So, you, or someone in your household suddenly finds they have to start a gluten free diet right away. It can most definitely catch you off-guard and may lead to some panic. But don't worry: the learning curve seems steep, but you can understand the basics quite easily.
When I was told my very young son needed a strict gluten free diet in 2005, I had to adapt. And, back then, there weren't many resources to help, or many gluten free products available. Today, though, you've got me to help you get started and to hold your hand along this journey.
We have endless recipes for all your favorites, so you don't ever have to miss out on those gluten-filled treats you loved. Pasta? Bread? Cookies? KFC? Yep. If they can make it with wheat, we can make it without! And many of the recipes are way easier than you might think.
Before we get started with the actual making of the food, let's take a closer look at this special diet and everything it entails. This is a long primer on the basics of a gluten free diet, so feel free to skip around and focus on the sections you need. But bookmark it, too, so you can come back whenever you need a little more information.
**Disclaimers: All of the content on this website, including this page, is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, which I am not in any way qualified to give. All product facts and information, particularly information about processing and labeling, is specific to the United States.
Product links contain affiliate codes. If you click one of the links and make a purchase, I will make a very small commission on the sale, at no extra cost to you.
What is a gluten free diet?
A gluten free diet, in its simplest form, is a diet that excludes gluten. Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. It acts like a glue that holds food together, maintaining its shape and giving it that characteristic chewy texture we often associate with bread, pasta, and other baked goods.
It's also the culprit behind a range of health issues for a significant number of people. For those with gluten-related disorders, consuming gluten can lead to a host of unpleasant symptoms, from digestive discomfort to more serious health complications. You can find out more about gluten intolerance and related disorders here.
When we talk about a gluten free diet, we're talking about a lifestyle that requires careful attention to what we eat. The first thing we think of is avoiding obvious sources of gluten like bread or pasta, but also about avoiding hidden sources of gluten in many processed foods, and anything you put on your skin or otherwise in your body.
You'll quickly get in the habit of reading labels, asking questions, and being vigilant about what goes into and on our bodies.
But don't let that intimidate you. While it may seem daunting at first, a gluten free diet quickly becomes second nature.
Benefits of a gluten free diet
If you've been suffering from an undiagnosed or untreated gluten sensitivity or intolerance, adopting a gluten free lifestyle can be transformative. Eliminating gluten from your diet can eliminate all of those incredibly unpleasant symptoms from brain fog and fatigue to digestive distress and joint pains.
- Reduced pain and inflammation: For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can lead to inflammation in the body, which can manifest as inflammation, pain, and a variety of other concerns. Removing gluten reduces the inflammation, leading to less pain and discomfort.
- Improved digestive health: Consumption of gluten can wreak havoc on the digestive system for those with gluten-related disorders, causing symptoms like bloating, cramps, diarrhea, and constipation. A gluten free diet can help to alleviate these symptoms, leading to improved digestive health and a reduction in other symptoms.
- Increased energy levels: Many people with gluten-related disorders report feeling fatigued or drained of energy. Once on a gluten free diet, many people find that their energy levels increase and they feel more vibrant and alert.
- Improved nutrient absorption: In individuals with celiac disease, gluten damages the lining of the small intestine, impairing the body's ability to absorb nutrients. By following a gluten free diet, the gut can heal, improving nutrient absorption and leading to better overall health.
But the benefits of a gluten free diet aren't limited to those with a diagnosed gluten-related disorder. Many people without a diagnosis also report positive effects from eliminating gluten from their diet, particularly those with other disorders that lead to inflammation in the body. Some of these benefits may include:
- Reduced bloating: Even in people without a gluten-related disorder, gluten can sometimes contribute to bloating. Some people report feeling less bloated when they eliminate gluten from their diet.
- Increased energy: Some people find that they have more energy when they stop eating gluten. While the reasons for this aren't entirely clear, it may be related to improved gut health and nutrient absorption.
- Weight management: While a gluten free diet is not a weight loss diet, some people find that it helps them to better manage their weight. This may be due to making healthier food choices, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.
Who should follow a gluten free diet?
Anyone with a gluten-related disorder should follow a gluten free diet. This includes people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), and gluten ataxia. But hey, even if you don't have a diagnosed condition, if you feel better without gluten, you are welcome here! Mine is only to help, never judge.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a condition where individuals experience symptoms similar to those of celiac disease, but it is believed to be without the characteristic damage to the small intestine seen in celiac disease.
