Avoiding Gluten

You may have read all about gluten intolerances, and are now ready to go GF (gluten free). It all seems a bit overwhelming and you don’t know where to start.

A good place to start is to join the GFCFNN Yahoo group for Gluten and Casein free recipes with a native nutrition (whole food) slant. This is a very supportive group for anyone suffering from gluten, casein or other food allergies. You’ll find a sympathetic ear, practical advice and ways to help your healing. (There are lots of other GF websites and information around, but most of the them are still relying on refined flours, just not GF ones, and may contain other undesirables, like sugar and vegetable oils.)

If you’ve been medically diagnosed as a coeliac, there will be a Coeliac (or Celiac) Society for your country that you can join. In some countries, this may entitle you to financial rebates on GF food. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed and can’t join, they mostly have useful websites, with loads of helpful information, such as food manufacturers databases. Here are some of the societies – this is not a comprehensive list and there may be more, including some local areas:

Get your mind around what contains gluten and what is safe to eat. There is a list of common sources of gluten at the bottom of this page. It has been estimated that as few as 30% of diagnosed celiacs are 100% gluten free, as gluten is hidden in so many places. They often feel that they are being so compliant, but are still having health problems.

Start learning new ways to cook. To start off with, it may be easier to just substitute GF bread for bread, etc. But then you may find you actually are fine without bread (or pasta, or pizza, or cake) at all. To get you going, GFCFNN has lots of tips. There is a list of some good flours to use, further down the page. And there are lots of gluten free recipes in my cooking course. Here are some sample recipes:

Search out some easy to buy GF foods, so that you always have some thing to fall back on. If your previous diet was high in wheat products like pasta, bread and pizza, you may want to keep a packet of GF pasta in the cupboard, and some sliced bread and a pizza base in the freezer so you can always make a quick GF meal. A lot of the GF foods available may not be whole foods, but better to be able to buy a GF cake for your child to take to a party, then have him eat wheat when he gets there. Or to be able to treat the family to pizza on a special occasion, when you might not have time to prepare a base from scratch.

~ For those in NZ, check out the Aug 05 newsletter for some brands. ~

Decide whether you want to go cold turkey straight away, or whether you want to gradually replace wheat products with GF ones. You need to be aware that you may suffer withdrawal symptoms, and it can feel pretty bad. These can range from fairly mild to severe – flu like feelings, headaches, etc. This should pass within 3-6 days and you should start feeling better. If you gradually wean yourself off the suspected foods, to let your body adapt, the withdrawal symptoms will be less severe, but will go on for longer.

At some point, you will probably want to ban gluten from the house completely. There are several reasons for this:

  • For some gluten intolerant people, even miniscule amounts can cause a reaction. So even having it in the house for others can cause contamination.
  • If one member of the household has a reaction to gluten, chances are it will be harmful for others, even if not diagnosed.
  • It’s easier to prepare the same meals for everybody, than to have one person on a special diet.
  • If the whole family eats the same, the “allergic” person doesn’t have to feel like a freak, or deprived and left out.

Now clean out your kitchen. Throw away all foods that contain gluten. Throw away any foods in open containers, or that may have been contaminated with flour in the air. Buy a new toaster, and clean everything else that may have come into contact with gluten in any form.

You’ll need to get into the habit of reading labels and cross questioning the waiting staff at any restaurants you go to. This will probably be a bit uncomfortable at first, but become more second nature after a while.

Another vital habit will be carrying food with you. In time you may be able to build up a network of places you can safely eat, while at work or out and about. But it’s not easy, and sometimes it’s a matter of take your own food or go hungry! I’ve started compiling a page with bakeries, cafes, restaurants and accomodation in NZ that offer GF alternatives. But since I can’t travel the whole country searching them out, and the page is still quite small, please email me if you find somewhere good in your area. There are also other similar lists around.

In NZ, Gluten Free Goodies are a company who supply GF baking mixes and recipes. They have a great links page with a lot of useful information.

GF flours

Gluten holds moisture and binds food, so when you remove this, things start to unravel. This is why it is so important to include a binder so the end result will be successful. It seems to be best to use 2 or more gluten free flours together when substituting them from wheat flour. A mixture of GF flours gives a better texture and flavour than just one on its own. When baking it is good to have 2 grainy or crumbly flours and a binding one. But there are some recipes that will work well successfully with only one flour.
Choose 2 of the crumbly or grainy flours: Add a binding flour: And/or use 1-2 of these binders: Add 1-2 of these for flavour & texture & lower carbs (opt):

  1. Amaranth
  2. Coconut
  3. Corn
  4. Rice
  5. Millet
  1. Buckwheat
  2. Arrowroot
  3. Tapioca flour
  4. Potato starch
  5. Potato flour
  6. Pea or pulse flours
  1. Egg
  2. Pectin
  3. Guar gum
  4. Xantham gum
  5. Flaxseed “gel”
  6. Sago
  1. Ground sesame seeds
  2. Ground flaxseed
  3. Ground “Crispy” nuts
  4. Ground almonds

1 – Good flavour for cakes, biscuits and pancakes. Always needs a binding flour with it. Needs to be soaked overnight in something acidic, like yoghurt, or lemon juice and water.

