These days it feels like everyone’s going gluten-free. And in fact, 30 per cent of us are reducing the amount of gluten in our diets, according to Coeliac Australia. That’s a huge number considering only 1 in 70 people have coeliac disease.
The high number of us going gluten-free can largely be pinned down to the rise in lifestyle-altering diets such as paleo and the growing use of the term “clean-eating”.
Somewhere along the line, ‘gluten-free’ became synonymous with ‘healthy’. Dietitian Caroline Trickey says that’s a problem, because gluten-free foods can often be the opposite.
Listen: 1 in 6 people are ACTUALLY gluten free. Some are pretending. Post continues after audio.
“Many gluten-free products contain ingredients that are high GI and have empty calories,” the culinary nutritionist for gluten-free company The Food Crafters and Healthy Home Cafe says.
“Shoppers need to look closely at the labels on their food and determine the nutritional integrity of a product before adding it to the trolley.”
There are some healthy gluten-free foods out there of course. You just need to know what to look for next time you’re in the gluten-free aisle. To help, Trickey shares her tips for getting to the check-out with a healthy basket.
Know your calories and kilojules.
Trickey explains the term ’empty calorie’ means a food offers you (usually a lot of) energy, ie, kilojules or calories, for very little nutrition in return. So a gluten-free muffin might be packed with sugar and totally absent in complex carbs that are going to keep you fuller for longer.
“When you consume high GI, empty calorie foods, it is quickly converted into sugar which can easily be stored as fat, and ultimately lead to weight gain,” she says.
“In contrast, nutrient-dense low GI foods are metabolised more slowly, this can provide a more sustained release of energy and will keep you feeling full for longer.
“Nutrient-dense foods also provide your body with important nutrients like vitamins and minerals which help it function optimally and support important metabolic processes as well as immune function.”
Be aware of the replacement ingredient.
You may wish to rid wheat from your diet, but make sure you consider what it’s being replaced with.
“Gluten-free products use much higher GI, highly processed products to replace wheat flour like rice and corn flour, they also often include emulsifiers and stabilisers to enhance texture and flavour,” she says.
What’s ironic, is that some of these additives have been linked to gut issues – the very reason many people go gluten-free to begin with.