Individuals with undiagnosed or untreated celiac disease may experience unintended weight loss over time due to malabsorption of nutrients caused by damage to the intestine. However, when a gluten-free diet is begun and the intestine heals, lost weight is sometimes re-gained and weight gain continues. One factor which likely contributes to this is the widespread availability of processed gluten-free foods which contain high amounts of fat, sugar and calories. And this phenomenon doesn’t just apply to those with celiac disease. Regardless of the reason for being gluten-free, a gluten-free diet which relies too much on these types of foods can lead to weight gain and related health problems down the road, including diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and arthritis.
Some Helpful Tips for Staying at a Healthy Weight While Following a Gluten-Free Diet:
- Make it a habit to fill about 1/2 your plate with vegetables. The more colorful the better! This will provide you with gluten-free food that is filling, low in calories, and full of nutrients.
- Limit your intake of extra sweets and added fats. Instead of gluten-free cookies or cake for dessert, which are usually high in fat and sugar, try desserts focused on fruit, such as yogurt topped with fresh seasonal fruit, or even a thin sliver of cake accompanied by plenty of delicious berries.
- Read the Nutrition Facts label on gluten-free products. Look for food items that contain less than 30% calories coming from total fat.
(And to promote heart health, limit your intake of saturated fat. Favor healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish.)
- Select low fat protein sources such as lean meat, poultry without the skin, fish, and other seafood that is not fried or battered. Other healthy protein sources which are usually gluten-free (READ THE LABEL) include beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, and many meat substitutes.
- Choose low fat dairy options like low fat or skim milk, low fat cheeses, low fat or fat free yogurt, and sherbet or sorbet instead of full-fat ice cream.
- Be phsysically ACTIVE! Physical activity is an important part of maintaining a healthy body weight. (Physical activity has additional health benefits too.) Try to be active for at least 45 minutes per day, more if you can (but begin any new exercise program gradually).
Some ideas to get you moving:
- Enjoy a walk after dinner or first thing in the morning
- Take the stairs rather than the elevator
- Take a dance or aerobic class
- Take up yoga or pilates
- Park your car FURTHEST from the store
- Find a friend or family member to join you and keep you moving!
- Try a new sport
- Join a health club or gym
- Sign up for a fun run or fundraising walk
This article has been assessed and approved by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.