If you have celiac disease or nonceliac gluten sensitivity, you'll need to eliminate gluten and wheat from your diet to manage your illness and symptoms. Gluten is found in wheat, as well as barley and rye, and any foods that contain these grains. Talk to your doctor or dietitian to help develop a personalized gluten-free diet.
When trying to eliminate gluten and wheat from your diet, checking your food labels is a good place to start. Because wheat is a common food allergen, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires foods that contain wheat to say so clearly on the label either on the ingredient list or with the words "Contains wheat."
The FDA has also passed a labeling law about foods that claim to be gluten-free. A food product can only be labeled as gluten-free if it does not contain any of the gluten-containing grains or ingredients derived from these grains. The gluten-free label is not mandatory, so a food that is known to be gluten-free does not have to label itself as such.
While the label can give you some information about a food being gluten- and wheat-free, it's always a good idea to take a look at the ingredients list as well.
To avoid wheat, foods should not contain:
- Cereal extract
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Vital wheat gluten
- Glucose syrup
In addition to the above, to avoid gluten, foods should not contain:
- Dextrin or maltodextrin
- Caramel color
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
Eating mostly whole foods can help you avoid wheat and gluten. Fruits, vegetables, fresh animal proteins and seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds are all free of both wheat and gluten. For grains, good choices include rice, amaranth, quinoa, corn, millet and buckwheat.
When looking at foods that are packaged, such as frozen meats or vegetables, read the food label to make sure it's free of gluten and wheat.
Bread, cereal and pasta are common wheat- and gluten-containing foods, but that doesn't mean they're gone from your diet. You can find a number of gluten-free packaged goods to replace your wheat-laden favorites. Options include bread, tortillas, waffles, pancakes, crackers, cookies, pasta, frozen dinners and frozen pizza.
While these are safe foods to eat for people who need to omit wheat and gluten from their diet, they are processed foods and do not always make the healthiest choices. If you're not certain a food is gluten-free, contact the food manufacturer. You can usually find a number on the label.
You can also make your own baked goods using gluten- and wheat-free flours. Flour options range from alternative grains such as millet or rice to nuts such as almonds. Other flour options include soy, teff, corn and chickpea. Selecting the right flour may require some research and experimentation, and a recipe may require a number of different types of flours to get the best results.
Wheat and gluten are not only in your food, but you may also find them in your medicine. Medication fillers are derived from wheat- and other gluten-containing ingredients. Talk to your pharmacist to help you avoid these medications and find wheat- and gluten-free alternatives.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: What I Need to Know About Celiac Disease
- National Foundation for Celiac Awareness: What Is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity?
- Celiac Support Association: Label Reading 101
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Questions and Answers: Gluten-Free Food Labeling Final Rule
- Food Allergy Research and Education: Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act
- Food Allergy Research and Education: Wheat Allergy
- Ener-G: Gluten-Free Products
- Epicurious: Gluten-Free Recipes and Tips
- Practical Gastroenterology: Medications and Celiac Disease -- Tips From a Pharmacist