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How to manage a gluten allergy

Following a gluten-free diet can be challenging. Here are some pointers to help you with your planning.

One small thing: If you’re following a gluten-free diet, look out for Pick n Pay’s Free From Gluten range. You’ll be able to identify it by the blue band.

Gluten is the common term for a group of related proteins found in wheat, rye and barley, and can be harmful for people who have coeliac disease, a gluten allergy, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, dermatitis herpetiformis (coeliac disease of the skin) and gluten ataxia.

Managing a gluten allergy

For people with coeliac disease, the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley is of most concern. While for those who have a wheat allergy, there are a number of other proteins in the wheat that can trigger an allergic reaction. People who are allergic to wheat can usually tolerate rye and barley.

Always read food labels carefully and ask questions about ingredients before eating something you haven’t prepared yourself.

Foods that are likely to contain gluten include:

  • Breads, cakes, pastries and other baked goods made from wheat and rye flour
  • Breakfast cereals made from wheat
  • Crackers made from wheat and rye
  • Pasta made from wheat flour or durum wheat
  • Breadcrumbs and croutons
  • Wheat bran, wheat germ and wheat starch
  • Some specific beers (a note of caution: standardised beer isn’t required to provide a list of ingredients, so the presence of rye doesn’t have to appear on the label)
  • Wheat and rye flour (cake flour, enriched flour and high-protein flour)
  • Barley
  • Sprouted wheat
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Couscous
  • Spelt
  • Semolina

Foods that may contain gluten include:

  • Soy sauce and some condiments, such as tomato sauce
  • Salad dressings
  • Processed meat products, such as hot dogs or cold meats
  • Dairy products, such as ice cream
  • Chocolate bars
  • Instant gravies, soups and sauces
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Communion wafers
  • Baking powder
  • Beer

It’s a good idea to avoid oats initially. While oats don’t contain gluten, they are often grown, harvested and transported in close proximity to other cereal grains, such as wheat, rye and barley, that do contain gluten. This can result in cross-contamination at any point in the production chain. If you’re sensitive to oats, look for uncontaminated oats. Many people with coeliac disease can eat moderate amounts of oats without having symptoms.

Check those food labels

Sometimes gluten can go by a different name, so check food labels for the following terms that may indicate the presence of gluten:

  • Malt
  • Gelatinised starch or modified food starch
  • Hydrolysed vegetable protein (made from wheat or soya)
  • Einkorn starch (a wild species of wheat)
  • Farina (a form of milled wheat most often used to prepare hot porridge)
  • Farro (a food made from wheat grains)
  • Khorasan wheat or kamut (a species of wheat)
  • Triticale (a hybrid cereal, produced from wheat and rye)

If a product is labelled “free from gluten”, it means it is also wheat free. If, however, it says “free from wheat” or “wheat free” it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no gluten present – it could contain rye and/or barley.

Planning meals without gluten

Initially, it can be difficult to follow a gluten-free diet. Fortunately, there are many healthy and delicious foods you can eat that are naturally gluten free. These include:

  • Beans, seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
  • Eggs
  • Meat, fish and poultry (but not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
  • Fruit and vegetables, including potatoes
  • Most dairy products

You can also include a number of grains and starches in a gluten-free diet, such as:

  • Maize and maize meal, for example cornflour, sweetcorn, popcorn, corn crackers, corn cereals, maize porridge and polenta
  • Gluten-free flour
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rice, including rice flour, rice cakes, rice crackers, rice cereal
  • Sorghum, for example Maltabella porridge
  • Soya flour
  • Tapioca
Shop our Free From range

If you do follow a gluten-free diet, then look out for our Free From gluten range. You’ll be able to identify it by the blue band. These products are 100% free from gluten and safe to enjoy.

If you have a question for our dietitians, click here, or to find a dietitian in your area, visit To get in touch with us, email