Kristen Ziesmer, Sports Dietitian - The Low Down on Gluten

The Low Down on Gluten

This guest post provides a comprehensive low down on everything you need to know about gluten.

Get tips and recipes for eating gluten-free!

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheat berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, kamut, khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale, which is a cross between wheat and rye.

What does it do? What foods contain gluten?

The purpose of gluten is to help foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. It can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected. In general, most people will associate gluten as being part of the big 3: wheat, rye, and barley. Here is a list of food sources from each group.

  • Pastas: raviolis, dumplings, couscous, and gnocchi
  • Noodles: ramen, udon, soba (those made with only a percentage of buckwheat flour) chow mein, and egg noodles. (Note: rice noodles and mung bean noodles are gluten free)
  • Breads and Pastries: croissants, pita, naan, bagels, flatbreads, cornbread, potato bread, muffins, donuts, rolls
  • Crackers: pretzels, goldfish, graham crackers
  • Baked Goods: cakes, cookies, pie crusts, brownies
  • CerealGranola: Corn flakes and rice puffs often contain malt extract/flavoring, granola often made with regular oats, not gluten-free oats
  • Breakfast Foods: pancakes, waffles, french toast, crepes, and biscuits.
  • Breading & Coating Mixes: panko breadcrumbs
  • Croutons: stuffings, dressings
  • Sauces &Gravies (many use wheat flour as a thickener), traditional soy sauce, cream sauces made with a roux
  • Flour tortillas
  • Beer(unless explicitly gluten-free) and any malt beverages (see “Distilled Beverages and Vinegars” below for more information on alcoholic beverages)

Kristen Ziesmer, Sports Dietitian - The Low Down on GlutenCeliac Disease vs. Gluten Sensitivity

Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine and other major organ systems. Gluten sensitivity has been coined to describe those individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease yet lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease.

In other words, people with gluten sensitivity would not test positive for celiac disease based on blood testing, nor do they have the same type of intestinal damage found in individuals with celiac disease. Some individuals may experience minimal intestinal damage, and this goes away with a gluten-free diet.

Let’s Talk About Oats

Oats can add diversity and offer many nutritional benefits to the gluten-free diet. The recommendation is to eat oats labeled gluten-free as cross-contact may occur when oats are grown side-by-side with wheat, barley or rye (very common practice). In general, eating oats from any source may cause you to complain of symptoms resembling gluten intolerance. This could be due to one or more of several factors, including intolerance to the increase in fiber, food intolerances, contamination with gluten, or, rarely, the development of an immune response to oat protein, similar to that occurring due to gluten.

How to Tell if a Packaged Food Product is Gluten-Free

Obviously, look for a gluten-free label. If a product claims to be gluten-free on the package, then it is most likely safe to eat as the FDA only allows packaged foods with less than 20ppm of gluten to be labeled “gluten-free.”

However, you should still check the ingredients list, {Wheat, Barley, Rye, Malt, Brewer’s yeast, Oats (unless specifically labeled gluten-free)}.

It is also important to remember that “wheat-free” does not necessarily mean “gluten-free.”

Kristen Ziesmer, Sports Dietitian - The Low Down on Gluten

So Now What? How Do I Eat Gluten-Free?

The most cost-effective and healthy way to follow the gluten-free diet is to seek out these naturally gluten-free food groups, which include:

  • Fruits & Vegetables
  • Meat & Poultry
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Dairy
  • Beans, Legumes, Nuts

The following grains and other starch-containing foods are naturally gluten-free: Rice, Cassava, Corn (maize), Soy, Potato, Tapioca, Beans, Sorghum, Quinoa, Millet, Buckwheat groats (also known as kasha), Arrowroot, Amaranth, Teff, Flax, Chia, Yucca, Gluten-free oats, and Nut flours.

How Can a Dietitian Help?

As someone who understands the anxiety, confusion, and fear that can come over you after leaving the doctor’s office (I still remember the day 15 years ago when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes) the best case scenario is to find help from a professional who can help you put together a plan and get your questions answered immediately. The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet. The Internet can be a wonderful help but can also be a source of confusion and misinformation.

A consultation would include:

  • An assessment to determine a nutritional plan. This includes the review of nutritional anemias, vitamin deficiencies, and other factors affecting quality of life.
  • Locating sources of gluten inadvertently getting into your diet.
  • Help determining if your current symptoms are related to other dietary intolerances such as lactose or fructose.
  • Assessment of gastrointestinal symptoms as well as others related to celiac disease and the conditions it sometimes causes.
  • Nutritional advice and education on how to follow a gluten-free diet.
  • Gluten-free meal plans, the consumption of whole and enriched gluten-free grains, the addition of multivitamins and mineral supplements (calcium, Vitamin D, iron).
  • How to read labels to determine if a food is gluten free.

Example of a Gluten-free Menu:

Kristen Ziesmer, Sports Dietitian - The Low Down on GlutenBreakfast

Spinach and Oven-Roasted Tomato Omelet

Servings: 2



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup oven-roasted tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

LunchKristen Ziesmer, Sports Dietitian - The Low Down on Gluten

Tacos or Taco Salad

Servings: 4


  • 1 pound ground beef or any white fish
  • 2 tablespoons all natural taco mix
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces or shredded
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 avocado, sliced or chopped
  • salt to taste

Kristen Ziesmer, Sports Dietitian - The Low Down on GlutenDinner

Balsamic Glazed Chicken with Mushrooms

Servings: 4



  • 1 pound chicken breast (skinless, boneless)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) low sodium chicken broth
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • salt and pepper

Also, check out this recipe for Gluten Free Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin!

Sean Vander Veer Elite Nutrition and Performance RD

Sean Vander Veer RD, LD, CPT


Contact Kristen any time to schedule a free 15-minute consultation, so we can discuss your particular situation and goals.

To get started and learn more, click HERE to schedule your FREE no obligation consultation! I’d love to talk to you and find out more about your goals and show you how I can help you get better at your sport and /or get healthier. Virtual Consultations available in the comfort of your home!

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