Adopting a gluten-free diet is imperative if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. To be successfully gluten-free, you have to figure out which foods and products do not contain gluten. Gluten is a component of wheat, rye and barley that gives bread and baked goods their sticky, unique texture. Avoiding gluten can be tricky since there are several hidden sources. However, knowing which foods do not contain gluten will allow you to grocery shop and cook with confidence.
Focus on eating foods that are naturally gluten-free to reduce your risk of gluten contamination and to increase consumption of nutrient-dense whole foods. Naturally gluten-free food items include all fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans and dairy products. The oils and butters made from any of these naturally gluten-free foods – such as extra virgin olive oil and almond butter -- are also gluten-free. Countless satisfying and nutritious meals can be prepared using combinations of these food groups.
Gluten-free grains include rice, oats, sorghum, quinoa, buckwheat, corn, millet, teff and amaranth. Experiment with different varieties of rice such as wild, brown, basmati, jasmine and arborio to lend diverse textures and flavors to rice dishes. Like rice, quinoa is available in several varieties: white, red and black. Quinoa can also be purchased as quinoa flakes or quinoa flour for use in baking. Oats are a versatile and filling gluten-free grain. You can enjoy them traditionally as a hot cereal, bake them into cookies and desserts or throw oats into smoothies for added nutrition and texture. Old-fashioned oats can be ground into oat flour and used in gluten-free baking recipes. Oats are inherently gluten-free, but frequently become contaminated during processing on shared equipment with wheat, barley or rye. A tiny speck of gluten can cause discomfort for celiacs; for this reason, choose oats with a certified "gluten-free" label.
There is no deprivation on a gluten-free diet. The most delicious baked goods can be made using gluten-free and nut flours. Consider using a gluten-free all-purpose mix for biscuits, muffins or scones. Pre-packaged gluten-free cookie or brownie mixes are also available at most grocers. Make your own gluten-free baking mix by combining equal parts of gluten-free grain and starch flours, then add a small amount of binder such as xanthum or guar gum. Examples of gluten-free grain flours are brown rice, white rice, sorghum and buckwheat; starches include tapioca, potato and arrowroot. Use the homemade blend in place of regular all-purpose flour for many baked goods. Almond flour is versatile and delicious when used in cookies, biscotti, muffins, crackers and pie crusts. Nut and seed flours are available for purchase in most health-food stores and online.
Most beverages are naturally gluten-free. For example, water, milk, tea, soda and juice contain no gluten. Most alcoholic beverages are also gluten-free; however, there are a few to make note of when following a strict gluten-free regimen. All types of wine including port and sherry are gluten-free, as are liquors such as vodka, tequila, rum, gin, bourbon and whiskey. However, many beers contain gluten as they are made using barley. Milk shakes and ice-cream floats – but not malts -- are gluten-free.
Making gluten-free flour blends or grinding nuts for gluten-free granola may not be feasible for your schedule or lifestyle. Fortunately, commercially prepared gluten-free items are available at most major grocery stores. Gluten-free pizza crusts, bread, muffins, cereal, crackers and snack bars, among other items, are also offered at health-food and select grocery stores. Look for the “gluten-free” label and keep in mind that gluten-free does not mean “healthy” – always check the ingredients list for undesirable items such as added sugar or sodium.
Sara Police has been writing nutrition and fitness-related articles since 2012. Her research has been published in scientific journals such as "Current Hypertension Reports," "Obesity" and the "American Journal of Physiology." She holds a PhD in nutritional sciences from the University of Kentucky and teaches online nutrition courses for Kaplan University.