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.

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 Blueberry Pancake

blueberry pancake.jpg

With gluten intolerance, the typical pancake is one of the items you would eliminate from your meal planning. It’s such a shame though , as pancakes have become a standard breakfast item for good reason. It’s quick and easy to prepare and you can make exciting combos with different fruits, to add to your fiber intake, or even make dessert pancakes with chocolates (and more yummy ideas you can think of!).

And so what a relief that with flour options other than wheat, the fantastic pancake can still be a mainstay on your breakfast table.

Here’s a great recipe to follow:


1 cup Brown Rice flour  – provides sweet and nutty flavor

1 cup Sorghum Flour  – close to regular wheat

3/4 cut White Rice flour  – lends a light texture

1/4 cup cassava starch – helps to make products less dense

1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum – helps give it a fluffy texture (optional)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp butter

An option is to get ready  made gluten-free pancake mixes. if you don’t know where to source all these different ingredients. 

1 cup milk

1 egg

1/2 cup frozen blueberries, thawed (20% off offer on blueberries for home delivery until this Sunday!)


Combine and sift together all dry ingredients. Beat the egg separately in a small bowl and add in milk. Whisk this into the dry ingredients and add in melted gluten free butter. You can choose to mix in the blueberries at this point.

Heat a frying pan on your stove, add in 1 tbsp of oil and coat the surface. Pour around a quarter of a cup of batter. As for me, I like to wait for the batter to have a few bubbles as it cooks and place around 6 to a dozen berries to evenly cover the whole pancake. After around 3 minutes, flip the pancake and let the other side cook for another minute.

Serve with honey or maple syrup and add in more fruits, if desired. Enjoy!

Gluten Free Lemon Butter Garlic Prawn Recipe

Lemon Butter Garlic PrawnsThis is practically a no-brainer dish that can be prepared in a matter of minutes.  This indulgent dish works for anytime you need to prepare something nice but do not have much time. Good news: Lemon, Butter, Garlic  and Prawns are naturally gluten-free! If you are highly reactive to gluten and need to be absolutely sure, try to find butter with gluten free on the label :-).


1 block King Size Black Tiger Prawn 1.3 kg (12 to 15 pieces)

¾ cups butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

8 cloves garlic

2 lemons – juice

Salt & pepper

1 tsp fresh parsley or(flash frozen parsley)


To Defrost Prawns: Open bag and leave in the refrigerator overnight, or leave at room temperature for about 3 hours.

In a wok or large pan, melt the butter and add oil. Add garlic and cook until fragrant about 30 seconds. Add lemon juice, and saute for another 30 seconds. Add defrosted prawns.

Stir-fry until color of prawn changes to pink and thoroughly cooked (about 4 to 5 minutes). Cooking the prawn with the heads on adds to the flavor to the dish.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle parsely. Transfer and assemble prawns to a nice serving dish and serve.

Typical Pinoy Gluten-Free Food You Should Know

In general, those of us in the Philippines who are avoiding foods with gluten, we’re happy to say, won’t have a difficult time finding food that are gluten free in this country (It actually fits well in typical Filipino diet: rice, anyone?). Most of the carbohydrates and starch sources that we have in our local dishes are commonly gluten-free.

We have already discussed what gluten-free food is, and what the common sources of gluten free food could be, even grains you’d definitely be glad to  know are gluten-free.   Let’s see 3 important food items to add to your gluten-free list.  



Yes, the Filipino stomach won’t be satisfied without this Filipino dining staple. Though a lot might already be   aware that rice is not a member of the gluten foods roster, there are still some that are quite uneasy about it. Good news is, rice is not part of your blacklist.  So it’s not necessary to avoid your hankering for rice when you have it. 

Sweet Potato


Craving for a stick of kamote-cue this afternoon? Go ahead! Though it’s actually one of the most underestimated carbohydrates around, it boasts a good quality of sugar that does not easily disperse in our blood, unlike its other variety, the tastier regular potato. So this is, indeed, a dieter’s delight. And of course, it’s one of the foods without gluten (Yey!).

