The Ultimate Guide to the Gluten Free Diet

By: Bob's Red Mill | November 30 2016
Let’s face it. Gluten is everywhere—from your favorite childhood snacks to that funky new pastry concoction taking over your Instagram feed. It’s nearly impossible to walk into your local coffee shop or even turn on the television without being tempted by some type of delicious, gluten-filled treat. It even finds ways to sneak into presumably gluten free foods like French fries, jelly beans, and soy sauce. If you’re a gluten free newbie in a world obsessed with gluten, the prospect of completely eliminating this pesky protein from your diet can be overwhelming at best and downright terrifying at worst. So how do you get started eating a gluten free diet? First and foremost, remember that you are not alone. Although less than one percent of Americans must follow a gluten free diet as a medical necessity due to celiac disease, an estimated 18 million of us avoid it due to some sort of gluten sensitivity. Others still, approximately one in five to be exact, try to eat gluten free as simply part of a healthier lifestyle. No matter your reasoning, starting a gluten free diet the right way will keep you happy, healthy, and, most importantly, sane.

Figure out Where to Find Gluten

The Ultimate Guide to the Gluten Free Diet _ Bob’s Red Mill Understanding what gluten is and where it hides will help save you precious time wandering the aisles of the grocery store trying to figure out what exactly you can eat. Gluten is the generic name for the elastic proteins found in the common cereal grains wheat, barley, rye, and their derivatives. Its elasticity is what gives pizza crust its satisfying chewiness and baguettes their distinctive cushiony-soft crunch. Unfortunately, if you happen to be one of the many people whose body simply can’t tolerate gluten, or to be more precise, gliadin and glutenin, the damaging components within gluten, these delicious proteins have the potential to make your life very uncomfortable. For most people, the hardest adjustment to gluten free life is cutting out wheat. As you may already know, the bulk of gluten (about 90% in the American diet) can be found in wheat products, including, but not limited to, kamut, triticale (a combination of wheat and rye), durum, einkorn, farina, semolina, cake flour, matzo, and couscous. If you see any ingredient with the word “wheat” in its name, such as hydrolyzed wheat protein or pregelatinized wheat protein, steer clear, there’s gluten in there. (With the exception of buckwheat, which is not part of the wheat family and is GF). Luckily, due to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA), it’s now easier than ever to identify foods with wheat-containing ingredients. The act states that if a food or an ingredient contains wheat or protein derived from wheat, the word “wheat” must appear clearly on the food label, marking a victory for the wheat-averse. (The act also applies to the other seven top allergens.) However, buyer beware, just because a product is labeled “wheat free” does not necessarily mean that it is also gluten free. It still may contain spelt (an ancient derivative of wheat), rye, or barley-based ingredients that are not gluten free. While most traditional wheat products such as pastas, breads, crackers, and other baked goods are fairly easy to recognize, the tricky part of eating gluten free is learning to spot unexpected sources of gluten such as soy sauce, sausages, and even makeup and skincare products. Since the term “gluten” is not normally listed on product labels, it’s important to know the typical foods where gluten hides. The good news is that ingredients like triticale, which is most commonly used in international foods, and rye are pretty easy to avoid in most grocery stores. Barley, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to side step, as it hides in places you wouldn’t normally think about like beer, vinegar, malt products, and even cornflakes.

Sneaky Sources of Gluten

  • Soy sauce
  • Imitation crab
  • Licorice
  • Seasoning packets
  • Natural flavorings
  • BBQ sauces
  • Salad dressings
  • Hard candies
  • Cornflakes and Rice Krispies
  • Chocolate
  • Ice cream
  • Cheese spreads and other processed cheese foods
  • Broth
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Dip mixes
  • Chipotles in adobo
  • Yogurt and other dairy products such as sour cream
  • Miso
  • Some fermented kimchi
  • Fish sauce
  • Mole
  • Beverages like sports drinks or iced tea mixes
  • Malt vinegar
  • Oats (unless they are certified GF)

Non-Food Items that May Contain Gluten

  • Makeup and shampoos
  • Lipsticks
  • Playdough
  • Stamps and envelopes
  • Detergents
  • Lotions
  • Medications and vitamins
  • Pet food
Although it may seem overwhelming right now, trying to learn all the different foods to avoid to follow a gluten free lifestyle, it’s important to remember that there’s no rush to commit everything to memory overnight. Having a general idea of what gluten is and where to find it will give you the foundation you need to begin your gluten free journey.