Symptoms of NCGS can include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain, and chronic fatigue. These symptoms occur after consuming gluten and improve or disappear completely when gluten is removed from the diet. However, if you've for NCGS, you won't test positive for celiac disease or wheat allergy, two conditions that also cause adverse reactions to gluten.
Diagnosing NCGS can be a bit tricky. There's no specific test for it, like there is for celiac disease. Instead, it's a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning doctors rule out other conditions (like celiac disease and wheat allergy) before settling on a diagnosis of NCGS. This involves a detailed medical history, symptom assessment, and potentially various medical tests to rule out other health issues.
Despite the challenges in diagnosing NCGS, it's a real and valid condition that can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. If you suspect you might have NCGS, it's important to seek medical advice. Try to avoid starting a gluten free diet without consulting a healthcare provider first. This can make it harder to get a proper diagnosis, as the elimination of gluten from your diet can affect test results.
If you're diagnosed with NCGS, the treatment is a strict gluten free diet. This can help alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. It's also important to have regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor your condition and ensure you're maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet.
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.
When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, their body's immune system responds by attacking the person's small intestine. Specifically, it targets the villi, small finger-like projections lining the small intestine that are responsible for nutrient absorption. When these villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body, leading to malnutrition and a host of other problems.
Symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly among different people. Some might experience digestive symptoms such as abdominal bloating, pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition. Others might have symptoms involving the nervous system, joints, skin, heart, or other organs. Some people with celiac disease are so-called “silent celiacs” as they may not have any obvious outward symptoms at all, but the damage to the small intestine is still occurring.
Diagnosis of celiac disease typically involves blood tests to look for certain antibodies and a biopsy of the small intestine to look for damage to the villi. It's important to keep eating a regular diet including gluten until all testing is complete; otherwise, the test results may not be accurate.
The only effective treatment for celiac disease is a strict, lifelong gluten free diet. This means avoiding all foods and products containing wheat, barley, and rye and their derivatives. Even small amounts of gluten can continue to damage the small intestine, even if they don't cause noticeable symptoms.
Types of gluten-containing grains
There are four main types of gluten-containing grains, with wheat being the most prevalent. Pay attention to food labels to avoid these foods.
Wheat is the most common source of gluten, a protein that gives bread its elasticity and baked goods their chewy texture. There are many varieties of wheat, and all of them contain gluten. Here are a few examples:
- Spelt: Spelt is an ancient form of wheat. It's not safe for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
- Kamut: Khorasan wheat, which is sold under the commercial brand Kamut, is an ancient variety of wheat that's often marketed as a healthier alternative to modern wheat. However, it still contains gluten and is not suitable for those following a gluten free diet.
- Farro: Farro is another ancient form of wheat that contains gluten. It's often used in salads, soups, and side dishes, and is unsuitable for anyone following a gluten free diet.
Barley is another gluten-containing grain. It's often used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to malted beverages. Here are a few places you might find barley:
- Soups and Stews: Barley adds texture and is often used in hearty, comforting dishes like beef barley soup.
- Malted Beverages: Barley is commonly used to make malt, a key ingredient in many beers and malted milk drinks.
Rye is a hearty grain that also contains gluten. It's most commonly found in:
- Rye Bread: This includes both light and dark rye bread, as well as pumpernickel bread.
- Rye Beer: Some types of beer are made with malted rye instead of, or in addition to, barley.
- Cereals: Some breakfast cereals contain rye.
Triticale is a hybrid grain that was developed in the late 19th century by crossing wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale) – hence the name triticale. It was bred to combine the high yield of wheat with the disease resistance and hardiness of rye. Triticale is often used in breads, cereals, and forage for livestock.
Here are a few places you might find triticale:
- Breads and Baked Goods: Triticale flour can be used in breads, muffins, pancakes, and other baked goods. It's often mixed with other flours because it doesn't rise as well as wheat flour on its own.
- Cereals and Granolas: Triticale flakes can be used in breakfast cereals and granolas. They're similar to rolled oats but have a slightly nuttier flavor.
- Animal Feed: Because of its hardiness and high yield, triticale is often used as forage for livestock.
Sources of gluten in food and products
It's not just bread, pasta, and breakfast cereal you've got to watch out for. Gluten appears in the most random products. Even shampoo can contain gluten! And, while this may not be problematic for some people, those with significant sensitivity or gluten-related disease, including dermatitis herpetiformis, need to avoid even this level of gluten exposure.
