Many foods are naturally gluten-free! For example, all fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free, so load your grocery cart up with these!
Opt for foods with only one or very few ingredients, such as plain yogurt, milk, butter, eggs, fresh meat and poultry, seafood, beans and legumes, honey, oils, and unseasoned nuts. The less processed the food, the lower the risk of hidden gluten.
Go for Gluten-Free Whole Grains
Whole grain products include all parts of the grain kernel—the bran, germ, and endosperm—whereas refined grains include just the white, fluffy endosperm. Because they preserve all naturally occurring nutrients of the grain, whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains. Whole grains contain more fiber, protein, and B vitamins, and have a nuttier, fuller flavor.
Remember, gluten-free does not mean grain-free! There are many healthy whole grains that do not contain gluten, they are:
- Cornmeal (including polenta and popcorn)
- Oats (ensure the label says “gluten-free”)
- Wild rice
Click here to learn how to cook with gluten-free whole grains.
Read Labels Carefully
Reading labels is very important on a gluten-free diet. Remember, manufacturers sometimes add gluten-containing ingredients. As a result, some foods may appear to be gluten-free, but may actually contain hidden sources of gluten. Other foods may appear gluten-free, but may actually contain wheat by another name. Click here for more information about sources of gluten, hidden and otherwise. Always carefully read all ingredient statements on every product.
The best way to determine if a product is gluten-free is to look for a “gluten-free” claim on the label. A product may be labeled as gluten-free if:
- It is inherently gluten-free, meaning it does NOT contain wheat, barley, rye, or triticale, OR
- It does NOT contain an ingredient that is derived from gluten-containing grain (e.g. wheat flour)
- It contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
For an added layer of safety, look for the Certified Gluten-Free seal:
Foods with the Certified Gluten-Free seal meet the strictest standards for gluten-free safety. All ingredients in products with this seal contain less than 10 parts per million of gluten. Manufacturing facilities are also inspected for gluten.
Gluten-free foods are not required to be labeled as “gluten-free”. For example, foods that are naturally gluten-free, like bottled water or tomatoes, may or may not be labeled “gluten-free”. Use your best judgment to determine if foods without a “gluten-free” claim are safe for you to eat. Always read all ingredients carefully.
Remember: “wheat free” is not necessarily gluten-free. In the US, the Food Allergens Labeling and Consumer Protection Act mandates that food labels list the word “wheat” to indicate the presence of this common allergen. However, the label doesn’t have to list other gluten-containing grains like barley, rye, or triticale. Likewise, if the product is labeled “allergen free”, it may not be gluten-free.
When preparing gluten-free foods, it is important to avoid cross-contamination with gluten-containing foods. Cross-contamination occurs when foods or ingredients come into contact with gluten, generally through shared utensils or a shared cooking/storage environment. In order for a food to be safe for someone with celiac disease, it must have never come in contact with foods containing gluten at any point in its production, storage, or cooking.
Places where cross-contamination can occur*:
- Cutting boards
- Flour sifters
- Blenders and food processors
- Deep fryers
- Shared storage containers, including improperly washed containers
- Condiments such as butter, peanut butter, jam, mustard, and mayonnaise may become contaminated when utensils used on gluten-containing food are double-dipped
- Airborne wheat flour—flour can stay airborne for many hours in a bakery (or at home) and contaminate exposed surfaces, utensils, or uncovered gluten-free products
- Pizza—pizzerias that offer gluten-free crust sometimes do not control for cross-contamination with wheat-based dough
- Uncertified baked goods. Some baked goods may not contain gluten, but were made or processed in facilities that also make or process gluten-containing foods. Packaged baked goods made in a certified gluten-free facility have the lowest risk of cross-contamination.
- Bulk bins at grocery stores
*Please note this is not an exhaustive list.
If you or someone in your household follows a gluten-free diet, you may want to have a separate toaster for gluten-free products. Remember to wash all cutting boards, pots, pans, plates, utensils, and storage containers thoroughly before using them for gluten-free foods. Dishwashers may not always completely clean off gluten.
Restaurant kitchens and cafeterias often have a difficult time controlling for cross-contamination. Always check with kitchen staff about ingredients and cross-contamination risks in order to ensure your safety. When dining out, it’s best to seek out restaurants with kitchens that are certified gluten-free.
When In Doubt, Go Without.
When unable to verify that all ingredients in a food item are gluten-free, DO NOT EAT IT.
The information above should be used only as a guide, and should not be used as your ultimate source for gluten-free information. Sunset is not responsible for individual reactions to any products, nor can it guarantee the absence of cross-contamination.