A gluten-free diet consists of foods that contain no gluten, a protein found in many wheat and grain products. It’s common among dieters and those with a gluten allergy or intolerance.
Since gluten can cause pain and discomfort in individuals with an intolerance, it’s important to choose certain gluten-free foods to avoid adverse side effects.
What to Eat on Gluten-Free Diet?
When adopting a gluten-free diet, you should be aware of all foods that could contain this protein. It’s a common protein in wheat and other grains, but it also hides in unexpected places, including soy products.
A gluten-free diet will require you to eliminate many foods from your diet. However, you’ll still have a lot to choose from. The following list of gluten-free foods and snacks should help you understand exactly what you can eat on a gluten-free diet.
1. Meats and Fish
Meat and fish are naturally gluten-free foods. None of the proteins in meat or fish cause the same kind of harm as gluten. You can include meat in any daily meal, as long as you stick to the recommended caloric intake.
Approximately 21% of your daily caloric intake should consist of protein, including meat. On a standard gluten-free diet, that’s roughly 330 calories per day. This comes out to 5-6 ounces each day.
Examples of meat and fish you could include in your gluten-free diet include the following.
Like meat, eggs are another example of gluten-free foods with a lot of protein. So if you want to start your day off with a lot of protein, a scrambled egg is a high-protein choice.
Eggs fall into the same category as meats in terms of daily intake. So, when you’re factoring protein into your diet, eggs, meat, fish, and beans should all be on your list. Combined, you want to limit yourself to 21% of your daily calories or 5-6 ounces per day.
Dairy products, including milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt, don’t usually contain gluten. The only exceptions might be additives to cheeses and yogurts, which you should be able to find on the ingredient label.
When creating your meal plan, include approximately 3 cups, or 24 ounces, of dairy each day. This will help cover the 700 milligrams per day of calcium you’ll need in your diet. In addition, milk-based products will help you get your daily 2.7 mcg of Vitamin D.
Dairy products will also count toward the 21% of the protein you should aim for each day. However, if you’re choosing gluten and dairy-free diet, you can work to find your calcium and vitamins elsewhere.
Here’s a list of dairy foods you could choose from.
- Half and half
- Sour cream
4. Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free foods you can incorporate into your diet. They work well as snacks, side dishes, or as an ingredient in a meal. You can choose whole fruits and vegetables or fruit or vegetable juice.
When adding fruits and vegetables to your diet, aim for 120 grams of whole produce or 200 milliliters of juice. Carbohydrates, including sugar and fiber, should make up approximately 41% of your caloric intake, and fruits and vegetables are a good source of both.
Here are some produce options that you can include in your diet.
Although one of the biggest triggers for someone with gluten intolerance or allergy is wheat, there are many grains you can incorporate into your diet. These foods give you many of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need each day.
On average, you should try to include 6-8 ounces of grains each day. About half of that should consist of whole grains. Always make sure that the grains you purchase weren’t processed in a facility where cross-contamination with wheat is a risk.
Gluten-free grain options include the following.
- Bean flour
6. Starches and Flours
Starches and flours are primary ingredients in many recipes and baked goods. Both also contain high levels of carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates are a good source of your daily fiber and sugar intake.
Since many starches are refined and often produced in facilities that also handle wheat products, it’s important to look at food labels to ensure there was no cross-contamination risk. In addition, you can factor starches and flours into your daily 41% intake of carbohydrates along with fruits and vegetables.
Examples of gluten-free starches are as follows.
- Corn starch
- Millet flour
- Oat flour
- Potato starch
- Rice flour
- Sorghum flour
- Tapioca starch
7. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds don’t contain any naturally-occurring gluten, making them a good snack for gluten-free diets. They’re also high in fiber, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Since nuts contain many of the same nutrients as fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains, you’ll need to factor them into your caloric intake under those categories. In addition, many seeds, such as chia, also fall under the category of healthy grains.
