When we first decided to eat gluten free, going to the grocery store became a daunting proposition. How would we know what was safe to eat? Did we have to limit ourselves to food labeled gluten free? What about fruits and vegetables? Meats? Dairy? It was hard to know where to begin.
It gets easier once you learn that there are whole food groups that are naturally gluten free, although they’re almost never labeled as such! Below, we’ve put together a list of foods that are typically safe.
Fruits and vegetables
Meat (provided it’s not processed, marinated, breaded, etc.)
Most dairy (butter, cream, cheese): be careful of blue cheese, which can be made with wheat, and flavored dairy products (ie. sour cream that may have wheat products mixed in)
Shopping also gets easier once you learn what to look for when reading an ingredients list. Thanks to food allergy labeling laws, any food (except for meats) made with wheat must list it in its ingredients. However, the law does not extend to barley or rye, so it is important to know the terms that indicate its presence.
Barley is used in a lot of foods you might not expect. Words referring to barley products are: ale, beer, brewer’s yeast, lager, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring, malt vinegar, malted milk and brown rice syrup (if malt extract has been added to the rice).
Rye is not usually added to other foods, and doesn’t have a lot of other terms. Avoid anything made with rye flour.
Oats are naturally gluten free, but are often grown or processed alongside gluten containing grains which frequently results in cross-contamination. Look for oats that are labeled gluten free.
Some grocery stores offer lists of their gluten free products. Ask customer service for a copy. Recently, some stores have tried attaching “gluten free” labels to their shelves below gluten free selections. Be wary of this! The labels are stuck, but the food can move around. More than once, we’ve found a product above a gluten free label that didn’t belong in that spot. Your best bet is always to check the label on the food itself.
It can be really helpful to make your first shopping trip with a friend who’s already shopping gluten free, preferably at the same store. It’s great to have someone who already knows the lay of the land guiding your way!