9 Tips for a Gluten-free Vegetarian

The health benefits from reducing the amount of meat in the diets of most Americans are, by now, well established. And the lifestyle has appeal for some people based on ethical and/or environmental reasons too. But what if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance — is a meat-free diet off limits?

Fortunately, with extra planning, a well-rounded and delicious gluten-free vegetarian diet is totally doable.

It's vital for everyone with celiac disease to get enough iron, calcium, vitamin D, fiber and B vitamins (including B12), because these are often lacking due to damage from the disease process and eating patterns often seen in gluten-free diets. Pair that with a vegetarian diet — which can be lacking in protein, iron, calcium, B12, omega fats, and vitamin D — and it's easy to miss out on necessary nutrients.

What's a Gluten-Free Vegetarian to Do?

  • Focus on typical vegetarian staples that are gluten-free like beans, lentils, tofu, dairy, nuts, seeds, and, of course, fruits and veggies. If your diet includes dairy, eggs and fish, these are very nutrient rich as well.
  • Watch out for the miso! Surprisingly, sometimes it contains barley.
  • Eat a good source of protein with each meal.
  • Try quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, etc. These pseudo-grains are some of the best sources of vegetarian and vegan protein.
  • Grains such as millet, teff and sorghum are very nutritious, as well. In addition to protein and fiber, they all have other vital nutrients, like B vitamins, iron, calcium and magnesium.
  • Get your vitamin D, iron and B vitamin levels checked.
  • If you don't eat fish, consider taking a vegan or vegetarian omega-3 supplement from algae.
  • When possible, include fortified gluten-free foods, like cereals and breads.
  • Work with a registered dietitian nutritionist to make sure you're eating a balanced diet.
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Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD
Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD, is a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Northern Virginia. She is a speaker, freelance writer, gardener and meditation enthusiast. Her website is HarrisWholeHealth.com and her food blog is GFGoodness.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.