A gluten-free diet is one free of all wheat, barley and rye, as well as ingredients made from these grains. These ingredients and derivatives of them are present in many everyday foods, including bread, pasta, pizza, beer and soy sauce. If you've been directed to abstain from gluten, it may seem like there's little left to eat. But you can enjoy a varied and healthy diet when you know what foods to include on the menu.
People diagnosed with the autoimmune condition known as celiac disease must avoid wheat, barley and rye because, in these people, the protein gluten triggers the body to attack the small intestine. As a result, nutritional deficiencies and a slew of other symptoms, including fatigue, digestive upset and skin rashes, can occur.
People with gluten sensitivity unrelated to celiac disease may also be directed to remove gluten-containing foods from their diet. In these instances, a patient experiences an adverse reaction after consuming gluten, but celiac disease is not the cause. Before deciding to remove gluten on your diet, consult your physician. While you can get all the nutrients you need on a gluten-free plan, it's important to have a proper diagnosis.
Shop the produce section to find a host of gluten-free foods. All fresh vegetables and fruits are safe for those with gluten intolerance. Plain frozen vegetables and fruits, as well as canned versions, are usually gluten-free as well.
Vegetable and fruit products with added sauces or seasonings may not be gluten-free. For example, frozen potatoes -- particularly french fries -- often contain a flour coating. Plain beans and legumes, both dried and canned, are also gluten-free.
Wheat and barley may be off limits, but other grains and pseudo grains are fine for those with gluten intolerance. Quinoa, buckwheat, corn, tapioca, amaranth, wild rice, rice and teff are examples of gluten-free grains. Breads, waffles, baking mixes and sweets made with these flours are also on a gluten-free food list. Oats are naturally gluten free, but are sometimes cross-contaminated from being processed on the same equipment as wheat, so only purchase oats labeled "gluten free."
Watch for baked goods and pasta labeled "wheat free" but not "gluten free." They may still contain barley or rye, which are usually safe for those allergic to wheat to eat -- but are not acceptable for those with gluten intolerance.
Snack foods, such as chips, pretzels, cereal bars and nut mixes, often contain gluten as a flavoring or primary ingredient. You're safest seeking out those labeled "gluten-free."
All unseasoned meat, poultry, fish, tofu, nuts and seeds are gluten-free. If these have been marinated, steer clear unless labeled "gluten-free." Most dairy products are also gluten-free, including yogurt, cottage cheese, butter, milk and milk alternatives and most cheese.
Blue cheese is the one exception as it may experience cross-contamination with gluten-containing products during processing.
You can drink most beverages worry-free when on a gluten-free diet. Soda, juices, sparkling water and wine are gluten-free. Beer, ale, malt beverages -- as well as malt vinegar -- are created using gluten-containing grains and thus cannot be part of a gluten-free list. Distilled liquor, even if made from gluten-containing grains, is considered gluten-free due to the extensive processing; this includes whiskey, vodka and bourbon.
Reading labels is an essential skill when on a gluten-free diet. As of Aug. 14, 2014, any manufacturer placing a label reading "gluten-free" on its product had to comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's definition of less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Note that the use of this label is optional and, some gluten-free foods will not brandish it. Restaurant foods are recommended to use the same guidelines, but "gluten-free" labeling is not enforced.
Foods to be especially wary of, in the store or in restaurants, are soups, salad dressings and sauces. Wheat products are often used as thickeners or flavorings and may show up as "food starch," "wheat gluten" or "flour" in the ingredient list. Many snack foods are sweetened with barley malt syrup, rendering them off-limits for gluten-free dieters.
Note that dietary supplements and vitamins sometimes use wheat as a filler, so you'll need to check those labels as well.