Rice Noodles (Bihon)


As a rice source, we can all instinctively declare now that this is not a gluten laden food. As one of the party favorites that symbolizes “long life”, noodles such as bihon, though will not really “extend” your life, is technically safe for consumption for our gluten intolerant friends. The catch however, is that it should be generously washed first, especially if you are not sure where it was manufactured since cross-contamination during processing might have happened[1].   Not a fan of rice noodles, there are some more pasta items you can find in your typical grocery store that are gluten free. You can even have some home delivered

We’ll get to know more gluten free foods in our next posts so, stay tuned!


  1. 4310830, 95 -. Sources of gluten – celiac disease foundation. Celiac Disease Foundation, 1998. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

The Boon, the Bane, and the Basics of Gluten


A lot of us are lucky enough not to experience the pressure of scrutinizing the details of what we eat. But for some, it can be a daunting process to know the components of their meal, just right before indulging in it.

Aside from the typical food allergens, there are also various substances that some of us need to keenly observe beforehand, lest we experience discomforts of having to deal with adverse reactions to the food that we eat. And one of those compounds is the hidden gluten component  in various starches.

What is gluten?

We constantly see a lot of articles about gluten being published in social media, among other sources. However, some fail to address the basic question before giving it a bad rap. So first things first, what is gluten?

Gluten is basically a mixture of different types of protein activated by water that provides elasticity and form to the final product of almost all breads and pastries that we love. It is generally found in wheat, barley, rye, malt, triticale, and even brewer’s yeast.  

Majority of the population do not experience adverse reaction when consuming gluten. Nevertheless, there are certain medical conditions that require avoidance of the said protein combination. This includes Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy. Since a lot of our processed starch sources contain gluten, it is necessary  that those people who have either of these medical concerns be well informed about the presence of gluten in products they wish include in their shopping list.


Being well informed about gluten

Wheat is one of the most consumed cereals around the world. It is therefore implied that wheat gluten is one of the items that should be watched-out if you belong to the population who needs avoid it. Aside from wheat products, it’s also important to recognize other sources of gluten as well to make sure that there are no stones left unturned.

Though avoiding sources with gluten can be excruciating to some extent, preparing a gluten-free food list is quite an easy job. Since gluten is found only in certain grains, other carbohydrates sources such fruits, vegetables, and root crops are already out of the equation. Of course, animal proteins and fats are not included in the list.

When preparing a list of gluten-free foods, particularly grains that can serve as perfect alternatives to those gluten-rich grains, remember to include these perfect substitutes which you can incorporate into your meals:

  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Millet

Based on the grains listed above, there are far more varieties of grains that do not have gluten than those that have it. Filipinos are primarily rice consumers, so it would  not be difficult to stick to it during meal time.  However, it is wise to consider the manufacturing process of these grains, as most like oats are harvested, packed and manufactured in the same facilities as wheat.

Other gluten-free products to consider

Luckily, people who need to avoid gluten no longer bound to perpetually avoid their go-to comfort foods. Certain methods of gluten extraction and purification paved way to innovative production of gluten-free bakery products which we can all definitely enjoy. Here in the Metro, online shop such as offers a wide selection of gluten-free products from different kinds of pastries, pastas, and even ice cream, which would certainly make people with gluten concerns live like any other gluten tolerant  individual.

Gluten-free lifestyle might be overwhelming to some of us. But with the right selection and now with wider varieties to choose from, developing a habit would be way easier than it was before.



  1. Lamacchia, Carmela, et al. “Cereal-Based Gluten-Free Food: How to Reconcile Nutritional and Technological Properties of Wheat Proteins with Safety for Celiac Disease Patients.” 6.2 (2014): n.pag. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.
  2. 4310830, 95 -. Sources of gluten – celiac disease foundation. Celiac Disease Foundation, 1998. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.
  3. Awika, Joseph M. “Major Cereal Grains Production and Use Around the World.” Advances in Cereal Science: Implications to Food Processing and Health Promotion. N.p.: American Chemical Society (ACS), Jan. 2011. 1–13. Web.
  4. “INFOGRAPHIC: How much rice do Filipinos consume?” Rappler, 7 Oct. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.