Gluten-free diets may be all the rage, but not everyone goes gluten-free to lose weight or slim down. In fact, about 1 in every 133 Americans is actually allergic to gluten, and if consumed, it can damage their small intestines, affect their ability to absorb nutrients and have many other unwanted effects on their bodies.
Unfortunately, just cutting out bread, beer and other gluten-heavy food items isn’t enough for Celiacs. Since gluten is so damaging to their systems, they have to avoid even the tiniest amount of the stuff – even small trace amounts that can come from the machinery, the processing or the facility the food is made in can have unfortunate side effects.
Because of this, newly diagnosed Celiacs are forced to become ingredient label experts basically overnight. They have to research, work with their doctor or nutritionist, and plan out every meal, snack and beverage down to the last bite. It can be an overwhelming – and stressful – task, to say the least.
If you were recently diagnosed with Celiac disease, you’re probably feeling the same, so to help, I’ve pulled together an exhaustive list of what you can and can’t eat, as well as hidden sources of gluten to watch out for. Use these tools when choosing your meals, and managing your disease will be easier than ever.
What Celiacs Can and Can’t Eat
The healthier, cleaner food you eat, the easier it is to avoid gluten. Things like fruits, vegetables and dairy products are all gluten-free, as are most meats, poultry, fish and seafood items. Just be careful of ones with a marinade or flavoring; sometimes these contain gluten-filled ingredients like soy sauce.
Beans, legumes and nuts are all safe, too, as are rice, quinoa and millet. The main thing you want to be careful with is wheat, barley, rye and flour. These items are jam-packed with gluten, and they can really wreak havoc on a Celiac’s body. Sadly, they’re often used in many off-the-shelf foods, usually as a thickener. You’ll have to be careful to read ingredient labels before buying any pre-made meals, sauces or food items.
Here are some other things you’ll want to be wary about:
- Oats – Unless oats or oatmeal are specifically labeled gluten-free, you’ll want to avoid these. They may seem like a healthy meal, but they often either contain gluten, or they’re processed on the same machinery as cereals and other gluten-filled breakfast items.
- Soups and sauces – Because flour is a thickener, it’s often used to firm up soups, sauces and stews. Make sure to read the label carefully before buying one of these items – especially a cream-based one. These are the most common culprits.
- Drinks – Food isn’t the only thing you need to be on top of if you’re a Celiac. You also need to be cognizant of the drinks you consume as well. Many beverages, particularly beers, lagers and other alcoholic drinks, contain barley, malt or wheat. If you do want to drink, stick to wine or one of the many gluten-free beers now on the market.
The single, easiest way to avoid gluten is to make all your food yourself – in your own kitchen. This eliminates the possibility of cross-contamination, and it ensures you know each and every ingredient that is going to your body. It might sound tedious, but when the alternative is spending the next 2 days bowled over in pain, cooking every meal yourself starts to sound pretty appealing.
Hidden Sources of Gluten
Obviously, if you spot “wheat” on an ingredient label, you’re going to avoid it. But what other items should you be on the lookout for? Are there hidden sources of gluten that aren’t as glaring?
You bet they are. And being able to recognize these and avoid them is crucial if you want to manage your disease. Here are just a few of the many, many hidden sources of gluten that could be in your food:
- Malt (and malt extract, malted milk, malt syrup, malt flavoring and malt vinegar)
- Brewer’s yeast
The biggest no-nos as a Celiac are traditional breads, pastas, crackers, cereals, baking mixes, snack foods, seasonings, breadcrumbs, croutons, tortillas and pre-made baked goods. But gluten can be found in virtually any food, so make sure you do your research and know exactly what you’re putting in your body at all times.
Managing Your Disease
Thanks to the rise in popularity of gluten-free diets, managing Celiac disease is easier than ever. There are hundreds of gluten-free alternatives on the market, and even your average grocery store now offers GF cereal, crackers, bread and other food items.
Are you a Celiac? If so, what are your favorite gluten-free meals and foods to eat? Share them with me in the comments!
Please share this article with everybody that you love, so that they can also know what are the best foods to eat if you suffer from celiac disease.
Together we can make this world a happier, healthier world!