What Foods Aren’t Gluten Free?

After being diagnosed with celiac disease, the first question is, “what’s gluten,” and the second, “where is it?”

Gluten is a protein found in some grains, specifically wheat, rye and barley. (This includes all kinds of wheat, even heirloom varieties.) These grains are off limits for someone with celiac disease, no ifs, ands or buts. Most other grains, however, are naturally gluten free.

Unfortunately, gluten is a widely-used food additive, appearing in everything from condiments to rotisserie chickens. Beer and other alcoholic beverages are high risk items, especially ones made with a gluten-containing grain. Foods containing gluten include:

All pasta, unless marked gluten free.

Most fresh pizza (California Pizza Kitchen is a notable exception).

Many breakfast cereals. Rice or Corn Chex, and Cheerios, are notable exceptions.

Beer, unless marked gluten free (look for a “certified gluten free” label).

Some foods don’t have naturally occurring gluten, but may be cross contaminated during processing or shipment. (Oatmeal is a common example.) Some high-risk foods include:

Other grains, unless marked gluten free.

Highly processed foods.

Foods made on shared equipment; one example would be potato chips.


Processed meats (since gluten is a binding agent, it’s often added to seasonings).

Verify, Verify, Verify

To confirm a food is gluten free,

Verify that there are no ingredients that naturally contain gluten, such as wheat or barley.

Check the packaging for any warnings, or for a “gluten free” label. Not all GF labels are created equal, however!

If still in doubt, contact the manufacturer. Some foods may be perfectly fine, and simply don’t have a GF label yet.

Fresh fruits and vegetables will quickly pass the test: simply wash them, and the risk of contamination is virtually nil. More processed foods, however, are more likely to require a call to the manufacturer, or at least some Googling.

If you’re eating out, be very aware of the restaurant’s policies on gluten, especially cross contamination. The Gluten Intolerance Group has a handy page¬†on their website that lists restaurants meeting their strict gluten-free standards.

Remember that “gluten free” does not automatically mean “celiac safe.” Dominos Pizza, for example, makes a gluten free pizza crust, but it’s made on the same equipment as their other products, making cross contamination inevitable.

At first, a gluten free diet requires strict vigilance. After a little while, however, you’ll have a better idea of which foods contain gluten, and avoiding it will come more naturally.


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