You’ve got a diagnosis, and they said “Don’t eat anything containing wheat, oats, barley or rye – avoid all gluten”.

OK – but what does that mean? What can you eat?

Your first thought might be ‘oh, that’s not so bad – only four things to avoid’ but after a trip to the supermarket, and looking at some labels, you might be thinking ‘I’m going to starve’.

Luckily, the truth is in-between, and you may end up with a healthier diet than when you were eating gluten, because you’ll probably eat more fresh and home-prepared food.

So – what can I eat?

  • Cereals and grains: rice, millet, maize, quinoa, tapioca, sago, buckwheat, teff and sorghum
  • Meat fish and eggs: all are basically fine – just check any coatings, sauces and spices you add, and check wafer-thin meats too (sometimes wheat flour is added to make them ‘peel apart’)
  • Dairy products: milk and most cream, cheese and yoghurt – check any added ingredients, and check ready-grated cheese (sometimes wheat flour is added to stop the slivers of cheese sticking together)
  • Flours: rice, corn, potato, maize, gram, soya, chickpea, sorghum, tapioca and chestnut flours are all OK
  • Fruit: all fruits are naturally gluten free – check ready-made pie fillings, though
  • Vegetables: all vegetables are naturally gluten free – check any coatings, sauces and spices
  • Fats: you can eat butter, margarine, oils, lard and dripping (if you want!) but avoid suet and check low-fat spreads
  • Breakfast cereal: tricky one – check carefully, and avoid any containing wheat, oats, barley or rye. You might also want to avoid malt extract
  • Bread, crackers and crispbreads: avoid all the conventional ones, and eat only those labelled as gluten free, or those you’ve made yourself and know to be gluten free
  • Cakes, pastries, cookies and biscuits: avoid all the conventional ones, and eat only those labelled as gluten free, or those you’ve made yourself and know to be gluten free
  • Pizza and pasta: avoid all the conventional ones, and eat only those labelled as gluten free, or those you’ve made yourself and know to be gluten free
  • Soup and sauces: check every time, in case wheat flour has been used to thicken a soup or a sauce
  • Pies, quiches, flans and tarts: avoid all the conventional ones, and eat only those labelled as gluten free, or those you’ve made yourself and know to be gluten free
  • Puddings and desserts: check every time – meringue, jelly and most icecreams and sorbets will be fine, but unless specifically labelled gluten free, cheesecakes, pies etc will not be good for you
  • Snacks: nuts, raisins and seeds are all naturally gluten free, but check any added coatings and check all packets of crisps (chips) and other savoury snacks – we’ve been caught out by these before, especially when the recipe is changed
  • Sweets (candy): check every time – chocolate is usually OK to eat, but not if it covers a biscuit! All sorts of unexpected sweets contain wheat, such as Smarties, here in the UK, and licorice
  • Alcohol: wine, spirits, liqueurs and cider – avoid real ale, beer, lager and stout (unless specifically labelled as gluten free)
  • Soft drinks: coffee, tea, juices, cocoa, fizzy drinks and most squashes – but check that they don’t contain barley or ‘cloud’, and don’t drink from vending machines
  • Spices and seasonings: pure salt, pepper, herbs, vinegar – check spices and mustard powder for added flour.
  • Spreads and preserves: jam, marmalade, honey, Marmite (UK only – check in other countries), nut butters
  • Pickles and dressings: check every time
  • Cooking ingredients: yeast, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar – check baking powder for added flour

There – that’s not so bad, is it? Lots to choose from, and you’ll soon get in the habit of checking food labels and asking for the recipe. The next thing to worry about: cross-contamination. More on that soon …