Although gluten is a protein that occurs naturally only in a handful of grains (wheat, rye, barley, triticale) it is something that can be found in a variety of foods either due to the presence of extracts or byproducts of those grains, or even through cross-contamination in facilities that process gluten-containing foods alongside ones that don’t naturally contain gluten. If you’re just starting out on your gluten free journey, due to Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, even your favorite grocery store can become an overwhelming confusing place. Below, we’ll look at a number of foods in every category that you can add to your list and pop into your cart.
But first, a few general tips for how to sustain a healthy gluten free diet...
Eat lots of whole, fresh foods.
Whole foods that have not been processed are among the safest things to eat if you’re avoiding gluten. That’s because, aside from that short list of grains, gluten shouldn’t crop up in anything else. The challenge with pre-made and certain processed foods is that they have the possibility of cross-contamination at the manufacturing facility, or even contain ingredients that are derived from gluten-containing grains (such as any derivative of “malt”).
Look for gluten free brands.
When you do choose processed or pre-packaged foods, select ones from brands that are totally and 100% gluten free. It is best if they have the certified gluten free badge on their packaging. If a company has dedicated gluten free facilities, such as Schär, there is zero chance of cross contamination!
Look for the “Gluten Free” label.
The FDA allows the “gluten free” label to be used for foods that naturally do not contain any gluten, as well as foods where the naturally occurring gluten was removed through processing, resulting in gluten presence below 20ppm (parts per million). Food manufacturers aren’t required to test the ingredients or finished products, but they have to be able to back up the claim if tested/investigated by the FDA.
Read ingredients AND processing warnings.
In addition, to what’s in the food itself, there is also the facility and packaging to consider. Gluten cross-contamination could happen if something that is naturally gluten free is prepared on the same equipment used for the prep or packaging of foods that do contain gluten, or if ingredients are stored near ones that contain gluten.
The gluten free label is voluntary, and it may be that some food producers have chosen not to label their products as such. It’s important to read through the ingredients list and determine if there are any sneaky gluten-containing ones in there. For example, anything having to do with “malt” (malt vinegar, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring, etc.) should be avoided. Familiarize yourself with potentially unsafe ingredients so that you can spot them when you’re reading labels.
Many food manufacturers will also list allergen concerns right below the ingredients list. Look for statements like “Processed in a facility that processes wheat, barley, rye, etc.”, “Processed in a shared facility”, or “Processed on shared equipment” as red flags that there’s a small possibility a product may have been cross-contaminated.
Fear not, armed with this quick and easy gluten free food list (printable in PDF form, if you want it to be), you’ll be filling your cart with delicious foods and drinks in no time.
Your Gluten Free Shopping Guide
Fruits and Vegetables (Produce)
As we mentioned above, fresh fruit and vegetables are generally safe for gluten sensitive and Celiac sufferers. If you’re getting them from the produce section, feel free to pile everything from apples to zucchini (and all that’s in between) into your cart.
When it comes to canned, frozen and otherwise packaged fruits and vegetables, most of that is safe for the gluten sensitive and Celiac patients as well. Your best bet is to buy single-food frozen fruits and vegetables (e.g. just frozen pineapple or just frozen carrots). Remember to read the label for any information about whether it was processed on equipment or in a facility shared with potentially gluten containing foods, and any ingredients that might have gluten in them. If you’re unsure, you can also check out the company’s website or call them up to confirm their practices.
There are also some good options for fruit cups, just be sure you go with fruit that is in 100% juice, or water.
- Fresh, whole fruit (ALL)
- Fresh, whole vegetables (ALL)
- Frozen fruits & vegetables (MOST plain, no sauce - check labels)
- Fruit in water or 100% juice (many varieties)
- Raisins and dates (various)
- Dried fruit (MOST - check ingredient list for additives)
Breads & Pasta
Because wheat and its derivatives are the basis of so many staple foods like bread and pasta, it can seem a daunting challenge to find those simple basics while on a gluten free diet.
However, there are actually some great options that can be found in many local, regional, and national grocery stores. Pasta and breads are just part of the widening variety of gluten free foods at Walmart, ShopRite, Sprouts, and HEB. Take our products for example.
