8 Tips for Sticking to Your Gluten-free Diet

Maintaining a gluten-free diet may seem like a chore, especially if you've got a lot on your plate. But healthier living is easier than you think

Credit: Flickr / Hail Merry Foods

Have an arsenal of tasty, gluten-free alternatives you can pop into every purse and pocket

A busy schedule is no reason to abandon your gluten-free diet. These simple tips make on-the-go gluten-free eating a snap

Going gluten free might do wonders for your health, but it’s also kind of a hassle.

Figuring out meal options in the comfort of your own home is challenging enough. But if you’re the busy sort, running from home to work to dinners with friends, there are going to be times when the whole endeavour seems downright impractical.

Believe it or not, it is possible to remain gluten free and well fed, no matter how hectic your schedule. Just follow these tips.

Plan Ahead

Be prepared, like the Scouts. “Take control and plan,” says Mavis Friesen, a director of Vancouver’s Canadian Celiac Association chapter. “Find the meals and snacks that work for you.” The first step in sticking to a gluten-free diet is having an arsenal of tasty, gluten-free alternatives. With that in mind…

Surround Yourself with Satisfying Gluten-free Snacks

Pack gluten-free foods into your car, purse, office…wherever. Easy, shelf-stable options include crackers, fruit bars, granola bars, seed and nut butter squeeze packs, tortilla chips, corn cakes, canned gluten-free pasta, apple sauce, canned fruit, canned beans, dried fruit, no-refrigeration salami and pepperoni sticks. 

Figuring out what you like is the most important part of avoiding the siren call of the vending machines. “What I realized early on was that gluten-free snacks or nuts do nothing to curb my hunger,” continues Friesen, who counts on basic foods, such as plain yogurt, bananas, apples, cheese, vegetables and hummus.

Have the Right Tools

A fold-up cutting board and safety knife can help you work with fresh fruits, vegetables and cheeses. Include paper plates, bowls and cutlery with the rest of your gear so you can assemble meals on the fly.

Know Your Local Microwaves

Health food stores and co-ops, community centres, BC Ferries, universities and corporate cafeterias often offer microwaves and sinks. In a pinch, you can slip in to prep a meal. Friesen suggests assembling and freezing your own TV dinners.

Don’t Short Change Fast Food

Most major fast food outlets post gluten-free menus on their websites; a wisely chosen drive-through or café counter can offer plenty of suitable options (though you should still ask how the food is prepared if you have Celiac Disease or a serious intolerance.) 

Starbucks has gluten-free granola bars, cakes, chips, fruits and drinks. Wendy’s offers chili. McDonald’s has fruit and yogurt parfaits (skip the granola packets) and sliced apples.

“Sometimes we can be pleasantly surprised with the products some stores may carry,” notes Natasha Barber, a registered clinical counsellor and registered dietitian. Keep an eye out for gluten-free cafes, too.

Milk It

“Consider a skim milk hot chocolate or latte to help carry you through to your next meal, says Barber, noting the protein, calcium, and vitamin D. “Plus, due to the protein, milk is beneficial to maintaining muscle mass for those who are trying to lose weight.”

Recruit Friends and Family

If you find yourself regularly visiting friends and family, encourage them to stock gluten-free foods in their homes, either for themselves or for your visits. Most will happily oblige if you point out a few simple items to add to their grocery list.

Love Your Thermos and Ice Packs

A Thermos can keep boiled hot dogs hot. It’s also great for stews, soups, pastas and sauces – even heated doughnuts. And several ice packs in a cooler bag can keep ice cream cold for a while. 

Where possible, make your new diet an adventure. Attend classes, workshops, meet-up groups, online chats, taste-testing parties and kitchen experiments. As Barber says, “Turn it into a game.”

Andréa Coutu, MBA, draws from 20 years of experience as a writer, marketing consultant and community programming advisor – and her experience as the mother of a child with celiac disease. Founder of Vancouver’s Trustmode Marketing, Andréa is also the editor of Consultant Journal. In addition to writing six ebooks and teaching for UBC, Andréa has been featured in Entrepreneur, MSNBC, CBC, USA Today and other media. In her spare time, she posts to her Vancouver marketing consultant blog.