Gluten Free Diets: Healthy or Unhealthy?

Gluten Free Diets have become a ‘fad’, by that I mean they have become more and more popular as a means to be “healthier” and for weight loss. And more and more people are choosing to go gluten free…. whether they need to or not. And gluten free diets have been getting a bad rep in the press lately. First, they increase your risk of diabetes and cancer, and now they make you fat 😳

I first went gluten free (gf), all the way back in 2001, when I was 19. Back then, nobody had heard of gluten and there were very few gf products on the market. The products that were on the market were rubbish. I remember being uber excited about eating pasta and cooking it up, while drooling. The pasta didn’t hold its shape and what I had left was a very expensive pot of brown rice mush. Gak!!

Gf products have evolved hugely since then. Food manufacturers have improved the standard of gf products enormously, as well as the variety of products available. These days you can get anything with a gf version!

But are they any healthier than the wheat based alternatives?

Short answer. No. Gf breads, cereals and pastas are ultra processed foods with little to no nutritional value. They are higher in energy, sugar and salt and lower in fibre, vitamins and minerals. I know, for me, I get sicker on the gf supermarket breads than I do on the wheat based versions.

So what is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, oats, rye and barley and any and all of foods made from these.

If you or someone you are cooking for needs to be gluten free then these are:

Foods to avoid
Wheat (most biscuits, pasta, flour, bread, cake, bakery goods, cereal)



and products made with them: bread, bagels, doughnuts, pasta, cakes, biscuits, muesli bars, cereals, milo, noodles, pastries, pies, rolls,

Foods that may trip you up


Cornflakes and rice bubbles

Deli meats and processed meats

Foods that are safe
Dairy (may need to read the label for some products, like yoghurt)
Nuts, seeds, nut butters
Chia seeds

Arrowroot/Tapicoa flour


Oats – Oats contain a protein called Avenin, which is similar in its structure to gluten. Some people cross react, meaning they react to gluten and avenin, some people only react to one of them. When buying oats, make sure they are gf. Oats that are grown in fields and processed in factories with wheat will have bits of wheat in them. This is called cross contamination. Oats that are gf, are simply grown and processed in places that don’t have wheat. However, if you have Coeliac Disease, the Coaliac Society recommends that you do not eat oats.

Do I need to be gluten free?

If you have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease or a wheat or gluten intolerance or allergy, then yes, you are definitely best to be gluten free.

If you think you have an allergy or intolerance to wheat or gluten, it’s best to discuss it with your medical professional and/or dietitian. Some people feel better being gluten free, but it’s not the gluten that’s causing their symptoms, it could be you need to be on a FODMAP diet or even just eating more wholefoods and less packaged foods can eliminate symptoms. If you need to be on a FODMAPS diet and you’ve gone GF you may feel better, but still have some symptoms (for example, when eating onions or garlic) and you may have eliminated other foods, like sourdough, that you can still eat. So it’s best to check in with a qualified medical professional to help you out!

So can I eat GF and still be healthy?

Yes! Of course!!

If you are eating lots of packet gf foods you are not going to be getting the best nutrition possible and relying on these foods will not be great for your health in the long term.

Because gf breads, cereals, pasta, biscuits etc are ultra processed, with very little nutrition and to make sure they don’t taste like cardboard they are loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats.

But there are zillions of gf foods that are healthy for our body. Choose mostly whole foods, food that grows or comes from something that grows. Think:

  • fruit and vegetables

  • nuts and seeds

  • meat, chicken and fish

  • eggs

  • dairy

  • legumes, such as, lentils, chickpeas and other dried beans

  • gf grains such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, rice, corn

Moral of the story?
Regardless of whether you are gf or not, for optimal health, choose whole foods most of the time and avoid the packaged stuff as much as you can.

Or, more simply put: “if it grows, eat it”

Have Coeliac Disease or food allergies?

Just been diagnosed and don’t know what to eat?

Think you might have food intolerance or wondering if you need to be gf or do a FODMAPS diet?

Need help with what to eat?

Contact me, I’m happy to help!

Click here for more info and contact details