Common Foods People on a Gluten-Free Diet Should Avoid

Pumpernickel bread

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Around 1% of the U.S. population is gluten-intolerant due to celiac disease. Gluten intolerance can also occur due to a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or NCGS. Since most cases of NCGS are self-diagnosed, it's unclear how common the diagnosis truly is. Following a gluten-free diet can help these individuals reduce symptoms.

If you think you're gluten-intolerant, it is important to get a diagnosis from a medical professional. A 2015 study in the journal Digestion found that 86% of those who believe they're gluten-sensitive can actually tolerate it. This means their symptoms were due to a cause unrelated to gluten. Concerned individuals should speak to their doctor before starting a gluten-free diet.

Grain Products With Gluten You Should Avoid

Celiac disease patients and the gluten-intolerant should avoid all food products with wheat, rye, or barley in the ingredients list, or that indicate manufacturing in the presence of wheat, gluten, or gluten-containing ingredients. Some celiac patients also need to avoid oats.

If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, avoid any food containing the following:

  • Wheat berries, wheat bran, and wheat germ.
  • Barley, barley malt, barley flour, or any form of the word barley.
  • Rye, rye flour, pumpernickel flour, or any form of the word rye.
  • Oats, oatmeal, oat flour, oat groats, or any form of the word oats, if your doctor advised you to avoid oats. If your doctor permits oats on your gluten-free diet, look for gluten-free oats.
  • Flour, including instant, bread, cake, enriched, graham, and all-purpose flours. Flours made from safe grains include corn flour, millet flour, and rice flour.
  • Triticale
  • Einkorn
  • Spelt
  • Semolina
  • Durum
  • Bulgur
  • Kamut
  • Couscous
  • Malt, unless specified as being made from a non-gluten source (such as corn).

Common Food Products Containing Gluten

Now that you know the grains you should avoid, you'll need to learn which food products commonly contain these ingredients. Be especially alert for the presence of wheat and gluten in the following:

  • Breads, pastries, cakes, cookies, crackers, doughnuts, pretzels, and all other baked goods.
  • Breakfast cereals, both hot and cold.
  • Pasta, including gnocchi, spaetzle, chow mein, lo mein, and filled pasta. (Gluten-free alternatives are rice noodles, pure buckwheat soba noodles, and pasta from allergy-friendly manufacturers.)
  • Cream-based soups, gravies, and thickened sauces.
  • Breaded meats or vegetables, such as fried chicken or jalapeno poppers.
  • Dumplings, meatballs, lunch meats, meatloaves, and similar foods are often held together with breadcrumbs or flour.
  • Beer. (Gluten-free beers are available.)
  • Salad dressings, Worcestershire sauce, and other condiments.
  • Soy sauce. (Look for wheat-free tamari as an alternative.)

Caution! These Ingredients Contain Gluten, Too

Consumers should look out for the following ingredients on the label and avoid any foods, supplements, or vitamins containing the following unless the label indicates they are from a non-gluten source:

  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Modified food starch
  • Vegetable starch or vegetable protein
  • Gelatinized starch or pregelatinized starch
  • Natural flavorings

Dining out Gluten-Free

Dining out poses a challenge for those with a gluten allergy because it’s not always clear whether or not dishes contain gluten. There is a new trend towards restaurants catering to their gluten-free population and even having a separate menu with items free of gluten. When in doubt, ask your server how a dish is prepared and ask for substitutions whenever possible.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and food allergy: How are they different? 2020.

  2. Capannolo A, Viscido A, Barkad MA, et al. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity Among Patients Perceiving Gluten-Related Symptoms. Digestion. 2015;92(1):8-13. doi:10.1159/000430090

  3. Celiac Disease Foundation. Gluten in medicine, vitamins & supplements. 2020.

Additional Reading

By Victoria Groce
Victoria Groce is a medical writer living with celiac disease who specializes in writing about the dietary management of food allergies.