In the spirit of April Fool’s Day, we’re taking a closer look at mischievous foods that can trick us into thinking they’re gluten-free. For people who are Celiac or gluten-intolerant, eating gluten is no joke and can have severe medical repercussions on health and well-being. Although all packaged foods are required to have clear labels indicating major allergens, including wheat, heed warning: just because a food is wheat-free doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s gluten-free. We’ve compiled a list of common—including some downright surprising—items that are often mistaken as gluten-free:
Most beers are made from barley, wheat, or rye—grains that contain high quantities of gluten. Malt and malt flavoring are also glutinous, so it’s best to steer clear from ales, lagers, as well as wine coolers. Look for clearly labeled gluten-free beers or hard cider if you’re in the mood for a pint of something carbonated and crisp. Other non-beer alternatives include sake (usually gluten-free because it’s made from rice)*, wine, and other liquors made from fruits.
*There are some sakes that may contain trace amounts of gluten if they have been distilled from wheat.
This one’s tricky! While pure, non-contaminated oats are safe for most people with gluten intolerances, the reality is that many popular brands of commercial oats (including Quaker Oats) fall victim to cross-contamination. These oats are grown in fields near wheat and are processed in facilities that also process wheat, barley, and rye. The good news is gluten-free oats are widely available in grocery stores; however, if you’re looking to bypass oats all together, try other slow-cooked grains, such as quinoa or millet, topped with fruit, nuts, and cinnamon in place of your oatmeal breakfast.
Think twice when using bottled ranch, blue cheese, or Caesar dressing if you’re gluten-free. Many salad dressings, especially the creamy ones, contain glutinous thickening agents. While the best alternative is to make your own, oil-based vinaigrettes are almost always the safest store-bought option.
This super salty condiment can also sneakily include traces of wheat or barley. But fear not, gluten-free sushi lovers! Entirely soy-based options are out there, so be sure to carefully read your food labels. Tamari typically has less wheat than soy sauce and brands like San-J and Kikkoman carry lines of tamari that contain entirely 100% soy. For other options that yield a similarly intense umami flavor, look for Bragg Liquid Aminos or coconut aminos.
Imitation Crab Meat
Even though sushi is typically gluten-free, rolls with imitation crab are not. This means a crowd favorite, the California roll, should be off the table if you want yours to remain gluten-free. Instead, try nigiri style sushi (single pieces of fish on mounds or rice) or rolls that contain fresh fish. If raw fish isn’t your jam, cucumber or avocado rolls are refreshing alternatives.
Have you ever wondered what makes licorice so stretchy? Look no further: it’s gluten. Popular licorice brands like Twizzlers and Good & Plenty are ones to definitely watch out for. If you’re vying for a non-gluten alternative, check out YumEarth licorice. Their products contain rice flour in place of wheat flour and are also vegan, organic, and dye-free.
Whether you prefer milk, white, or dark to satisfy your chocolate cravings, read those food labels with a hawkish eye before you savor this sweet. Some chocolate bars and other chocolate candies contain wheat flour. While brands like Hershey, Dove Chocolate, and Endangered Species Chocolate contain no gluten ingredients, always remain aware of the risk of cross-contamination in any packaged treat you consume.
Stay on your toes! It’s a good idea to call restaurants ahead before eating out if you’re unsure whether a menu item is gluten-free or if you have questions about food preparation spaces. Checking food labels and ingredient lists closely before you toss them into your shopping cart is another important habit to keep yourself on gluten guard.