They Put Gluten in THAT?!

Dealing with Hidden Gluten

Woman eating a french fry while looking at her phone. The caption reads, They put gluten in THAT?
They put gluten in THAT?

One of the trickiest parts about being gluten-free is that gluten hides in so many foods you wouldn’t expect. I spent most of the first year of my GF Journey saying, “But why would they put gluten in this?” I remember crying a lot too. Like the time I brought home a bag of my favorite black licorice All Sorts, thinking, “I can’t have all that other stuff, but at least I can have this.” As I popped one in my mouth and started chewing, all of a sudden, the thought hit me, “No. No, it couldn’t be. Surely not. Better to be sure…” Then–still chewing–I read the label. Wheat was the first ingredient, and I was in for yet another 3 weeks of symptoms.

I can give you my list of top hidden gluten offenders–and I will below. But the thing is, it’s not an exhaustive list, because every day new products hit the market. It will be much easier for you to learn what ingredients can cause you problems than to try to figure out which products could possibly give you symptoms. The fact is, the food industry combines ingredients in weird ways and frequently uses gluten as a binder, a thickener, and a flavor enhancer. Gluten hides in the weirdest places.

Top places gluten can hide:

  • Soy sauce and anything that contains soy sauce, such as sauces, soups, marinades, and salad dressings.
  • Candy 
  • Chocolate anything (look for malt)
  • Drinks, including soft drinks (bubbly and flat), flavored milks, non-alcoholic mixers, beers, wines, wine coolers, liqueurs, and spirits
  • Processed meats (including deli meats, sausages, and bacon)
  • Dairy products (cheeses, flavored milks, ice cream)
  • Rice and/or corn (cooked with flavors, puffed, popped, and in cereals)
  • Anything fried (unless it’s in a dedicated fryer)

One of the best tools I have ever had for weeding the hidden gluten out of my life was what I call a Food and Symptoms journal. I still keep one, to this day. When I first began it, I wrote down the date, time, and everything I consumed. (I did NOT write down servings or amounts. This was only to identify which foods were giving me problems, NOT how many calories I was eating.)  I also wrote down the times all my symptoms started hitting, what they were, and how severe they were. From that, I was able to tell how long it would take before the first symptom would show itself (3 hours for me), and from that, I was able to start working backwards when a symptom hit out of the blue, to see what I had eaten 3 hours earlier.

The nice part about doing this is that once I had identified where the hidden gluten was getting into my system, I was then able to replace it. Most of the time, I only had to switch brands, and I was good to go. (My favorite candy, black licorice, was a bit trickier, since wheat is a main ingredient, but I was able to find a couple of gluten-free brands.)

Hidden gluten is probably the most frustrating part of this diet, especially because food manufacturers change their recipes regularly. The best thing you can do is to keep reading labels for ingredients and be your own best advocate. Stay strong! You’ve got this.

Was there a food that caught you completely off-guard, the way licorice did me?