Foods to Avoid with Celiac
So you or someone you know has been diagnosed with celiac disease, and you’ve been told (hopefully) to avoid gluten, but why? What is gluten? Why do you need to avoid it? What foods can you or can’t you have? In this post, I’ll tell you what foods to avoid if you have celiac disease, why, and more.
Why Avoid Gluten if you Have Celiac Disease?
If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, that means your body launches an immune response against itself every time you consume gluten. This causes damage to your small intestine and puts your health at risk. Avoiding gluten for celiac can prevent time in the bathroom, malnutrition, certain cancers, bone density problems, additional autoimmune disease and more.
Foods to Enjoy with Celiac
If you have to eat gluten-free, what foods are safe?
- Animal protein – Meats that are plain (uncured, unseasoned, not in broth etc.) are gluten-free. Lunch meats/deli meats, frozen meat, seasoned meat, cured meat, etc. all need to be checked to make sure they are safe.
- Fat – Enjoy olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, butter, avocado, cheese, and a lot of other fats.
- Produce – Fruits and vegetables are gluten-free. Enjoy them as much as you want without worrying about gluten.
With that note, if it has a label (like canned vegetables or frozen fruit), read it to double-check for safety.
- Gluten-free grains/flours – Think coconut flour, almond flour, buckwheat flour, rice four, and more. Be extra cautious with oats and oat flour as they are typically at high risk for cross-contact.
- Herbs and spices – Spices and herbs are naturally gluten-free and a great way to add flavor to gluten-free food. Single spices are usually safe, the risk comes with spice blends.
- Nuts and seeds – Nuts and seeds are naturally gluten-free. As always, watch out for cross-contact and any unsafe additives. If you need certified gluten-free, nuts.com has options.
- Beans – Beans are naturally gluten-free, just be cautious with dried beans because there can be a higher chance of cross-contact. If you need certified gluten-free beans, you can get them from Edison Grainery. Of course, always check the food label.
Foods to Avoid with Celiac
If you have celiac disease, remember the acronym “BROWS”. The list and graphic below also helps define and dive into some specific foods to avoid if you have celiac.
- Bread (made from gluten grains)
- Pizza (made from gluten grains)
- Pastries (made from gluten grains)
- Beer (even if it’s gluten “removed”)
- Anything with wheat, barley, rye, oats (that aren’t certified gluten-free) and spelt. (“BROWS”).
- Graham flour
- Bread crumbs
- Brewer’s yeast
- Barley malt
- Malt vinegar
- Malt flavoring
Foods that can Have Hidden Gluten:
- Sauces/salad dressings – Sauces and salad dressings often have gluten hidden in them. Flour can be used to thicken sauces and dressings making them unsafe. Additionally, they can have questionable or unsafe ingredients, meaning always read the food label.
- Fried food – Fried food is often a big source of gluten cross-contact because of gluten-free food in oil that’s cooked gluten. Meaning they could have fried breaded onion rings in the same fryer and oil as your french fries. Always double-check if the fries are made in a dedicated fryer. Here’s a list of restaurants with gluten-free french fries if you need it.
- Soups – Soups can have a lot in them that make them unsafe but one of the biggest culprits is flour. Thick creamy soups are often made thick and creamy with the help of flour. Always check the label or ask if the soup was thickened with flour.
- Packaged meat (meat with a nutrition label) – Any meat that comes in a package with an ingredient label should be checked for questionable ingredients like dextrins, starches, soy sauce, spices, broths, and smoke flavoring.
- Seasonings – sometimes seasonings and spice blends can have gluten-containing ingredients. Always check the label.
- Brown rice syrup – Brown rice syrup can be made with barley so be sure to check.
- Distilled alcohol – Distilled alcohols with no additives are considered to be celiac-safe but always check to make sure nothing was added back in.
- Soy sauce – Soy sauce is often fermented with wheat, making it not gluten-free. Make sure to get gluten-free soy sauce or tamari.
- Plant-based protein – A lot of plant-based proteins contain gluten and gluten grains. Seitan, for example, is a plant-based protein made entirely of gluten. Always check the label when buying meat alternatives or make your own (like I do with tofu)!
- Broth – Broths can be gluten-free but always check the food label for unsafe or questionable ingredients.
A Starting Point...
Hopefully, this post serves as a good starting point for helping you determine what is and isn’t safe to eat if you have celiac disease. As always, working with a dietitian who specializes in celiac disease can really help with building your confidence and tailoring your diet to your needs. Lastly, please don’t ever skip out on reading a food label. Reading food labels is so important for staying safe with celiac disease.