Gluten Free Cereal
Cereal is a breakfast staple, but if you are living a gluten free lifestyle, cereal might be quite literally off the table!
There are quite a few gluten free cereals available, but the vast majority are not recommended or for a number of reasons:
- They taste terrible.
- They have unhealthy ingredients you are otherwise avoiding (for example, refined sugars, other grains, dyes, pesticides, etc)
- They have ingredients with hidden gluten
- They are processed in such a way that likely exposes them to gluten (cross contamination)
As a matter of fact, researchers have found that many gluten free labeled cereals are cross contaminated with enough gluten to cause problems for those with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. A review of research studies found that in the US, gluten contamination of foods labeled gluten free occured in as high as 32% of products tested.
Add to this the fact that cereal recalls for gluten cross contamination are not uncommon. For example, Nature’s Path recalled over 400,000 boxes of gluten contaminated cereal products. General Mills recalled 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios for the same reason.
So below, we are discussing what to look for to find healthy gluten free cereal options, as well as some of our favorite brands.
Know what to look for
Before we get into ingredients to avoid, let’s take a look at some ingredients that can be part of a nutritious and gluten free cereal:
- Granola: A high quality gluten free granola contains healthy fats and little added unrefined sugar. Be sure to confirm that the granola is made in a gluten free facility to ensure there is no chance of cross-contamination with a gluten-containing food.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts add a great punch of nutrition with micronutrients and healthy fats that help to stabilize blood sugar. They also add a great and satisfying crunch. As always, ensure that the nuts in your cereal are prepared in a gluten free facility.
- Berries: Berries provide important vitamins and antioxidants as well as fiber. They do tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides, so choose organic when possible. You can also make berries more affordable by opting for frozen varieties. Frozen berries are often picked at the peak of freshness and at the height of their optimal season, making them just as nutrient dense as fresh berries.
- Coconut: Coconut flakes are made from shaved coconut meat and provide an excellent flavor and texture to cereal. They also provide a good source of healthy fat, fiber, and nutrients like manganese and copper.
What to avoid
- Oats: Oats are often thought to be gluten free. However, there is a lot of research that shows oats can still cause inflammation and other issues. Read our post that goes in-depth and discusses whether oats are truly safe on a gluten free diet.
- Rice: While rice is often considered a gluten free food, it comes with other potential health concerns. Research has shown that rice can contain large amounts of arsenic which can be harmful for the body. Therefore, consumption of rice should be limited or avoided. You can learn more about the dangers of arsenic in rice here.
- Corn: Corn has been found to trigger an antibody response in those with celiac disease and generally contributes to inflammation in the gut. This is particularly problematic as corn is found in so many products, from supposedly “gluten free” packaged snacks to oils, sweeteners, packaging materials, personal care products, and more. Read more about this relationship in this article.
- Quinoa: Quinoa is a seed (not a grain!) that is technically gluten-free based on the definition of gluten created for those with celiac disease. However, quinoa does have “gluten like” storage proteins that can mimic proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. Research has shown that these proteins may cause an immune reaction in those with celiac disease.
- Amaranth: Amaranth is technically not a grain, but is at high risk for cross contamination and is not recommended on a true gluten free diet unless gluten free verification can be obtained. Amaranth is also considered a pseudo cereal and is very high in glutamic acid, which may be problematic for patients with neurological symptoms. For more on Amaranth and other potentially problematic gluten free substitutes, see this article.
- Buckwheat: Like amaranth, buckwheat is technically not a grain but a pseudo cereal. It is recommended to ensure that your buckwheat is certified gluten free from a trusted source. And as always, be mindful of how your body responds to its ingestion of buckwheat or any other new food.
Our favorite GF cereals
To save you some time researching and taste testing, here are a few of our favorite gluten free cereals (of course, always confirm ingredients to your tolerance):
- Lovebird – a crunchy O’s cereal that feels like a traditional breakfast cereal
- Wildway – a certified gluten free granola made with just fruit, nuts, and seeds
- Paleonola – another certified gluten free granola made with just fruit, nuts, and seeds
- Nora’s – a grain-free granola made from coconut, egg whites, and a variety of nuts and seeds; made in an entirely gluten free facility
- Purely Elizabeth – a line of grain free granolas made from nuts and seeds in a variety of unique flavors, sweetened only with coconut sugar
Take control and make your own
If you want to have total control over your gluten free cereal, you can always make your own! Yes, it is more time consuming than buying a box off the shelf, but it is also the best way to know exactly where each ingredient was sourced and how it was made.
Here are two homemade gluten free cereal recipes you can reference:
What about the milk?
You might be thinking, “what is a bowl of cereal without the milk?” But it is important to know that consumption of dairy products like milk can pose a problem for many with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Learn more in this article about why and how dairy can cause digestive issues in those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.
Alternatives to traditional cow’s dairy milk include A2 milk, coconut milk, and nut milks like almond and cashew. When selecting a non-dairy milk, be sure to look for one with as few ingredients as possible, and always avoid added gums, fillers, and stabilizers. Some good, clean brands include MALK, JOI, and Three Trees.
The bottom line
While it might seem like the entire cereal aisle is off limits, there are actually lots of options for the gluten free cereal lover. It does require some research into ingredients and sourcing, but finding a proper gluten free cereal that is delicious and nutritious is absolutely possible. As always, listen to how your body reacts to each new food that you try, and consult with your doctor with any questions or concerns.