Breads and baked goods
Most breads, cakes, cookies, and pastries are made with wheat flour, making them a significant source of gluten. This includes everything from your morning toast to the sandwich you grab for lunch, and even the pizza you have for dinner. Gluten gives these baked goods their structure and chewy texture. However, there are now many gluten free alternatives available, made with flours from grains like rice, corn, or potatoes, or from nuts and seeds.
Processed meats, including sausages, hot dogs, and deli meats, can sometimes contain gluten. It's often used as a filler or binder to help the meat hold its shape. Even meat products like meatballs and meatloaf can contain breadcrumbs or wheat-based binders. Always check the label, and when in doubt, opt for fresh, unprocessed meats instead.
Sauces, soups, and condiments
Gluten is often used as a thickener or stabilizer in sauces, soups, and condiments. This can include everything from gravy and pasta sauce to ketchup and salad dressing. Even some spice blends and marinades may contain gluten as an anti-caking agent. Always read the label carefully, and consider making your own sauces and condiments at home so you can control the ingredients. For example, my gluten free barbecue sauce is so easy and, honestly, tastes so much better than store-bought.
Malt is made from barley, a gluten-containing grain. This means that anything with malt vinegar or malt flavoring is not gluten free. This includes many types of beer, malted milk drinks, and certain types of candies and snacks. Look for vinegar made from gluten free grains, like rice, or opt for distilled vinegar, which is also gluten free. And check out my gluten free candy post for more info about what's safe and which candies to avoid.
Cereals and breakfast foods
Many cereals and breakfast foods contain wheat or barley. This includes most traditional oatmeals, granolas, and breakfast cereals. And don't forget pancakes and waffles. Look for cereals made from gluten free grains like rice or corn, and opt for gluten free oats to avoid cross-contamination. And check out my go-to recipe for gluten free pancakes and my super-fluffy gluten free waffles recipe.
Risks of a gluten free diet
While a gluten free diet is essential for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it does come with some potential risks. The main concern is nutritional deficiencies, particularly if you're relying heavily on processed gluten free foods. Here's a closer look at some of the potential risks:
- Nutritional deficiencies: Whole grains contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, and most packaged conventional breads are “enriched” with them. When you eliminate gluten from your diet, you may miss out on some of these nutrients. This can include B vitamins, iron, copper, and fiber. You'll need to make sure you're still getting plenty of these vital nutrients to avoid deficiencies.
- Reliance on processed foods: While there are many processed foods available that are labeled gluten free, these aren't always the healthiest options. They can be high in sugar and fat, and low in fiber. Relying too heavily on these foods can lead to weight gain and other health problems.
- Lack of fiber: Because a lot of gluten free foods are made with refined grains and lack the whole grains found in their gluten-containing counterparts, they can lack fiber. Dietary fiber is so incredibly important for digestive health and overall health, so make sure you're getting plenty of fiber every day.
Alright, let's talk about hidden gluten. It's one of the biggest challenges we face in maintaining a gluten free diet.
You might think that gluten is only found in obvious foods like bread, pasta, and baked goods. But the truth is, it can lurk in many other products, often under sneaky names that you might not recognize.
Take salad dressings and soy sauce, for example. Many of these products use wheat as a thickener or flavor enhancer. And it's not just in food. Gluten can also be found in some medications and supplements, where it's used as a binder.
Cross-contamination. It sounds like something out of a crime scene, doesn't it? But in the world of gluten free living, it's a very real concern. Cross-contamination happens when gluten free foods come into contact with gluten, and it can turn your safely gluten free foods into unsafe foods.
Cross contamination can happen in circumstances like the following: Imagine you're making a sandwich with your gluten free bread, but you use the same knife that was just used to spread mayo on a regular wheat bread sandwich. Or maybe you're cooking pasta, and you use the same pot and strainer for both regular and gluten free pasta.
But it's not just in your kitchen. Cross-contact contamination can also happen outside your home, in places like restaurants and food manufacturing facilities. In restaurants, gluten free and regular foods are often prepared in the same space, which can lead to cross-contamination if strict protocols aren't followed.
And then there's food manufacturing. Many food companies produce both gluten free and gluten-containing products in the same facilities. Even if they clean the equipment between batches, there's still a risk of cross-contact contamination. That's why some people with celiac disease or severe gluten sensitivity choose to only eat products that are made with reliably gluten free ingredients in a completely gluten free environment.
If you do need to avoid gluten, here are a few tips:
Be totally gluten free
This was the option I chose. Instead of trying to run two kitchens in one, I made my whole house gluten free. It's easier, safer, and more cost-effective. And I'm not putting my son at risk. I realize that it's not possible for everyone, but this would always be my choice, as I don't have to worry about which knife or chopping board or toaster I'm using.
