Cookies in the pantry, cake on the sideboard, pie in the refrigerator, chips in the TV room, candy next to the computer. Does this sound like your house? Are you and your family stockpiling junk food and desserts, and now it’s starting to show on your hips? Why not make a change and, as a family, go on a diet that will help you lose weight and keep it off? There are so many different diets out there, but one of the recently popular is the gluten-free diet.

The Mayo-Clinic notes that a gluten-free diet is one that “excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).” A gluten-free diet is often used to treat people with celiac disease, when gluten can cause inflammation of the small intestines. A gluten-free diet alone will not help you to lose weight, however - Dr. Oz notes that in order to be successful in your diet, you need to watch calories and be sure you’re getting the nutrition you need from whole foods, vegetables, and other items.

Foods that can include gluten are: cookies, cereals, cakes, candies, beer, french fries, pastas, soups, potato chips, processed meats, and breads. Many of these items have been made gluten-free, but be sure to always check the box before you purchase. If you find bread or other food items that include barley, rye, bran, panko, orzo, wheat, semolina, couscous, faro, matzo or similar derivatives, skip it. Foods that are safe to eat in a gluten-free diet usually include: beans, seeds, fresh eggs, meat, fruits and vegetables. 

Consider this shopping list the next time you head to the grocery: strawberries, bananas, apples, fresh corn, milk, butter, eggs, fresh fish, 100 percent fruit juice, corn chips, ice cream, brown rice, peanut butter, and coffee. So there are many ways you can make a healthy and hearty meal out of a gluten-free diet. Most dairy is acceptable in this diet, and you’ll find that cooking and baking with only specific ingredients isn’t actually as hard as it might sound. If you’re still confused, check out the guide printed by the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Sample menus for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner are available within this guide, as well as tips for shopping and food preparation.

Probably the biggest challenge you will face in your diet is cross-contamination, when you end up consuming gluten foods without realizing it. Many foods can be mislabeled or simply fail to label a full description of the ingredients. Some pills, desserts, sauces, or even meat products can include gluten without you realizing it. Especially when you’re not eating at home, this can become a challenge in your diet. If you’re dieting for non-medical reasons however (i.e. a gluten-free diet is optional) then a slip-up every now and then isn’t terrible. Just watch what you eat.

Remember that assuming a gluten-free diet to lose weight is not only about watching the ingredients that are in your food. If you’re truly looking to keep your family healthy, you need to have a balanced diet. A healthy serving of fruits and vegetables every day help to keep your energy up and calcium- and iron-rich foods like milk, cheese, orange juice, eggs, meat, and nuts will keep you strong throughout the day.

There are a number of dietitians and doctors who specialize in weight-loss and know about gluten-free dieting and nutrition, and you should consider consulting with one before deciding on whether or not to start this diet with your family. Special gluten-free cookbooks are widely available both online and in bookstores to help you out – popular cookbooks include “Gluten-Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap,” “The Healthy Gluten-Free Life: 200 Delicious Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, and Egg-Free Recipes,” and “The Gluten-Free Bible.”

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