Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gluten-Free: The Very Basics

In my previous gluten-free blog post, I mentioned that I was going to start a blog series giving tips, advice, recommendations, etc. on eating gluten-free.  I jumped right in with a recommendation of Chex cereal, but I thought maybe I should back up for a moment and give you a run-down of the basics of avoiding gluten.

When people think of eating gluten-free, they automatically assume they should avoid bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, crackers, etc.  And this is true.  But there are also some items that can contain gluten that may surprise you:

soy sauce
teriyaki sauce
any type of broth
canned soup
salad dressing
lunch meat
hot dogs
ice cream (if it contains mix-ins)
flavored coffee creamers
flavored rice mixes

This is by no means an extensive list.  It's hard to keep track of it all, and it can be quite overwhelming.  The way to know what is safe and what is not?  Ingredient lists.  They are your new best friends.  You must, must, must check the list of ingredients, unless the item says directly on it that it is gluten-free.

Key words that are red flags:

malt (except rice malt, which may or may not contain gluten)
bran (without a precursor, i.e. rice bran and corn bran are safe)

If you see any of the words above, avoid the item.

There are many, many other ingredients that contain gluten that are less common.  A couple you may have seen pop in up a list of ingredients are the following:

Brewer's yeast

These are just four examples.  The full list is quite extensive.  If you need a full list, I'd recommend downloading an app (recommendations to come in a later blog post) or printing a list from online.  One such list I found is here: http://ultimateglutenfree.com/what-foods-contain-gluten-what-ingredients-contain-gluten/.

There are also some ingredients that may or may not contain gluten, depending on the product.  These include modified food starch (modified corn starch is safe) and caramel color.  Whether or not these contain gluten depends on the ingredients in the ingredients.  (And unfortunately, you don't usually get an ingredient list for the ingredients. :) )  In these cases, I usually look up the product online to check if it is gluten-free, or I try to find the product in one of my apps.

The good news about all of this is that eating gluten-free is becoming more and more common.  Substitute gluten-free items are popping up left and right.  There are very few food items for which I haven't found a gluten-free replacement.  I've found replacement tortillas, pretzels, pizza, bread, bagels, waffles, pancake mix, cookies, Oreos, crackers, soy sauce, bouillon, and soups, to name just some of them.  Trust me, this woman does not go hungry. :)

I hope this information gets you started.  Future blog posts will include my recommended gluten-free items, suggested apps, and advice for eating out.

'Till next time!

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