When you have just one dietary restriction, such as having to avoid gluten, figuring out what to eat can be overwhelming. When you have multiple dietary restrictions, such as gluten-free and vegetarian, it can seem truly daunting.
Even in our increasingly food-savvy world, many people hear “gluten-free” and their first response is: “What on earth can you eat?” A surprising number of people have a similar response when they hear about vegetarianism.
So when the topic of gluten-free vegetarians is broached, many people are clueless about whether one can be healthy as a vegetarian without eating gluten and have little idea what gluten-free vegetarians eat.
Well, we’re not only going to tell you that it can be done, but we’re going to give you all of the information you need to live a healthy and nutritious vegetarian gluten-free diet.
There are many vegetarians who are diagnosed with celiac disease and continue eating a nutritious vegetarian diet. There are also celiacs who after diagnosis choose to be a vegetarian. Vegetarianism while on a gluten-free diet can be healthy if approached with care and attentiveness to nutritional balance. Vegetarian gluten-free options are less limited than you might imagine, but living with multiple food restrictions certainly does require some creativity in cooking and extra attentiveness when eating out.
Gluten-Free Vegetarian Eating at Home
Most meat substitutes are off-limits due to being made from wheat gluten. However, a few faux meats such as some veggie burgers and some veggie dogs may be gluten-free. Online recipes can walk you through the process of making gluten-free meat substitutes from soy flour and other ingredients, too. The best gluten-free vegetarian protein sources are beans, eggs, cheese, nuts and quinoa.
For lunch, peanut butter, almond butter and hummus make great dips or spreads for cut vegetables and fruit or for gluten-free crackers. Cold hard-boiled eggs or yogurt are great mid-day fuel. For main dishes, think sautéed vegetables over polenta, protein-rich quinoa pilaf, gluten-free pizza, gluten-free pasta primavera, frittatas, homemade veggie-nut loaf and stir-fries made with tofu and vegetables.
Gluten-Free Vegetarian Options at Restaurants
The go-to “safe” items on a restaurant menu for most celiacs are things like broiled fish, steak, hamburgers sans bun, or roast chicken. For a vegetarian, these staples of gluten-free restaurant eating are off the menu. This requires thinking outside the box.
A salad with some kind of nut, cheese or beans on it can be a light meal. Vegetarian soups such as chili or lentil soup are full of protein and fiber. Eggs or omelets with home fries or hash browns can be a filling meal any time of day. A baked potato with broccoli and cheese might hit the spot. Steamed tofu and vegetables over brown rice might be on the menu at your local Chinese restaurant, in which case gluten-free soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and/or garlic can be used to make a flavorful sauce. You might be surprised how accommodating restaurants can be.
Maintaining Proper Nutrition on a Gluten-Free Vegetarian Diet
Gluten-free vegetarians should take a look at their diet to make sure they are getting ample folate, B vitamins and iron. A varied diet rich in whole gluten-free grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, eggs and low-fat dairy should ensure that these needs are met.
Vegans must get ample calcium, take a vitamin B12 supplement, and be particularly attentive to their nutrient intake. Both vegetarians and vegans should ensure they are getting ample protein and healthy fats. Fiber intake is higher among people who follow a plant-based diet than for meat-eaters, so meeting the recommended fiber intake should not be a problem.
Gluten-free vegetarian diets can be delicious and healthy. The key to success is thinking outside the box and focusing on having as varied and colorful a diet as possible. If you have friends or family who wonder what to serve you, try typing up a list of foods you can eat in order to downplay the foods you can’t eat. This list will be a great cheat-sheet at the grocery store or when a family member wants to cook for you. Instead of limitations, they will see possibilities.
What new products have you noticed on your local store’s shelves? Which soon-to-be-released gluten products are you looking forward to?