Gluten is hiding in places you may not realize.
Many of us know the feeling and have at one time thought “I know what I ate, I didn’t do anything wrong – why do I feel like I got glutened?”
If you have felt this way, its very possible you were tricked by a hidden gluten source – there are variety of them out there, and if you are new to eating GF then there will seem to be even more. I remember years ago when I found out soy sauce was not GF and now that seems like old hat. No matter whether you are a GF veteran or a newbie always keep watch for the hidden sources that trip us up – they are out there!
1. Corn Tortillas: Many corn tortillas available in the store are not gluten-free because they are made on the same equipment as flour tortillas and there is heavy cross contamination. To make matters worse, many restaurants put corn tortillas in the same serving container as flour ones, or even co-mingle them in the same container. There are a few brands that label their products gluten-free, but you may want to contact them to understand how and where they make them. Mission makes corn tortillas on dedicated lines where no gluten is present, but wheat is present in the facility – they do a good job of disclosing all this information in their FAQ section.
2. Scrambled eggs: “Pardon, scrambled eggs” you say? OK – so 99% of scrambled eggs are gluten-free because eggs of course are naturally gluten-free. However, some breakfast restaurants mix in pancake batter with their scrambled egg mixture to “make the eggs fluffy” (see IHOP’s website). It may help in fluffiness but it also helps them reduce the cost of the eggs by adding cheap filler pancake batter – I will not be eating at IHOP anytime soon! So what can you do? You can ask the restaurant if they mix in pancake batter – I’ve asked this question and I also have been told that someone else has asked this question in the past (which was good to hear). If you want to take out all the risk, or simply just don’t feel like asking the question, just get poached or fried eggs and skip the scrambled or the omelettes.
3. Pickles: I can hear you now – “what!!! pickles!!!” That’s what I thought too. Similar to above, 98%, well probably 99%, of pickles are gluten-free. Essentially the only time you can get glutened with pickles is when malt vinegar is used in the picking process. Nearly all store bought pickles are OK – just check to make sure the ingredients are vinegar or distilled vinegar. Labeling laws require that if malt vinegar is used, it must be stated as such on the label. I know there is debate out there relating the to the GF status of distilled vinegars (since they are generally made from gluten-containing grains). But, in general, distilled vinegar is considered safe for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
4. Imitation Crab Meat: Imitation crab meat is generally a combination of pollock, wheat, and water, along with a variety of other ingredients (including real crab – yes, real crab! – ok, maybe only .1% of the total ingredients but its in there!), along with spices, and a bunch of unpronounceable ingredients made in a lab (one more reason to avoid this food item). One more item to note if you like Sushi – some sushi restaurants use imitation crab, often referred to as “crab stick”. In general, the higher end the sushi place is, the less likely they are to use crab stick. But looks can be deceiving, so please ask before you order to make sure you are getting the real thing and not the imitation.
5. Sauces/Gravies/Soups: This is a bit of a catch-all, and some of this may be obvious, but there are always surprises out there for all of us. If you are not familiar with what a roux is – check out this wikipedia page which may help explain why many soups and sauces contain wheat. However, don’t be surprised that a thinner sauce with a consistency closer to water can also contain gluten. I was at a steakhouse a couple of years ago and after I ordered, I saw some steaks coming out of the kitchen with a light sauce. I immediately asked to have my steak served without the sauce and the waiter thanked me and told me that the thin, brown sauce did in fact, contain gluten. It’s always safest to ask, or just order the meat dry/without sauce – it is generally its an easy request to satisfy.