Separate utensils and cookware
Consider having separate utensils, cutting boards, and pots for your gluten free cooking. If that's not possible, make sure to thoroughly clean them before preparing gluten free food.
Store foods separately
If you're living with folks who eat gluten, try to have separate areas in your pantry and fridge for gluten free foods.
Be vigilant when eating out
When dining out or ordering in, don't be shy about asking how the food is prepared. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate you and may have procedures in place to avoid cross-contamination. Try using the app Find Me Gluten Free to find safe places to eat wherever you are.
Some products will tell you if they're processed in a facility that also processes gluten-containing foods. When in doubt, always choose products that are certified gluten free.
The cost of eating gluten free, and even getting diagnosed with a gluten intolerance of sensitivity, can be extremely expensive. Gluten free foods are often more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts. This is because of the cost of alternative ingredients, the need for dedicated production facilities to prevent cross-contamination, and the smaller market for these products.
But here's the good news: not all gluten free foods will break the bank. Many naturally gluten free foods, like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and certain grains, are no more expensive than they would be for anyone else. These foods are not only nutritious but also versatile, forming the basis for countless delicious meals.
Now, let's talk about those gluten free specialty products. Yes, they can be pricey, but there are ways to make it work without emptying your wallet:
- Make it yourself: This is where your kitchen becomes your best friend. Making your own gluten free bread, pastries, and other treats can be much more cost-effective than buying them pre-made. Plus, you get the added benefit of knowing exactly what's going into your food. And don't worry, you don't have to be a master chef to pull this off. I have plenty of easy and delicious gluten free baking recipes for you to try.
- Buy in bulk: When it comes to non-perishable gluten free staples like pasta, flour, and grains, buying in bulk can lead to significant savings. Just make sure to store them properly to maintain their freshness.
- Plan your meals: Planning your meals for the week can help you make the most of your ingredients and prevent waste. Plus, it takes the stress out of figuring out what to cook each day.
- Shop sales and use coupons: Keep an eye out for sales on your favorite gluten free products, and don't forget to check if the manufacturer offers coupons. Every little bit helps.
How to kick-start your gluten free diet
If you're in the earliest days of a transition to a gluten free diet, you may feel overwhelmed. I promise that it will all be okay. Just follow these simple rules for preparing your kitchen and purchasing a few packaged foods. Then you can buy some simple gluten free baking ingredients and bake something simple, when you're ready. From there, the sky's the limit!
- Clean your kitchen: My kitchen at home is completely gluten free. We began a gluten free diet for my son when he was very, very young, and I found it was much easier to maintain a completely gluten free kitchen. That was back in 2004, and even though my gluten free son is nearly all grown up, we are still that way. We removed everything from our kitchen that was not gluten free. We donated or gave to friends any gluten-containing packaged foods, including otherwise gluten free condiments that had already been opened and were contaminated with gluten.
- What we bought new:
- A toaster, since our previous one was filled with gluten-containing crumbs
- Any porous cutting or cooking surfaces and utensils like plastic and wood cutting boards, wooden, plastic or silicone utensils, unenameled cast iron pans, baking pans and muffin tins.
- Our colander, mesh sieves and sifter, as gluten is sticky and hides in crevices.
- If you use nonstick pans, I would replace them as they never seem to get squeaky clean.
- What we kept and didn't buy new:
- Stainless steel pans and enameled cast iron were fine, as I just ran them through the dishwasher
- Porcelain, ceramic, stainless steel and glass plates, cups, dishes, bowls, flatware and paring and chef’s knives were fine.
- Purchase some gluten free packaged products so you don’t feel too deprived.Especially in these early days and weeks, only purchase packaged products that are labeled “certified gluten free” and/or are made in a dedicated gluten free facility, so that there is no risk of cross-contamination from gluten-containing products. I recommend buying:
- Schar or Canyon Bakehouse sliced gf bread
- Barilla gluten free dried pasta
- Chex breakfast cereals (other than Wheat Chex)
- Diamond Nut Thins crackers
- Lara Bars, LUNA Bars and KIND Bars are great for on-the-go snacking “emergencies.”
- Purchase some basic gluten free baking pantry items. These will help you get started baking some very simple recipes. I always recommend that your first baking recipe be a drop cookie recipe, like my drop gluten free sugar cookies. You’ll undoubtedly be successful, as that sort of cookie is very forgiving, and you’ll be more likely to delve further into baking. I recommend:
Next, it's time to restart the kitchen, gluten free this time. Start with the basics. Rice and quinoa are are versatile, tasty, and 100% gluten free.