2 – This is a fairly new flour that’s not yet available in NZ. You can make your own, by getting fine dessicated coconut and processing in a food processor

3 – Cornmeal needs to be soaked in lime water, rather than acids. Corn starch or flour can be blended with cornmeal to make corn breads or muffins. Corn is a common allergen.

4 – Some people find brown rice hard to digest. White rice is often used as it’s easier to digest and fairly low allergy. It is pure starch and not high in nutrients. Either brown or white is good for thickening
gravies, sauces, and cream pies.

5 – Tends to make breads dry and coarse so don’t use more than 1/5 of the flour mixture.

1 – Buckwheat groats can be sprouted, dried and then ground into flour that doesn’t need further soaking. But if you use ready bought flour, it will need to be soaked in something acid. Use in small amounts as it has a strong flavor and is sometimes difficult to digest.

2 – Easy to digest, and the most nutritious of the white flours as it is not refined. A superior thickener.

3 – Imparts the “chew factor”, excellent used in small quantities. Also good for coating anything that’s going to be fried. Again a refined starch and not high in nutrients.

4 – Excellent for baking when used with other
flours. It is a good thickening agent for cream soups. A refined starch and not high in nutrients.

5 – Potato flour is different from potato starch. As far as I know, it’s not available in NZ.

6. Use in small quantities only, as they are better soaked.

4 – Some people react to guar gum, so xantham is better. If you also react to that, try pectin. If still no go, try without it, it will just be a little heavier.

5 – Good egg replacer in baking: Simmer 1/4 cup flax seeds in 3/4 cup water for 5-7 mins, till thick. Strain the seeds out in a cheesecloth lined strainer – you’ll need to squeeze it. Use 4 Tbs for 1 egg. For extra lightness, whip the “gel” and fold through at the end of mixing.

1 – Makes a nice pizza base, with some flaxseed and beaten eggs.

2 – Small amounts are nice in GF bread

4 – Many gluten free recipes use ground almonds, but they are not soaked so the anti-nutrients aren’t neutralised. “Crispy” nuts ground yourself are better. Macadamias and almonds are good for a neutral flavour.

GF flours that are not recommended


Although quinoa is an excellent whole grain, it needs thorough rinsing, and at least 8 hours soaking before being cooked.

As quinoa flour has not been treated in this way, it can taste bitter, and may have some toxic elements.


Many gluten free recipes use soy, but we do not recommend soy flour, as it hasn’t been fermented.


A couple of my favourite combinations:

  • 1/2 cup each of amaranth (soaked), white rice flour, coconut flour, arrowroot
  • ground crispy nuts, coconut flour, arrowroot

Some other possibilities, not commonly available in New Zealand, include:

  • teff
  • sorghum (excellent for all baking purposes, the best general purpose gluten-free flour)
  • montina (Indian rice) and
  • mesquite (which is low carb)

Some people are only wheat intolerant, not gluten intolerant, and can have kamut or spelt. For 1 cup wheat flour, use:

  • 1 cup kamut flour (the gluten is more delicate and needs less kneading)
  • 3/4 cup spelt flour

Some possible substitutes for 1 cup of wheat flour, that other people have used successfully:

  • 7/8 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch
  • 5/8 cup potato starch flour
  • 5/8 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 cup corn flour
  • 1 cup teff flour
  • 1/2 cup rice + 1/2 cup maize
  • 1 cup maize + 1 tbsp millet flour
  • 1/2 cup rice + 1/4 cup buckwheat + 1/4 cup chickpea (good for cakes and muffins)
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat + 1/2 cup potato
  • 1/2 cup quinoa + 1/2 cup potato
  • 3/4 cup amaranth flour + 1/4 cup potato flour
  • 3/4 cup Amaranth flour + 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 3/4 cup Quinoa + 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 3/4 cup Quinoa + 1/4 cup arrowroot

General tips:

  • Not all baking powders are gluten free. A suitable replacement for 1 tsp baking powder is ½ tsp cream of tartar, plus ¼ tsp baking soda.
  • Non-gluten flours are heavier than those with gluten and take longer to cook. To help them rise, add 1 tsp guar gum, xantham gum or pectin for each cup of flour.
  • When using a combination of GF flours it is essential to mix them thoroughly first before adding other ingredients
  • Certain combinations of flours work differently from recipe to recipe. A certain combination may work well in a pancake recipe, but may not be as successful in a spongy cake.
  • GF mixtures need to be wetter for cakes and muffins and drier for biscuits
  • GF baking sticks to the baking surface so use baking paper or grease tin well
  • GF products are better when baked at a slightly lower temperature for a longer period of time.
  • When making biscuits chill the mixture for 1/2 hour before cooking and they will be easier to handle
  • When making pastry press the dough into the dish instead of trying to roll it out, this saves time and frustration!

