How do you shop for a gluten-free diet in Filipino grocery stores?

A woman shopping in a grocery store

Proper food labeling regulations by the Bureau of Food and Drugs require indicating common allergens in food. However, rules specific to gluten have not been properly defined as of late. As a result, hunting down gluten will take a bit of legwork in the Philippines.

To start, let’s get to know the culprit: Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. So, as a basic rule, you would need to develop the habit of checking the back labels of items to make sure gluten is not found anywhere in the ingredients of the food you are buying.

You also have to watch out for stealth gluten, which is not as easy to spot. One example is malt. Malt is commonly made from barley and is mostly in items such as energy drinks, for its energy-giving properties, and to enhance flavor and color (So, you’d know that malt drinks, such as Milo chocolate drink, are out.)

Another thing is hydrolyzed vegetable protein, which can be a term used for hydrolyzed wheat protein, a substance that is used as a flavor enhancer in processed food like soups, gravies, and some meat products like hotdogs.

To further guide you in your shopping, here are some common grocery items that you’d need to be more careful about when following a gluten-free diet:



We’re sad to let them go. But we have to say  good bye to bread as we know it.  Common breads on the shelves and even in your bakery is made of wheat, such as white bread and whole wheat bread. But then, you can say hello to a wide variety of alternatives that use other types of flour, such as brown and white rice flour, and cassava starch. Breads like these are safe and available in gluten-free specialty shops, and online at

Breakfast Cereals and Oats


Breakfast cereals should also be studied carefully. Read the back labels, since some that are not even made of wheat, such as corn or rice cereals, may have malt in the ingredients.

Oats, on the other hand, are not related to the varieties of grains you need to watch out for. Studies have also suggested that oats in their pure form are safe for those with gluten intolerance. Although, household brands such as Quaker Oats state that their products may not be completely gluten-free due to manufacturing cross-contamination. So, if you’d want to be on the safe side, better to research brands and see if any of them fit the gluten-free bill.

Pizza & Pasta

Lots of pasta are commonly made of wheat. But thankfully, like bread, alternatives are available that use other gluten-free ingredients such as brown rice. You can find gluten-free penne and spaghetti to use as a substitute for your favorite pasta dishes. A great recipe to try can be found here.

Yes, unfortunately, pizza is also another casualty when going gluten-free, since your classic pizza doughs are made of wheat. But hold that thought! There are gluten-free pizzas available, and you can also play around with gluten-free pizza toppings on gluten-free crust to make your own pizza, also available on


You can still clink a glass in a gluten-free diet. Just choose wine instead of beer or whiskey that are typically made of malted wheat.

Snacks and Desserts


Usual sweets like cakes and cookies are also out when following a gluten-free diet. But keep on scouting the grocery aisles as there are countless of other options for snacks like corn chips, or rice cakes that are waiting for you. But if you cannot let go of the cookie and cake craving, there are gluten-free options that do not use wheat, rye, or barley. And they can be as good as any other gluten-laced dessert.

If you want to be a little more careful in your shopping, also consider that some packaged snacks like nuts may be subject to cross-contamination since packaging lines are dusted with common wheat flour. Better to opt for nuts that still come in shells.

It may seem, at first, that the gluten hunt might be  taking over your whole grocery checklist. We can take comfort in the fact that most items are naturally gluten-free. Take foods such as eggs, unprocessed meats, fruits, vegetables, all-natural cheeses and dairy, and other starches such as potato and rice.

To further help, you can also visit WebMDs list of hidden sources of Gluten to arm you in your next grocery shopping.

Have a convenient gluten-free shopping!

References: WebMD,,