When you begin to search for gluten-free foods in grocery stores and restaurants, it soon becomes clear that gluten is at virtually every turn, not a comforting thought when your body is intolerant to it. In order to avoid gluten, you need to know what commonly contains gluten. So where is a good place to begin when looking for gluten in thousands of food products?
First, make the distinction between a natural, unprocessed food and a processed food. Unprocessed foods are foods in their natural state with nothing altered or added to them. These include foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, eggs, milk, fresh ground beef, or a fish filet. These foods are naturally gluten-free and you do not need to worry about them. On the other hand, processed foods have undergone a manufacturing process and often contain many different ingredients.
Rule #1: Virtually any processed or prepared food on the grocery shelf or in the deli section has the potential of containing gluten, so, be on guard.
Rule #2: If a food is packaged and has a list of one or more ingredients on the label, your gluten radar must be turned on and your label-reading skills will be put into action. (See “How do you read an ingredients list for gluten?” in Chapter Four.)
Rule #3: Anything that is made from flour is an immediate suspect for containing gluten. Processed foods containing flour such as breads, cookies, cakes, croutons, crackers, cereal, pasta, pitas, pizza crust, etc., probably contain gluten unless they are designated as gluten-free foods.
When you are at a restaurant, again, you need to know what contains gluten in order to avoid it. Grocery stores are excellent training grounds for learning how to read menus in restaurants. (See “What items on a menu should you be suspicious of?” in Chapter Ten.)