What is a Gluten-free Diet?
In the simplest terms, a gluten-free diet is a diet that doesn’t contain gluten.
Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, barley and Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye), as well as in products made from those grains. All-purpose flour, graham flour and semolina – and foods such as breads, pasta and crackers that are made from these ingredients – are examples of such products. Gluten provides structure and texture to foods that contain it, such as cakes, breakfast cereals and macaroni.
Why Follow a Gluten-free Diet?
For most people, eating gluten-containing foods doesn’t pose a problem. However, individuals with celiac disease must avoid gluten entirely, since it triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine and can lead to a number of serious health problems. In recent years, many people have switched to gluten-free diets, even if they’re not officially diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, since they feel that it benefits their health.
No matter what your reason for following a diet that’s gluten-free, it’s important to know some basics for healthy and successful gluten-free living.
How to Get Started on a Gluten-Free Diet
What can you eat on a gluten-free diet? Happily, quite a lot. To learn about your options, first become an educated label reader. Scheduling an appointment with a Registered Dietitian is a good next step.
Step 1: Look for products with “gluten-free” listed on the label. The FDA has strict guidelines governing the use of “gluten-free” on packaging, so anything with this claim should be safe. If a label doesn’t state “gluten-free,” assume that the product does contain gluten until you’ve conducted a thorough inspection.
Note that some naturally gluten-free foods – such as oats – may be processed in facilities that also process gluten-containing grains, introducing the possibility of cross contamination. Look for gluten-free certification for oats and other foods that may be processed in factories.
Keep in mind, too, that gluten-free labeling isn’t a requirement for all foods. There are many perfectly safe gluten-free items that don’t state “gluten-free” on the label, especially fruits and vegetables.
One more reminder - “wheat-free” doesn’t necessarily mean gluten-free.
Step 2: Be sure to read full ingredients lists, keeping an eye out for primary gluten sources (wheat, rye, Triticale, barley, oats) and less-familiar ones like malt, oats, textured vegetable protein and yeast extract.
A good rule of thumb is not to buy something if you don't recognize ingredients on the label. Jot down any unfamiliar ingredients and do some research before purchasing, or bring those questions to your Registered Dietitian.
Gluten-free Food Shopping Tips
Here’s some great news: Whole, raw, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and seafood are almost always gluten-free. Just remember – if it has a label, read it. If any seasonings have been added (for example, broth injected into chicken breasts or spices added to meat), the label must list the ingredients.
While the majority of dairy products (including milk, yogurt and cheese) are gluten-free, label reading is still a must. Flavored milks, flavored yogurts and other processed dairy items may contain gluten.
As you navigate the rest of the grocery store, be sure to keep checking labels. Luckily, a wide variety of gluten-free snacks, frozen treats and baked goods are now available and marked “gluten-free” for easy shopping.
Gluten-free Eating Tips
Gluten-free cooking isn’t hard, but it may take some getting used to at first. For example, a recipe may call for all-purpose flour, so you’ll need to find a suitable gluten-free substitute. For guidance, check out Kroger’s specialty diet page for gluten-free recipe inspiration and gluten-free groceries you can add right to your cart.
In addition to whole fruits and vegetables, pre-packed snacks like Simple Truth™ Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies and Kroger Gluten-Free Extra Thin Crust Four Cheese Pizza are easy pleasers – for both adults and kids. For a special treat, top toasted gluten-free bread with peanut butter, sliced strawberries and a drizzle of honey.
Looking for an easy-on-the-wallet, fast-to-the table dinner? Ladle gluten-free spaghetti sauce over cooked Simple Truth Organic™ Gluten-Free Linguine, top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and serve with a green salad. Or, try “brinner” (breakfast for dinner). Whip up some fluffy pancakes using Simple Truth Organic™ Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Mix or a similar product and serve with fruit, nut butter, syrup, crispy bacon and/or orange juice.
4. Safety considerations
You may be wondering: Is a gluten-free diet safe? For some followers, a gluten-free diet is medically necessary. Others may follow it because eating gluten-free feels beneficial to them. When making any significant dietary change, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider to see if a gluten-free diet is right for you. You can schedule an appointment with a Registered Dietitian here.
And remember, Kroger’s specialty diet page is a great resource for all of your gluten-free eating needs.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.