Over the last year and a half, I’ve become adept at speed-reading labels and knowing exactly which keywords to google to find out if what I’m wanting to eat is gluten free. I’d like to offer a few tips I’ve picked up that streamline what could be a laborious process. The following tips will mainly apply to packaged food.
- Labels, labels, labels. Reading the label of any food you eat is VERY important and will quickly become a normal part of a Celiac’s life. Start here.
- Glance at the front of the label. Since gluten-free eating has recently begun to take off, many companies have started including a little “Gluten Free!” blurb on the front of the label. Looking for this – if it’s there, awesome! You now know that this food is gluten free and you’ve saved time by not reading through the ingredients. If it’s not there, continue to the next step.
- Turn the product over and look at the very bottom of the ingredients list. This is where many producers will list major allergens. Normally, this will be in bold font and say “Contains: (insert allergens here: wheat, soy, milk, etc.)”. Look for “Contains: wheat”. If you see it, sorry – put the product back on the shelf. If the allergen list isn’t present or doesn’t contain wheat, you’re not quite safe yet – continue on:
- Read through the ingredients. This can be time consuming, especially on processed foods with many ingredients, but it’s necessary to avoid accidentally consuming gluten. Look for any wheat, barley, or rye, which contain gluten. Spelt and triticale also contain gluten, but these grains are fairly uncommon and probably won’t be in anything you’re eating. One important thing to remember is that malt is made from barley and is therefore not gluten free. This can be tricky if you’re only checking for the word barley, so be sure to keep it in mind.
- If all else fails, google it. If the food in question is not in a package, or if you’re unsure about any ingredient from the ingredients list, be sure to google it. Type the name of the food or ingredient and then “gluten free”. It’ll just take a few seconds and will give you definite answers about what is and isn’t safe to eat. My smartphone is invaluable to me for this purpose – I can whip it out and google anything at any time in just a few seconds.
So, there you have it. 5 steps to determining whether a food is gluten free. Now go out and use them!