Gluten, the gluey protein found in wheat and grains can be a challenge to eradicate from your diet. There’s a reason wheat is used in wallpaper paste and adhesives; it sticks to just about anything. Whether you have celiac, gluten-intolerance or simply want to cut down on your gluten consumption, eliminating the omnipresent ingredient takes some time and patience. But with a little dedication, your gluten-free lifestyle will soon become second nature. With the tips provided below, you’ll be able to weed through the myriad of products and fill your pantry with gluten-free goodies.
Gluten-Free vs. Wheat-Free
Carefully reading food labels is a must; thousands of products claim to be ‘wheat free,’ however they contain gluten. Many foods you may not think of contain gluten and the smallest amount can cause problems and trigger your immune system. Unless the package specifically says ‘gluten-free’ and the ingredients are truly free of gluten and wheat, do not chance it. Basically, don’t consume ingredients you cannot pronounce.
Avoid the Culprit in your Man Meal
Sadly, doughnuts, croissants and bagels are out. Not to mention pizza, pasta and warm chocolate chip cookies. No more birthday cake? Don’t fret. The obvious: cereal, pasta and bread (unless noted gluten-free) should be avoided, as well as all forms of wheat and grains including rye, oats, barley, kamut and spelt. Carefully read the ingredients in soups, bouillon and blue cheese, which may contain wheat. Furthermore, matzo flour, chicken nuggets, meat balls, baked beans, pates, self basting turkeys, crab cakes and processed meats may contain gluten. Vegetarian meals often contain gluten; steer clear of seitan and review ingredients for soy-based veggie burgers. Although vegetables are gluten-free in their natural state, when mixed in sauces or fried, gluten may be present.
Watch your Condiments
Gluten contamination is hidden everywhere. Sharing condiments should be avoided; purchase your own and separate with a labeling system. Beware of gravy and sauces that use flour as a thickening agent. Chutneys and pickles, white pepper, brown rice syrup, dressings and spices may contain traces of gluten and should be avoided. The same goes for your everyday condiments such as mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise. Surprisingly, even your tasty potato chips may contain gluten.
Double Check your Beverages
Be cautious with blended and herbal teas as the flavors may be derived from gluten grains. Cocoa, tomato juice, pre-made shakes, root bear, syrups and instant coffee can also contain trace amounts of gluten. Several non-dairy milk products contain the hidden ingredient due to the barley used in processing the natural flavor.
At happy hour, it’s best to avoid beer. When it comes to cocktails and spirits, steer clear of flavorings, mixes and malt. Potato vodkas, distilled whisky, unflavored rums and tequilas are naturally gluten-free. You’re usually in the clear with wines, however many wineries use old oak barrels sealed with food grade paste.
Beware of Extras
Many products often get overlooked when it comes to gluten. Survey the ingredients in your gum, peanut butter, chocolate and energy bars. Don’t forget to check the fine print on your vitamins, medications, and cosmetics, mouthwash, and toothpaste; the culprit could be lurking in any of these.
Gluten-Free Food Shopping
For a quick and painless shopping experience, it’s always best to come up with a strategy. Before heading out the door, compile a grocery list that can be used for future trips. Remember to double check the product is in fact gluten-free—you’d be surprised at how many brands make false advertising claims. Call the company if you’re unsure and be diligent about reading labels. Ingredients can change and you don’t want to be caught with gluten in your basket.
Be sure to check out my newest StyleCaster article,