When I was 18 and first diagnosed with “gluten sensitivity” (we didn’t know at the time that it was Celiac), I figured that gluten would be fairly easy to avoid. I just can’t eat bread, cookies, cake, or pie right?
Boy was I wrong. Gluten is everywhere, and although some items are obvious gluten harborers, others are much sneakier about it. It’s stressful living with the constant worry that every bite of food (or sip of a drink) that I have has the potential to cause serious harm to my body. I’ve compiled this list of some of the most surprising places that gluten likes to hide, so that you can be prepared when it crosses your path.
Contrary to the scare tactics that (for some annoying reason) keep sweeping through the gluten free community, oats do not, in fact, contain any gluten naturally. However, after researching a bit more, I found out that the reason why some oat-products are labeled “Gluten Free” while others aren’t is because of the way that they are grown and processed.
Apparently oats are frequently grown in close proximity to wheat and other glutenous grains. They are often processed on the same equipment, stored in the same places, and transported in the same vehicles. All of these touch points significantly increase the chances of gluten contamination, so proceed with caution.
Oat-based products that are explicitly labeled “Gluten Free” have to be grown, stored, processed, and transported separately from other grains, making them the safest option for Celiacs.
At a friend’s barbecue a few years ago, I was thrilled to find that they had turkey burgers as a grilling option, since I don’t eat beef or pork (so no burgers or hot dogs. I’m the worst person to invite to a barbecue). I was so careful to keep my plate of food away from everyone else’s so I wouldn’t risk crumbs flying over, and used two pieces of lettuce to wrap my burger instead of buns. I thought I did everything right, but a few hours later I discovered that I had missed one point…the turkey burger.
That day, I learned the hard way that many pre-made burgers, sausages, and meatballs (including vegetarian versions) often use wheat flour or breadcrumbs as a binder. While there are also several gluten free options, it’s easy to forget to check when you’re at a friend’s cookout. But trust me, it’s always better to be that annoying person at the party that asks to check the labels than to take the risk and get “glutened”.
Soy sauce is almost always made with wheat, but there are more and more gluten free options popping up at grocery stores all the time. It’s easy enough to check the label and get a Celiac safe soy sauce when you’re buying a bottle for your own home, but beware when ordering at restaurants. Places like Panda Express use wheat-containing soy sauce in everything, including their rice-based dishes. Other places like P.F. Chang’s offer gluten free soy sauce options, so it’s always best to ask when dining out.
Additionally, soy sauce is used to make teriyaki sauce and sometimes Sriracha, so these sauces are others to look out for.
This one really surprised me, and unfortunately I had to find out the hard way that smoothies are not always safe for Celiacs. I am a big fan of Odwalla smoothies, and I usually go for a “Mango Tango” or “Strawberry C Monster.” However, one day a few years ago I thought I should mix it up a little and try the “Original Superfood” green Odwalla smoothie.
I had noticed in passing that the other smoothie flavors were all labeled “Gluten free,” and after taking a drink and nonchalantly looking at the label, I noticed that the green smoothie didn’t have that comforting phrase slapped on the side. Panicking, I read the ingredients and found out that this particular smoothie contains wheat grass, barley grass, and wheat sprouts.
Since then, I’ve done some sleuthing around and found several other pre-made smoothies (especially the green ones), that also hide these glutenous ingredients.
Lesson learned; ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK THE LABEL.