you just can’t eat it (although you should definitely wash your hands after touching gluten!).
However, if there is a risk of ingesting the product, such as the case in lipsticks, lip balms, lotions and hand sanitizers, then you must use products that do not contain gluten.
I recommend lipsticks and beauty products that are certified gluten-free – just to be safe. A lipstick and lip balm brand that is certified gluten-free and I personally recommend is Red Apple Lipstick. This stuff is the best. You can get smooth and moisturizing lipstick and lip glosses that are totally gluten-free and come in a variety of colors too! (Personal favs are the Ruby Glass lipgloss and the Paris lipstick with almond oil.)
7. Not Understanding the Risks of Cross Contamination
Your food can’t touch gluten, period.
This means you can’t pick the croutons off your salad or remove the bun from your burger and be okay.
It means your food can’t be handled or cooked on the same surface as something that contains gluten and your pizza can’t touch the same surface in the oven as the gluten pizza.
It means your fries can’t be fried in the same fryer as the breaded chicken fingers either.
Remember, if you want to be truly gluten-free, and give the diet a fair shot, your food must be thoughtfully cooked and served in an environment completely free from gluten contamination.
8. Not Keeping Your Food Separate
You can get cross contamination in your home too! Things like tubs of butter, peanut butter and jelly jars, toaster ovens and colanders are home to itty-bitty bits of gluten. Someone may dip their knife in the tub of butter, spread it on their gluteny bread, and then dip the knife in the tub of butter again, leaving gluten bits behind.
Keep your food separate and labeled in your house. Also, keep your food on the top shelf of the pantry to eliminate the risk of gluten-containing cereal or other products dripping down on your gluten-free food. Here are more tips to setting up your kitchen to be a gluten-free safe zone.
Sharing a toaster? Use these protective toaster bags when toasting your gluten-free bread.
9. Giving Up Because It’s Not Working
This is a BIG one!
So many people give up on their gluten-free diet without giving it a fair shake. They may go gluten-free for a week and feel no different. Duh, you’ve been damaging your body for 20+ years and you’re giving up on repairing it after just one week?!?
Give the gluten-free diet a fair shake. It can takes months, even years, to reverse disease in your body. It might also take the gluten-free diet AND another lifestyle change to manage your symptoms completely, too.
For example, if you’re simply swapping gluten-free pizza for regular pizza, or gluten-free donuts for regular donuts, how are you really cleaning up your diet? Gluten-free does not mean it’s good for you. I cannot stress this enough.
Limit the consumption of sugar, avoid these so-called health foods that aren’t really healthy, check for other food sensitivities (and read what happened when I took a food sensitivity test), and increase your intake of fresh vegetables and fruits by a lot, and maybe even try juicing to flood your body with vital nutrients.
Remember, it can take a lot more than eliminating gluten from your diet to nurse your way back to health.
Having a hard time letting go of gluten? Read more about why gluten is hard to let go of (yep, it’s an addictive substance).
10. Not Getting Help From an Expert
So many people try to be gluten-free and fail. It’s often because they don’t know how to maintain the gluten-free diet for the long haul and/or they lack support from someone who can truly help them.
Working with a health and/or nutrition professional will not only help you jumpstart your gluten-free diet, but also will help you learn techniques and tricks for maintaining your gluten-free diet for life.
If you’re looking for someone to help you transition to a gluten-free diet, fix your diet, or help you learn how to maintain your gluten-free diet on a day-to-day basis, please consider working with me. I’m a health and nutrition coach – and I happen to have celiac disease too. I am uniquely qualified to help you as I know the challenges you’re facing day-in and day-out.
Please take a moment to read some of my other top articles:
- Is There a Cure for Celiac Disease?
- 7 Ways to Recover from an Accidental Gluten Exposure
- 12 Interesting Facts about Celiac Disease
- 10 Facts Your Doctor Doesn’t Know about Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivities
- What Causes Celiac Disease and Can It Be Prevented?
- 10 Gluten Sensitivity Symptoms [With or Without Celiac Disease]