Sunday, May 8, 2011

How To Start A Gluten-Free Diet: What Can You Eat On A Gluten-Free Diet?

I've avoided starting this post for days. The post where I tell you which foods have gluten and which don't. Partly because I know that many of you already have this information. But more because if I were to tell you everything you need to know, the post would never end. Gluten is a tricky little bugger. It can hide in places you'd never think to look. Like baking soda. Did you know that you have to make sure your baking soda is gluten-free? Or that your Thanksgiving turkey is gluten-free? Turkey!? Really? Why would there ever be gluten in turkey? Some things just don't make sense...

So what I'm going to do is start by telling you what you definitely CAN'T eat, then tell you everything you definitely CAN eat, and finish with the annoying "I don't know so I'm just going to stand in the grocery store aisle with this confused look on my face" items.


If you need to eat gluten-free, that means you cannot eat: 
  • wheat (this includes spelt)
  • barley
  • rye
  • triticale (hybrid of wheat and rye)
Now that's not so bad, is it? That's only 4 things you can't have. What? You think I'm simplifying things? Perhaps a little...

If you need to eat gluten-free, that means you definitely, without a doubt, no standing in the aisle with a look of confusion on your face CAN eat: 
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and peas
  • Eggs (Did you know that the yolks are a good source of lutein, which is good for your eyes? Forget about just eating the egg white; go for the whole egg!)
  • Cow's Milk
  • Edamame
Ok, so here's the thing. I'm going to stop there, and I'll tell you why. I've debated with myself for about 10 minutes on this, because there are a ton of other naturally gluten-free foods. However, I'm going to put them all in the "Stop and Check" list because anything that's been processed has the possibility of having gluten in it. I'm not saying this to scare you, but simply to point out the reality that is gluten-free eating. Like I said earlier, even turkey can have gluten in it, although turkey itself is naturally gluten free. So read on to learn the tricks. You CAN eat everything on this list; you just have to be careful and know what to watch out for: 
  • Fish and Meat: Fresh or frozen, these should be gluten-free, but some can include fillers, marinades, or seasoning, so make sure to double check. 
  • Dairy: Most dairy is gluten-free. However, occasionally a slippery little gluten gnome will slip into your dairy. As far as I know, milk is the only dairy product that is always gluten-free. (If anyone knows something different, feel free to correct me!)
    • Yogurt: Click here for a list of my favorite gluten-free brands
    • Cheese: Most block cheeses are gluten-free, but check the ingredients on bleu cheese, shredded cheese, or any cheese "products."
    • Cottage Cheese, Sour Cream and Cream Cheese: Most are gluten-free, but check the ingredients
  • Beans: Dried beans and canned beans are gluten-free, although I've heard of some people having problems with cross-contamination. This has never been an issue for me personally. However, refried beans can contain gluten, so check the ingredients.
  • Soy: Tofu and tempeh are usually gluten-free. Just read the ingredients. Soy sauce is pretty easy to find a gluten-free version of these days. And San-J makes an awesome gluten-free tamari.
  • Rice, Quinoa, Tapioca, Sorghum, Millet, Buckwheat, Arrowroot, Amaranth, and Teff: All gluten-free! Don't you love the variety? However, if it's processed in a facility with gluten, there could be cross-contamination. So I recommend buying brands that you can trust are gluten-free. Bob's Red Mill is my most trusted purveyor of gluten-free goods.   
  • Oats: Oats must be certified gluten-free. (See note in the comments from Tasty Eats at Home!)
  • Flax, Chia, and Hemp seeds: See above.
  • Tree nuts and Peanuts: A wonderful snack, but if you buy roasted or spiced nuts, they might have some hidden gluten. Which is a good excuse to buy them raw and unsalted. They're healthier for you that way too.
  • Soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, and rice milk: Most brands on the market are gluten-free, but - you know what's coming, right? - check the label.
  • Alcohol: According to Living Without magazine, wine and hard liquor are gluten-free. Beers, ales, and lagers are not (unless you buy gluten-free beer, which I see cropping up more often in bars lately). Generally, I've found that alcohol itself is not a problem, but mixers can contain gluten (usually in the form of barley malt), so be sure to ask if you're getting something fun like a margarita. 
  • Everything else: Check, check, check! I can't think of a single food item for which there isn't a gluten-free option, but the rule of thumb when eating gluten-free is this: 1. Read the label. 2. If the label isn't clear, call the company and ask. 3. When in doubt, don't eat it! 
  • p.s. We may not think of medicine as food, but we put it in our mouths and swallow it, therefore we have to make sure it's gluten-free. Check here or with your pharmacist if you're unsure of any medications you're taking. 
Now, I'm sure I've left something important off this list, so please leave your thoughts in the comments below as well as any links to good resources. Anything you want to add, anything you think I got wrong, or any questions, go for it! There are also a number of other bloggers who have great posts on how to go gluten-free, so I'm going to link to a few of those as well, in case they've included anything I've missed:

How to Go Gluten-Free at Gluten-Free Goddess 
What is Gluten? at Simply Gluten-Free
Gluten-Free Tip Sheets at Gluten-Free Easily (scroll down on the right side; they're PDFs)
Gluten-Free Diet Information at The Gluten-Free Homemaker
30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living at The Whole Gang.

How to Start a Gluten-Free Diet: Part 1
How to Start a Gluten-Free Diet: Part 2

8 comments:

Ricki said...

I agree, keeping it simple at the beginning is the best way to go! Lots of great advice here. :)

Barb said...

Along with spelt, kamut has gluten in it. You did a bang up job,Iris. I have called the company right from the grocery store to inquire. You might get the reaction that "this is propriatory information>" In that case, I just don't buy it. The first time I heard that, I could hardly believe it! If in doubt, leave it out.

Iris said...

Thanks Ricki! Barb, great input! I've never had a company tell me that, but you're right. If a company refused to give information, I would not want to eat anything from them!

Farty Girl said...

Way to make a complicated topic very simple and easy to understand! Many people ask me what I can and can't eat, in regards to gluten, and I usually sigh before trying to explain. By the time I finish, I usually sum it up with: There's gluten and soy in almost everything processed that's in the supermarket. That's the sad truth!

I love how you start simple and work up to the complex details. Nice job!

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Oats aren't addressed here, so I'll speak up about them. Oats have to be certified gluten-free - check the label. Also, just because something doesn't say that it WAS processed in a facility that also processes wheat doesn't automatically make it safe. I like that you recommended Bob's Red Mill in this instance. I learned this the hard way with some millet I ordered recently. I chose a version that didn't say it WAS processed in a facility that also processed wheat (there was another brand that did say that), and so, not really thinking, I bought it. Come to find out, it was contaminated (I later contacted the processor after having a reaction). So it's better to have that affirmative "gluten-free" label than to think that no news is good news! Great post, Iris.

Iris said...

Alta, that's a great point, and I can't believe I forgot to include it! Thank you for reminding me and other readers. I'm going to put a note in my post...

Anderburf said...

When changing my diet I even changed my salt. I now only use Himalayan pink salt from Sustainable Sourcing https://secure.sustainablesourcing.com since it is gluten-free and made in their own facility so no cross contamination happens.

Iris said...

Anderburf, thanks for that information. I never thought about the possibility of cross-contamination with salt.

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