5 Ways Your Kitchen is the Key to a Happier Gluten-Free Life
By Hannah Grant, Bastyr University Dietetic Intern, 2022
Whether you’re brand new to cooking, or learning to love doing it without the gluten, there are many benefits to cooking and making meals at home.
Delivery services, drive-through windows, and packaged foods can seem like convenient options when balancing a busy schedule. Pair them with trying to maintain a gluten-free diet, and cooking can start to feel overwhelming. We’ve got tips and tricks to help you harness the power of home-cooked meals for you and your family.
Let’s start with the benefits:
1. Total control over ingredients
Cooking at home means you know exactly what goes into your food. While more restaurants are featuring gluten-free menu options, the risk of gluten exposure still exists. In addition to ensuring your food is gluten-free, cooking your own meals allows you to tailor them to your taste preferences too. If you like more garlic in your mashed potatoes or prefer guacamole without cilantro, go ahead and make that change. Remember, recipes are just suggestions.
2. Developing a positive frame of mind about food and eating
Changing your eating habits can be challenging. Having to avoid items you previously enjoyed can cause fear and anxiety at mealtimes. The knowledge and skills you develop from cooking will build confidence around food. Feeling more confident can make it easier to avoid gluten even when eating away from home. For kids who follow a gluten-free diet, developing these skills early can empower them to make good choices as they gain more independence.
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3. Improved mental health
In addition to promoting a healthy relationship with food, cooking can benefit your overall mental health. Preparing a healthy and delicious meal for yourself and your family can bring a sense of pride and accomplishment. Feelings of achievement can enhance self-esteem. Your kitchen also offers endless opportunities for creativity and self-expression, both of which have been shown to improve mood.
4. Save Money
Eating at restaurants is expensive and gluten-free alternatives to packaged convenience foods can cost up to three times more than their gluten-containing counterparts. Learning to cook your favorite dishes at home is a great way to decrease your monthly food budget. You can even take advantage of sale prices by batch cooking meals ahead of time and freezing them for later. Finding creative ways to repurpose leftovers is another money saving technique that also reduces food waste.
5. Decreased Risk of Chronic Disease
Restaurant meals and processed foods tend to be high in salt, saturated fat, and added sugar. While it is fine to enjoy these items occasionally, relying on them for the majority of your meals increases your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. People who cook at home tend to eat a wider variety of foods, including more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Now that you are acquainted with the benefits of spending more time in your gluten-free kitchen, here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Make a plan
Choose one or two recipes each week, decide when you want to make them, and set time aside to devote to cooking. Read the entire recipes ahead of time so you know exactly what you need and how long you can expect it to take. Next, make a grocery list, and stick to it. Forgetting an ingredient, or not realizing you’ll need to simmer for 20 minutes, can make cooking more stressful. Set yourself up for success by knowing what to expect.
2. Make it easy
Build your comfort level by starting with simple recipes. Like with any new skill, it’s important to learn the basics. As you gain more confidence in the kitchen, you can branch out and try more complicated dishes, create gluten-free versions of familiar favorites, or even create recipes of your own!
3. Make it relaxing
Think of cooking as something you get to do instead of something you need to do. Make it into a pleasant experience by turning on your favorite music, silencing your phone, or enjoying your favorite beverage while you cook.
4. Make it social
Use cooking as an opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones. Make a romantic dinner with your partner instead of going to a restaurant. Involve your kids in age-appropriate kitchen tasks like measuring or mixing ingredients. Invite friends over to cook dinner together instead of hosting a potluck.
5. Make it an adventure
Experimenting with new foods from around the world is a fun way to learn about different cultures and their traditions. Many cuisines from around the globe contain gluten-free dishes that you can enjoy without having to modify. Our website has articles on Japanese, Korean, Mediterranean and West African cuisines, among others, with links to gluten-free recipes. It’s a great place to start expanding your culinary horizons!
Think of stepping into your kitchen as a chance to open a world of possibilities – new recipes, healthy food choices, creative exploration, and so much more. For more joyful ways to explore food – and your kitchen – see our “Food Lovers Resource Page.”
The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.
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