When my doctor suggested I adopt a gluten-free diet, I thought it would be straightforward. I thought I just needed to stop eating carbohydrates. Although going without bread, crackers, and cookies would be a challenge, I could do it, I told myself. But then I found out that gluten is also in many packaged and processed foods. I was shocked. There’s gluten in ice cream! What?
Thankfully, I love vegetables and follow a whole-foods lifestyle, so I don’t eat many processed or packaged foods anyway.
If you’re new to a diet that excludes gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and a few other obscure grains—it’s important that you read all the ingredient lists and labels on the foods you buy. Look for the allergen information statement. Gluten hides everywhere, even in these seven places:
- Soup. Gluten is often used as a thickener, so it’s a common addition to commercially prepared creamy soups, like chowders and pureed vegetable creations, such as tomato-basil soup. Choose broth-based soups instead. Better yet, make your own soups so you’ll know exactly what’s in your bowl.
- Salad dressing. Again, wheat derivatives are used to give salad dressings a thick, creamy texture. I tend to choose clear oil- and vinegar-based Italian dressings when I’m at a restaurant, just to be safe. At home, I make my own dressing.
- Shampoo. I know, we don’t eat shampoo, but it does come in contact with your lips and could accidentally be ingested. If you’re mildly sensitive to gluten, health and beauty products aren’t as much of a concern. But, if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, be careful what you use near your mouth, including lipsticks, lip balms, facial moisturizers, and hair-care products. All Tom’s of Maine oral-care products, bar soaps, and deodorant/antiperspirants are gluten-free.
- Meat: If you stock your grocery cart with chicken nuggets, sausages, lunch meats, and other processed meats, you may be exposing yourself to gluten. Instead opt for fresh meats from the butcher, such as chicken breasts, sirloin steaks, and turkey legs.
- Hot chocolate and flavored coffee. As the weather gets cooler, I stop at the local coffee shop for a tall cup of hot cocoa more often. If the drink is made from a powdered mix, it’s tough telling what goes into the blend. Steer clear of fancy flavorings. There’s an organic food truck in my town that makes the best cocoa with three ingredients: melted organic chocolate, heavy cream, and milk. Delicious!
- French fries: Potatoes are naturally gluten-free. So, if you’re making homemade french fries, you’re safe. Unfortunately, the french fries used by many restaurants contain several ingredients, not just potatoes. Wheat flour is often used as a filler to bulk up the mix, and many french fries have a thin batter coating made with glutinous flour.
Have you accidentally eaten gluten and been surprised by the stomach-churning result? Tell us about your gluten-free adventures in the comments below.
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