Shopping Gluten-Free? Helpful Tips to Decode Food Labels

A lot of food items are thankfully gluten-free. However, the way they are processed may sometimes  introduce gluten sources: wheat, barley or rye or Triticale (hybrid of wheat and rye) or their other sub forms, to get the preferred consistency or taste. You can be sure of unprocessed products but for processed food, being able to decode food labels is a definite must!

So! What to do? Food labels can be a bit daunting to look at, and in the end it may just leave you playing the guessing game. All that unfamiliar terminologies, in the back label?(– is it just me? Or do they make it complicated on purpose?) 🙂 Before you give up, here are a few more handy tips we’ve gathered, for the next time you need to decipher the food label.

  • Remember that “wheat-free” is not necessarily gluten-free.
  • Wheat (and also barley and rye for that matter) take other forms. Hydrolized wheat protein” for example contains wheat and has gluten.
  • Malt – malt extract, syrup and the like is the term that appears for Barley, and so has gluten
  • Maltodextrin that is an additive used as thickener or filler, is not to be confused for malt: this is made from potato, rice or corn (even the wheat variant, is not to worry about as processing renders it gluten-free) and so this is one less thing you don’t need to watch out for.
  • It is a good idea to have a preference for the “all-natural” if you’re looking for gluten-free options. Of course, it is a claim that can be abused and misused, and so as a smart shopper, it is always a good idea to look at the back label for the ingredients of the product we are buying. But it is best for you to look for products without any additives.

Studying gluten sources is a worthwhile effort. Keep educating yourself and in no time, you will be reading those food labels like you are your own nutritionist. 😉

Feel free to share your own tips in the comments! 🙂


Easy Gluten-Free Spinach Dip

Dipping is not usually a thing to worry about a gluten-free diet, yet one does have to careful about stealth gluten in certain recipes. Case in point is sour cream based dips. This, in concept, is gluten-free —but if not guaranteed on the label, make sure to check the back label for wheat, barley, and rye, since thickening agents used in some products may contain these ingredients. Ready to start?


1 cup whole leaf spinach (chopped)
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup onions (thinly chopped)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
¼ cup bacon (diced)


Defrost spinach  and chop. Fresh spinach is great for this recipe but if you do need to stock them for a few days before cooking, frozen whole leaf spinach or  chopped spinach are excellent options, as well. Combine the spinach with sour cream and onions. Stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours.

Fry diced bacon, in most cases you would not need to put additional oil, and just render the bacon.

Top the spinach dip mixture with bacon. Serve.

Salmon Roast For Two

Very few can top a home-cooked heart healthy meal to set a romantic mood. The effort you put into it plus the warm feeling of privacy dining at home just sets the right tone. Try this Salmon Recipe that is easy to do, delicious, Gluten-Free, with generous omega-3 that’s good for heart health.


Salmon Filllet Portions (2 portions)
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of smoked paprika
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
Olive oil


Preheat the oven to 450°F. While preheating, prepare the sauce: Combine the maple syrup, mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper.

Prepare the baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil, and applying a coat of olive oil or cooking spray. Put the fillets on the baking sheet and brush with the mustard mixture, making sure it is coated evenly on all sides. Put in the oven to roast for 8 to 12 minutes.

Depending on the thickness of the salmon, this process can increment by 1 to 2 minutes. If less than an inch thick, start checking for doneness after 6 minutes. Cooked fish flakes easily apart with a fork, uncooked fish has a translucent color and spongy texture. If still uncooked, keep checking every 1 minute.

Serve in a nice serving dish with some green beans and herbed rice for a nice complete meal.


Sweet & Sour Vegetables

An easy and classic recipe of sweet and sour vegetables, added with meat of your choice is a healthy way that you can eat gluten-free. A bonus, do away with the meat and this can also fit a vegan diet.  The cornflour used to thicken the sauce of this dish is safely gluten-free.  This also takes minutes to prepare in a very hot work or grill pan.

Enjoy this  dish with your family. You don’t have to tell them it’s vegan, just delicious and nutritious. 😉


2 lbs or 908 grams vegetable mix
1/4 cup brown sugar
¼ cup cornflour
3 tbsp wine vinegar
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 onion, sliced into rings
300 grams pineapple tidbits
1 leek, thickly sliced
2 bell peppers, sliced

Gluten-Free Diet: Is it Right For You?

