No one ever said it was easy to eat completely gluten free, but it does get easier once you know what you are doing. At initial diagnosis, in times of food shortages or when brands change, things can be tricky. Checking breads, cakes, biscuits, pasta and pizza bases make sense, but there are many foods you may not expect to contain gluten.
Some of the surprising places you will find gluten are mentioned below. Just remember you should ALWAYS check when you buy a new brand, buy a new variant of a brand you’ve had before, or if you are at someone’s house and you haven’t seen the pack. Periodic checking of your favourites is also recommended.
General supermarket products you might assume to be gluten free may include some of the following;
Fish – This includes canned and vacuum packed in the chilled area. Many manufacturers have started to use the “May contain” warning on canned tuna and other seafood. Although tuna doesn’t naturally contain gluten, many of the sauces used to add variety unfortunately do. Fish in springwater can be contaminated as it’s usually packed on the same manufacturing lines.
Herbs, spices, stocks and seasoning mixes - Although generally most herb and spice packets only contain one ingredient, many are packed on lines that have an opportunity for significant cross contamination. Remember a “May contain” statement is not mandatory so products that do pack herbs and spices on the same equipment as gluten ingredients do not have to declare it. Seasoning mixes can be just a combination of these herbs and spices with extra dried ingredients such as tomato. They may however also use anticaking agents or thickeners.
Nuts and seeds - This is another case of shared lines. Many nuts and seeds have “May contain” statements due to manufacturing procedures. GF Pantry has sesame seeds and salts if you are looking for these.
Sushi - Most commercially prepared mayonnaise and vinegars have gluten. Many people know to watch for soy sauce, but mayonnaise and rice wine vinegars are used extensively in sushi outlets making most commercially purchased sushi not safe for coeliac diets. Unless you have checked with the owner on all ingredients, the very popular sushi snack may not be as gluten free as you thought.
Cheese - Most are gluten free, but some brands may contain wheat starch or modified food starches for anticaking purposes. These ingredients, plus cross contamination from specialty cheeses made with added ingredients, may mean your cheese isn’t ok.
Asian sauces - From soy sauce to tamari, satay and sweet chilli, there are many cases of gluten in Asian sauces. Always check the label or purchase from reputable Asian brands such as Chang’s and Ayam who will clearly state gluten free on their labels.
Salad dressing, mayonnaise and vinegar - These often contain modified food starches or products made from barley. A quick mix of olive oil, gluten free red wine vinegar and mustard can be perfect for many salads. GF Pantry also stocks a few dressings and mayonnaises to add in variety. As malt vinegar can be made from barley, pickles and olives can also contain gluten.
Breakfast cereals - Cereals that are corn or rice based sound like they shouldn’t be a problem but often are. Most traditional corn flake and popped rice cereals contain gluten additives. GF Pantry can supply you with other gluten free cereal alternatives, whether for breakfast or making a gluten free party slice.
Soft drinks and cordials - Most are generally gluten free, but there are exceptions so you should always check. Common ones include lemon drinks or ginger beers containing barley, and energy drinks containing who knows what. Check very carefully with those as there is often a long list of ingredients.
Cornflour – This sounds as though it should be made from corn, but in Australia can be made from wheat. Always double check which cornflour your very well meaning host used when they made their very special pavlova or sponge. Was it a true corn flour or wheaten corn flour?
Healthy foods that sound great – Freekah, cous cous, semolina and burghul are all normally made from wheat. Don’t let any well meaning host tell you otherwise. Quinoa or buckwheat on the other hand are great substitutes.
The list goes on…..gluten can be found in so many products. Always check….jams and other spreads, dried fruits, confectionary and chocolate, potato chips and popcorn, icecream, bacon and other preserved meats, beef jerky, hamburger meat, rissoles and sausages, instant coffee and flavoured tea bags, dairy milk alternatives such as nut or soy milk, flavoured or fruit yoghurts, icing mixture, frozen vegetables and chips, as well as pasta sauces. There are many other products we could continue with, but hopefully it gives an idea of common places to check. We have also focused on pantry products; eating out is a whole new kettle of gf fish.
If it’s all a little daunting or you can’t find what you need, remember that GF Pantry has done a lot of the hard work. All Gf Pantry products are gluten free. We only order items that specifically say gluten free on the packaging and therefore require gluten testing, or products we are satisfied are gluten free after checking labels and discussing processes and practices with the manufacturers. We have also spoken to some of these producers about why they don't label products as gluten free. Sometimes the reason is as simple as not enough space on the label. Others simply don't want to limit their potential by being branded as gluten free.
For more advice on eating out go to our coeliac safe dining blog.
For more advice on reading labels head to our gluten free label reading article.
And if you need a little drink sometimes, check out our guide to gluten free alcohol.
Good luck and remember, if we have it at GF Pantry, it has been double checked. Our business depends on it.