Many people are jumping on the gluten-free, dairy-free diet bandwagon in hopes of losing weight. However, there's little to no evidence showing that cutting out foods containing either of these substances will help you drop pounds. While a 2016 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a positive association between dairy consumption and weight gain prevention in middle-aged women, these types of restrictive diets may make it difficult for you to get all the nutrients you need to support health and weight loss. However, if you have an intolerance or allergy, eating a gluten- and dairy-free diet is crucial. Knowing which foods you can and can't eat will help prevent uncomfortable — and potentially serious — consequences.
Gluten- and Dairy-Free Foods
Once you know the foods that contain gluten and dairy, you'll easily be able avoid those foods, as well as prepared and packaged foods that include them.
Board-certified neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter offers this list of common gluten foods and ingredients:
- wheat germ
- graham flour
- kamut matzo
- malt/malt flavoring
- commercial bouillon and broths
- cold cuts
- French fries
- processed cheese
- malt vinegar
- soy sauce and teriyaki sauce
- salad dressings
- imitation crabmeat, bacon, etc.
- egg substitute
- nondairy creamer
- fried vegetables/tempura
- canned baked beans
- commercially prepared chocolate milk
- breaded foods
- fruit fillings and puddings
- hot dogs
- ice cream
- root beer
- energy bars
- trail mix
- instant hot drinks
- flavored coffees and teas
- blue cheese
- wine coolers
- meatballs, meatloaf
- communion wafers
- veggie burgers
- roasted nuts
- oats (unless certified gluten-free)
- oat bran (unless certified gluten-free)
- acidophilus milk
- ammonium caseinate
- butter fat
- butter oil
- butter solids
- buttermilk powder
- calcium caseinate
- cheese (animal-based)
- condensed milk
- goat cheese
- goat's milk
- hydrolyzed casein
- hydrolyzed milk protein
- iron caseinate
- low-fat milk
- magnesium caseinate
- potassium caseinate
- rennet casein
- sheep's milk
- sheep's milk cheese
- skim milk
- sodium caseinate
- sour cream
- sour milk solids
- sweetened condensed milk
It's a good idea to carry a gluten- and dairy-free shopping list when you go to the market so you know what to avoid.
Reading Food Labels
Gluten- and dairy-free foods can sometimes be hiding in prepared and packaged foods. Products that are labeled "certified gluten free" have met strict standards to ensure the food is safe for those with celiac disease or an intolerance. Other foods may say they are gluten-free, but not have the certification. There's a risk with these foods because cross-contamination is always possible. However, they're likely safer than foods without that label.
As for dairy, foods labeled as vegan are safe. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and cross-contamination with dairy can happen. Some products are labeled dairy-free, yet others can be misleading. For example, a product may say it doesn't contain milk, but it may contain milk byproducts such as whey.
Read more: Side Effects of Starting a Gluten-Free Diet
When Eating Out
More and more restaurants are taking into consideration the needs of guests with allergies and intolerances by noting gluten- and dairy-free food menu items. Items may also be labeled vegan, which means they're dairy-free. In other restaurants, servers are often able to point out dishes that are free of these ingredients. Unfortunately, in other restaurants you may have to do a little digging before feeling confident about your order.
Be clear with your server that you can't have dairy and gluten or you'll become ill. Have the server communicate that to the chef, or ask a manager to do so. Sometimes, when you make a reservation in advance, you can let the restaurant know that you have special dietary needs. They'll tell you if they have menu items suitable for your diet restrictions.
Getting the Nutrients You Need
Restricting foods in your diet can increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies. According to a 2016 study in Clinical Nutrition, gluten-free diets are lacking in fiber, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium. These nutrients are important to digestive health, energy production, bone strength and immune function.
If you're also cutting out dairy, your calcium intake can be severely limited. Calcium and vitamin D work together to support bone health; a deficiency in both nutrients can lead to weakened bones and osteoporosis. It's important to identify alternative sources of these nutrients in gluten- and dairy-free foods and include them in your daily diet.
Regularly eating these gluten- and dairy-free foods will help you get enough of these important nutrients:
- Fiber: Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
- Vitamin D: Fortified orange juice and plant milks, tuna fish, salmon, sardines, liver and eggs. Regular exposure to sunlight will also help your skin produce the vitamin.
- Vitamin B12: Clams, liver, trout, salmon, beef, eggs and chicken. B12 is primarily found in animal foods. Vegetarians often require a supplement to avoid deficiency.
- Iron: Oysters, white beans, liver, lentils, tofu, kidney beans, spinach, potatoes, chicken, tuna and eggs.
- Zinc: Oysters, beef, crab, lobster, chickpeas, chicken, cashews and almonds.
- Magnesium: Almonds, cashews, soy milk, spinach, black beans, edamame, banana and salmon.
- Calcium: Calcium-fortified orange juice and soy milk, sardines with bones, tofu, salmon and kale.
Read more: A List of Gluten-Free Fast Food
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Dairy Consumption in Association With Weight Change and Risk of Becoming Overweight or Obese in Middle-Aged and Older Women
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Diet Review: Gluten-Free for Weight Loss
- David Perlmutter MD: Gluten Containing Products
- GoDairyFree: Dairy Ingredient List
- Gluten-Free Certification Organization: Certified Directory
- Clinical Nutrition: Gluten-Free Diet and Nutrient Deficiencies
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Calcium and Milk
- NIH: Vitamin D
- NIH: Vitamin B12
- NIH: Iron
- NIH: Magnesium
- NIH: Zinc
- NIH: Calcium