Does it pay to go on a gluten-free diet when you do not have gluten intolerance? What does gluten-free food actually mean, and is it right for you? These are questions that may have crossed your mind with all the “gluten-free” buzz that has been happening as of late. Along with the questions: is it actually a healthier option? Will it make me lose weight? Let’s try to answer some of them, shall we? 🙂

What is Gluten

First, let’s talk about gluten. Gluten is a protein found in certain grains as wheat, barley and rye, and triticale which is a hybrid of wheat and rye. [1] It is the protein that gives the food a gummy and elastic quality, and is important protein in making baked goods as it gives it its nice structure.

How does it affect people?

Gluten is the only protein in food that cannot be fully digested. As the food goes through our digestive system, this indestructible molecule can slip through the intestinal walls. And for people who have Celiac disease, this can cause intestinal inflammation. [2]

Our small intestines have what we call villi which are finger-like projections in the walls of the small intestines, 0.5 to 1.6 millimeters long.  These villi collectively form a “brush border” facilitating nutrient absorption from the food we eat as it passes through the small intestine. [5] In people with Celiac disease, gluten irritates the lining in the small intestine, and causes the immune system to attack the villi, damaging it over time. As a result, nutrients go through our system without getting properly absorbed. This in turn can cause malnutrition.[3]

Purpose of Gluten-Free Diet

Intolerance to gluten ranges from gluten sensitivity (non-Celiac gluten intolerance) to Celiac disease.  A gluten-free diet is essential for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity for its treatment. A gluten-free diet can be beneficial for other conditions, as well, like IBS or irritable bowel syndrome being that a gluten-free diet is also classified as a low FODMAP Diet ( Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols), a diet that is helpful for people with IBS.

However, an important thing to note is that worrying about gluten is not at all material to those without these conditions, since gluten doesn’t affect them in the same way.

I Don’t Have Gluten Intolerance: What’s in it for me?

Since in a gluten-free diet, one would need to eliminate certain grains, it is a risk that you could miss out on the nutritional benefits of a well-balanced diet. Wheat, barley and rye containing foods, especially in their wholegrain format offer important nutritional benefits. Gluten-free processed foods refined to make them gluten free has the disadvantage of stripping grains of their essential parts, making them have less fiber, vitamins and minerals as compared to whole grains.

However, should your choice of a gluten-free diet involve you switching to more non-processed food, opting for food that are naturally gluten-free like plain fruits, vegetables, nuts, lentils, beans, that you wouldn’t consume on your normal diet, then this might prove beneficial. However, as gluten containing food may contribute to a nice balanced diet, then a better choice would be to eliminate processed food from your diet instead, regardless of gluten content.

Will a gluten-free diet help me lose weight?

Being smart in your choices pays, especially when introduced with  diet concepts that are unfamiliar. It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking a certain diet will help you lose weight, without proper research and effort to be informed. Since the gluten-free diet only aims to eliminate the protein gluten, properties of food that will affect your weight need to be taken into account before deciding to get into this type of diet, and any other diet for that matter, with weight loss in mind. Look at the calorie content of food, for refined carbs, for unhealthy fats in your diet instead.

Those who claim gluten-free diet helped them lose weight benefit from it by incidentally removing processed food from their diet, regardless of gluten content. Gluten-free food and weight loss are not synonymous, unless it helps you to “get rid of the junk” and eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are naturally gluten-free, as mentioned by Shelley Case, one of North America’s premier experts on the gluten-free diet. [4]

Bottom line: Gluten-free diet is the right diet for those with gluten-intolerance and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and certain conditions like IBS. Gluten-free diet can incidentally be healthier if it eliminates processed food from your diet. However, in some cases it could be less beneficial if it causes one to eat more processed food stripped of nutrients. A gluten-free diet should not be seen as a weight loss diet since what is removed in the diet is mainly gluten. And depending on how much nutrients is eliminated and junk food added when it is processed, gluten-free food can either be healthier or less healthy than conventional gluten-containing food.


