Eating Right With Celiac Disease and Diabetes

Overcoming the challenges of eating low carb and gluten-free.

Managing diabetes means monitoring your carbohydrate intake to help prevent spikes in your blood sugar levels. An additional diagnosis of celiac disease adds another layer of complexity to eating. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which people cannot tolerate gluten.1 Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye—it helps dough rise and keep its shape and texture. Treatment of celiac includes eating a gluten-free diet. Common foods that are made with gluten include:2gluten free

  • pasta;
  • bread;
  • cereal;
  • beverages such as beer;
  • couscous;
  • tortillas;
  • crackers;
  • cookies, cakes, muffins, and pastries;
  • dressings, sauces, and gravies; and
  • wheat-based flours such as white flour, wheat flour, kamut, semolina, spelt, and wheat bran.

This list might seem overwhelming, but there are a variety of gluten-free versions of popular foods such as bread, pasta, and crackers that can be found in your local grocery store. For people with celiac and diabetes, however, it is important to consider the carb count—especially because many gluten-free foods are made with flours that contain less fiber and have a higher glycemic index.

The golden rule? Get in the habit of checking the labels of anything you put in your mouth or on your skin (for both gluten and carbs).

Hide-and-Seek with Gluten

Labels can sometimes be deceiving. Just because something is labeled as “wheat-free” does not mean it is gluten-free. Always examine labels for buzz words such as wheat, barley, or rye, and if you have any questions, contact the manufacturer directly before eating. Certain additives in packaged foods contain traces of gluten—ask your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in celiac disease for a complete list of unsafe ingredients and foods.

It is also important to consider cross-contamination. You might order a gluten-free pizza, but if it is made in the same oven as wheat-based pizza dough, contamination can easily occur. Oats are another easily contaminated food. Although they can be gluten-free in their pure form, commercially produced oats are often contaminated.3

It is important to note that medications and other products can also contain gluten. Ask your pharmacist about the ingredients in prescription and over the counter medications, and supplements such as vitamins and minerals. Check the labels of products such as cosmetics, toothpaste, mouthwash, and hair products to help identify other sources of gluten in your everyday routine.3

Tips for Dining Out

Going into restaurants with a game plan can help you avoid a stressful situation. Check the menu ahead of time to identify options that seem tasty and in line with your dietary needs. If you have any questions, feel free to call ahead. Once you’re there, consider taking these steps:

  • Step 1: Let your server know that you are allergic to gluten.
  • Step 2: Ask if the dish you want to order contains gluten.
  • Step 3: Ask if your dish can be prepared separately from other food in the kitchen to avoid contamination.

So What Can I Eat?

The following gluten-free whole grains can be a healthy part of your celiac and diabetes diet—just don’t forget to watch your portions and keep track of your carbs:

  • Quinoa is a versatile grain that can be added to main dishes or sides. One cup of cooked quinoa has about 20 g carbs, 3 g of fiber, and 4 g protein.4
  • Buckwheat and brown rice are two more gluten-free options.

Beans and legumes such as chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans are fiber-packed and full of protein. You can use them to beef up salads, soups, and side dishes. Speaking of sides, fruits and vegetables should also play a role in your diabetes- and celiac-friendly diet.

In addition to working with an RDN who specializes in celiac disease to help develop a meal plan that works for you, you can browse OnTrack Diabetes' extensive recipe collection for ideas. We suggest these celiac- and diabetes-friendly recipes:
Balsamic Salmon, Mushroom Quinoa, and Kale
3-Alarm Chili
Vegetable Omelet Pie

Updated on: August 8, 2017
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Celiac Disease and Diabetes