Focus on What You Can Eat

When starting a gluten free diet, it’s only natural to focus the foods that you can no longer enjoy. After all, yummy, gluten-filled treats are in your face pretty much 24/7. Nobody said this was going to be easy, but resisting the urge to wallow and instead focusing on those delicious foods you can eat that are already naturally gluten free will be a much bigger help than fighting this new lifestyle every step of the way. Of course, you could buy ready-made gluten free swaps for your favorite foods, but there is certainly no reason to confine yourself solely to those. Crisp seasonal salads, succulent roasted meats, soul-warming soups, fresh fruits, and vegetables, eggs, tacos (with corn tortillas)—even ice cream—all of these foods and much more are still on the menu for gluten free people. There are also a plethora of tasty, gluten free grains and starches to give you your carb-kick without sacrificing your health.

Gluten Free Grains

Gluten Free Starches

  • Arrowroot
  • Beans (such as black, navy, pinto, soy, lentils)
  • Cassava
  • Flax
  • Nuts
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Sago
  • Seeds
  • Tapioca
  • Yucca
Focusing on what you are gaining through this process, mainly your health, sanity, and peace of mind, will make the adjustment to this new lifestyle that much easier.

Cooking Gluten Free

It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned chef or a novice home cook, learning to cook your own food at home will help liberate you from your gluten free woes. As we mentioned before, it can sometimes be difficult to shop when you are gluten free because, without thoroughly scanning the list of ingredients in every product you buy, you can’t be fully certain where exactly it could be hiding. There will probably come a day when you wonder how you’re ever going to get anything else done when you have to spend so much time stuck in the aisles of the grocery store incessantly googling obscure ingredients. A restaurant can sometimes help alleviate this stress, but you have to know what to order and the right questions to ask (more on that later). However, even then you can’t be 100% certain that your food won’t be cross-contaminated in the kitchen. Plus, constantly eating out isn’t exactly budget-friendly. So unless you are the Rain Man of reading ingredient lists or can afford your own private chef who knows your exact dietary requirements, learning to cook gluten free food at home is the best way to get quality food with ingredients you know and can trust. Learning to cook gluten free is a challenge, but it will be well worth it in the end. When first starting out, keep it simple. Stick to whole, naturally gluten free ingredients like meat, poultry, fish, whole eggs, and plain cheeses. Dairy-based products such as milk, yogurt, sour cream, and butter are safe if they are additive-free. It’s important, however to watch out for those sneaky sources of gluten and to avoid cross-contaminating your food by strategically storing gluten free goods, washing and sanitizing shared dishes and tools and keeping two sets of condiments like butter and mayonnaise to reduce the risk of contamination by dirty utensils.

Join the Community

Another great way to make your transition to the gluten free lifestyle that much easier is to connect with other like-minded people who are also following the same path. It can be tough maintaining the motivation to make big lifestyle changes when you’re going it alone. Try recruiting a friend or two to join you on your gluten free journey or seek out support from online community forums, Facebook pages, and even local meetups in your area. Having others around you who share similar goals can help remind you why you started and keep you committed to your health.


  1. Sandy Marhefka
    Having just been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, (after suffering for a year) I was a bit overwhelmed. Thanks to the Internet, I have been doing my own research as I had NO idea how I was going to cook for myself. I will say I love your flour products but just wish all these specialty products I now have to use were not so costly. It is and as I can now see, a learn as you go process. Thanks for posting these wonderful recipes and simplifying my understanding of Gluten free products !
  2. Denise Howe
    I tried making your packaged gluten free bread and I followed the directions on the package. Unfortunately the dough did not rise so when I baked it, it still felt raw inside. I used a stoneware baking pan, not sure if I should have or if I should buy a metal one. I also don't remember if there was a size for this pan. Did I mix it too much or do you think it was the pan I used? Any assistance would be greatly appreciated as I would really like to try it again.

    thank you in advance for your assistance.
    1. Cassidy Stockton
      Hi Denise,

