Don’t get glutened when grocery shopping! In this article, I discuss hidden sources of gluten at the supermarket so you can stay safe and gluten-free. Please read my disclosures.
Grocery shopping can be a challenge when you’re on a gluten-free diet. People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity must avoid all sources of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats, to stay true to a strict gluten-free diet.
It can be tricky for people on a gluten-free diet to navigate a grocery store. You have to know how to read food labels like a pro (thank goodness for scanner apps like Fig), you need to figure out what brands and products are (or aren’t) safe for you, and you must know where hidden sources of gluten lurk.
I recommend avoiding these five hidden sources of gluten, all of which can be found at your local grocery store.
The bulk bins contain all sorts of gluten cross-contamination opportunities and should be avoided like the plague. While it would be nice to save a buck or two by buying beans and quinoa in bulk, the truth is there is no way to mitigate one bulk bin from spilling over into another bulk bin.
On top of that, people switch scoopers ruthlessly. That means a scooper could have been used to scoop some contaminated oats before it scooped that quinoa. No thanks!
While it’s tempting to buy store-bought sushi, be careful when you do.
Many sushi rolls contain gluten in the form of imitation crab, tempura-fried shrimp, and soy sauce-marinated fish. Even if you get a gluten-free sushi roll of only tuna and cucumbers, the person who made the roll may have had gluten on his hands, or the surfaces used to prepare the sushi may have been contaminated with gluten from other rolls.
On top of that, few supermarket sushi places offer gluten-free soy sauce packets, so if you take a chance on grocery store sushi, you’ll want to BYOT – bring your own tamari (or gluten-free soy sauce).
Soup & Salad Bars and Food Buffets
Soup and salad bars and food buffets (like the ones you find at Whole Foods) are tempting, but beware that people handling the food (people like you and me) aren’t always cognizant of cross-contamination. They may use the same tongs to scoop breaded fried chicken and corn on the cob. Looks like that corn on the cob may now be contaminated with breaded chicken remnants!
Plus, it’s not uncommon for a few croutons to fall in the “gluten-free” dressing or other gluten-free items. You never know where everything has been and what everything has touched. It’s risky!
The deli counter is a source of mass cross-contamination as well. Meats and cheeses are cut indiscriminately by the workers with little to no cleaning of machinery or glove changing in between cuts.
The staff also handles pre-made foods, like pasta salad and French breads, all lurking behind the deli counter. Plus, many grocery stores make made-to-order sandwiches, so it’s likely there is plenty of bread – and bread crumbs – present within the confines of the deli counter.
Store-Packaged Deli Meats, Cheeses and Bulk Bin Items
Beware of deli meats, cheeses, and bulk bin items that were pre-packaged from the bulk aisle, including items such as nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, and grains. These items were packaged in-store with little regard for cross-contamination.
Instead, stick to packaged foods made by trusted manufacturers off-site, and look for foods that are labeled gluten-free or certified gluten-free when possible.
Are there other sources of hidden gluten lurking in the grocery store? Please leave a comment to share and contribute to keeping the gluten-free community safe.
Also, read my article about the 15 best grocery stores for finding gluten-free foods.
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