Gluten-Free Strategies in the Aisle and on the Menu

Reviewed by Sharon Denny, MS, RDN
Waiter taking an order - How to Find Gluten-Free Options

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When considering a gluten-free diet, it is not necessary to avoid dining out. Many restaurants offer a surprising number of gluten-free items. But, before you go, visit the restaurant's website for a menu or call the restaurant manager and discuss what options are available.

Ordering off the Menu

When reviewing the menu, look for gluten-free alternatives. Many dinner items can fit into your diet perfectly. The safest choices at restaurants are simple foods without added breading, sauces, marinades or gravies. Many seasonings can contain gluten, so the best bet is to ask for no seasoning. For instance, try grilled salmon with lemon, baked potato with butter and chives and your favorite steamed vegetables.

Be sure to tell the server you need a gluten-free meal and stress that wheat products cannot touch your food — especially rolls as they often stick to plates. Don't be afraid to ask questions, and, with more individuals developing gluten sensitivities, you're not alone.

If dining at another person's home, tell the host what your needs are in advance and offer to bring food that fits your diet needs.

In the Aisles

At the grocery store, be sure to read food panels carefully. Start by looking for the words gluten-free. When a product is not labeled gluten-free, look for these six words in the ingredient list: wheat, rye, barley, oats, malt (unless a gluten-free source is listed, such as corn malt) and brewer's yeast. If these ingredients are listed, don't buy it. Also, do not eat foods labeled "contains wheat" listed next to the ingredients.

Food products that seem as though they might be gluten-free, such as rice mix, may have traces of gluten if the manufacturer makes other products with gluten in the same facility. Read all product labels each time you purchase a product as the manufacturer may change an ingredient.

On the Labels

Under the FDA rule, a food can be labeled gluten-free when the unavoidable presence of gluten in the food is less than 20 parts per million. A food labeled gluten-free may contain wheat starch if the food contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Foods containing wheat starch that are not labeled gluten-free should not be eaten.

The rules are somewhat different for foods regulated by USDA. These foods include meat products, for example hot dogs; poultry products such as seasoned turkey; egg products (some liquid egg products); and mixed food products that contain significant amounts of meat, for example, prepared stews and chili.

Finally, don't hesitate to speak to your grocer about grains you would like to have available in your store.

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