Let’s start with some basics! We will walk you through a list of gluten free foods to help you get started on your gluten free journey!
We will focus this article on some major items that are naturally gluten free and from which you may start your culinary journey. Having coeliac disease, having gluten allergy or being gluten intolerant does not mean that you are enslaved to tasteless or ‘raw’ foods. It’s true that some people may have multiple and sometimes severe allergies that require them to have a super strict diet. For those of you who are impacted by multiple restrictions, you will have hopefully had specialist nutritionist advice and a food plan and we hope that you will succeed in managing this aspect of your life!
For the majority, it’s about recognizing the cause and following simple steps (always use caution when purchasing!) to remaining gluten free.
The ‘secret’ to gluten free living is to understand and re-educate yourself on which ingredients are gluten free and then cook up a storm! Now, some of you are fretting, with the claim that “I can’t cook!” However, cooking your own meals becomes an essential part of your gluten free lifestyle. Every person can cook and even if you’ve never done so before, all of us (well, almost all) can follow simple step by step instructions for sure.
Now, if you’re still feeling blue about cooking and need a pick up, check out our very simple to make yet best gluten free chocolate cake recipe to start your cooking journey!
Basic Free List of Gluten Free Foods
For your gluten free journey, you should recall and remind yourself that the majority of unprocessed foods do not contain gluten. Thus, as mentioned previously, if you like (even if you don’t) cooking, then living a naturally gluten free lifestyle is relatively simple. To start, let’s begin with the basics:
All vegetables including starches like potato, beans, legumes etc. are naturally gluten free. Wash well (not only for gluten!) before use. If you buy dried legumes, they may have been contaminated in the packaging process, so be vigilant that they are gluten-free!
Same as vegetables. Washing before eating is always the best way.
- Meat and poultry
In the natural raw uncooked form, meats and poultry are gluten free. However, if you buy pre-marinated meats, you have to check the labels for the ingredients used and for any potential risk from cross contamination. Similarly, if you purchase from a butcher who has pre-marinated meats, you have to carefully observe how they handle the meats (e.g. are the same tongs or forks used?) . Additionally, be careful of cooked or processed meats too for cross contamination issues. Read labels or ask the service personnel.
- Fish and seafood
Similar to meats above, natural and raw is fine and be careful for any pre-marinated raw seafood. What about sushi you may ask? I would ask those preparing the sushi. Be aware that most soy sauces and traditional accompaniments will likely contain gluten! So even if the sushi may be prepared well and is gluten free, you have to pack your own soy (tamari) sauce!
- Fish Fingers
Just wanted to quickly state that we are generally talking about raw foods here, but those of you with young ones in need of gluten free, fish fingers are of course breaded (gluten!). You have to search out specialist gluten free fish fingers producers that are produced, e.g. by Schar or Birds Eye
Dairy products are naturally gluten free but be careful of certain cheeses like blue cheese. Wheat is sometimes used to cultivate moulds (bread mould) for blue cheese and it could affect those with coeliac disease. Other cheeses to which you may want to pay attention are traditionally produced French soft cheeses that are also processed with wheat. Most hard cheeses are fine!
- Beans, Legumes
We are generally vegetarian and consume plenty of beans and legumes for protein and fibre. When purchasing fresh beans e.g. French beans, treat like any vegetable and give it a good wash before cooking. For dried beans (whichever variety), we recommend washing it at least twice before preparing (e.g. before you soak or start to cook). It’s a precaution we take in case there could have been cross contamination. We do this even if we bought packaged beans, If you are intent to purchase such foods from open bins, (we would not generally recommend it), you ought to be especially careful (e.g. minimally they should have an own scoop for each bin).
A short word on wheat grass. We do not ourselves consume or juice wheat grass. From our research, wheat grass, when processed correctly ought be gluten free. However, we avoid it ourselves to be on the safe side. If you do want to give it a try, the best way would probably to grow your own. We found this YouTube video (not our video) and the steps and process seemed fairly straightforward. Again, we don’t recommend it ourselves but if you really want to, perhaps growing your own and controlling the process yourself could give you the most controlled outcome.
