Avoiding Wheat and Gluten - Sources and Substitutes
Wheat (and its associate gluten) is a staple component in many Western foods and it can be hiding anywhere, even in your favorite meals. Here is a concise list of some of the most common sources of wheat and how to avoid or substitute them if you are avoiding wheat due to a medical condition or for personal reasons.
Yes, this includes whole-wheat and 'white' bread since both are made of wheat flour, and anything else made of a flour dough. If it says 'Wheat Flour' on the ingredients label, it has wheat in it. This automatically rules out potato bread, sourdough, pastries, and pie crust unless otherwise noted. Flour tortillas clearly contain flour.
Substitute for breads:
Almond flour is a popular low-carb substitute for wheat flour. Others include an assortment of nut flours as well as rice flour, and other non-wheat grains like durum and sorghum, which are a little more tough to find in your everyday grocery store. In general, breads should be avoided. Corn meal and corn flours are excellent and widely available in Latin American cuisines. Some up-and-coming pizza places offer pizzas with gluten free dough.
Oats, Bran, Granola, Cereals
The majority of breakfast cereals, granolas and oats may contain gluten, so a quick glance at an ingredients label should tell you whether or not it's safe to eat. In general, these should be avoided.
Substitute for Oats, Bran, Granola, Cereals:
Cornflakes, rice-based cereals (double-check the ingredients to make sure it has no wheat or wheat flour)
Pasta and noodles
This includes spaghetti noodles, all varieties of pasta and macaroni, egg noodles (yes, egg noodles are made of wheat flour), ramen noodles (both instant and Japanese varieties)
Substitute for Pasta and Noodles:
There are pasta and noodle substitutes made of rice or brown rice that are as good, if not better than the wheat kind. Rice noodles are a staple in many types of Asian cuisine
Sneaky foods containing flour additive
Sauces, soups, stews, broths and gravies may or may not contain wheat flour as a thickener. Seasoning blends, marinade rubs and condiments may contain flour. Box-brands of dinner rice like risotto or jambalaya may contain flour. Soy Sauce of all brands most likely contains flour unless noted as Gluten Free. Teriyaki may also contain soy sauce with gluten. Breaded and fried foods often contain flour. For these, always check the ingredients label or ask the chef!
Substitute for sneaky foods:
There are a wide variety of certified gluten-free condiments available at grocery and health food stores, including gluten-free soy sauce and teriyaki as well as gravies, soups and stews. If in doubt, the most obvious ones you need to stay away from are gravies, dark, saucy and creamy soups, and teriyaki and soy sauce.
It's mostly alcoholic beverages you need to look out for. Avoid beer containing barley, rye and/or oats, as well as malt liquor or malt drinks of any variety unless otherwise specified as gluten-free. Liquors, while distilled and may not contain any gluten or wheat traces, are questionable as to their effect on people who have Celiac or are allergic. Don't take any chances.
Substitute for sneaky beverages:
There are beers available which are made from sorghum or other grain varieties. These often have Gluten Free on the label. Apple ciders and pear ciders are most likely gluten free. Wines of all varieties are more often than not wheat-free. If there is concern for distilled alcohol, there are liquors made from a variety of non-wheat starches or grains.There is potato vodka, for example.
In conclusion, some quick tips
ALWAYS double check the ingredients label for wheat or flour! Or look for GLUTEN FREE on the label.
When in doubt, ask the chef, or cook from scratch! Research restaurants in advance with gluten-free options.
Trust your gut!
NOTE: If you have Celiac or a full-blown wheat allergy, you always need to check the ingredients label to ensure the product or food in question is wheat or gluten-free, and has been handled in such a facility. This is a cheat sheet guide that does not account for cross contamination of trace gluten and is in no way a substitute for medical advice for your particular condition.