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If you’re following a gluten-free diet, you know that there is hidden gluten lurking everywhere. It’s in products you’d normally deem “gluten-free” only to later be surprised that those products actually contain gluten – eek!!
That’s why I am super careful about what I eat.
Over the years, I’ve learned that gluten is a hidden ingredient in so many products that don’t look like they contain wheat, barley and rye. Gluten can be hidden in things like natural flavors, malt or even modified food starch.
While I know gluten is lurking in the strangest places, I am far from perfect. In fact, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years.
Hidden gluten can be difficult to spot. You have to be an avid label reader and decoder. I believe when in doubt, don’t. There’s almost always a trusted gluten-free option and oftentimes, you can make you own gluten-free version of a food you love and/or miss.
And if you can’t find a gluten-free version of a food you love, just walk away. It’s not worth it and cheating on your gluten-free diet just makes matters worse! (Read: Don’t Cheat On Your Gluten-Free Diet)
Please be sure to make special note of these 10 surprise products that contain hidden gluten when grocery shopping. And a leave a comment below to share what other products have surprised you because they, too, contain gluten.
10 Surprise Products that Contain Gluten
1. Meat Alternatives: Many people think if it’s healthy, it must be gluten-free, but this kind of thinking if flawed. Just because a veggie burger sounds healthy, doesn’t mean it’s gluten-free (or healthy) at all.
It looks like the vast majority of Morningstar’s veggie protein products (including its veggie burgers) contain gluten. Same with Gardein products, which admits in its FAQ that it uses wheat protein in many products. Even Amy’s Kitchen’s veggie burger contains gluten – bleh!
Keep in mind that soy meat alternatives most likely all contain wheat gluten in their recipes – it’s what gives the burgers a taste and texture similar to meat.
Also note that the ingredient “seitan” is made of vital wheat gluten and is a popular meat substitute. Seitan is only the protein part of the wheat (aka, the gluten). It’s like eating condensed gluten. Don’t eat it by mistake.
If you’re looking for a plant protein product alternative product, take a look at Dr. Praeger’s products, many of which are certified gluten-free.
2. Gummy Bears: Shut the front door because I’m about to break some bad news to you… Haribo™ gummy bears contain wheat. Yep, it’s true. Haribo Goldbears contain wheat according to its ingredient label:
The Haribo Starmix also contains wheat – bummer, I know! However, it looks like the Haribo gummy colas, gummy peaches and bummy frogs do not contain gluten, if you’re willing to risk it.
3. Soy Sauce: The name is so deceiving as you’d never suspect soy sauce contains gluten. However, about 40 percent of a bottle of your average soy sauce is made from wheat! Instead, buy gluten-free soy sauce or tamari – same taste, no wheat. It’s an easy swap if you ask me.
Along the same lines, many Worcestershire sauces contain some kind of barley malt or malt vinegar that is most definitely full of gluten. However, Lea & Perrins worcestershire sauces are labeled gluten-free, so that is an easy swap as well.
4. Imitation Crab and Bacon: Did you know that most imitation crab contains wheat? This makes dining at a sushi restaurant all the more difficult. Always ask for real crab or avoid the California Rolls altogether.
There are some brands of imitation crab that are gluten-free, such as Trans-Ocean, which you can get at Kroger stores, and Dyna Sea (which is Kosher too), but there are still many imitation crab brands are not gluten-free. For example, the imitation crab I saw at Whole Foods (I already forgot the name though) had wheat in the ingredient listing.
As for imitation bacon bits, some contain gluten so it’s important to read labels (and make sure restaurants leave it off your salad). Durkee brand clearly lists “wheat gluten” on its packaging while Hormel says its bacon bits has no gluten containing ingredients.
5. Salad Dressing: If you’re trying to eat healthy and enjoy salads, good for you. The bad news is some salad dressings contain hidden gluten. Always read labels to know for sure and when in doubt, find a brand that is clearly gluten-free.
