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Why am I gaining weight on a gluten-free diet?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Gluten-free does not mean calorie-free. There are still calories and carbohydrates in these products. Often GF products can contain lots of sugars. Check the calorie and carb count before eating.
Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics
Some gluten-free items can be higher in fat, sugar and sodium that can lead to weight gain if consuming a large amount of these products. Sometimes the fat is from nuts and seeds which are "good" fats but none the less -- fats. My advice is to consume gluten-free items but be mindful of the quantity of pre-packaged items you are consuming. And don't forget to focus on 5-9 servings of fruit and veggies per day as these are also gluten-free!
Interestingly, gluten-free foods may actually have more calories than the traditionally baked products. Many times manufacturers add extra fat to the product so that the food is more tender and palatable.

All individuals, whether with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, should work with a registered dietitian to develop a healthy, well-balanced diet that meets their unique medical and nutritional needs and better manage their weight. You can find a registered dietitian near you at www.eatright.org.
Fad Diet
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics

A gluten-free diet is not a weight loss diet! The basic principle of lower calories eaten vs. higher calories burned = weight loss holds true. If you are not careful with your portions and caloric intake, weight gain is possible and certain even on a gluten-free diet.

Karen Ansel
Nutrition & Dietetics
Gluten-free diets may sound like a magic bullet for weight loss but they can actually backfire. One reason is that prepackaged gluten-free foods often have added fat and sugar added to make up for the lack of flavor and texture that results when foods are made without gluten. As a result, many gluten free foods can have more calories than their gluten-containing counterparts. Gluten-free pizza, pretzels and cookies are all prime examples. Another reason is that gluten-free foods are often highly processed and low in fiber. Without fiber to slow down their digestion they don't fill us up so we're likely to eat more of them in order to stay full. Bottom line: unless you have celiac disease, you don't need a gluten-free diet. Otherwise, your best bet for weight loss is a well-balanced, portion-controlled diet.
Rachel Begun
Nutrition & Dietetics
There are many reasons why weight gain is experienced on a gluten-free diet. For those who have celiac disease and are starting a gluten-free diet for the first time, your intestines are healing and you are now absorbing nutrients. This is a healthy weight gain and, if eating nutritious foods and taking in the right amount of calories, your weight should balance out after several months on a gluten-free diet. Prior to going gluten free, celiac disease patients are not absorbing nutrients and so are often underweight or weigh less for the amount of calories they are taking in.

For those on a gluten-free diet who don't have celiac disease, or who have celiac disease and continue to gain weight after a long time on a strict gluten-free diet, weight gain can be a result of the gluten-free food choices you are making.
Gluten-free packaged products are often higher in fat, calories and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts and devoid of nutrients. Eating too much of these foods can lead to weight gain. A healthy gluten-free diet should consist mostly of naturally gluten free foods, including: fresh fruits and vegetables; lean meats, poultry and fish; low-fat dairy; gluten-free whole grains; legumes; nuts; and seeds.
Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics
A gluten-free diet is not a calorie-restricted diet, and can still lead to weight gain. The best thing to do for weight loss is to monitor the portion of gluten-free foods that you are eating, and meet with a registered dietitian. Find one at www.eatright.org.
Dee Sandquist
Nutrition & Dietetics

If you are substituting gluten-free products for gluten-containing counterparts, you are most likely eating more calories overall. Prepared gluten-free foods such as cookies, cakes and breads generally have less fiber and more fat. The fat helps the texture and flavor, however, adds calories. The quality of the diet is important. Choose nutrient rich foods that include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Eat less of sweet treats and baked products that are gluten-free.

You may be gaining weight on a gluten-free diet because these so-called gluten-free products, such as breads, may contribute to weight gain by adding extra saturated fat, sugar and sodium as substitutes. Processed gluten-free foods try to compensate for flavor and texture changes which result from the removal of gluten.
Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics
If you are gaining weight on a gluten-free diet, you are probably eating more calories than you think. Just because you are omitting foods with gluten, such as bread or pasta, you may be consuming big portions of rice or gluten-free carbs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.