How will you ever survive without pasta, bread and cereal? Your doctor just told you that you have celiac disease. That means your body can't tolerate gluten. You'll have to eliminate any foods from your diet made from wheat, rye or barley. These are all grains that contain gluten.
The only way to manage celiac disease is to avoid gluten. If you don't, you may suffer a wide range of symptoms and complications, including:
- Mild bloating
- Chronic fatigue
- Nerve damage
- Certain forms of cancer
Worry not, though - you will not be limited to celery sticks and skinless chicken breast for the rest of your life! With careful planning, it's easier than ever to be gluten-free. One in every 133 Americans is reported to have celiac disease. Today, it's easy to find gluten-free products in supermarkets and even on restaurant menus.
Careful label reading is critical if you have celiac disease. For some, even small amounts of gluten can bring on symptoms.
You need to eliminate these ingredients from your diet:
- All types of wheat (including farina, graham flour, semolina and durum)
- Barley (malt, malt flavoring, malt vinegar)
- Matzo meal
If you're not sure whether a food contains gluten, avoid it. Many foods, including the following, may have hidden sources of gluten:
- Soup broths
- Processed luncheon meats
- Marinades and sauces (such as soy sauce)
- Gravies and thickeners
- Stuffing mixes
- Vitamin and herbal supplements
- Imitation bacon and seafood
So, what can I eat?
Having a healthy, well-rounded diet is critical if you have celiac. People with celiac can be at risk for nutritional deficiencies such as calcium, iron, B-12 and folate. Use these guidelines and meal suggestions to ensure you are getting balanced meals and snacks.
- Fresh meats, fish and poultry. These foods provide iron, B-12 and protein. Watch out for breading and marinades.
- Eggs. Eggs provide plenty of protein and also have iron and vitamin B-12.
- Most dairy products. Dairy products - such as milk, aged cheese, most yogurts, butter, margarine, cream cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream - are OK to eat. You can also get your calcium from these foods as well as from sardines, greens, and calcium-fortified soy milk and juice.
- Fruits. All fresh fruits are a good source of folate. You can enjoy 100 percent fruit juices and canned fruit packed in its own juice as well.
- Vegetables. There is no problem with eating any vegetable. Many are good sources of folate, and greens are packed with calcium.
- Grains/starches. Try rice, millet, quinoa, corn, buckwheat, sorghum, tapioca, amaranth, teff, white potatoes, sweet potatoes and oats (now considered safe in most cases). You can also try certain breads, cereals and pastas that are made without gluten.
- Beans/legumes. Beans and legumes are rich in protein, fiber, folate and iron, and can be used in soups, salads, chilies and stews.
- Flours. Use rice, soy, corn or potato flour.
- Fats/oils. Use vegetable, canola and olive oils; raw nuts and seeds; avocado and most salad dressings (read labels).
- Condiments. Try jams, honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, pickles, olives, ketchup, mustard, spices and herbs.
Sample meal and snack ideas
- Scrambled eggs with veggies and a slice of gluten-free bread
- Fruit smoothie with protein powder and skim milk or yogurt
- Puffed rice or corn cereal, milk and fruit
- Cream of rice cereal with walnuts and sliced banana
- Gluten-free waffle drizzled with maple syrup and sliced fruit
Lunch or dinner
- Large salad with canned tuna, salmon, chicken and/or canned beans
- Bean soup with rice crackers
- Chili with lean ground beef or turkey and/or beans; corn tortilla chips
- Grilled chicken or fish; sweet potatoes
- Sandwich on gluten-free bread
- Corn tortillas with ground turkey and avocado
- Lean burger (without bun), corn, quinoa salad
- Stir fry with meat and veggies; rice
- String cheese and fresh fruit
- Popcorn or rice crackers
- Corn tortilla chips and salsa
- Rice cakes spread with natural peanut butter or humus
- Yogurt or cottage cheese topped with fruit and nuts
Most people with celiac disease feel the benefits of going gluten-free within the first few days. For others, it may take several months. If you're like most, you'll discover that feeling better beats out pasta any day.
Created on 10/18/2007
Updated on 09/24/2010
- Dahele A, Ghosh S. Vitamin B12 deficiency in untreated celiac disease. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2001;96(3):745-750.
- Celiac Disease Foundation. Celiac disease - treatment.
- Children's Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation. Celiac disease: diet & nutrition.