Some nuts and seeds you can incorporate into your diet are the following.
- Brazil nuts
- Chia seeds
- Macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
8. Spreads and Oils
Spreads and oils can add to your daily fat intake. However, you should choose the healthiest options available to avoid too much saturated fat.
Your total fat, including saturated, unsaturated, and trans fat, should make up 40% of your caloric intake each day. However, you should avoid trans fat entirely and only consume good fats. Focus on unsaturated fats such as oils or those that occur naturally in foods.
Examples of oils and spreads are as follows.
- Avocado oil
- Canola oil
- Coconut oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Nut butter
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil
- Sunflower butter
- Truffle oil
9. Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are in most of the more flavorful dishes you’ll come across. Fortunately, since they’re almost exclusively plant-based, they’re entirely gluten-free.
Herbs and spices can provide specific vitamins in larger doses. That said, the amount you include in recipes is unlikely to have a significant effect. Therefore, feel free to use them as you wish. The only ones you should limit are those that contain salt. You shouldn’t take in more than 2,180 milligrams of sodium daily, and salt is a component of many common seasonings.
Examples of herbs and spices to include in your diet are the following.
- Garlic powder
Liquids are an essential part of any diet. They help flush waste, carry oxygen, and maintain homeostasis in your body. They also provide vitamins and minerals that should make up a significant part of your diet.
Try to drink 11.5-15.5 cups of fluid throughout the day to stay hydrated. Women generally require less fluids than men. The ideal option for regular liquids is water, but you can incorporate others, including the following.
- Electrolyte drinks
- Fruit and vegetable juice
- Tonic water
What Can’t You Eat on a Gluten-Free Diet?
One of the drawbacks of a gluten-free diet is the restrictions that come along with it. You’ll need to limit the grains in your diet, which are the main ingredients in many everyday food items.
A lot of common foods contain ingredients that have gluten in them. This includes anything with the following.
The following list will help you understand which foods to eliminate and why.
Wheat flour is usually the base for any bread. This includes sliced bread, baguettes, rolls, and bagels. Therefore, you’ll need to examine the ingredient list on any bread you consider purchasing before consuming it.
Bread is the most common food item you’ll need to find a replacement for when you go on a gluten-free diet. However, as more people have cut gluten from their diet, more companies have developed gluten-free bread options. That being the case, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding something new.
Specifically, you should avoid the following.
- Flour tortillas
- Pumpernickel bread
- Potato bread
- Rye bread
- Whole wheat bread
Another common food that contains gluten is pasta. Almost all the pasta you’ll find on your stores’ shelves will include wheat flour, water, and salt.
These ingredients are the basis for all standard pasta recipes. Although some kinds of pasta contain other ingredients, such as egg or vegetable dye, most contain wheat flour as the primary component. Therefore, avoid any types of pasta that have wheat flour as a base.
If you want a replacement for pasta, look into some of the other available variations. These include pasta with the following main ingredients.
- Garbanzo beans
- Red beans
Breakfast cereals come in many varieties, a lot of which contain gluten. Although it shouldn’t be challenging to find cereals that contain corn, rice, quinoa, oats, or other gluten-free ingredients, you should avoid the following types of cereals.
In addition to the cereals on this list, you should be careful when choosing cereals with oats. Although oats don’t contain gluten, many come from factories that process wheat products. Look for a notice on the label that states the oats are gluten-free before purchasing or consuming them. Many will state “gluten-free” on the front of the box.
4. Baked Goods
Like bread, baked goods tend to have a lot of flour. In most cases, they use some version of wheat flour. In addition, those baked goods that don’t contain wheat products are at high risk for cross-contamination in most bakeries. These include the following items.
To better your chances of avoiding gluten-free baked goods, try to find a strictly gluten-free bakery.
