Common Foods People on a Gluten-Free Diet Should Avoid

Pumpernickel bread

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

One percent of the U.S. population is gluten-intolerant due to celiac disease or another cause. If you think you're gluten-intolerant, you should know that a study in the journal Digestion found that 86 percent of those who believe they're gluten-sensitive can actually tolerate it.

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.

(Note: If you are allergic to wheat but do not have celiac disease, please see foods to avoid on a wheat-free diet for a list of unsafe foods that does not include rye- or barley-containing ingredients.)

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
  • Bulgar or Bulghar
  • Kamut
  • Couscous
  • Tempura crumbs
  • 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.)
  • Snack foods
  • 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.

Caution! These Ingredients Contain Gluten, Too

Consumers should look out for the following ingredients on the label and avoid foods 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
  • Soy sauce (look for wheat-free tamari as an alternative)

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.

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