Whether you’re like me and have been gluten-free for years or you’re just getting started with the diet, having to read labels is a chore. I don’t mind that it has made me more aware of what’s in the food I’m eating and has helped me make healthier choices, but sometimes it’s just a pain.
Recently I was reminded that it’s important to read labels on everything, every time. Reading small print has become difficult for me as I have aged. I always have my reading glasses out when I’m grocery shopping, but some of the print is so small it’s frustrating! So I admit, I sometimes scan labels pretty quickly, and it is possible to miss things.
While it wasn’t anything that made me sick (that I know of), I recently took a closer look as my vitamin bottles. I found that one contained 30 mg. of soy (it was a women’s formula). Soy does not contain gluten, but it is something I try to avoid for other reasons, and here I was taking it in a supplement.
The other vitamin contained a phytonutrient blend and that blend included barley grass. Technically, grasses are gluten free because gluten is found in the grain part of the pant, not the grass. But contamination seems highly likely, and I would never intentionally consume barley or wheat grass.
Discovering those two things in my supplements was a good reminder to me. It’s easy to do the same thing with food – to skip reading the label or to skim over it and miss something. Even with products and brands that you have checked before, don’t assume that nothing has changed.
And if you find yourself having symptoms or just feeling not quite right, it’s always a good idea to double check any processed foods and supplements that you consume regularly.
How to read labels to determine if a food contains gluten
Most of the time you can determine from reading a food label if the product is gluten-free and safe for you to eat. Here are the steps I take.
- Look for a certified gluten free symbol. I don’t mean that the package says the food is gluten free, but rather that there is a symbol on the package stating it is certified by an outside company. If so, then it is safe (though it’s not a 100% guarantee and you should look into what the standards are for that certification). If there is no symbol, go to the next step.
- Look for an allergen statement below the ingredients. If it contains wheat, it’s not safe. If wheat is not listed there, go on to the next step.
- Read the list of ingredients looking for wheat, rye, barley, malt, brewer’s yeast, or oats. If it contains any of these (unless the oats are specified gluten free or the source of malt is not barley), then it is not gluten free. If it does not contain these ingredients, the food is likely gluten free, but go on to the next step.
- Look for any statements about the manufacturing process such as “processed on equipment that also processes wheat.” Read about what these statements mean and how I use them.
- Call the manufacturer if you are in doubt or unclear about the information on the label. You can also check web sites. Some companies list their products that are gluten free or do not contain any gluten ingredients.
If you are on a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, then it’s important to your health to take the time to read labels. I know I slack off on at times, and I’m sure you do too, so this is a reminder for all of us.
I’ve written in more detail in the past about reading labels. You can find those posts here:
- Reading Labels Part 1 – What ingredients you’re looking for
- Reading Labels Part 2 – FALCPA, How I Read a Label
- Reading Labels Part 3 – Cross Contamination and Warning Statements