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You're avoiding gluten because you have celiac disease, or because you have health problems, possibly fatigue or abdominal pain, caused by sensitivity to gluten or by gluten intolerance.

Whatever the reason, you need simple strategies for preparing delicious and nutritious gluten-free meals and snacks.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat flour, which is used to prepare most of the baked goods that you buy in the store and make at home, including bread, bagels, cookies, and cake.

There are work-arounds that will work for you.

Gluten-Free Baking

Baked goods -- including bread, muffins, and desserts -- may be challenging for cooks who are new to gluten-free baking. The problem is, you can't swap gluten-free flour for regular flour and expect the same result.

Gluten helps dough to rise and lends shape and a chewy texture to baked goods. Stores have gluten-free mixes for bread, pizza crust, and rolls, and gluten-free flours you can substitute for all-purpose flour.

Or you can look for recipes that tell you how to make gluten-free items from scratch. You may need ingredients like xanthan gum or guar gum to help the dough or batter rise.

"I recommend tried-and-true gluten-free recipes for baked goods," says Rachel Begun, RD, blogger at The Gluten-Free RD. Use gluten-free recipes you know will work to prevent baking flops.

Don't Miss Out on Nutrients

Gluten-free baked goods may be less nutritious than regular versions, largely because the flour used to make them is lower in iron, folic acid and other B vitamins, and fiber.

"Gluten-free recipes may rely more on refined flours and starches, so you should eventually learn how to bake with more nutritious flours to improve nutrition," Begun says.

Whole-grain flour, such as brown rice flour, and flours made from beans, amaranth, and potato may give you more nutrients than the white rice flour typically found in packaged mixes and used to make store-bought gluten-free goods.

Nut Flours

Nut flours are nutrient-rich, too. Begun favors almond flour. "Almond flour has different properties than many other gluten-free flours, but I love baking with it," she says.

To start, substitute one-third of a gluten-free flour blend with almond flour. Make your own almond flour by grinding whole, frozen almonds in a food processor.

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