What is Gluten?
Gluten is the general name for one of the proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. It is harmful for someone with celiac disease to eat foods that contain gluten. Even if you don’t feel sick after eating gluten-containing foods, you can still damage your body. While avoiding gluten-containing foods may seem difficult at first, it is easy to identify them once you are familiar with their names. To get started, see the list of gluten-containing foods and ingredients provided at the end of this fact sheet (List 1). Take the list with you when you shop or eat out.
What is Celiac Disease?
In people with a genetic susceptibility, celiac disease results from eating gluten, which triggers an immune response to attack the lining of the small intestine. The process may also damage other areas of the body. Damage to the small intestine interferes with absorption of nutrients and increases the risk for diseases like bone disease, anemia and intestinal cancer. Right now, the only effective treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong, gluten-free diet.
10 Easy steps to a Gluten-Free Diet
Step 1. Identify Naturally Gluten-Free Foods that are at Home
Many foods are naturally gluten-free. Before you buy expensive store-bought gluten-free breads and cereals, look in your kitchen cupboards and refrigerator for the following items.
♦ Fresh fruits
♦ Fresh beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, and seafood
♦ Fresh eggs
♦ Fresh, plain milk, butter, margarine, cream
♦ Plain beans
♦ Plain corn
♦ Plain white rice, brown rice, wild rice
♦ Plain nuts and seeds
♦ Sugar, honey, molasses
♦ Spices and herbs * Plain = no additives
Step 2. Identify Gluten-Free Packaged Foods at Home
Next, take out all of the packaged foods with food labels and put them on your kitchen table. Some packaged foods have gluten hidden in the ingredients. A list of Common Sources of Hidden Gluten is provided for you at the end of this fact sheet (List 2). Read the ingredient lists. If you find any sources of gluten in the ingredients, do not eat that food. You can either get rid of the gluten-containing foods or place them in a separate part of the cabinet so others in the household can eat them. Labeling laws now require wheat ingredients to be clearly labeled, however this does not necessarily mean the food is gluten-free. A gluten-free label, on the other hand, identifies a food that is safe to eat.
Step 3. Plan One Week's Menu Around Naturally Gluten-Free Foods
♦ Cream of rice cereal with fresh fruit or nuts
♦ Cottage cheese or yogurt with fresh fruit
♦ Scrambled eggs, bacon and fresh fruit
♦ Egg, cheese, and vegetable omelet with potatoes and fresh fruit
Lunches and Dinners
♦ Baked potato with cheese and vegetables
♦ Corn tortillas with stir-fried meat and vegetables
♦ Stir-fried meat and vegetables with rice and wheat-free tamari
♦ Bean-and-cheese burritos made with corn tortillas
♦ Grilled meat or fish, baked potato and vegetables
♦ Plain rice cakes with cheese or peanut butter
♦ Nachos made with plain corn chips, cheese and salsa
♦ Celery sticks with cream cheese or peanut butter
♦ String cheese
♦ Plain popcorn with oil and salt
♦ Fresh or canned fruit with yogurt or ice cream
Step 4. Make a Gluten-Free Shopping List
After you have planned your one week's menu, make a gluten-free shopping list for foods you wish to buy. See sample Gluten-Free Shopping List (List 3) at the end of this fact sheet.
Step 5. Read Food Labels Every Time You Buy
Occasionally, ingredients change for the same brand product. So, you must check the ingredients for hidden gluten every time you buy a packaged product. Always take the Shopping Guide: Sources of Gluten (List 4) provided at the end of this fact sheet with you when you go food shopping.
Step 6. Avoid Cross-Contact
♦ If you also shop and prepare food for people who do eat gluten-containing foods, it is important to protect your gluten-free foods from contact with gluten.
♦ Buy two jars of jam, mayonnaise, and peanut butter. One is for you, and the other is for everyone else. A knife with bread crumbs will leave gluten behind in a shared jar. Be sure to label which jar is gluten-free. You can also buy squeeze bottles so nobody needs to use a knife.
♦ Buy a separate toaster for gluten-free breads, or put clean aluminum foil on the rack of your toaster oven when you use it for gluten-free products. You can also try toaster bags that are reusable bags for use in toasters and toaster ovens.
♦ Buy a separate colander/strainer for gluten-free pasta. Colanders are too hard to clean to completely remove gluten. Color coding with a permanent marker can help keep all kitchen utensils separate.
♦ Clean counter tops and cutting boards often to remove gluten containing crumbs.
♦ Clean cooking utensils, knives, pans, grills, thermometers, cloths, and sponges carefully after each use andbefore cooking gluten-free foods.
♦ Store gluten-free foods above gluten-containing foods in your refrigerator and cupboards.
♦ Use pure spices rather than blends.
♦ If you bake with gluten-containing flours, put away or cover your gluten-free foods when you bake. Flour dust can float in the air for several hours and contaminate your gluten-free products.
♦ Avoid purchasing staples from bulk bins.
Step 7. Eat Out and Travel Gluten-Free with Ease
You can eat out at restaurants. Although there is concern for cross-contact when you eat out, you can reduce the risk by planning ahead.
