5 Strategies for Living Gluten-Free

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By Justine Dowd, PHd. 

Recent research suggests that despite the benefits of following a nutritious gluten-free diet for people with celiac disease1,2, adherence to a gluten-free diet ranges from 42% to 91% 3. So you are not alone if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease but aren’t currently following a strict gluten-free diet. The good news is that research shows that people can learn how to follow a gluten-free diet4!

What strategies can I use to help me change my diet?

We know that one of the most important parts of changing behavior is being able to self-regulate (that is – self-manage or self-control your behavior)5,6. Self-regulation involves 5 parts; self-monitoringgoal-setting, developing coping strategies and action plans, and giving yourself feedback. Read the information below, download and complete the Behaviour Change worksheet to help you get on track to successfully follow a nutritious gluten-free diet!

  1. Self-monitoring 

    Involves tracking your behaviors so you can become aware of what you are currently doing (or not doing!).

    • Using the self-monitoring guide in the behavior change worksheet you can track what you eat over the next week. This will help you become aware of if and/or when you eat gluten and identify patterns about when you might eat gluten.
  2. Goal-setting 

    Is important because it gives you something to strive towards and a standard to measure your progress. Make sure to set goals that follow the SMARTI guide: Specific, Measurable, Action orientated, Realistic, Time frame, and Important to you.

    • For example, your goal might be to: Consume a balanced, nutritious, strict gluten-free diet at every meal over the next week.
  3. Coping strategies 

    Help you overcome barriers to achieving your goals. Start with identifying barriers that are relevant to you and come up with strategies to overcome each barrier.

    • For example, to overcome the barrier of not knowing if an ingredient is gluten-free, you might decide to purchase a resource, such as the pocket dictionary from the Canadian Celiac Association.
  4. Action plans 

    Helps you turn your goals (or your intentions) into reality. In order to change your diet, make sure to plan out meals and snacks for the next week, create reminder notes, and a grocery shopping list to help you stay on track.

    • Using the action planning guide in the behaviour change worksheet you can create a meal plan for the next week.
  5. Feedback

    Every week it is important to look over your plan and think about what worked and what could be improved. The goal is to create a plan that works for you and your family!

Want to try using these strategies to help you change your diet (or any other behaviour!)? Download this Behaviour Change worksheet. If you have any questions please email me.


Norström, F., Sandström, O., Lindholm, L., & Ivarsson, A. (2012). A gluten-free diet reduces symptoms and health care consumption in a Swedish celiac disease population. BMC Gastroenterology, 12, 125.
Guandalini, S., & Assiri, A. (2014). Celiac disease: A review. Journal of the American Medical Association, Advanced online publication. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.3858
Hall, N. J., Rubin, G., & Charnock, A. (2009). Systematic review: Adherence to a gluten-free diet in adult patients with coeliac disease. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 30(4), 315-335.
Sainsbury, K., Mullan, B., & Sharpe, L. (2013). A randomized controlled trial of an online intervention to improve gluten-free diet adherence in celiac disease. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 108, 811-817.
Bandura, A. (1991). Social cognitive theory and self-regulation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 248-287.
Luszczynska A, Gibbons FX, Bettina F. (2004). Self-regulatory cognitions, social comparison, and perceived peers’ behaviors as predictors of nutrition and physical activity: A comparison among adolescents in Hungary, Poland, Turkey, and USA. Psychological Health, 19, 577- 593.