Sauces, Dressings, Marinades, Condiments
The trouble with this category of foods is that the gluten can be quite sneaky, coming in the form of wheat starch or other additives used to thicken or bind, plus malt vinegar (which has gluten).
Snacks and Sweets
If you’re a snack lover (and who isn’t?) you may feel discouraged seeing wheat, barley, rye in so many popular snack foods. But, don’t despair. There’s plenty out there for gluten free folks. From a long list of chocolate bars to cookies and crackers, your snacky sweet tooth won’t be disappointed. Here’s just a brief look at what you can safely enjoy:
Like fruits and veggies, most plain, unflavored dairy — including plain milk (regardless of the fat percentage), butter, plain yogurt, and cheese — is safe for the gluten-intolerant. You’ll want to be extra vigilant when it comes to flavored yogurt, milk, and processed cheeses, plus beware of potential cross-contamination.
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Seafood
Unprocessed meat, poultry, fish and seafood is by nature gluten free. You can check the labels for any equipment/facility information, packaging details, or contact the company directly to ask about potential cross-contamination with packaged versions of these products. If you’re choosing from your grocery store’s fresh meat/butcher section, be sure to check with the person behind the counter about the store’s practices.
When it comes to processed meat, poultry, fish, and seafood, make sure you read the labels. These can sometimes have gluten-containing flour and other things added as filler or for texture. One of the most popular gluten free meat brands is Boar’s Head.
Tofu Other Vegetarian Protein Sources (Meat Substitutes)
When it comes to vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives, gluten is a concern in part due to the heavily processed nature of these foods. Luckily, there are brands that are either entirely gluten free or offer a line of products that is. From veggie burgers to tofu to faux meat “crumbles”.
Beans & Other Legumes
Plain legumes (beans, lentils, peas, etc.) don’t naturally contain gluten. However, they may sometimes be grown, harvested, or processed such that cross-contamination can happen. Dry beans may be safest, but be sure to check the label for processing information. Canned beans are usually safe, as well, so long as they aren’t canned in sauces or using any additives that contain gluten.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds don’t inherently contain gluten. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds, whether raw or cooked (roasted, toasted, etc.), are gluten free and should be safe. But, trace amounts may sneak in during processing or packaging, so it’s important to read the labels especially on bulk items. Also, be on the lookout when it comes to flavored nut/seed mixes, as there could be wheat starch or other gluten containing ingredients in them.
Gluten free Grains, Flour, Cereals and other Starches
Wheat may seem like your main grain option for everything from breakfast cereal to baked goods, but it’s by no means the only. Amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat (don’t let the name fool you, it’s not really a wheat variety), millet, corn, and rice are just a few of the options for those leading a gluten free lifestyle. Oats are also gluten free, so long as they aren’t processed in a facility that processes wheat and other glutenous grains. Whether you’re incorporating them into side dishes or baked goods (many of these grains can be milled into flour), you have a lot of options for replacing wheat, barley, and rye. And speaking of sides, potatoes in their natural state are gluten free, and potato starch (like that found in many of our products) is a great alternative to wheat-based flour for thickening sauces, as is corn starch.
When it comes to drinks, more options are available to you than not, but it’s still good to be vigilant and read labels. Many sodas and soft drinks, 100% fruit juices, and popular sports drinks are naturally gluten free.
When it comes to alcohol, it can be a little trickier. Regular beer, malt beverages, and grain-derived alcohols like whiskey, rye, and bourbon, will naturally contain gluten. For beer lovers there are alternatives, including beers made from sorghum and other grains that don’t contain gluten, as well as many hard ciders. When it comes to spirits and liquor, tequila, potato vodka, and plain rum don’t contain gluten (spiced or flavored rum can). And of course the other restriction is age, you must be 21/legal drinking age to have alcoholic beverages
If you’re just stepping into your gluten free diet and feeling anxious about how to get started, fear not. Using this simple printable list will help guide you on your journey. If you’re still unsure of what to eat, there are a wide variety of different gluten free meal delivery services and pre-packaged gluten free foods to help ease you into it.