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Foods You Can and Can’t Eat on a Wheat-Free Diet

When you're setting up your wheat-free diet, you need to know what to look for specifically in regard to the condition you're treating. A wheat- or grain-free diet is just that: foods with no wheat or grain. Non-wheat grains with gluten, such as barley and rye, are okay if you're focusing only on wheat.

When planning a gluten-free diet, though, eliminating all grains containing gluten is critical. Here are some tips to help you navigate what is and isn't still on your to-eat list and what other products you may need to avoid. You have to eliminate all wheat from your diet because you can't separate wheat and gluten. However, you might also want to eliminate all grains, which automatically cuts out all gluten.

Thumbs-up wheat-free foods

Have you ever noticed that when you change your diet, the can't-have list of foods is always longer than the can-have list? Well, here's the good news: The can-have list for wheat-, grain-, and gluten-free eating isn't as restrictive as you may think. You can find plenty of good wheat/grain-free and gluten-free foods on the market, plus safe ingredients that let you turn out all kinds of goodies.

All these foods are wheat/grain-free and gluten-free. Some of these foods may cause a rise in blood sugar, however, which leads to an insulin response. Foods on the can-have list include the following:

  • All nonbreaded meat

  • Dairy products (cream, milk, sour cream, lowfat Greek yogurt, and all cheese except for shredded cheese, unless it says “gluten-free”)

  • Eggs

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Non-wheat flour (almond, arrowroot, buckwheat, cassava, chestnut, chia, coconut, flaxseed, potato, soy, and tapioca)

Foods with hidden wheat and gluten

So you've tried everything you can think of to eliminate the wheat and gluten in your diet, but you're still suffering. Ah, what to do? Well, the first step is to make sure you haven't missed any less-than-obvious sources.

When looking to identify hidden wheat, always read the label. These key terms will surface when wheat is present:

  • Contains wheat ingredients

  • Dextrin

  • Emulsifiers

  • Flavorings and additives

  • Hydrolyzed plant and vegetable protein

  • Vegetable protein

Wheat and gluten can be found in other places where you may not think to look. For example, you may be ingesting or absorbing them through personal care products, appliances, and kids toys and art supplies. Go online to find a list of products that contain wheat and gluten so you know what to avoid.

Or if you can't figure out whether your favorite beauty product contains wheat or gluten, call and ask the manufacturer about the ingredients in the product.

When treating celiac disease with a gluten-free diet, little wiggle room is available for cross-contamination. Gluten-free doesn't mean eliminating gluten just from your diet; it means removing it from your life. Consider the following items that can contain gluten:

  • Art supplies (paint)

  • Detergents (laundry and dishwasher)

  • Hair conditioners

  • Lipstick/lip balm

  • Modeling compounds for kids (such as Play-Doh)

  • Multiple-use paper plates, cups, and plasticware

  • Nail polish

  • Scratched or porous cookware and utensils where gluten can hide in the cracks

  • Pots and pans that have been used to prepare foods containing gluten

  • Shampoos

  • Sunscreens

  • Toasters and ovens used to prepare foods containing gluten

When it comes to your kitchen, make sure your cooking area is clean so food intended for someone who can't have wheat/gluten won't be cross-contaminated with the wheat and gluten in other foods.

Be aware of gluten replacements

When manufacturers remove gluten to create a gluten-free food, they also remove the wheat. In order for the food to maintain its structure, it must have a gluten replacement. These substitutes are various types of starches such as tapioca, rice, and potato. The binding and glueyness that these starches provide are adequate for most gluten-free people.

The starches that are added to give gluten-free food the needed binding and texture pose some alternative health risks. Basically, you trade gluten intolerance for elevated blood sugar and insulin levels, which lead to fat storage and diabetes.

This swap presents another set of potential health issues, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Choosing alternative foods that don't contain these high starches is the best way to live gluten-free.

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