Many of us who are the Gluten-Free lifestyle journey have a misguided idea on where the glutens are. Bread, cookies, and cakes are the first mournful goodbyes (at least until we find the GF versions) but there are some items that we would never know have gluten in it until after we get a reaction. Thinks like chocolate, vegan meats, and a few other things that have you standing in the store going, “Why does this have to have gluten in it?!”

While at my local market I came across a book that I really could have used when I started the GF life at seventeen. When most GF books or articles mention hidden glutens, the answer is so vague that you end up feeling more fearful than secure. Like nothing you don’t make yourself is toxic and should come with a poison label. Bette Hagman’s book, The Gluten-Free Gourmet, has the best section about hidden glutens that I have ever seen. While the book is from the 90s, my sad personal experiences prove that the hidden glutens back then are the same (if not worse) than today. So using the book and other sources from listening to talks on PBS, here is a list of hidden glutens to watch out for and buy solely gluten-free.


Other grains – This can be puzzling but any product that has been used in the same shoot during processing as wheat is just as bad for your health as eating a whole loaf of gluten bread in one sitting. I found this out the hard way. When I found out that oats are gluten-free, I went crazy at a sale at a heath food store – only to find out later that the oats were processed in the same facility as wheat when my body had a reaction. A dusting of gluten can undo everything your doing for your health so it is better to be safe than sorry and pay a few extra cents to have the gluten-free verity.


Candy/flavored nuts – This was something that made me cry when I found out. As per the rules of the labeling system, companies are not obligated by any higher power to list what candies and nuts are rolled in during shaping or before thrown into a fryer. In Hagman’s book, she mentions one instance where a company used wheat flour to keep candies from sticking during processing and still passed the candy off as GF. With nuts, I heard recently on a health show where a man had a horrible reaction from consuming peanuts that were coated in wheat flour before getting roasted – and according to company standards, all of the flour was removed during the process. This is something to look out for, especially when you’re replacing the crunch of croutons on a salad with nuts.


Dextrin – We see this on food labels but never really know what it is until we’ve had a reaction. Typically, dextrin is supposed to mean corn but can be made from a number of ingredients – one of which being wheat. Today nearly every thing seems to have dextrin in it. For example, one item to stay away from for this reason is caramel coloring.


Stamps and envelopes – This is the “why on earth” moment with hidden glutens. Sadly the answer to it is that glues tend to have wheat products in them.


French Fries – The reason for this is cross contamination. If fries go into the same fryer as breaded chicken or fish sticks, the oil contains the gluten. Not a big deal if you have tolerance to gluten in tiny amounts, but can be a really big pain. Results vary from place to place so if you’re really concerned you can ask about it. My testing showed that a local Wendy’s was safe but everyone else was bad news for me and my skin.


Plant Proteins (HVP & HPP) – Often found in canned foods and vegan alternatives to meat/imitation seafood, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protien (HVP) or Hydrolyzed Plant Protein does not always give a source of where the protein comes from. My near dangerous tale with this happened when I had vegan bacon (Morning Star). My body’s reaction to it was so violent that I avoid HVP and HPP like a plague. Personal advice is to stay away from it all together.


Prescriptions & Over-The-Counter Drugs – Tablets, lozenges, and capsules use filters that can be made from cornstarch, lactose, or wheat. Now, before getting on the phone and screaming at your doctor for this one, know that your doctor is unaware of the ingredients in medications. Check with your pharmacist to see if any medication (prescription or over-the-counter) has gluten in it. Always check with the pharmacist first then you can glare at the doctor.


Rice syrup – Please buy this GF – please, please, please buy this with a GF label. The flavoring may contain barley malt which is a really bad thing for celiacs. When in doubt call the company to check. (Better to be safe than sorry.)


Ones to consider and look into: alcoholic beverages, instant coffees, yogurts, Asian sauces, and veined cheese.


Have you experienced grumbling in the store upon finding gluten listed in a food you thought was safe? If so, what item was it?