As a long-time gluten-free (GF) gal, who discovered she suffered from Celiac years before the term “gluten-free” had even entered the minds of most major food manufacturers, I’ve been unfortunately obligated to become an expert on the subject, simply out of the necessity for my own personal health. Since there are many others out there like me who are also “gluten” for punishment, I’ve created this little guide of common food products that gluten sneakingly creeps its way into.
Unfortunately, most canned soup contains gluten so unless you see “Gluten Free” clearly marked on the package or can, you can pretty much assume it contains gluten. However, certain brands carry GF varieties, for example, some of Campbell’s Healthy Request Soups are GF. Be especially careful of creamy soups when eating out as they usually use wheat as a thickener.
2. Salad Dressings
Pay attention to salad dressing labels! Some of the common ingredients in salad dressings that may contain gluten are: artificial colour, dextrin, ground spices, natural flavourings, wheat flour, soy sauce, malt, malt vinegar, and food starch. One of my favourite GF salad dressing’s is Marzetti’s Simply Dressed Avocado Ranch.
3. Soy Sauce
Yup, even salty soy sauce contains gluten which is a key component in its production. Opt for a GF soy sauce. For example, Kikkoman produces several GF home cooking items including GF Soy Sauce and GF Tamari.
Crazy right? The problem with pickles is that many pickling processes include malt vinegar (also contained in beer) which includes gluten.
5. French Fries
French fries themselves don’t contain gluten because they’re made from potatoes. However, french fries are normally cooked in the same deep fryer used to cook non-GF items, such as chicken fingers, therefore causing cross contamination.
Instant gravy packets at the grocery store often contain gluten. However, there are some GF instant gravies available, for example, Club House Gluten Free Gravies. Generally speaking, it’s also a good idea to skip the gravy when eating out because more often than not, wheat flour is used to thicken it. If you’re making homemade gravy – cornstarch works well as an alternative.
7. Hot dogs
Oh yes, even hot dogs, a favourite among most kids, is often guilty of containing gluten. Look for the hot dogs which are clearly labelled GF.
8. Blue Cheese
Blue cheese is usually made from bread mould, which contains gluten. However, it’s up for debate whether or not the amount of gluten in blue cheese is harmful for Celiacs. Health Canada considers that any food item which contains gluten below 20 parts per million is gluten free. Therefore items like blue cheese, while labelled GF under Health Canada’s rules, still contains traces of gluten. Personally – I avoid it.
9. Veggie (and some beef) patties
Also a gluten suspect! Many of these products are not GF – again, study those labels!
Since couscous looks a bit similar to rice, many people commonly mistake it for GF. However, couscous is actually made from durum-wheat which is most definitely NOT GF.
11. Hot Chocolate
While cocoa powder is GF, many pre-made hot chocolate powders, cappuccino toppings and chocolate sprinkles are not.
12. Caramel and Maple Macchiatos at Starbucks
As a general rule, be careful of anything containing caramel as it’s usually not GF. As much as I love a good Starbucks coffee – I tend to steer clear of many of their speciality drinks, because even if they’re technically GF, which many of them are, there’s that damn issue of cross contamination again.
Pre-packaged marinades commonly include ingredients such as soy sauce, malt vinegar and wheat flour. Therefore, I suggest sticking to homemade marinades that you mix yourself, to be sure all the ingredients are GF.
14. Bouillon Cubes
Although bouillon cubes seem like a simple soup base, most brands contain wheat flour. However, there are GF bouillon cubes available, so again – check the packaging for the GF varieties.
15. Sushi Rice
I fell victim for years to unknowingly eating sushi that contained gluten. It was only recently that I sadly discovered that many sushi restaurants ADD gluten to their sticky rice used to make sushi rolls.
In conclusion, just remember the motto, "when in doubt - go without."
By Melissa Tocheri
Canadian Celiac Association
Non-profit Canadian Association providing up-to-date information for Celiac and gluten related conditions.
The Mayo Clinic
A highly credible source of health information you can always count on to be accurate and up-to-date.
Nutritionist and author of the UnDiet Series of Books.