What Can I Eat?
The most cost-effective and healthy way to follow the gluten-free diet is to seek out naturally gluten-free foods. With the exception of wheat, rye, and barley, almost all foods in their natural state are gluten-free.
A Quick Note on Oats
Oats are technically a gluten-free grain BUT they are often contaminated with wheat between harvesting and processing. While ‘regular’ oats are off limits, certified gluten-free oats are safe for more people with celiac disease. Read our post on oats for more information.
Look for single ingredients foods to start with. A whole pineapple is a pineapple and it is always gluten-free. Anything that is a whole food in it’s natural state is gluten-free. Don’t be fooled by gluten-free labels on single food items. Marketers have begun to capitalize on the gluten-free diet trend and want you to buy their product rather than another. Gluten-free labels have even been found on eggs and milk as well as other naturally gluten-free foods.
The outer edge of the grocery store will have the largest amount of inherently gluten-free items. The inner aisles will have more shelf stable packaged goods which are more likely to contain gluten.
The wet market is an excellent place to shop for naturally gluten-free foods.
Always check labels when shopping, even if it is an item you buy frequently.
All plain, uncooked, unseasoned meat is gluten-free. Chicken, pork, beef, fish, seafood, etc. are all inherently gluten-free.
What to beware of: meats that are pre-seasoned or packed in marinade.
Cows eat wheat, rye and barley, so is their meat gluten-free? Yes, all beef is gluten-free. Cows have four stomachs and digest grains far better than humans. The gluten they eat is fully broken down into small nutrients before entering the blood stream. Even if gluten molecules were in their blood stream, they cannot be used to build the muscle meat which we eat.
Dairy includes milk and egg products. These are all fine. Butter and ghee are naturally gluten-free.
Cheese and yogurt are made from milk and are typically fine, always check ingredients on package for added toppings or flavorings.
Shredded cheese typically will contain a but of starch to keep the strands from sticking together. Usually potato starch is used. If you are unsure of the coating, grating your own block of cheese is an option.
Fruits and Vegetables
Your mom always told you to eat your vegetables, there is no better time than now. All uncut, plain vegetables are inherently gluten-free.
Durian, jackfruit, rambutan, lychee, bananas and any other fruit you fancy are all gluten-free.
Rice, potato and corn are all great gluten-free carbohydrates. Cassava (tapioca), yucca and plantains
All rice is gluten-free, (including glutinous rice which in this context means sticky). Brown, red, jasmine, basmati, long grain, short grain, wild rice, forbidden rice, all gluten-free.
All potatoes are gluten-free, including sweet potatoes, Idaho potatoes and fingerling potatoes. In general, a foil wrapped baked potato is an excellent choice in a restaurant.
Beware of commercially prepared french fries. Often additional ingredients such as flavorings or flour coatings are added to them or contaminated in shared frying oil.
Whole corn is gluten-free as is many products that are made with it. Be sure to check ingredients and cross contamination for items such as corn tortillas, cornstarch, corn flour, popcorn, etc.
There are a vast variety of gluten-free grains available. Popular grains include quinoa, sorghum, millet, amaranth, and teff. For a full list of useful gluten-free grains, please download our flour list. (coming soon). It is not recommended to purchase grains from bulk bins because of the possibility for cross-contact with gluten.
Regular oats are not considered gluten-free due to high cross contamination risk in growing, harvesting and manufacturing. Certified gluten-free oats are grown with special precautions and batch tested to be sure they are free of gluten. Only certified gluten-free oats are considered safe for the gluten-free diet. For more information, please read our article on oats.
There has been some research that some naturally gluten-free grains may contain gluten from cross-contact with gluten-containing grains through harvesting and processing. If you are concerned about the safety of a grain, purchase only versions that are tested for the presence of gluten and contain less than 20 ppm.
All legumes, beans and pulses are gluten-free. This includes soy, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and Job’s Tears (also know as Chinese Barley) just to name a few. If you purchase dried beans, a good rinse before cooking will remove any possible cross contamination.
Nuts & Seeds
All plain, unseasoned nuts are gluten-free. Be sure to check ingredients to be sure they are not dusted or seasoned with additional ingredients.
Seeds such as flax, chia, quinoa, buckwheat and nut flours make an excellent addition to gluten-free baking.
Despite its name, buckwheat is gluten-free. Buckwheat is a seed and is not related to wheat. It has a great taste and texture when incorporated into gluten-free baked goods.
Herbs and Spices
All stand alone herbs and spices are gluten-free. Whenever possible, purchase fresh varieties or grind at home. Check with manufacturers for pre-ground dried spices. McCormick and Natco are two companies that minimize any cross contamination risk.
Ginger, galangal, curry leaves, laksa leaves, fresh chilis, lemongrass are all part of a gluten-free diet.
Common gluten containing ingredients that should be replaced with a gluten-free version in your pantry. Here are some of the most common with their substitutions:
- Soya (soy) sauce – gluten-free soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
- Oyster sauce – gluten-free versions are available
- Teriyaki sauce – gluten-free versions are available
- Hoisin sauce – gluten-free versions are available
- Wheat pasta – rice, corn or quinoa pasta
- Cookies, crackers, bread – gluten-free versions
- Wheat flour – gluten-free flour blend (Bob’s Red Mill One to One, Yes You Can, Orgran, etc. are all commonly available brands)
- Beer – gluten-free beer. Wine and distilled spirits are gluten-free (beware of mixers or flavorings).