I’m Hungry! What Can I Eat?

Person eating out gluten-free food at a table, choosing from three dishes.

The Gluten-Free Diet

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and all their derivatives. It is the most common protein in the human diet. Gluten is what makes baked goods doughy and stretchy, and what makes them fluffy and chewy. This is why gluten-free products often are crumbly. Most oats contain gluten because of crop rotation, and being processed and transported with gluten-containing grains.

Allowed Foods

The following foods are considered safe. All grains, starches, and flours made from the foods below must be labeled gluten free, except for plain rice:

AmaranthNut flours (almond, hazlenut)
Bean floursPotato (flour, starch)
CassavaRice (flour, bran, wild rice, rice blends)
Chia (seed, flour)Seed flours (pumpkin, sunflower)
Coconut flourSorghum
Corn (grits, meal, starch, flour, bran)Soy (flour, soybean)
Flax (seed, flax seed meal/flour)Tapioca (flour, starch, pearls)
Legume flours (chick pea, lentil)*Teff
Mesquite flourYam flour
MilletYucca flour

Lentils and Legumes: Lentils and other legumes are allowed by law to contain a certain percentage of foreign grain, including wheat, barley, and/or rye unless they are labeled gluten free. However, whether the lentils and other legumes you buy are labeled gluten free or not, rinse canned ones thoroughly under running water. Pour dry legumes onto a cookie sheet, pick through them, and then rinse thoroughly under running water.

** Oats: Conventionally grown oats are not gluten free due to high levels of cross-contact.  See “NCA Stance on Oats” to learn more.

Bulk bins: Avoid purchasing items from bulk bins since there is a high risk of cross-contact with gluten-containing ingredients stored next to or above the gluten-free ones. Scoops can also be easily contaminated when used for items from a different bin. It is recommended to purchase gluten-free items that are packaged by the manufacturer and labeled gluten free.

Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds may have cross-contact with gluten-containing grains in the facility. Choose labeled gluten-free nuts and seeds when possible, particularly seasoned or dry roasted.

It’s important to note that “wheat free” does not necessarily mean “gluten free.” For instance, breads labeled “wheat free” might contain rye or other grains, which are not allowed on the gluten-free diet.

Not-Allowed Foods

The following foods are considered not safe:

  • Wheat: All varieties, such as spelt; khorasan; einkorn; emmer; and most forms, such as wheat starch (unless labeled gluten free), wheat flours (for example, semolina), wheat bran, wheat germ, cracked wheat, and hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Rye: All types, including triticale, secale, triticosecale
  • Barley: Most forms, including Brewer’s yeast, malt, malt flavoring, malt extract, and malt vinegar
  • Crossbred: All crossbred varieties of gluten-containing grains, such as triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
  • Oats: Conventionally grown oats are not gluten free due to high levels of cross-contact.  See “NCA Stance on Oats” to learn more.
Ingredients People Question

Please visit this page to read more on the ingredients that can sometimes be confusing or that are commonly questioned.

Reading the Label

If something is not labeled gluten free, watch out for these six words on the label:

  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Malt
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Oats

You do not need to look for a gluten-free label on foods such as fresh produce and whole foods such as plain milk, eggs, cheese and plain meats. However, we do recommend that processed foods, as well as naturally gluten-free grain products such as cereal and flours are labeled gluten free as they have a high risk of cross-contact with gluten.  If they are labeled gluten free they have to adhere to the FDA threshold of less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, which is considered safe for people with celiac disease.

You can read more about labeling here and here.

Sharing a Gluten-Free Kitchen

Make your kitchen gluten-free friendly to make it easy to prepare delicious and healthy meals at home.

First, take stock of your food:

  • Begin by reading all food labels.
  • Sort through the foods you have on hand in your freezer, refrigerator,
    and pantry shelves.
  • Identify which foods contain gluten (all traditional bread products, pizza,
    pasta, cake, cookies, etc.).
  • Check your packaged goods and sauces/condiments, looking for ingredients such as wheat as a thickener or malt (derived from barley) as a flavoring.
  • Notice how many foods are naturally GF (fruits, vegetables, plain meats,
    fish and poultry, cheese, plain rice, and potatoes).
  • Place items containing gluten in separate cabinets or on the bottom shelf,
    to avoid cross-contact with GF items.
  • GF flour should be kept separately.

Next, consider your tools and utensils:

  • Kitchen utensils, pots/pans, and other items that have had contact with
    gluten need to be washed carefully. If an item is too damaged or scratched to
    clean it effectively, consider replacing it.
  • You may want items dedicated to GF food that are difficult to clean such as
    cast-iron pans, colanders, cutting boards, air fryers, and bread machines.
  • A new toaster should be purchased for dedicated use with GF breads.

Lastly, consider other areas where cross-contact is common
in the kitchen:

  • Be careful of cross-contact from residue on knives and other utensils that
    have been used to spread peanut butter, mayonnaise, mustard, jellies, etc.
    No double-dipping! You might choose to keep two jars of such spreadables,
    making sure to label the GF one. Squeeze bottles are also a good option.
  • Food preparation surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned between uses.
  • It is not recommended to use the convection setting to cook gluten-containing
    items because particles may be blown around when cooking GF items in the future.

Family meals – should everyone eat gluten-free?

  • Everyone in the family does not have to eat gluten free but aim to make family meals gluten free.
  • It is safer for your child if the whole meal is gluten free; cross-contact can pose a risk when preparing gluten-free foods at the same time as gluten-containing foods.
  • It is more inclusive for your child if they eat the same foods as everyone else in the family, it can feel alienating to always receive separate food from everyone else.
  • Cooking gluten free does not have to be difficult or expensive. Focus on preparing naturally gluten-free foods such as rice, beans, fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, eggs. You do not need “special” or expensive gluten-free foods to make a healthy delicious gluten-free meal.
  • If you decide to make your kitchen gluten free, please remember that the gluten-free diet is not recommended for someone for whom it is not medically necessary. If an individual with CD/NCGS shares a kitchen with those who eat gluten, consider setting up a system that strikes a balance between all members of the family/household.

Check out this video where Lily goes over some of the places where gluten can hide in the kitchen and this article for more on whether or not your whole family should eat gluten free.