Common sources of gluten

The sad truth is that even foods that look gluten free may not be. They may have been prepared in a facility that also uses gluten, and may be contaminated. Many people think they’re completely gluten free and wonder why they don’t feel better. It’s the hidden gluten. One test found that many GF products were actually contaminated. The only way to be really safe is to prepare eveyrthing yourself. This isn’t always possible though, so here are some common sources of gluten.

  • Grains, flours, cereals:
    • Wheat, rye, barley, semolina, triticale (a rye/wheat hybrid), spelt, kamut (aka pharoah’s flour), triticale
    • Technically, oats don’t contain gluten, so some consider them to be safe. But they are often contaminated, so it is safer to avoid them.
    • Grains that DON’T have gluten are corn, rice, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, sorghum
    • Other gluten free flours include arrowroot, potato and tapioca
  • Breads and baked goods:
    • All bread containing wheat, oats, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale.
    • Most crackers, croutons, bread crumbs, wafers, biscuits, doughnuts, graham crackers, soda crackers, flour tortillas
    • Even some rice crackers are not gluten free, as they may contain soy sauce. Look for those which just have rice, vegetable oil and salt. Plain are often the only safe flavours, though sesame seed flavour is sometimes OK.
  • Pasta:
    • Any regular pasta – dry, canned, fresh.
    • Look for GF pastas made from corn, quinoa or buckwheat – but be aware that some buckwheat noodles also contain wheat.
  • Food Additives:
    • Glucose syrup – can be derived from either wheat or corn
    • Rice Syrup – may contain barley malt
    • Dextrin – could be wheat, unless listed as ‘corn dextrin’ or maltodextrin which, ironically, is corn
    • Malt – derived from barley
    • Flavour enhancers – could be malt
    • Flavourings & Extracts – most use grain alcohol.
    • Caramel Colour – could be malt
    • Modified Food Starch – could be wheat.
    • Starch that isn’t identified – In the U.S. this is usually corn, but elsewhere could be wheat
    • Binders, fillers, excipients, extenders – if not specified
    • Fu = dried wheat gluten
    • MSG = monosodium glutamate. Note that yeast extracts (eg Marmite) contain MSG
    • HVP (Hydrolized Vegetable Protein) – could be wheat based, ask manufacturer
    • HPP = hydrolized plant protein
    • TPP = textured plant protein
    • TVP = text. veg. protein
    • Gums such as xantham, guar and pectin, which are used to replace gluten in GF baking, are safe from a gluten viewpoint, but many people with damaged guts find them difficult to digest.
  • Soups:
    • Most canned soups, dry mixes, bouillon which has Hyd. Veg. Protein
  • Condiments:
    • Some curry powder, some mixed spices, grain-distilled vinegar (could be using a gluten based grain alcohol), some catsup, some prepared mustards, most soy sauces and things made with soy sauce – teriyaki, etc.
    • Check the labels. Some are OK. Look for wheat free tamari instead of soy sauce, for eg.
  • Desserts:
    • All pies, cakes, cookies, etc. with wheat, rye, barley, oat flours, pudding mixes, ice cream cones, prepared cake mixes.
  • Sweets:
    • Some candy, marshmallow cream, cake decorations, marzipan, licorice
    • Candy may have hidden gluten – conveyor may be dusted with wheat flour
    • Grain sweetened chocolate – usually has barley malt
  • Fruits:
    • Any canned fruit with gluten thickening. Tinned fruit in syrup – check to see what the sweetener is. Tinned fruit in juice, frozen fruit and fresh fruit should be OK.
  • Vegetables:
    • Creamed, breaded, escalloped, some baked beans, some prepared salad mixes
    • French fries & hash browns – could share oil with gluten (at restaurants). Some frozen ones are coated with wheat, look for those with just potato and lard or palm oil.
  • Meat, Fish, Poultry, Eggs:
    • Surimi – imitation seafood may contain wheat starch
    • Eggs in a gluten based sauce, some hot dogs and luncheon meats, some fish in vegetable broths, self-basting turkey with HVP.
    • Eggs & hamburger patties at restaurants – make sure griddle isn’t shared with pancakes or buns (baps)
  • Dairy:
    • Malted milk, artificial cream with gluten ing., some chocolate milks, some ice creams, flavored yogurt
  • Beverages:
    • postum, ovaltine, some flavored coffees and herbal teas.
    • Instant or powdered coffee – flavours may have gluten (English coffees are the worst)
    • Decaf coffee – affects celiacs unless water processed
    • Tea – okay unless instant
  • Alcoholic Beverages:
    • Beer, ale, gin, grain vodka, whiskey (bourbon), scotch, rye
    • There are some gluten free beers available, but check ingredients carefully. Even most rice beers are made with barley malt, though not all. In NZ, you can buy GF beer from The Twisted Hop
  • Hidden Gluten:
    • Prescriptions – can contain wheat starch as filler
    • Envelopes – glue can have gluten – use a wet sponge
  • Possibly contaminated things:
    • Your toaster
    • Your butter, jam, peanut butter, etc – things that got spread onto gluten foods
    • The sugar container that you used the last time you made something with wheat flour
    • Bulk bins at stores (may not have been washed out well)
    • Bakeries that bake both gluten and non-gluten foods

Other pages about gluten: