5 Mistakes People Make When Going Gluten-Free

Gluten-free eating is about as trendy as diets get, garnering praise from some of our favorite celebs. The only issue is people are quick to jump on this diet trend without being fully aware of what this lifestyle really means. For people who have celiac disease, their bodies don’t react well to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. But the reality is, unless you have celiac disease, there’s probably no need to cut out wheat and similar products. Find out why by reading about five common mistakes people make when going gluten-free.

1. They don’t do research about what foods contain gluten

Breadcrumbs in a bowl with bread slices

When going gluten-free, make sure you know what’s in your food. | iStock.com

Gluten can be found in almost anything. There’s gluten in crackers, baked goods, french fries, ice cream, sauces, instant coffees, meats, and dry roasted nuts, just to name a few. The Gluten Free Society says even foods that have common additives listed on the label, including modified food starch and vegetable protein, can contain gluten. So if you’re trying to avoid the protein, keep in mind that it’s not just found in bread products.

2. They aren’t mindful about cross-contamination

Man cooking rice on the stove

Cross-contamination can ruin your gluten-free diet. | iStock.com

Cross-contamination can be a serious issue if you’re really trying to avoid gluten. Bon Appétit mentions you shouldn’t be using the same spatula when cooking both gluten-free and regular foods. You should also be sure to thoroughly clean all pots and pans if you’re going to use them to cook gluten-inclusive foods and their alternatives. Both options should never be placed on the same serving plate, either.

Truly going gluten-free also means being mindful of how and where your food is made. A lot of products note what ingredients are in other foods manufactured on the same machines, meaning cross-contamination is possible. If you have celiac disease, this is extremely important to be aware of.

3. They assume anything labeled ‘gluten-free’ is healthy

Gluten-free loaf of bread

Gluten-free bread isn’t necessarily healthier. | iStock.com/chameleonseye

According to a study that evaluated the nutrition of gluten-free foods, these products aren’t actually healthier for you. Over 3,000 products from 10 different food categories were studied. This included a staple food category that consisted of bread, breakfast cereal, and dry pasta as well as a discretionary food category that included cake mixes, ice cream, cured meat, potato chips, and other common products that contain gluten. The average amount of protein found in gluten-free foods was consistently lower in each of the products in the staple food category. Calories, sodium, saturated fat, and sugar remained relatively the same. Similarly lackluster results were found for the discretionary items.

4. They think it’s a solution for weight loss

a man measuring his waist with a tape measure

A gluten-free diet probably won’t make you lose weight. | iStock.com

As mentioned in the study above, many gluten-free foods tend to have the same nutritional value as regular products, except for protein. Since gluten is a protein, it’s also likely that following a gluten-free diet means you could end up falling short of your daily needs. WebMD mentions protein is a macronutrient that our bodies need for energy and building healthy bones and muscles. More muscle mass means more calories burned when at rest, which is beneficial for weight loss. If you’re fueling yourself with gluten-free foods just because you believe they deliver healthy nutrients and fewer calories, think again.

5. They don’t fill themselves up with enough of the right nutrients

Plate of grilled vegetables

Make sure you don’t lose vital nutrients in your diet. | iStock.com

According to Harvard Health Publications, going gluten-free can cause some nutritional deficiencies. Many of the ingredients used to make gluten-free breads and pastas, including white rice and tapioca, aren’t usually fortified with vitamins the way their wheat counterparts are. As a result, opting for gluten-free products can lead to a vitamin B deficiency. SFGate reports this nutrient is essential for healthy skin and proper digestion.

Gluten-free options often provide less fiber than traditional food products as well. With the common American diet already low in this vital nutrient, many people who go gluten-free tend to overlook the need to fuel their bodies with enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to keep their digestive systems humming.