To enjoy all the benefits of a gluten-free diet, it is not enough to simply swap out regular cookies, bread, and crackers for their gluten-free counter parts. Even though these modified versions lack gluten, they often have just as much sugar as the gluten-containing version and a high glycemic index due to the refined starches, which can lead to difficulty maintaining an optimal body weight and physique.

These gluten-free foods may also contain irritating preservatives and/or inflammatory ingredients commonly found in processed foods (such as omega-6 oils like safflower or soybean oil), and they are not the kind of nutrient-dense foods we want to consume for optimal health.

Many people have trouble imaging what will fill the void on their plates when they cut out bread, pasta, cereals, and bagels. Instead of thinking about what you can’t have, think about what you can have.

Here are some suggestions for navigating gluten-containing foods, maximizing nutrient-density, and avoiding processed foods:

• Add an extra serving of veggies, fruit, protein, or legumes to your plate instead of bread or pasta.
• Instead of putting a burger or your favorite sandwich fixings on a bun, put them over a salad of fresh greens.
• Cut a bell pepper in half length-ways (so it looks like a boat!) and tuck sandwich fixings inside.
• Use cucumber slices to scoop up chicken, tuna or egg salads instead of crackers or bread.
• Replace wheat-based wraps with lettuce leaves

Used to snacking on crackers or pretzels? Here are a few Gluten-free snack ideas to get you started:

• Olives
• Pickles
• Cheese
• Avocado slices drizzled with olive oil and sea salt
• Hummus and veggie sticks
• Guacamole with veggie sticks
• Apple slices or celery with almond butter or peanut butter
• Hard-boiled egg
• Handful of nuts with some fresh fruit
• Cottage cheese with fresh fruit

When dining out, be sure to ask your server for gluten-free options. Even if a dish sounds like it may be gluten-free, restaurants commonly add flour to dishes for texture, binding, or thickening.