5 Ways You Can Achieve Food Freedom When Gluten-Free
Written for GIG by Daniella Durant, MSN, Bastyr University Dietetic Intern (2020-2021)
Published February 22, 2021
If you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, you can fuel and nourish your body in a way that is safe and satisfying by adhering to a gluten-free diet. Rather than looking at the diet as limiting or restrictive, think of it as a way of eating that will keep you healthy and feeling your best. While eating gluten-free is cutting gluten out of your diet, remember the reason for this elimination is an act of self-care, giving your body food that truly supports it.
Whether you are just learning how to be gluten-free, or have been for years, there has probably been a time when you felt overwhelmed by the limited foods you could eat and behaviors you could engage in. This doesn’t have to be the case! While being gluten-free is not voluntary for those with gluten-related disorders, you can still follow a healthy, satisfying, and enjoyable gluten-free diet without it being an overwhelming or life–altering experience. You can still eat your favorite foods, find new restaurants that have gluten-free options, and achieve food freedom by engaging in healthy behaviors that support your eating.
What does it mean to achieve “food freedom?” Food freedom is feeling in control of the food you eat without being fixated, overwhelmed, or stressed out by it. The phrase stems from the practice of intuitive eating, a self-care eating framework created by dietitians. Intuitive eating involves principles that honor physical and mental health. If you want to learn more about intuitive eating, check out the book Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole.
Here are some ways that can help you feel more liberated by your gluten-free diet and lead you down the path to food freedom:
1. Find Foods You Truly Enjoy – Eat Them Often!
Gluten-free eating is anything but boring. Taking the time to discover the foods you truly love to eat is essential to finding food freedom and the key to a sustainable gluten-free way of life. Instead of focusing on the things you cut out of your diet when going gluten-free, think about all the new foods you can try. Explore ancient gluten-free grains, alternative flours, sauces, new fruits and vegetables you haven’t tried, etc. This is a great opportunity to expand your food palette and explore new recipes. Have fun with it!
2. Honor Your Cravings
Ever have that hankering for some comforting mac n’ cheese, slice of pizza, or a cookie? Don’t be afraid to give in to those cravings. When you crave certain foods and don’t allow yourself to eat them, you are ignoring your body’s internal cues. This could lead to feeling out of control around food and make you want the food item more. When you allow yourself to eat the foods you crave, you satisfy and listen to your body. Food freedom is about giving yourself permission to eat all foods (gluten-free of course), and once you are able to do that, you take away the luster that some indulgent foods give. Feeling in control around food means you can mindfully enjoy food without fear that you won’t be able to eat that food again the next day if you wanted. There are so many gluten-free alternatives available to fulfill your cravings. There should be no guilt or shame in eating the foods you enjoy; ultimately food is just food. Just because you eliminate gluten from your diet doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the foods you know and love.
3. Eat a Balanced Diet (without limitations)
A balanced diet can mean different things to different people. What is most important is that the food you are eating is mostly whole foods, satisfies your hunger, and is enjoyable and nourishing to your body. Balance your plate out with foods made up of fats, carbohydrates, and protein to fuel your body while including processed foods from time to time. Incorporating vegetables, fruits, gluten-free grains, meat/plant-based protein, healthy fats, and some of your favorite processed foods will help keep your diet balanced without feeling restrictive.
4. Understanding Your Purpose of Going Gluten-Free
While being gluten-free may feel restricting, reflecting on the reasons why you are gluten-free is helpful in honoring your body and your relationship with food. Rather than thinking about eating gluten-free as a diet or restriction, think about it as a choice informed by your experience with food and your knowledge of how your body reacts to gluten. You are working with your body, not against it. Understand that making the choice to cut out gluten is for your health and wellbeing. These food choices help you to be the best version of you.
5. Engage in (safe) Social Gatherings
Looking for restaurants that have safe gluten-free options can be challenging. Use GIG’s Gluten-Free Safe Spot directory as a resource to find eateries near you that are validated as safe for people living gluten-free. Being gluten-free while dining out can be daunting at first, but there are many safe ways to eat food from restaurants and safely gather while still being gluten-free. Check out the tips outlined in Restaurant Dining: Seven Tips for Staying Gluten-Free.
Enjoying restaurants and gatherings that are gluten-free and safe can be a freeing experience. You can enjoy the positive experience of eating gluten-free versions of foods you may not have had since going gluten-free. This is another important step in achieving food freedom because it brings forth the joy of sharing food with others without worry.
The bottom line is – food freedom is possible, even if you follow a gluten-free diet. While there are challenges gluten-free individuals face, these tips will lead you in the right direction to food freedom. The process of achieving food freedom takes time and continued effort; don’t feel discouraged if you feel overwhelmed. It takes practice to feel fully in control of your food and your gluten-free diet.
If you find yourself wanting additional support, look for a GIG support group near you or connect with GIG on social media (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter). Connecting with other gluten-free individuals in a community that is encouraging and understanding throughout your journey can be very beneficial.