Yes, I’m Gluten-Free By Choice... Here’s What It’s Taught Me

I went gluten-free on a whim and never looked back! 

That last part is a lie--I think about bread every time a waiter puts a basket of it on the table at dinner, or every time a student organization is selling donuts on the Skiles walkway, or every time I smell Auntie Anne’s pretzels in the mall. 

I have a love-hate relationship with my diet. I chose to start eating gluten-free for a number of reasons - the hope of alleviating anxiety, reducing acne, and eating a more balanced diet, to name a few - and honestly, I can’t say I have any results to show for it. What I can say is that now, gluten-containing foods give me a headache and make me exhausted. So, if you’re thinking about going gluten-free, or already follow a GF diet or are just curious as to why anyone would do this to themselves, here are six things the past one year and ten months have taught me - not that anyone’s counting. 

1. It’s easier than you would think. 

Think about the foods that you know have gluten in them. Crackers, cookies, cake, bread... they’re all processed. Maybe gluten isn’t the problem. Maintaining a gluten-free diet mostly just means eating whole, unprocessed foods like fruit, vegetables, meat, legumes, dairy, nuts and seeds, all of which are naturally gluten-free. Most restaurants will either designate gluten-free items on their menu, or will tell you what is gluten-free upon request. Unfortunately, most fast food goes out the window (R.I.P. chicken nuggets), but you can always ask for a burger in a lettuce wrap instead of a bun. 

2. You can still eat a lot of junk. 

You know what else is gluten free? Fries, ice cream, chips, chocolate, candy, and anything in a corn tortilla. Gluten-free doesn’t always mean healthy. Some days I am living proof of this. 

3. You will eat a lot of salads. 

Pretty much any restaurant you can go to has a salad on their menu. When everything else is battered, breaded, or in sandwich form, you can reliably turn to a classic Cobb. You may have to ask for no croutons, but besides that, salads are an old faithful gluten-free staple and you’ll have to learn to love them. 

4. Soy sauce has gluten. 

This is probably the saddest and most confusing realization every gluten-free eater will come to at some point. How can a liquid have wheat in it? I’m still not 100% sure about this one but, but say goodbye to the salty topping if you’re going out to eat at an asian restaurant. Thankfully, tamari is a near-identical gluten-free sauce that you can 

substitute for soy sauce when you’re cooking for yourself-- or bring in a bottle to your favorite Asian restaurant. 

5. Gluten-free things will never be the same as their gluten-full counterparts. 

You can buy a gluten-free version of nearly any food that contains gluten - but that doesn’t mean that you should. They’re usually filled with “flour blends” that contain rice, cassava, tapioca, and xanthan gum - even MORE processed than the actual, gluten-containing food. They’re usually crumbly and over-processed anyway, so it’s better to just stick with naturally gluten-free foods like fruits. 

6. Don’t do it. 

If you have an actual medical reason to avoid gluten, then by all means, disregard this one. But if you’re part of the majority of the population that can digest it without much of a problem, then you shouldn’t exclude it from your diet just because. It’s been claimed to help with just about anything - acne, anxiety, digestion, weight loss - but you can cut down on your gluten consumption way more easily than you can maintain a complete and total elimination diet. But-- to each their own!