5. Snack Foods
Snack foods, particularly those that come in a box, often contain high amounts of gluten. Many contain flour or other grains, such as barley, that have a lot of gluten. If you want to eliminate your chance of ingesting gluten with your snacks, avoid the following.
- Bagel chips
- Candy bars
- Energy bars
- Flour tortilla chips
- Granola bars
Take note that the gluten-free foods list above has at least one gluten-free alternative. If you want to enjoy a cup of granola or a handful of pretzels, you can purchase options that don’t contain wheat ingredients.
Many chefs thicken a sauce by using a roux, which is equal parts fat and flour. So, the jar of gravy you purchased could contain gluten on its ingredient list. Before choosing a pre-made sauce, ensure it doesn’t have any flour.
Some of the most common sauces with gluten are as follows.
- Alfredo sauce
- Barbecue sauce
- Gravy mixes
- Meat gravy
7. Alcoholic Beverages
Grain alcohol and beer are some of the most popular alcoholic beverages. However, if you can’t consume gluten, you won’t be able to drink them. Barely is one of the primary ingredients in beer, and grain alcohol is often made with rye, wheat, or other gluten-containing grains.
Some of the alcoholic beverages you should avoid are as follows.
Some authorities say grain alcohol doesn’t contain enough prolamin, the protein in gluten, to cause problems for people with a gluten allergy or intolerance.
8. Other Foods Not Labeled Gluten-Free
Many packaged foods will have a gluten-free label on the package. This includes cereals, snacks, bakery, dairy, and meat products you wouldn’t normally expect to contain gluten.
Some of these products often include hidden gluten. For example, you might find soy sauce hidden in sauces and marinades, wheat flour in salad dressing, or barley in a granola bar.
In addition, many foods that aren’t labeled gluten-free have a high risk for cross-contamination.
For example, many baked goods that don’t explicitly contain gluten could easily come in contact with wheat flour in the bakery or kitchen.
Foods you’ll want to double-check for gluten or cross-contamination can be seen below.
- Baked goods
- Ice cream
- Snack foods
- Taco shells
- Meat products
- Frozen foods
How Many Calories Can You Eat While on a Gluten-Free Diet?
A typical gluten-free diet should have about 1,600 calories per day. The bulk of those calories should be split evenly between carbohydrates and fats.
A standard diet consists of 1,800-2,800 calories, depending on age and sex. Most of those calories come from carbohydrates, which often contain significant amounts of gluten. The lower calories in a gluten-free diet are due to decreased carb intake.
What Percent of Daily Caloric Intake Should Be Fat on a Gluten-Free Diet?
Fats are an essential part of a gluten-free diet. Approximately 40% of your caloric intake should consist of saturated and unsaturated fats on a typical day.
Compared to a regular diet, you’re doubling your fat intake with gluten-free. In doing so, you’ll need to ensure you’re choosing good fats. Meats, nuts, and oils.
What Percent of Daily Caloric Intake Should Be Protein on a Gluten-Free Diet?
Protein should make up approximately 20% of your daily caloric intake. This could be meat, fish, eggs, or certain nuts. You can also get a lot of protein from legumes if you prefer to avoid meat.
A standard diet usually requires anywhere from 10-35% of your caloric intake to include proteins. A gluten-free diet doesn’t deviate much from that, with its amount falling squarely in the middle.
Is Gluten-Free Diet Food Expensive?
Yes, a Gluten-Free Diet is expensive when compared to a diet containing gluten. Gluten free foods almost always cost more than regular food. In many cases, it can cost nearly twice as much. This price increase is because substituting certain ingredients is more expensive. For example, millet flour costs more than wheat flour, so it’ll cause the price of a loaf of bread to rise.
Another reason gluten-free foods tend to be more expensive is that it’s for a specific diet. The best way to avoid doubling your grocery bill is to choose naturally gluten-free foods.
What Is a Sample Gluten-Free Menu for One Week?
