March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Gluten is a type of protein found in common grains such as wheat, barley and rye, as well as foods made from these grains. Consuming even the smallest amounts can damage the intestines of someone with celiac disease. Because of this, individuals with celiac disease must follow a strict gluten-free diet. Here are a few key points to remember when building a grocery list for someone on a gluten-free diet.
Add It to the List
Grains and flours that are gluten-free and considered "safe" to eat include rice, wild rice, corn (maize), sago, soy, potato, tapioca, beans, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, arrowroot, amaranth, teff, Indian ricegrass and uncontaminated oats (labeled as gluten-free oats).
Other naturally gluten-free foods include milk, non-fat dry milk, 100-percent fruit or vegetable juices, fresh fruits and vegetables, single ingredient foods — such as butter, eggs, lentils, peanuts, seeds, tree nuts, fresh fish and shellfish, honey, water, distilled alcoholic beverages such as vodka and gin, and vinegars (except for malt vinegar), wines and gluten-free beers.
Oats are, by nature, gluten-free. However, they nearly always become contaminated during processing or distribution with other gluten-containing grains. Research shows that the many people with celiac disease are able to tolerate a small amount of oats labeled gluten-free without adverse effects. If tolerated, up to about a ½ cup of dry gluten-free oats per day may be included in the diet.
Keep It Off the List
Gluten-containing foods include wheat (einkorn, durum, farro, graham, Kamut, semolina, spelt), rye, barley and triticale. Malt products such as malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar are generally made from barley and, thus, contain gluten. Other foods to avoid include beers, ales and lagers that are made from gluten-containing grains and commercial oats not specifically labeled gluten-free.
Avoid processed foods and any ingredients that may contain wheat, rye, barley or malt (always read the label). These foods include bouillon cubes, brown rice syrup, candy, cold cuts, hot dogs, salami and sausage, communion wafers, drugs and medications, supplements, French fries, gravy, imitation fish, licorice, matzo, modified food starch, pudding mixes, rice mixes, salad dressings, sauces, seasoned snack foods (tortilla chips, potato chips, etc.), seitan, self-basting turkey, stuffing, dressings, soups, soy sauce, thickeners and vegetables in sauce. Some of these foods can be found in gluten-free varieties. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration issued guidelines that manufacturers must follow for labeling foods "gluten-free." When in doubt, check with the food manufacturer or go without.
This list is not complete. People with celiac disease should discuss gluten-free choices with a registered dietitian nutritionist or physician who specializes in celiac disease. An RDN can help individuals with celiac disease understand what foods are safe to eat and what foods to avoid in order to eat a nutritionally adequate diet.