♦Before you leave home, do a little homework. Many restaurants have a website where they post their menus. Write down all the choices that are gluten-free. Often a menu with gluten-free options is available on request.
♦ Avoid bakery-type restaurants or pizza places where the gluten-containing flour can stay in the air and come in contact with other foods.
♦ Call ahead and talk to the manager or chef about items that are prepared gluten-free.
♦ Make your first visit to a restaurant before or after peak dining hours so the staff has enough time to answer your questions.
♦ Always identify yourself as someone who is allergic to wheat, rye and barley. The staff may not understand the word “gluten.”
♦ Bring your own gluten-free food when traveling. This way, you will always have something you can eat. Apples, raisins, fruit leather, rice cakes, and nuts are good travel snacks.
♦ Always ask how the food is prepared. Talk to the manager or chef if your server doesn’t know. Some specific questions to ask include:
♦ Is the meat marinated in soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or Worcestershire sauce?
♦ Is the chicken dusted with flour before pan-frying?
♦ Is the oil used for French fries also used for frying onion rings (or other breaded foods)?
♦ Are there croutons or bacon bits on the salad?
♦ Do you use wheat flour to make the gravy (or thicken the soup)?
♦ If your meals will be prepared for you (hospital, college dining hall), ask to speak with the dietary manager.
Step 8. Balanced Diet
People with celiac disease may not get enough calcium, vitamin D, iron, B vitamins, or fiber on a gluten-free diet. For example, many gluten-free breads, cereals, and pasta are not fortified with vitamins and may be low in fiber. Are you getting enough nutrients from your diet? If not, be sure to include some nutrient dense gluten-free foods listed below and/or take a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Additionally, look for “whole grain” versions that contain the bran layer (rice bran, brown rice, brown rice flour). Variety is key to maximize protein, fiber, and nutrients.
Listed below are some Nutrient Dense Gluten-Free Foods:
Calcuim – Milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines and salmon with bone, broccoli, collard greens, almonds, calcium-fortified juice, amaranth, teff, quinoa
Iron – Meat, fish, chicken, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs, amaranth, auinoa teff
B Vitamins – Eggs, milk, meat, fish, orange juice, beans, nuts, seeds, gluten-free whole grains
Vitamin D – Vitamin D-fortified milk and yogurt, egg yolks, salmon, sardines, tuna
Fiber – Vegetables, fruits, beans, amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, sorghum, teff, flax
Make sure you include the above nutrient dense gluten-free foods and/or take a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Also, look for "whole grain" versions that contain (rice bran, brown rice, brown rice flour). Getting a good variety is the key to maximize protein, fibe and nuritents.
Step 9. Identify Any Additional Food Intolerances
If you are not feeling better on a gluten-free diet, you may have other food intolerances such as lactose (milk sugar), cow’s milk, soy, corn, eggs, nuts, yeast, and acidic foods. Talk to your doctor and dietitian if you are not feeling better on a gluten-free diet.
Step 10. Get Support
For a successful transition to the gluten-free lifestyle, you need support from your doctor, dietitian, family, friends, and other people living with celiac disease.
Joining a local celiac disease support group can be very helpful. These people understand what you are going through better than anyone else. They will be able to offer you emotional support and answer all the questions you have.
Remember, you are fortunate that celiac disease has a known treatment and that the damage is reversible. With practice, you can manage this condition with ease.
Gluten-Containing Foods and Ingredients (This is not a complete list).
*Only those labeled as gluten-free. Oats do not contain gluten, but have the risk of cross-contact during harvesting or processing..
Common Sources of Hidden Gluten (This is not a complete list).
Example of a Gluten-Free Shopping List
Where can you find more helpful information?
Guides for Gluten-Free Dining Out and Travel
Bob and Ruth’s Gluten-Free Dining & Travel Club
410-486-0292 or www.bobandruths.com
Gluten Free on the Go
Gluten-free Restaurant Awareness Program
The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide
Triumph Dining Cards; www.triumphdining.com
Celiac Chicks; www.celiacchicks.com
Waiter, is There Wheat in my Soup? The Offiicial Guide to Dining Out, Shopping, and Traveling Gluten-Free and Allergen-Free by LynnRae Ries
Let’s Eat Out! Your Passport to Living Gluten and Allergy Free Multi-lingual Phrase Passport Pocket-Size Cuisine Passports by Kim Koeller and Robert La France
Gluten-Free Diet – A Comprehensive Resource Guide by Shelley Case, B.Sc., RD
Pocket Dictionary: Acceptability of Foods and Food Ingredients for the Gluten-Free Diet Canadian Celiac Association, 2005
The Gluten-Free Gourmet-Living Well Without Wheat Cookbook by Bette Hagman
Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Cookbook for Kids and Busy Adults by Connie Sarros
Gluten-Free Quick and Easy by Carol Fenster
Sully’s Living Without Magazine
Major National Celiac Support Groups:
Gluten Intolerance Group
Celiac Disease Foundation
Celiac Sprue Association-USA