1- Boyles, S. (2012, February 17). Gluten Sensitivity: Fact or Fad? Retrieved November 20, 2017, from

2 – Gluten-free diet: What’s allowed, what’s not. (2014, November 25). Retrieved November 20, 2017, from

3 – Bradford, A. (2015, December 10). Gluten-Free Diet: Benefits & Risks. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from

4 – Helms, J., MS, RD. (2012, September 6). Will Going Gluten Free Help You Lose Weight? [Web log post]. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from

5 – Moreau, J. (Eds.). (n.d.). Digestive System, Enzymes, Absorption in the Small Intestine. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from

Gluten Free Broccoli Soup


Regular soup recipes are easy to hack, if you are looking for gluten-free ways to increase nutrient content of your meals. It’s a perfect first course or a side to any of your dishes. You can safely make gluten-free versions of soups by selecting ingredients that we know to be gluten-free. (no gluten, barley, or rye–no soup extenders, wheat flour and the like). Here is an easy recipe to try.

What you need to be careful about are two things in this recipe: the milk, and the broth. Gluten Free broth can be made easily by cooking broth from scratch (boil chicken, or beef, or get remainder stock for another recipe), or more conveniently, use a gluten-free soup mix or bouillon cube). Try this easy Broccoli soup recipe, using flash frozen Broccoli. They are better than fresh grocery store-bought ones as  nutrients are preserved well at the vegetables’ maturity.  Try this recipe and let us know how it turns out! 🙂


2 lbs broccoli flowers
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (use gluten-free vegetable bouillon)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon thyme or parsley
2 tbsp butter
1 cup all-purpose cream or milk of your choice


Blanching: Bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt. Put frozen broccoli directly in the water (no need to thaw!) and simmer for 2 to 4 minutes until they become bright green and tender.

Drain and using a food processor or a blender, puree the broccoli by batches until smooth.

On the same pot, melt butter and sauté the garlic, onion and celery. Add chicken broth or vegetable broth and season with salt, pepper and thyme or parsley. Lower heat to medium and let the flavors marry together simmering for 2 to 3 minutes.

Switch to low heat and add in the broccoli puree. Add in 1 cup all-purpose cream or 1 cup milk of your choice and let simmer for another minute. Serve on the side of grilled cheese sandwich, or meat dishes.

Risotto ai frutti di mare (Seafood Risotto)

Risotto is one of the most popular comfort food in Italy. It’s versatile and flexible as it can be prepared with any ingredient, and it is a happy coincidence that this traditional recipe is basically gluten-free!


The rice (Arborio rice) that you will use in this recipe has high rice gluten content, though fear not as this gluten is not what those on a gluten-free diet need to stay away from. This rice gluten content in Arborio rice is what gives this risotto its creamy, rich consistency and texture.


What you have to be a bit careful about is the broth you use with this recipe. Be safe and make the broth yourself from scratch or find broth packets that do not have wheat , barley or rye and their other forms in the ingredients.


For seafood lovers, here’s a recipe you can prepare as an accompaniment to a hearty fare, or you can make it the main course of a meal. Buon appetito!




1 pack mixed seafood
400g 1 pack risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli rice)
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic,chopped
6 tbsp White wine
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 liter fish or vegetable broth (or try a gluten free bouillon broth cube)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tbsp parsley, chopped



Prepare seafood mix by defrosting and patting dry with kitchen paper towel.
Before cooking the risotto, bring broth to a boil then turn the flame to the lowest setting possible just to keep it warm. Using cool liquid would stop the risotto from cooking.


Sautée garlic in olive oil. Turn heat to medium and add seafood mix. Stir and cook for no more than 2-3 minutes. This is to flavor the olive oil. Quickly remove seafood with a slotted spoon leaving all flavored oil on the pan. Place seafood mix in a bowl and cover with foil. Set aside.


Using the same pan with flavored oil, on medium heat, add chopped shallot and cook for 3 minutes or until soft. Add rice and stir for 2-3 minutes to coat rice. This seals the rice to maintain its chewy quality. Once the grains are translucent add white wine, keep stirring and let wine evaporate.


Here comes the tricky part, as this is the secret to the creaminess of risotto. Add the broth gradually by adding a ladleful of broth at a time. Stir using a wooden spoon. Never let the risotto dry out and do not cover the pot. When broth is absorbed, add a ladle of broth again and then stir gently. keep going for about 13-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Add seafood mix and it is almost done. Continue stirring for 3-5 minutes until rice is cooked al dente ( tender on the outside but firm to the bite in the center). If broth is absorbed during this time, add broth gradually half a ladle at a time as we don’t want risotto to be watery but should still flow a little when served.


As a final touch, stir in butter and squeeze in lemon juice.
Sprinkle with parsley before serving.