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How to Tell If Something Is Gluten-Free

Is It Really Gluten-Free? Reading Labels 101

reading labelUnless you're shopping at stores like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods — grocery stores that indicate which products are gluten-free — it can be difficult to figure out what is and isn't free of gluten, not to mention, time consuming! Here are some tips to make gluten-free shopping a bit easier.

  1. Become a label reader! This is the most important tip, which is why it's number one. Before you go to the store, print out this safe gluten-free food list, and this unsafe gluten-free food list, so you know what ingredients to watch out for. If you see the words wheat, barley, rye, oats, or malt listed in the ingredients, steer clear. And double check to make sure the item wasn't made on equipment or in a factory that also processes wheat — cross-contamination can be just as harmful if you are intolerant to gluten.

Keep reading for more tips.

  1. Contact the manufacturer. If there's a product that has a confusing labeling, or you are wondering if it's 100 percent gluten-free, contact the company that makes the item and ask if it's gluten-free. I always say I have a severe allergy so that they know it needs to be completely free of gluten — if they have to double check and get back to you, let them. It's much better to be safe than sorry!
  2. Invest in a handy guidebook. One of the best gluten-free grocery guides on the market today, The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide ($25) will arm you with everything you need to know before you head to the grocery store. This book lists over 30,000 brands and store-name products that are gluten-free, including popular companies like Kraft, Nestle, Heinz.
  3. A gluten-free label may mean other things. Unfortunately, a food product may still contain wheat or gluten and be labeled gluten-free. For instance, oats are essentially gluten-free, but because they are usually cross-contaminated with wheat or barley, this makes them unsafe for those with a gluten allergy. Therefore, you need to be very careful that you buy oats from a gluten-free manufacturer. If you're really stumped, bring up Google on your cell phone and search the item in the store for clarification.
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Michael3152024 Michael3152024 5 years
\u00a0@Niami I have always had some digestive problems, I always thought the way I felt, which was lackluster at best, was normal. So when I went to my acupunctureist and told him about the digestive problems I was having, my low energy levels, and my inability to focus, it was suggested that I remove gluten and dairy from my diet. After I did I lost near 20 lbs, my sinuses cleared up (which I didn't even think was a problem) and so did my digestive issues, I was full of energy, and I could focus with a clarity that I haven't felt in a long time.\u00a0 I don't think that I am going eat gluten or dairy again.
Niami Niami 6 years
Get used to eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods. Most of the stuff that is labeled 'gluten-free' is full of extra calories. Udi's GF bread and bagels have good texture and are okay in calories if eaten in moderation. Tinkyada brown rice pasta has good texture, but again, eat it in moderation. Other than those things I eat a lot of salads, chicken, eggs, brown rice, vegetables and fruits and try to avoid the processed stuff. I lost 75 pounds from celiac disease and after going gluten free I started feeling so much better and stopped getting sick. I dropped dairy from my diet recently because my baby is allergic and I am still breastfeeding and I lost 14 pounds in the last 4 days.
amber512 amber512 6 years
I second signing the petition! It would really help those of us who need to know what's in our food (you know, everyone!)
Jules-Gluten-Free Jules-Gluten-Free 6 years
This is a great article on a really tricky, but important issue for all of us living gluten-free for our health. Because label reading for gluten free is so difficult, and "gluten free" can mean different things to different manufacturers, we have started a cause called to push the FDA to finalize Gluten-Free Food Labeling (as they were supposed to do by 2008 under FALCPA). Read more about our cause, sign our on-line petition already signed by thousands of others, send a letter to the FDA or Congress, and see photos/read all the press about our mission. Incidentally, we're also building the World's Tallest Gluten-Free Cake in Washington DC on May 4 to draw attention to this issue! Check it out & support the cause so we can all have an easier time at the grocery store!
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