People who have celiac disease and those who are sensitive to gluten products follow a gluten-free diet to keep symptoms under control. Gluten is a protein commonly found in grains, such as wheat, rye, and barley, as well as in many food additives. Gluten can damage the small intestine in people with celiac disease, preventing the body from absorbing all of the nutrients from food.
Following a gluten-free diet can be difficult to adjust to, especially if you have been recently diagnosed with celiac disease. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed ChooseMyPlate, which provides guidelines for healthy eating and focuses on 5 food groups. While MyPlate is intended for the general population, below are some suggestions for eating gluten-free while following the USDA’s food guidelines.
Out of all of the food groups, the grain group poses the most problems for people with celiac disease. This is because many of these products contain gluten. But there are gluten-free choices, including:
When shopping, check the food label to see if the product is labeled as gluten-free. Regular grocery stores may offer some of these products, but natural food stores will have a larger selection—like gluten-free breads, cereals, pasta, and tortillas. You can also order these products online.
About 6-8 ounces of gluten-free grain depending on your age, gender, and level of physical activity
Strive to make at least half of the gluten-free grains that you eat whole grains such as amaranth, millet, quinoa, and oats.
You can eat nearly all types of fresh, frozen, and canned veggies. You should avoid vegetables in sauce since sauces could contain gluten. Also avoid any veggies that are breaded, as well as French fries.
Other than that, you can enjoy a variety of veggies during your day, like broccoli, lettuce, spinach, carrots, corn, peas, and eggplant.
About 2-3 cups depending on your age, gender, and level of physical activity
Fill up half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
As with the veggie group, you will be able to enjoy a range of fresh and frozen fruits. Most canned fruits are also safe to eat, especially those that are packed in natural juices. But double-check the label for any gluten additives. If you like dried fruit, remember to look at the list of ingredients. Some dried fruits have been dusted with flour to prevent the pieces from sticking together. You will need to avoid fruits in sauce and fruit pie fillings since these, too, may have additives.
Many additives contain gluten. To follow a gluten-free diet, familiarize yourself with these additives so that you will be able to spot them on food labels. Some additives that contain gluten include:
About 1-½ to 2 cups of fruits and vegetables depending on your age, gender, and level of physical activity
Fill up half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
All types of products made from milk fall into this category. Safe options for you include aged cheeses, plain yogurt, and cream.
Fresh, dried, and evaporated milk are all okay for you to consume. Avoid malted milk since it has barley and wheat. Also, keep in mind that chocolate milk and other flavored milk drinks may have gluten.
Be sure to read the labels of cheese sauces and spreads, which may contain additives. In addition, flavored yogurt, frozen yogurt, and ice cream may have either additives or ingredients (like cookie dough or granola) that include gluten.
3 cups a day for adults
Use fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
You have a lot of options with this food group. Fresh fish, poultry, and meat are all safe to eat. You can also have eggs, tuna canned in oil or water, plain nuts, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils).
Try to avoid processed meats, like cold cuts, hot dogs, and sausages, which may have wheat fillers. Meat marinades, flavorings, and seasonings may also be on the “do not eat” list. Also keep in mind that imitation seafood and meat, as well as anything breaded, contain gluten.
About 5 to 6-½ ounces depending on your age, gender, and level of physical activity
By following ChooseMyPlate’s guidelines for healthy eating and becoming familiar with gluten-free food, you can work towards getting all of the nutrients that you need. A registered dietitian can further help by creating a customized meal plan for you. Also, there are many online resources and gluten-free cookbooks to help you enjoy meals while staying healthy.
Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Celiac Association
Celiac disease. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/Public/list.aspx?TaxID=6442452077. Accessed July 21, 2016.
Food choices for a gluten-free diet. Canadian Celiac Association website. Available at: http://www.celiac.ca/b/?page_id=299. Accessed July 21, 2016.
My Plate. United States Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate. Accessed July 21, 2016.
Gluten-free food pyramid. Food Guide Pyramid website. Available at: http://www.foodguidepyramid.co.uk/glutenfree-food-pyramid.html. Updated September 20, 2012. Accessed July 21, 2016.
What foods contain gluten? Gluten Free Society website. Available at: http://www.glutenfreesociety.org/gluten-free-society-blog/guidelines-for-avoiding-gluten-unsafe-ingredients-for-gluten-sensitivity. Accessed July 21, 2016.
Last reviewed July 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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