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A gluten-free food list that inquiring minds ought to know

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Sometimes products and ingredients you never thought would contain gluten often do. This is one of the most important reasons why gluten-free eaters should always read ingredient labels and ask questions of restaurant servers. Yes, it does take some time but it is well worth it to your health and wellbeing. Here’s a list of some items to remember.

1. Traditional soy sauce contains wheat. No one seems to know why, but it does. It can be particularly tricky when marinades and gravies contain soy sauce as an ingredient (and it isn’t mentioned). In Asian food restaurants just ask for tamari sauce instead of soy sauce. What is tamari sauce? It is ‘wheat-free’ soy sauce. No kidding, it is that easy. See http://www.san-j.com/tamari.asp

2. Fried vegetables (such a tempura in Japanese restaurants or zucchini sticks in family restaurant) are made with flour-based batter or breadcrumbs. What to do when you have a craving for crunchy goodness? Visit an Indian restaurant. Most (if not all) Indian restaurants use chickpea flour to dust vegetables before frying them. Delicious, crunchy, well spiced, and gluten-free.

3. Salad dressings (not made fresh daily) often contain monosodium glutamate, a thickening agent to make liquids thicker and saltier. They can also contain soy sauce (see #1 above). Always ask or read an ingredient list to be sure. Vinaigrettes like balsamic dressings usually are gluten-free. If in doubt, select good old oil-and-vinegar for your salad.

4. Candy can often contain gluten ingredients. Those with any kind of wafer in the candy bar flavor are obvious ones. However sometimes seasonal varieties of normally gluten-free candies made into different holiday shapes will have gluten ingredients. The Hershey Company (mentioned in a previous column) clearly distinguishes between their regular gluten-free candies and those that are not on its website at: http://www.thehersheycompany.com. You may not be able to indulge in a certain 'holiday shaped' candy, but they have plenty of options to enjoy that are gluten-free everyday.

5. Ice cream often contains those yummy extra ‘blend-ins’ and ‘crunchy thingies’ as additions to premium flavors. Many of these little morsels contain gluten. Premium ice cream manufacturers like Haagen-Daz (http://www.haagendazs.com) and Ben and Jerry’s (http://www.benjerry.com) generally use purer ingredients – chocolate morsels are pure chocolate; caramel ribbons are made with butter and sugar. (Keep in mind, if it’s a ‘cookie dough’ blend-in, this rule of thumb doesn’t apply.)

Coming this Wednesday, this column will feature quick lunch items that seem like they would be gluten-free, but often are not. Let’s be safe out there people, and be sure you know what you’re eating.

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