Now, with your kitchen stocked and ready to go, you'll probably find yourself cooking at home more. That's the perfect opportunity to try out some new recipes.
Safe fresh foods
When it comes to a beginning a gluten free diet the easy way, fresh is best! Many fresh foods are naturally gluten free, providing a wealth of options for healthy and delicious meals. Here's a closer look at some of the fresh foods you can enjoy on a gluten free diet:
- Fruits: All fresh fruits are naturally gluten free. This includes everything from apples and oranges to berries and bananas. Whether you enjoy them as a snack, dessert, or part of a meal, fruits are a great way to add vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your diet.
- Vegetables: Just like fruits, all fresh vegetables are naturally gluten free. Whether you love leafy greens, crunchy bell peppers, or starchy potatoes, you can enjoy a rainbow of vegetables on a gluten free diet. They're perfect for salads, side dishes, or even as the main event in a stir-fry or roast.
- Meats and poultry: Fresh, unprocessed meats and poultry are also gluten free. This includes beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and lamb. Just be sure to avoid breaded versions or meats marinated in sauces that might contain gluten.
- Fish and seafood: Fresh fish and seafood are naturally gluten free and offer a great source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Again, avoid breaded versions or seafood with sauces that might contain gluten.
- Dairy products: Most fresh dairy products are gluten free. This includes milk, cheese, and yogurt. However, some processed dairy products like flavored yogurts or processed cheese spreads might contain gluten, so always check the label.
- Eggs: Eggs are a great source of protein and are naturally gluten free. They're incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes from breakfast to dinner.
While it's true that a gluten free diet requires avoiding wheat, barley, and rye, there are still many grains that you can enjoy. These grains are naturally gluten free and can be a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Here's a list of some gluten free grains:
- Rice: This is one of the most common gluten free grains. All varieties of rice, including white, brown, basmati, and jasmine, are gluten free.
- Quinoa: Quinoa is reliably gluten free, a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. It's also a great source of fiber and iron.
- Corn: Corn in all forms, including popcorn, cornmeal (polenta), and corn tortillas, is gluten free.
- Millet: This grain is often used in birdseed, but it's also a delicious, nutrient-rich grain that's completely gluten free.
- Sorghum: Sorghum is a nutrient-packed grain that can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads to stews and even baked goods.
- Buckwheat: Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and is completely gluten free. It's often used to make gluten free pancakes and noodles.
- Amaranth: This ancient grain is rich in protein and fiber, and it's completely gluten free.
- Teff: Teff is a tiny grain that's a staple in Ethiopian cuisine. It's high in protein, fiber, and calcium.
- Oats: While oats are naturally gluten free, they are often contaminated with gluten during processing. Look for oats that are labeled gluten free to ensure they haven't been contaminated.
Gluten free food labels
Understanding food labels is a crucial part of managing a gluten free diet. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the labeling of foods for gluten content. According to the FDA, for a product to be labeled as “gluten free,” it must meet the following requirements:
- It must inherently be gluten free, meaning it doesn't contain wheat, rye, barley, or any of their crossbred hybrids like triticale (a gluten-containing grain) OR
- If the product does contain any of these grains, they must have been processed to remove gluten, and the final product must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.
The limit of less than 20 ppm is in line with those set by many other countries and international bodies.
It's important to note that the “gluten free” label doesn't necessarily mean the product is healthier or lower in calories. It simply means the product is safe for individuals who need to avoid gluten for medical reasons. Also, while the FDA regulates packaged foods and dietary supplements, it doesn't regulate fresh meats or eggs, or most alcoholic beverages.
When shopping, always check labels carefully. Some products might be labeled “wheat-free” but could still contain other sources of gluten, like barley or rye. Also, keep in mind that foods labeled “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” must also meet the FDA's definition of “gluten free.”
What laws govern gluten free food labeling in the United States?
- Top 8 Allergen Labeling: The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act applies to most packaged food products sold in the United States. It requires that packaged food products that include an ingredient that contains a protein from any of the top eight allergens (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, soy, wheat and Crustacean shellfish) be either named clearly in the ingredient list, or in a separate “contains” statement near the ingredient list on the package.
