25 Gluten Free Ingredients to Look for When Shopping
Many people assume the gluten free diet is extremely restrictive, especially when they first make the switch. What you’ll eventually come to realize, however, is that many foods are naturally gluten free – especially fresh produce and proteins. You may also find that it’s easier than you once thought to identify sources of gluten in commercial foods when you know what to look for.
That being said, gluten free shoppers need to exercise a certain degree of caution at the grocery store to avoid accidental gluten ingestion. Knowing which sections of the grocery store to avoid and what ingredient to look for is essential. Here’s what you need to know about gluten free food shopping.
Shop Smart in Each Section
The simplest advice to follow when you go to the grocery store is to stick to the outer perimeter. Around the perimeter of the store is where you’ll find fresh foods like fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy. The majority of these foods are naturally gluten free, so you have plenty of options.
Once you head into the middle of the store, you’ll have to be a bit more careful.
Here are some tips on what to look for in different sections of the store:
- Produce – Fresh fruits and vegetables are all gluten free, so load up your cart! Salads are a quick and easy gluten free meal and vegetables make great side dishes for gluten free dinners.
- Meat and Seafood – Again, meat and seafood are naturally gluten free, so you have a wide variety of options to choose from. Just be sure to avoid products that have already been seasoned, marinated, or stuffed and consider ordering directly from the butcher to reduce the risk for cross-contamination.
- Bread – It’s best to avoid most of the food in this aisle unless it is certified gluten free, like Schär’s bread products. Be sure to check the “Best By” dates, as some gluten free bread tends to have a shorter shelf-life. Schär bread lasts 3-4 days after opening the packaging.
- Deli – You might assume that meat and cheese is gluten free, but that’s not always the case. Low-fat deli meats are often injected with wheat-based fillers and there’s always a concern for cross-contamination with shared knives and meat slicers. Buy only products you know are gluten free and ask that they be prepared in a dedicated gluten free area.
- Bulk Foods – This section is a great place to stock up on staples like rice and quinoa but be careful – someone might have scooped rice flour using the scoop from the wheat flour bin.
- Dairy – Most dairy products are naturally gluten free, but certain commercial additives may not be. Stick to staples like milk (or non-dairy milk) and cheese, using caution with things like flavored yogurt and ice cream, non-dairy creamer, and low-fat foods.
If you have celiac disease or a severe gluten sensitivity, it’s your responsibility to know how to read a food label and to be able to identify gluten-containing ingredients. Read on for simple tips to help you identify gluten free foods more easily.
Look for These 25 Gluten Free Ingredients
After you’ve checked all the produce, proteins, and dairy off your shopping list you’ll probably head into the middle of the store. This is where you’ll find processed staples as well as snacks and convenience foods – things like boxed cereal, snacks, pasta, and more. Here’s where you need to be careful.
Here are 25 gluten free ingredients to look for when scanning food labels:
- Chia seed
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Dry spices
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Xanthan gum
Remember, just because a product doesn’t contain wheat doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gluten free. Scan the ingredients list and double-check for hidden sources of gluten like barley or rye, keeping an eye out for words like malt or malt flavoring. Even the words gluten free on the label aren’t a guarantee of safety unless the product is labeled “certified gluten free”.
The FDA allows manufacturers to label foods “gluten free” if they contain less than 20 ppm gluten. This doesn’t necessarily mean the product has been tested, however – it may simply mean the product doesn’t contain wheat, barley, and rye ingredients or that any ingredients derived from these grains have been processed to remove gluten.
Don’t Forget to Check the Gluten Free Aisle
The popularity of the gluten free diet continues to rise, even among people for whom it isn’t medically necessary. This has led to an increase in the production of commercially available gluten free foods and many grocery stores have started to offer designated gluten free sections. You can certainly find gluten free foods elsewhere throughout the store, but if you’re looking for an easy option or simply want to browse from a selection, the gluten free aisle is a good place to go.
Though a healthy gluten free diet should include fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, it doesn’t hurt to keep certain convenience foods on hand. The gluten free aisle is a great place to find snacks like crackers, pretzels, and cookies as well as staples like gluten free baking mix, dried pasta, and more. Don’t forget to check the freezer section as well since many stores offer a selection of frozen gluten free foods like bread, pizza, waffles, and frozen entrees. Or, if you’d rather shop from home, check out the Schär Shop here.
The longer you stick to the gluten free diet, the more familiar you’ll become with it. You’ll be able to quickly can a product’s label to determine whether it’s safe and you’ll have a list in your head of trustworthy brands. Until then, it’s best to stick to the ingredients you know are gluten free and, when in doubt, avoid the product entirely.