How to Read Labels


It’s day 4 of the 10 Days of Gluten Free blog hop!  I am covering topics related to getting started on the gluten free diet.  Be sure to visit the other participating blogs listed at the end of this post.  Each one is covering a different gluten-free topic and has a great giveaway you can enter.

How to Read Labels

Reading food labels is an essential part of determining if a food is gluten free and safe for you to eat.  Today I will give you the very basics, but if you are new to this, be sure to read my series on Reading Labels.


On day 1 I talked about what gluten is.  Now you need to be able to spot it on a label.  You should get in the habit of reading the list of ingredients for all the foods you eat.

It takes a little time and might require reading glasses, but it is worth it.  Not only will it protect you from ingesting gluten, but it will be very educational for you.    Knowing exactly what you are putting into your body will help you make healthier choices.

The good news is that in the U.S. wheat, because it is one of the top eight allergens, has to be clearly stated on a label.  It can’t be hidden in other terms.

Rye and oats are pretty straight forward ingredients.  Look for those words, and you will know if they are in a food.  Barley might be listed as barley on a label or, as I mentioned yesterday, can show up in the form of malt.

Allergy Statements

Sometimes allergens such as wheat are listed in an allergen statement at the end of the ingredients, often in bold.  This can help you to quickly identify a food that is unsafe.

I find it easiest to scan a label of an allergy statement first.  If wheat is there, I put the item back.  If not, then I read through the ingredients looking for wheat, rye, barley, oats, or malt.  If none of those items are present, the food is likely gluten free.


Statements about cross contamination are sometimes found on labels also.  I will talk about that tomorrow.



Shelley Case is giving away a copy of her book Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide.  The title is an appropriate description.  This book would be useful to anyone on a gluten-free diet.

Giveaway Guidelines

  • This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents 18 and older.
  • You are allowed one entry per “10 Days of Gluten Free” blog post for a total of 10 entries on this blog.
  • Enter by leaving a comment on this post (and other 10 Days of GF posts)
  • The giveaway begins May 7, 2012 and ends at 11:59 pm eastern time on May 18, 2012.

No purchase is necessary.  Odds of winning are based on the number of entries.  The winner will be randomly chosen and will be contacted by email.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond.  If the winner does not respond, a new winner will be randomly chosen.

10 Days of Gluten Free Continues:

These bloggers have great tips and ideas to share with you.  Please stop by and remember to enter the giveaways.


This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.


  1. Natalie says

    I, too, struggle with reading labels. It’s worse since my husband has started doing some of the shopping since he is semi retired. He will buy things thinking that they are gluten free but aren’t.

  2. Deanna says

    Reading labels is one the most tideous jobs when it comes to shopping for food. So many things can have several different names and so many things can hide. I also have had problems with the company changing the ingredients without notification. I always check and then check again!

  3. Alyssa says

    It is really important to check labels. Sometimes foods that used to be without gluten containing ingredients get re-formulated (and thus to now contain gluten).

  4. says

    It would be so much easier and safer if food companies HAD TO put an allergy warning on labels, wouldn’t it? I have to watch for MSG and all it’s hidden ingredient names too, so I still have to read labels.

  5. Nadine says

    Reading Labels are a struggle and it take time to shop. I look for the allergy warnings on the label first.

  6. says

    You’re right, you do learn a lot reading labels. I was reading for fat, sugar and salt years before I even knew what gluten was. I still get surprised by some of the places those things show up. I think the hardest part for me in beginning label reading was learning all the “code words” — the names things I was try to avoid might hide under. You’re doing a good job with this series Linda.

  7. julie says

    I love when labels have the allergin info listed. It’s a fast way for me to know if I nee dto read the ingredients!

  8. Susan says

    My husband and I now automatically scrutinize every label. I feel like we’re learning to become chemists, with learning what “disodium guanylate” is and whether it is safe for me, as an example!

  9. Robin says

    I have spent most of my day reading labels in the grocery store, very frustrated and when in doubt I have done without purchasing the products. I hope as time goes by this gets a little easier, although I’ve had help from a friend. I have also enjoyed finding recipes to replace the common dishes we used to eat. Thanks for your informative post and recipes :)

  10. Heather says

    I realized I have done my husband a disservice by handling all the gluten free shopping and planning for our son. He doesn’t automatically think to check the label and when he does he still feels obligated to run it by me.

  11. Vicky says

    Why am I at the store for more than 1 hour? I have to read all my items. My town does not have a GF area, as they do in big cities. And then some of my regular foods that were safe to eat, now have wheat in them… What were they thinking!!

  12. Pat says

    Reading labels is very time consuming yet, very important. I do hope the new laws that are to come out yet this year will make it easier if the companies have to go through testing to be labeled GF

  13. Anne Sullivan says

    I wish that “gluten” were something that had to be in the allergen content at the end of ingredients. Takes too long to shop when looking at all the labels!

  14. Teri says

    Reading labels is complicated because you often have to “read between’ the lines (or ingredients). Modified Food starch, Caramel Coloring, flavorings, are to vague and really don’t help. I really wish it was not so difficult.

  15. says

    Reading labels is a MUST – modified food starch…caramel…there are other HIDDEN sources of gluten that we must watch out for too!

  16. Barb K says

    This book will help. I have some health problems I am trying to change my way of eating. This will give me some ideas.

  17. Colleen M. says

    I agree with so many of the previous comments. Reading labels is so imporant and necessary each and every time you buy a product because ingredient lists do change. Also trying to emphasize a more “whole foods” approach will help eliminate hidden gluten.

  18. Tonja says

    I takes forever in the grocery store reading labels, but it is so important. Thanks for the tips!

  19. Christine Prince says

    This is great one of my four daughters was diagnosed with Celiacs yesterday and today has been an overwhelming day trying to learn how to feed my daughter and get her healthy. Thank you for the information it is very helpful

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