- Meaning of “Gluten Free”: Food bearing a claim of “gluten free” that was labeled after August 5, 2014 must be inherently gluten free, or does not contain an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain that has not been processed to remove gluten to less than 20 parts per million (ppm). Since the use by manufacturers is entirely optional, many non-labeled products are gluten free. The difference now is that no foods that bear the term gluten free may have more than 20 ppm gluten. See FDA Guidance and an FDA Consumer Update on the subject.
Processed foods that often contain gluten
Processed foods can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to hidden gluten. Gluten is often used as a filler, binder, or flavor enhancer, and it can show up in some surprising places. Here are some types of processed foods that often contain gluten:
- Soups and broths: Many canned or packaged soups and broths use wheat flour as a thickener. Even bouillon cubes can contain gluten.
- Sauces and gravies: Gluten is often used as a thickener in sauces and gravies. This includes everything from pasta sauce and gravy to barbecue sauce and salad dressing.
- Ready meals: Many ready-to-eat or microwave meals contain gluten, either in the form of pasta, breaded components, or as a thickener or filler.
- Candies and sweets: Some candies, especially licorice and some gummy candies, use wheat flour. Also, some chocolates might contain malt flavoring, which is derived from barley.
- Processed meats: Some processed meats, like sausages, meatballs, and deli meats, can contain gluten as a filler or binder.
- Snack foods: Many snack foods, like pretzels, crackers, and some chips, are made with wheat flour. Even some rice cakes and popcorn can contain gluten, depending on the flavorings used.
- Cereals and granolas: Unless labeled gluten free, many cereals and granolas contain wheat, barley, or malt flavoring.
- Beverages: Some beverages, like beer and malted drinks, contain gluten. Also, some flavored coffees and teas might use flavorings that contain gluten.
- Ice cream and frozen desserts: Some ice creams and frozen desserts can contain gluten, especially those with add-ins like cookie dough or brownie bits.
Medications and supplements
While it might not be the first place you'd think to look, some medications and supplements contain gluten. It's sometimes used as a filler or binder in both prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as in dietary supplements. Here's what you need to know:
- Prescription medications: While the majority of prescription medications do not contain gluten, there are some that do. These can include certain types of tablets and capsules. If you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, it's important to let your healthcare provider and pharmacist know so they can help you choose a medication that is safe for you.
- Over-the-counter medications: Just like with prescription medications, some over-the-counter medications can contain gluten. This can include certain pain relievers, cough and cold medications, and digestive aids. Always check the label, and if in doubt, ask your pharmacist.
- Dietary supplements: Dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, and herbal products, can also contain gluten. Gluten can be found in the actual supplement itself or in the coating of tablets and capsules. Look for supplements that are labeled gluten free.
- Other products: In addition to medications and supplements, gluten can also be found in other products like toothpaste, shampoo, skincare products, mouthwash, and lipstick. While the amount of gluten in these products is usually very small, it can still be a concern for those with celiac disease or a severe gluten sensitivity.
If you're unsure whether a medication or supplement contains gluten, don't hesitate to ask your pharmacist or doctor. They can help you find out whether a product is safe for you to use. And there's a drugs database maintained by a pharmacist as a public service that may also be a useful starting point.
Eating gluten free in restaurants
Navigating eating out on a gluten free diet can be a bit of a challenge, especially when you're just starting out. But with a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you can still enjoy dining at your favorite restaurants.
- Do your research: Before going to a restaurant, check out their menu online to see if they offer gluten free options. Some restaurants even have separate gluten free menus.
- Communicate with the staff: When you arrive, let the server know that you need to eat gluten ree. They can guide you through the menu and alert the kitchen staff. Don't be shy about asking questions to ensure your meal is truly gluten free.
- Be aware of cross-contamination: Even if a dish is made with gluten free ingredients, it can still be contaminated with gluten during preparation. Ask if the restaurant has a separate preparation area and fryer for gluten free foods.
- Choose naturally gluten free dishes: If you're unsure about a restaurant's ability to accommodate a gluten free diet, opt for dishes that are naturally gluten free, like grilled meats or steamed vegetables.
Make sure you still eat a balanced diet
A gluten free diet can absolutely be a healthy diet. It's all about balance and variety.
When you're eating gluten free, it's easy to focus on what you can't have. Instead, and especially at first, try to focus on all the delicious and nutrient-rich foods you can enjoy. Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins like chicken, fish, and tofu, and gluten free grains like quinoa, rice, and millet are not only gluten free, but they're also nutritious.
Instead, aim for a diet that's rich in whole foods. Fill your plate with colorful fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains. Not only will this give your body the nutrients it needs, but it'll also keep your taste buds happy.