Studies show that people who eat vegetarian diets have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, kidney stones, and lower blood pressure than people who eat meat.
If you take the steps to make sure you’re eating a healthy, vitamin and nutrient rich diet, eating vegetarian can be incredibly healthy. That said, combining gluten-free eating with a vegetarian diet can be hard, especially because vegetarian meals heavily rely on grains.
However, with gluten-free living easier than ever before, this option is much more manageable if you follow a few simple guidelines. Read on for some handy tips and tricks to maintain a healthy gluten-free, meat-free diet.
Learn which foods contain gluten: You will need to have a very firm grasp on which foods contain wheat, barley, and rye. These items often times go by other names and are hiding in a variety of foods, including sauces, dressings, and spice mixes. Because a meat-free diet already limits your options when grocery shopping, you’ll need to become an expert at ingredient reading so you can make the most out of your options.
Eat your veggies: A healthy vegetarian diet should be heavy in vegetables and fruits. Interestingly, if you focus your diet on these items you might actually be getting more of the vitamins and minerals you need on a gluten-free diet than your meat-eating counterparts. Make sure to eat colorful, in season veggies and stock up on green veggies such as spinach, broccoli, and kale for a diet rich in vitamins and protein. Look into supplements specifically tailored to gluten-free dieters to make sure you’re getting all that you need – after all, celiac harms your ability to absorb, and you will do well with that extra boost.
Stock up on these great options: Rice (fried rice, baked rice casseroles, curries, vegetarian sushi), corn (corn fritters, vegetarian tacos, corn chowder, corn on the cob), Quinoa (quinoa patties, cold quinoa salad). These will frequently show up in gluten-free pasta and flour combinations as well, so get familiar with them! Quinoa is a great gluten-free meat-free staple as it is high in protein and lots of other nutrients. Beans are also an excellent staple on a meat-free gluten-free diet. They are rich in protein and very versatile. Add them to cold salads, make vegetarian tacos, or throw together my trusty favorite when running low on groceries: beans and rice.
Make sure you get enough omega-3’s, iron and vitamin B-12: This can be especially tricky on a vegetarian diet. As celiac already puts us at a disadvantage for absorption and for access to fortified foods, you should both take supplements and make sure to incorporate these vitamin rich foods into your diet. For Vitamin B-12, try dairy, eggs, nutritional yeast, and if you are not irritated by soy, fortified soy products. For Omega-3’s, try adding flaxseed oil and chia seeds to recipes. For iron, try dark, leafy greens, beans, and artichokes. Soy milk and almond milk are also often fortified.
Avoid processed foods: With the recent influx of gluten-free options on the market, you may be able to find plenty of donuts, cookies, and french fries that fit the gluten-free/vegetarian bill, but don’t stock up so fast. These processed products are usually loaded with even more sugars and fats than their glutenous counterparts. A treat here and there is not only fine but fully supported by us, but everything in moderation!
Beware imitation meat products: Unfortunately, a lot of these will have gluten added. Always check the label and look for imitation meat in the gluten-free section of your grocery store for options. Amy’s, Gardein, Sunshine Burgers and Dr. Praeger’s all make gluten-free veggie burgers. (Amy’s is a great brand in general; their spinach rice crust pizza is also gluten-free and vegetarian!) Seitan is not gluten-free, and be careful purchasing tempeh and pre-flavored tofu, as these may also contain gluten.
Some handy resources: Get great recipe ideas at Wheat-Free Meat-Free’s recipe list and restaurant reviews of vegetarian options worldwide at The Happy Cow.
Any gluten-free vegetarians or vegans out there? What are some tips you can share with us?