List of Gluten Free Grains
Below is a free list of gluten free grains that are naturally gluten free. The general comment here is that all grains are naturally gluten free, BUT, due to general processing and packaging with other products (in the mills/factories), most of them would likely contain gluten traces. Definitely a problem for coeliacs and maybe a lesser issue for the gluten-intolerant or those with gluten allergies.
- Chia Seeds – naturally gluten free but may be processed or packaged in facilities that contain gluten
- Rice like Risotto varieties, Basmati, Jasmine
- Corn or Maize
- Soy, Tofu
- Quinoa – naturally gluten free but may be processed or packaged in facilities that contain gluten
- Flax Seeds
- Oats – there are gluten free oats but for newly diagnosed coeliacs, it’s recommended that you wait at least 1 year before trying out GF certified oats).
Finally, you may start to use nut flours like chickpea flour or coconut flour and so on. The same warnings above regarding cross contamination are still valid. Check that what you finally buy is certified gluten-free!
Below, we’ll share a couple of sites so that you may start searching for some of the items discussed. There are tons of sites and stores but I found that IHerb® works well globally. I also found another store that is intended for customers in the continental US but also send frozen foods!
IHerb® – Ships globally and you can set your country specifications. At IHerb®, you can filter for “Gluten-Free” in the navigation on the left side under “Certification And Diet” which is a great help.
Popular Items That Are Not Always Gluten Free
- Potato chips
This is a big one. We love our chips. You should be careful here as the ingredients added (flavourings, colour enhancers) may contain gluten traces unless its labelled otherwise e.g. stated as Gluten Free (yay!) or perhaps has limited ingredients e.g. potato, oil, salt. Best to check the labels and the producers’ website/FAQ or send them a mail!
- French fries
It’s made from potatoes and its only potatoes, so what gives? Normally yes, they should be gluten free. However, fries that you purchase frozen for deep frying or for oven baking may contain gluten (usually to keep them from sticking together). So, exercise caution when buying and again, check the producer’s website for info.
- Instant Sauces, stock cubes and gravies
Most instant gravies, stock cubes and sauces contain wheat as a thickening agent. There are of course gluten free alternatives available. See above.
Processing of chocolate usually increases the cross-contamination risk as it does for other allergens e.g. nut allergies. Unless you know your sources (we use a local chocolate which we know from experience works for us), take the safe option and go for the certified ones.
If it wasn’t obvious, beer contains gluten (barley and wheat beers). Fortunately, there are gluten free beers available.
You should be aware that in the US and most countries; beer that is “gluten free” is so labelled if it has less than 20 parts per million (20ppm) of gluten. The gluten appears as some beers are made from barley and rye with the gluten removed (mostly). Fort the truly sensitive, you may still tend to be sick after drinking such beer. So caution is advised. Best would be to get gluten free beer made 100% from rice/sorghum/millet etc.
- Soy sauce
Most soy sauces contain wheat, even traditional ones. Typically, you can get good gluten free soy sauce, called “Tamari”. Look out for the certification symbol.
- Meat Substitutes
These typically use gluten to bind the product together – so read the labels carefully. You could get things like tofu burgers and patties but again, read the labels as they may add standard soy sauce (glutinous) or other flavourings that may contain gluten.
Is That All There Is?
In a word, no.
We started here with the basics. To reiterate, most food products are gluten free. The issue starts once you go into semi or highly processed foods whereby many allergens (not only gluten) may come into contact with the final food product.
We hope the article provided you with a strong starting point on your gluten free journey. The key takeaway is that you should use your common sense, be for ever cautious before consuming any food and read labels carefully before you buy!
Finally, most supermarkets carry gluten free items (like flour, chips, chocolate etc.) and more specialty shops are coming up to cater for coeliacs. We recommend whole foods and cooking your own meals but of course you may be time-constrained or cooking disinclined. You could search for more ready-made alternatives and snacks. Start your search using the above links.
In future articles, we will consider reviewing some ready to eat alternatives for those in need for a quick fix.
Leave us your comments or questions on any of the above and we will get back to you soon!