Gluten allergy: what you can eat

Most people with gluten allergy feel that they're cut off from normal life because they have to avoid so many everyday foods. All is not lost, however, and you'll find that you can still eat a good variety of foods and make tasty meals.

Foods and beverages that you're allowed to use

a) Milk (2 cups a day)
All types of milk (full-cream, fat-free, skim, fresh, dried, evaporated, condensed), whipping cream, yoghurt (always check if yoghurt doesn't contain oat gum - phone the manufacturer to make sure)

b) Meats, fish, poultry (2 servings a day)
All types of fresh meat, fish, poultry, seafood, fish, canned in oil or brine, ham, bacon

c) Cheeses (use as a meat substitute or to supplement your milk intake - 30g per day)
All matured cheeses like Cheddar, Gouda, Swiss, Edam, Parmesan, Roquefort, blue cheese, feta, cream cheese or cottage cheese (skim or fat-free), processed cheeses (but check on the label if they don't contain any wheat, rye or oat products) - use as is or in cooking

d) Eggs (use as a meat substitute - 4 per week)
All plain egg dishes (poached, boiled, fried, scrambled, omelettes) - also use in cooking

e) Starches (1 serving a day)
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize, rice, wild rice, crushed sorghum, tapioca, sago

f) Vegetables (2 or more servings a day)
All vegetables (fresh, frozen, canned), including dry beans, peas, lentils

g) Fruit (2 or more servings a day)
All fruits (fresh, frozen and canned), fruit juices, dried fruit

h) Breads (3 servings a day)
Specially prepared breads baked with maize meal or rice flour, gluten-free bread (some health shops and speciality shops sell these)

i) Cereals (1 serving of enriched cereal a day)
Maize meal porridge (use the unsifted variety for extra nutrition), Maltabella porridge, puffed rice or Rice Crispies, Sugar Pops, special cereals (sold at some health shops)

j) Thickening agents
Maizena or arrowroot, tapioca starch, gram flour, maize flour, potato flour, rice bran, rice flour, soy flour (plain).
Combine the following thickening agents with eggs and milk in baking: Maizena, potato flour, rice flour and soy flour

k) Crackers and snack foods
Rice cakes, maize cakes, cornmeal tortillas, popcorn, chips, NickNacks, corn chips

l) Fats and salad dressings (3 T a day)
Butter, margarine, vegetable oils, nuts, peanut butter, salad dressings (which don't contain wheat, rye, oats or barley), mayonnaise, sour cream

m) Soups
Homemade broths and soups, using vegetables and potato (thickened with maizena or rice flour)

n) Puddings and cakes
Cakes, cookies, pastries, puddings made with maizena, tapioca, sago and rice, gelatin desserts like jelly, custard made from milk, maizena and eggs, ice cream that doesn't contain wheat

o) Drinks
Coffee, tea, carbonated cold drinks, pure cocoa powder (mix with milk), wines, rum, vodka made from potato

p) Sweets
Jelly, jam, honey, brown and white sugar, molasses, syrups, hard-boiled sweets, chocolate, coconut

q) Spices and condiments

  • Salt, pepper
  • Herbs
  • Spices such as cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, chilli powder
  • Tomato puree and paste, tomato sauce (wheat-free)
  • Olives, pickles (in vinegar, not thickened sauce)
  • Rice, cider and wine vinegars
  • Raising agents: yeast, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cream of tartar
  • Dry mustard

Consult a dietician
If you have been diagnosed with a gluten allergy, it's sensible to consult a clinical dietician to help you adjust to your new diet. The dietician will also make sure that you're still getting a well-balanced diet despite the fact that you have to cut out all foods that contain wheat, rye, barley or oats.

It's useful to purchase cookbooks that feature gluten-free recipes. You should be able to purchase such cookbooks at good bookstores.

You can also order the excellent South African Cookbook for Allergies and Food Intolerance by Hilda Lategan, a South African dietician.

Another excellent cookbook is the Gluten-Free Guide: "Making it Simple" by Carole Smollan. Here are a few of her recipes:

1) Nutty Bread (Carole Smollan)
2 cups gram flour (buy at shops that stock Indian foods)
2 cups maize flour
5 t baking powder
4 T melted butter
1 t salt
2 ½ cups milk

Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Add melted butter to milk and stir into flour mixture. Beat well for 1 minute. Bake in a small foil loaf tin lined with baking paper.

Sprinkle top with finely chopped nuts. Bake in medium oven (180 degrees Celsius) for 40 minutes.

2) Fairylight Chocolate Cake (Carole Smollan)
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups gluten-free flour (buy at health shop)
4 eggs (separated)
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup cocoa dissolved in ½ cup boiling water
2 ½ t baking powder

Sift sugar and flour together. Make a well in the centre and add unbeaten egg yolks, one at a time. Add the oil and cocoa. Beat well. Add baking powder and salt, and stir in gently. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Bake in large baking tins at 190 degrees Celsius for 20-25 minutes.

– (Dr Ingrid van Heerden, DietDoc, updated July 2009)

[The recipes referred to in this article are from Carole Smollan's Gluten-Free Guide: "Making it Simple". To purchase Carole's book, visit]

- Krause's Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy, 10th Edition. 2000. LK Mahan & S Escott-Stump Editors. Chapter 31. W B Saunders Co;

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