Why Oatmeal Isn't Always Gluten-Free, and 5 Trusted Brands to Buy

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Oatmeal is at high risk of cross-contact, so choose options that are labeled gluten-free.
Image Credit: Arx0nt/iStock/GettyImages

Nowadays, there's an oatmeal recipe for just about every breakfast craving you may have (think: savory oats topped with a runny egg and sauteed greens). With some effort and creativity, you could probably come up with a new oaty masterpiece every morning... for at least a month or two.

But if you're following a gluten-free diet, eating oatmeal can get tricky. Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they're at a high risk of cross-contamination during harvest and processing.

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Is Oatmeal Gluten-Free?

Plain oats are naturally gluten-free, as they're not made of wheat, rye or barley. However, oats are frequently grown alongside wheat, exposing them to potential cross-contamination (more on that below), according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.

So, while oats themselves are gluten-free, that doesn't mean they're necessarily safe to eat if you're following a gluten-free diet.

When you're in the grocery aisle, you'll notice oatmeal comes in a variety of forms, including quick oats, steel-cut oats, rolled oats and whole oats. These varieties are cut and prepared differently with some slight taste variations, too, according to the Whole Grains Council.

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How to Buy Gluten-Free Oats

Although oats aren't wheat-, barley- or rye-based, they're at high risk of cross-contamination, which means oatmeal may not be safe to eat on a GF diet.

Cross-contamination happens when foods come in contact with gluten ingredients either during harvesting, preparation or manufacturing, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. As oats are often grown alongside wheat or processed in the same factories, they can become easily contaminated with gluten.

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But you can protect yourself from potential gluten by buying gluten-free oats. First, look for a "gluten-free" label on the packaging. This label is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration and signifies that the food you're eating has less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, which is generally safe for people with celiac disease to eat.

For even more reassurance, buy foods that are certified gluten-free by trusted third-party organizations, like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). The GFCO has strict standards, certifying foods that have only 10 ppm of gluten or less, according to the organization's website.

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If you can't find a label or gluten-free certification on the oatmeal package, read the ingredients list and look for any hidden wheat, rye or barley ingredients, as oatmeal can come flavored or mixed with other foods. Also, check the allergen statement for wheat or gluten.

Is Flavored Oatmeal Gluten-Free?

As with all food products, you'll have to double-check the packaging. In some cases, oatmeal companies may use added sweeteners like malt, which is made of barley. Before you add a flavored brand to your cart, check for a gluten-free label or give the ingredient list and allergen statement a thorough check.

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Brands to Buy

If you're craving a warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, consider these gluten-free options.

1. Quaker Gluten-Free Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

Quaker's oats come in a package of four, which means you'll have plenty of oatmeal stocked up for quick, nutritious breakfasts.

This popular brand of oats is free of preservatives and sweeteners and is 100 percent whole grain, so you'll get a good dose of fiber with each serving. Quaker's old-fashioned oats make the perfect base for any overnight oats recipe.

Buy it:Amazon.com; ​Price:​ $19.99 for 4

2. Earnest Eats Gluten-Free Superfood Oatmeal

Earnest Eats superfood oatmeal comes in a convenient cup you can take on-the-go.

When you're rushing out the door, Earnest Eats' pre-made oatmeal cups are the easiest breakfast to grab and go with.

Buy it:Amazon.com; ​Price:​ $33.88 for 12

3. Gluten-Free Prairie Oatmeal

This certified gluten-free oatmeal is also non-GMO.

Prairie's oatmeal is grown in dedicated gluten-free fields and harvested with gluten-free machinery, which means you won't have to worry about any cross-contact with these oats.

Buy it:Amazon.com; ​Price:​ $8.99

4. Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Brown Sugar & Maple Oatmeal Cup

All you need is a spoon and some hot water to enjoy this prepped oatmeal.
Image Credit: Bob's Red Mill

These brown sugar oatmeal cups are a great option if you want a sweet breakfast that (almost) tastes like a stack of pancakes.

Buy it:Amazon.com; ​Price:​ $21.99 for 12

5. Nature’s Path Gluten-Free Whole Rolled Oats

These old-fashioned oats are organic and free of sugar.
Image Credit: Nature's Path

Nature's Path's gluten-free old-fashioned, whole rolled oats are also free of sugar. So, if you like your oatmeal sweet, have some honey or a banana on hand.

Buy it:Amazon.com; ​Price:​ $18.13 for 6

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