Also, if you’re feeling uncertain about a dressing at a restaurant, just make your own. It takes a little olive oil, vinegar, lemon squeeze, fresh minced garlic and a little S&P atop your salad to make it taste a-okay. Making your own dressing is better for you too as it contains no preservatives or sugar.
6. BBQ Sauces: I never understood how something that should contain simple, clean ingredients can contain gluten, but unfortunately some do. For BBQ sauces, check labels carefully (they change often!) and when in doubt, don’t!
Some gluten-free brands include Stubb’s BBQ (it says, “gluten-free ingredients,” and contains no high fructose corn syrup), Annie’s Naturals (website says “naturally gluten-free,” meaning no gluten ingredients) and Organicville (certified organic – nice!). There are others as well so read labels carefully.
7. Licorice: Sorry gluten-free friends, Twizzlers and Red Vines are most certainly NOT a gluten-free product despite looking seemingly innocent. The ingredient label clearly states it contains “enriched wheat flour.” Ho hum. Keep in mind that Good & Plenty, Nibs and Sour Punch candies also contain gluten.
Gluten Free on a Shoestring has a gluten-free licorice recipe on her blog if you’re willing to experiment and spend some time shopping for the right ingredients. I also found gluten-free licorice you can buy made by YumEarth. It is certified gluten-free and tastes pretty good if your craving licorice.
8. Gravy: Take a look at the Heinz gravy container – it clearly states wheat flour (and a slew of other crappy ingredients) on the ingredient label. Heinz gravy is not a gluten-free product – gluten is hidden in plain sight! There are, however, some gluten-free gravy brands, such as Simply Organic Turkey Gravy, that are safe to eat when you’re on a gluten-free diet. Always read labels carefully or make your own gravy with the leftover juices from your turkey, a little chicken broth and some cornstarch.
Also note that come Thanksgiving, you might have a hankering for cream of mushroom soup. Please be advised that Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup contains wheat flour and is not gluten-free. There are, however, several cream of mushroom alternatives that are gluten-free. You can find a complete list in Gluten-Free and More Magazine.
9. Oats: Oats do not technically contain gluten, however, oats are known to grown in rotation with wheat crops. The same equipment and storage bins are therefore used for oats as wheat.
Unfortunately, an ingredient label can’t say, “gluten-free oats,” rather, it will just say “oats.” You must look for other gluten-free markings on the packaging to decode whether a product that contains oats is safe for you to eat. Read more in my article, Are Oats Gluten-Free?
10. Rice Krispies™: You’d think a product made from rice would be gluten-free, but Kellogg’s Rice Krispies contain “malt flavor.” Malt comes from barley. Ug! Just forget those darn Rice Krispies and instead try one of the many gluten-free crisped rice cereal brands instead. I detail them all in this article (and offer a Rice Crispy Treat recipe I know you’ll love too!).
11. Play Doh™: I know I said I had only 10 hidden gluten sources, but you’ll forgive me for adding an eleventh, right? I just had to add Play Doh to this list because so many people don’t realize that Play Doh contains wheat flour.
I know, I know, you don’t eat Play Doh. But if your child has celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, they should play with a homemade gluten-free playdough instead. You don’t want them touching, and possibly ingesting, bits of gluten from store bought Play Doh. It gets into your fingernails and then may sneak into your child’s mouth if, for example, your child licks his or her finger. You can find gluten-free playdough on Amazon.
What Products Surprise You?
As you can see, gluten is hidden in so many products that seemingly look like they should be okay for you to eat. We know to avoid breads and pastas, but did you realize that licorice and veggie burgers are seeping with hidden gluten too?
Remember, you can never judge a product to be gluten-free just by looking at it Looks can be deceiving and don’t let something that looks okay sabotage your health.
Are there other products that you think should be on this list? Please share in the comments section.
- Download: 100 Potential Sources and Names for Gluten
- 10 Facts Your Doctor Doesn’t Know about Celiac Disease
- Gluten Sensitivity vs. Celiac Disease
- 12 Interesting Facts about Celiac Disease
- What Causes Celiac Disease and Can It Be Prevented