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Gluten-Free Living

What Can I Eat?BreadsFloursGlutenFree

An estimated 3 million Americans have celiac disease, an auto-immune digestive disorder that can have serious health consequences if they consume gluten. Let’s say you’ve been advised
to adopt a strict gluten-free diet (you have celiac disease or a gluten-related disorder, or may
be following an elimination diet to determine gluten’s effect). 

 

What is Gluten?

Gluten is the protein that occurs naturally in wheat, rye, barley and some crossbreeds of grains, such as triticale. Foods that typically contain gluten include breads, cereals, pastas, and baked desserts like cookies, cakes and pies. Gluten is the ingredient that gives breads and other grain products their shape, strength and texture.  

 

The good news!    Naturally gluten-free food groups

There are major food groups and countless number of healthy foods that are naturally gluten-free, healthy and delicious. 
Naturally gluten-free food groups include:

  • all fresh, frozen and canned fruits
  • all fresh, frozen and canned vegetables (not those with sauces or mixed with pasta)
  • all fresh, frozen, canned meat, poultry, fish, seafood (again, not those that are breaded or pre-seasoned)
  • all dry beans and legumes  (many canned beans and legumes are gluten-free)
  • all fresh dairy and eggs (milk, cheese, sour cream, butter, cream cheese)
  • all nuts

What about Grains?     

This is the food group that will require reading labels and following a few rules.

Rule #1:  Avoid wheat, barley, rye and oftentimes, oats; these are gluten-containing grains.

Rule #2:  Buy the following gluten-free grains (but not from bulk bins due to possible cross-contamination). 
Naturally gluten-free grains include:                                                                  

  • rice                
  • quinoa          
  • tapioca (arrowroot)              
  • gluten-free oats
  • corn              
  • beans            
  • soy 
  • millet 
  • sorghum  
  • buckwheat (kasha)                
  • potato
  • nut flours      
  • teff
  • amaranth

Rule #3:  Always read the food label. Purchase foods that state one of these “gluten-free” terms** on the label:

- “Gluten-free”     -“Free of gluten”          

-“No gluten”        -“Without gluten”

**(In August of 2013, the US FDA issued a regulation that defines the term “gluten free” for food labeling.  FDA has set a gluten limit of less than 20 parts per million (ppm) for foods that carry the label “gluten-free,” “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” or “without gluten.” This level is the lowest that can be reliably detected in foods.  Other countries and international bodies use this same criteria, as most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten.)

Rule #4:  Check the list of ingredients. Remember…”wheat free” does not necessarily mean “gluten-free”. Today, many grocery stores have an entire section devoted to “gluten-free” foods.  You’ll find several healthy, gluten-free cereals, breads, crackers, pizza, and pasta…all made from alternative grains). Plus, flour and baking mixes (including cake, cookie and bread mixes, all free of gluten) in both the dry goods and freezer sections.

A word of caution—like any healthy eating pattern plan, limit the number of cookies, cakes, and desserts as most contain added sugars, unhealthy fats, and come with high calorie counts, but little nutritional value. Base your diet around fresh vegetables, fresh salads, high quality protein foods, fresh fruits, and high calcium-containing dairy (use almond, soy or rice milk if you don’t eat cow/sheep/goat products).

Rule #5:  If in Doubt, Go Without! When unable to verify ingredients for a food item you are offered, avoid eating it.  Instead, consider preparing a gluten-free entree or baked good from one of our hand-selected, gluten-free cookbooks found on our website to take to any food-serving gathering. 

 

© 2014, Linda Hachfeld, MPH, RDN
All rights reserved.