When shopping for food for your gluten-free diet, try to avoid foods made with replacement ingredients for gluten. These tend to cost more than regular versions. However, with some proper maneuvering, you should be able to build a gluten-free pantry without increasing your budget too much.
Take a look at the sample diet below to see what types of foods you could include in your diet. Most are common, and you probably already have most in your kitchen.
In some cases, you’d have to purchase gluten-free versions of things like bread and pasta, but most of the items don’t contain any gluten.
|Breakfast||Gluten free bagel w/PB||Veggie omelet with sausage||Coconut pancakes||Steel cut oats with maple syrup||Egg White Omelette||Gluten free bagel w/PB||Bacon, egg, and cheese bowl|
|Snack 1||Cheese stick and salami slices||Carrots, celery, and hummus||Celery sticks with peanut butter||Mixed fruit and nuts||Celery sticks with peanut butter||Mixed fruit and nuts||Cheese stick and salami slices|
|Lunch||Chicken salad on gluten free bread||Escarole Soup, Salad||Ham and Cheese w/Gluten Free Bread||Turkey and cheese roll-ups||Escarole Soup, Salad||Grilled chicken salad||Ham and Cheese w/Gluten Free Bread|
|Snack 2||Mixed fruit and nuts||Chips and guac||Cheese stick with salami||Celery sticks with PB||Veggies and dip||Cheese stick and salami||Chips and salsa|
|Dinner||Steak, mashed potatoes, and carrots||Chicken enchiladas with corn tortillas||Pork chop, Baked Potato, and corn||Lentil pasta with meatballs||Veggie Stir Fry/chicken and rice||Pulled pork, Sweet Potato Fries||Beef tacos with avocado|
|Snack 3||Carrots, celery, and hummus||Mixed fruit and nuts||Cheese and Grapes||Chips and guac||Mixed fruit and nuts||Celery sticks with peanut butter||Mixed fruit and nuts|
Is Rice Gluten-Free?
Yes, all forms of rice are gluten-free, which makes rice a valuable addition to a gluten-free diet. It’s pretty versatile, so you’ll be able to incorporate it into many dishes due to its varied forms.
Rice flour is a common substitute for wheat flour, and it doesn’t cost much more, making it a suitable replacement for flour in many dishes. In addition, rice is a side dish that goes with most meat or vegetable dishes.
If you want to use rice but prefer not to stick to one option, you can look at the many rice varieties available to you. Brown, white, basmati, jasmine, and wild rice all have distinct flavors, so you shouldn’t worry too much about getting food fatigue if you use rice a lot.
What are Helpful Tips for a Gluten-Free Diet?
All diets have their challenges, including gluten-free. When you’re trying to exclude a large portion of common foods, it can be tricky getting it right. Here are a few helpful tips that will make the transition easier for you.
- Make a plan. When you’re adjusting to a significant diet change, writing out a plan that includes meals and foods to avoid can make the transition easier.
- Let people know about your restrictions. As with any allergy, it’s helpful to hosts and restaurant workers to know about your dietary restrictions ahead of time so they can accommodate you.
- Supply your own food if you’re going somewhere you’re not sure will have gluten-free options. This can help make family gatherings easier for you and the hosts.
- Get good at reading food labels. Knowing what’s in your food is the most important part of sticking to a gluten-free diet. Take time to read every label before consuming a new food.
- Don’t take anything for granted. Many foods you might expect to be gluten-free have gluten present in hidden ways. So even if you’ve had food before, always double-check the label.
Does Going Gluten-Free Help With Allergies?
If you have a gluten intolerance or allergy, your immune system will work overtime each time you ingest gluten to expel the protein. Your body’s response to seasonal allergies is very similar.
When you suffer from gluten intolerance and seasonal allergies, your allergies can be exacerbated. So, if your allergies are severe and you’re not sure if you’re gluten intolerant, try going gluten-free for a few weeks. If your allergy symptoms decrease, you should get checked for gluten sensitivity.