      I'm not sure what might be going wrong here. Are you able to call us at 800-349-2173 to speak with our recipe specialist?
  3. Kathleen Murtaugh
    Kathleen Murtaugh
    Husband recently diagnosed as gluten intolerant. Looking for resources and recipes
  4. Janean Perrin
    My daughter found out today she has to go gluten free menu She is overwhelmed. I need to find out where she can get a list of good foods she can eat, also what she can't eat, like what products have gluten. Where do we turn for help. I need it also for joint pain We really need help getting started.
    1. Shannon A
      Hi Janean,
      My daughter was diagnosed about 2 years ago with Celiac and has to go Gluten-Free and she was very overwhelmed at first as well. And believe me it takes about a year before you get comfortable in what you have to do. My daughter absolutely fell in love with the "Gluten-Free Girl" she was very helpful about what going gluten-free is all about - she has very simple easy to follow recipes and we even bought her book and it was amazing!! The best advice I can give you daughter is you have to try different things that are gluten-free some breads you will love and some you won't, and also it does get easier and manageable. Good luck to you and hope we helped!
  5. Dianna Blake
    Thank you. The article was very informative. My doctors still don't know why I have abdominal distress (my gall bladder was removed) but after being on a gluten/dairy free bland diet without citris, tomatoes, chocolate, alcohol, spices or fatty foods, I am feeling better. I can eat!! I'm not losing as much weight as I was! There are foods I wish I could eat and I've tried, but I've had problems so I'm not interested any longer. I'm glad I was eating many foods that were fresh: I ate very few processed packaged foods; I'm probably 75 per cent vegetarian. Agains, thanks for the informative article!
  6. Margaret Morish
    I need to find out how to spot what food has gluten in it. I have to be on a gluten free diet. I need help with what to eat.
  7. Helen Masimore
    I loved the article. Do you have this same information in print form? I would love to have this. Thank you.
    1. Cassidy Stockton
      Sure! I'll email you a PDF version.
    2. Gwenratner
      Can I get a PDF so I can print out article? Thank you!
      1. Sarena Shasteen
        We don't have a pdf. You could copy and paste it into your preferred application to print.
  8. Eunice Teunissen
    Eunice Teunissen
    I have had 18" of my colon & 12" of my small intestine removed. I can't tolerate gluten but also everything that is difficult to digest. It's been a real challenge.
  9. Jane Wilson
    Looking forward to new recipes.
  10. tomwolf
    I am 70 I have type 2 diebetic I like to bake glueten free,I live by myself AND NEED FIBRE. THANKS TOM
  11. Kay Cheer
    Would you please e-mail me a copy of this article. Thanks so much. It was very informative.
  12. Boni
    It is going on 4 yrs being Gluten Free. I was always getting sick eating out and even making pasta I was always throwing up with a bloated stomach feeling run down, I was going to a kinesiologist trying to see what I was allergic too. Gluten never came up in any discussion . I was telling my Thyroid Doc that I thought the thyroid med was making me sick.. we kept changing meds then she said.. Go off Gluten. Never heard of Gluten, I went home and spent the day doing research on Gluten and the foods that had it. So I started to go Gluten Free it was hard at first, but the bloat went away, and I dropped almost 10 lbs immediately . 4 years later I am now Gluten Sensitive and if I ingest any I carry a Epi Pen. I have lost 33 lbs over the courses of 2.5 yrs just being off Gluten. I have learned what resturants offer Gluten Free and I always tell them when I order that I am GF and to not cross contaminate my food. I pretty much stick with the same places so they know me. Being Gluten Free you eat healthier and feel soo much better.. And I now bake so many different goodies with Bob's Red Mill products..
  13. Deb donult
    Thank you for such a well written article.
  14. Lola Moore
    Can you please send me a PDF file of this article. Just starting this process and it is overwhelming. Thank your products that I have tired so far.

    **One question...seems to be varying oatmeal gluten free and can I get
    organic and gluten free all in one? and NON-GMO?
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      Our oatmeal is non-GMO. You can find the gluten free organic oats on our website to order if you can't locate them locally.
  15. Karen
    My daughter has been diagnosed with mineears disease and they said going gluten free w/o us help with her dizziness. It seems to helping
    1. Gwenratner
      I have meniers disease. Does going gluten free really help with the dizziness? If so, I'm going gfwould love to hear details of your experience

      Thank you!
      1. Sarena Shasteen
        We recommend speaking with your doctor about how a gluten free diet would effect Meniers Disease. We are not medical professionals and would not be able to advice you on this.
  16. April Parks
    I've had Celiac Disease for almost 12 years now!
  17. steven mazzone
    steven mazzone
    looking for good GF recipes, especially bread and pizza dough
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      We have recipes on our website and mixes if that will help get you started.
  18. Janice cleckler
    Janice cleckler
    My friend has to have gluten free and im diabetic i need simple recipes please
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      If you do a search on our website, you will find simple gluten free recipes.
  19. Paula Gallagher
    Paula Gallagher
    Diagnosed 10 years ago with Celiac I guess this makes me special since only 1% us has it. I use to LOVE your GF flour mix! Unfortunately, I now can't eat potatoes! That's right, a life without French fries! And a very large % of gluten free products contain potato flour and starch. Please consider making a flour mix without either! Thanks for all your wonderful products!
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      Hi Paul, we are so sorry to hear that. We appreciate your feedback and will definitely pass it on to our decision makers. Thank you for trusting us with your health.
  20. Tollfreehoo
    Hello, very very useful products and helpful tips all the time, been a happy consumer of Bob's products for a long time.

    Just have a quick Q. Trying to make a pliable dough using Sorghum flour, but due to lack of gluten it keeps breaking. What can we add to make the dough more elastic like wheat flour and also how do you work on Sorghum flour using Rolling pins or something else?

    Please help as I tried numerous times and methods but not able to and we want to start consuming Sorghum flour as it is good for Diabetic.

    Thank you!
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi! The addition of xanthan gum, guar gum or psyllium fiber would increase the elasticity of your dough.

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