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Eating gluten-free may be a diet choice for some, but for the approximately 3 million Americans who have celiac disease – and the almost 18 million more diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity – a gluten-free diet is a health necessity. Staying completely gluten-free is not as easy as one might guess, though. From potato chips to restaurant omelets, you may be surprised about some of the foods that actually do contain gluten. Asking questions of restaurant staff and taking a closer look at product ingredient lists can reveal hidden gluten in the most unexpected of foods.
Sushi is actually a twofold concern, said Jennifer Fugo, founder of Gluten Free School, a website dedicated to teaching gluten-sensitive individuals simple steps to getting healthy. Though the vinegar used to make sushi rice should be derived from rice, a restaurant looking to cut costs could go with a vinegar made from glutenous grains. The second concern when eating sushi is that some sushi restaurants add soy sauce to the rice before making the sushi, so speak with your server or sushi chef. Soy sauce contains gluten unless it is specifically labeled “gluten-free.” Also, it is worth noting that some imitation crabmeat contains wheat starch, so you’ll be better off if you avoid it.
2. Baking Powders
“Baking powder typically consists of 1 part baking soda, 1 part starch or flour and 2 parts cream of tartar,” said Lori Langer, a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist who specializes in food allergies, sensitivities, intolerances and inflammatory conditions triggered by foods. Baking powders that use corn or potato starch for the starch portion, however, are fairly plentiful, she said, so just check the package of the one you’re considering.
3. Flavored Potato Chips
“Potato chips should technically be gluten-free, but many potato chip flavorings contain gluten,” said Meghan Telpner, a Toronto-based nutrition expert and author of “UnDiet: Eat Your Way to Vibrant Health.” She said that even the chips that are unflavored can be a danger since chips can become cross-contaminated with gluten during processing.
It seems then that your best bet is to always check the label. Lay’s Barbeque Flavored Potato Chips, for example, contains malted barley flour and Hawaiian Sweet Maui Onion Kettle Style Potato Chips lists wheat gluten proteins in its ingredients. On the other hand, all Kettle brand potato chips are gluten-free and are processed in a gluten-free environment. All Popchips brand potato chips are certified gluten-free too.
4. Chewing Gum
Even gum may not be safe from gluten. “Some brands of chewing gum use gluten-based powder to keep the gum from sticking to the wrapper,” said nutrition expert Meghan Telpner. She advises checking the ingredient list for any mention of wheat, barley or other grains. To be safe, do a bit of online research before choosing a gum to find one that is explicitly described as gluten-free by the company that makes it, Telpner said. Some gums that are gluten-free include Trident and Glee Gum.
5. Some Blended and Flavored Coffees
Ground coffee beans are 100 percent gluten-free. Many instant coffee brands, however, contain gluten as a bulking agent, warned nutrition expert Meghan Telpner. What’s more, many flavored and blended coffee drinks could be hiding gluten as well. Some syrup coffee flavorings are made from barley, and information regarding gluten in Starbucks’ light Frappuccino mix is conflicting. Regardless, other ingredients – such as the java chips and some of the sprinkles used in several of their Frappuccinos – definitely contain gluten. Considering that the equipment used to blend the drinks is not likely to be thoroughly scrubbed between beverages, cross-contamination between drinks can occur. If you have a gluten intolerance, go for some old-school plain coffee with just a little bit of your favorite – and gluten-free – natural sweetener.
6. Salad Dressings
“Many salad dressings use gluten-containing ingredients as thickeners,” said nutrition expert Meghan Telpner. Several U.S. companies, however, do offer gluten-free dressings, such as Annie’s, Newman’s Own and Maple Grove Farms. Just look for the gluten-free designation on the label the next time you’re at the supermarket, or, as Telpner recommends, make your own dressing.
7. Restaurant Omelets
Be cautious when ordering an omelet in a restaurant. Some restaurants, including IHOP, a major U.S.-based restaurant chain that specializes in breakfast foods, add pancake batter to their omelets to make them “extra fluffy,” said Samantha Brody of Gluten Free Portland. That pancake batter, of course, will very likely have gluten in it. Talk to your server before ordering. The chef may be able to make your omelet gluten-free, with no added pancake batter or cross-contamination.
Click here to find eight other unexpected foods that may contain gluten.
By Lynette Arceneaux
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