How to Follow a Gluten-Free Plant-Based Diet

Learn how to follow a gluten-free plant-based diet with ease! Discover the foods you can and can’t eat, recipe ideas, and answers to common questions.

Following a plant-based diet can be a big adjustment, but what if you also need to follow a gluten-free diet? Is it possible to eat both plant based and gluten free? Absolutely! Don’t let this combination intimidate you—marrying the two is easier than you think! Keep reading to learn more about making a gluten-free plant-based diet work for you.

A close up of three loaves of bread, with Gluten and Bread

What is a gluten-free plant-based diet?

It’s easier to understand what the gluten-free plant-based diet is if you know what the two diets look like as stand-alone diets.

Let’s start with a plant-based diet. With this diet, you’re eating a high amount of plants. Eating plant based can take many forms, from following a vegan or vegetarian diet where animal products are strictly avoided or limitedto opting for a flexitarian diet that includes animal products on a more flexible basis. The plant-based diet focuses solely on the inclusion of plants and modifying the amount of animal products. This diet alone doesn’t require the avoidance of gluten.

Next, let’s consider the gluten-free diet. This diet differs from the plant-based diet because it doesn’t put limitations on animal products but instead focuses on the avoidance of gluten, a protein found in specific foods. Don’t let the term protein confuse you. Gluten is not an animal protein, and you can eat it on a plant-based diet if you don’t need to eliminate it for health reasons. Gluten is naturally present in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. It’s also added to foods like certain cereals, sauces, dressings, and packaged foods.

A gluten-free plant-based diet is one that combines both the plant-based diet and the gluten-free diet. In other words, following this diet means eating a plant-based diet while also eliminating gluten. For example, someone following a plant-based diet might choose to eat a hummus-and-veggie sandwich on whole-wheat bread. If you’re eating gluten-free plant-based diet, then you’d need to have that same sandwich on gluten-free bread.

Should everyone on a plant-based diet avoid gluten?

In short, no. The reasons why some people may avoid gluten vary from managing chronic conditions such as Celiac disease to managing other conditions such as a gluten sensitivity. Others may choose to avoid gluten even if they don’t have a medical condition that requires avoiding gluten. No matter your reason for not eating gluten, the plant-based diet doesn’t require the elimination of gluten and only people with a specific condition and/or preference should eliminate gluten from their diet.

A bowl of broccoli soup on a wooden table, with broccoli florets

Foods to avoid

It’s never fun to talk about the foods you can’t eat when you start a new diet. But when going gluten free, this list is extremely important to understand. People with chronic conditions like Celiac disease can experience detrimental effects from eating even the smallest amount of gluten.

Knowing this, the list of foods to avoid, plus the ability to scrutinize labels, becomes increasingly important when eating gluten free. Some of the foods below may be surprising sources of gluten, especially if the gluten-free diet is new to you.

Wheat, barley, rye, and triticale

These grains naturally contain gluten and should be avoided on a gluten-free diet. This includes flours, breads, crackers, and cereals made with one or a combination of these grains.

Cereals and crackers

You should avoid any cracker or cereal made from one of the gluten-containing grains on the plant-based gluten-free diet.

Pastas

You should eliminate pastas made from wheat (often listed as durum or semolina on an ingredients list) or other gluten-containing grain when on the gluten-free diet.

A pile of penne pasta

Soy sauce

Soy sauce is a surprising source of gluten. While you can purchase gluten-free soy sauce, it’s important to inspect labels to ensure you’re buying the right variety of soy sauce when on a gluten-free diet.

Dressings and sauces

Gluten is often present in pre-made dressings and sauces, so be sure to check labels for the presence of gluten. Avoid products that contain ingredients like wheat flour or malt. The good news: Many, many gluten-free dressings and sauces exist on grocery shelves!

Pre-made soups

Similarly to dressings and sauces, pre-made soups often contain gluten, especially when a thickener such as flour is used. Read labels carefully for the presence of gluten-containing ingredients. Additionally, packaged soups may have a base of chicken or beef broth. So if you’re vegan or vegetarian, make sure to purchase one with vegetable broth or water as the base.

Foods to include

The good news is there are plenty of foods that you CAN eat on a gluten-free plant-based diet! Fill your cart with these plant-based foods that are also gluten free.

Fruits

All fruit is naturally gluten free. Choose any fruits—fresh, canned, dried, or frozen—that you love and enjoy. If purchasing canned or frozen, opt for fruits that are unsweetened. For canned foods, you’ll want to look for phrases like “canned in water” or “canned in 100% fruit juice.”

A plate is filled with fresh fruit and vegetables

Vegetables

Like fruits, all vegetables are naturally gluten free! Choose any vegetables you enjoy: Fresh, canned, frozen, are all great choices. When purchasing canned vegetables, choose no-salt-added versions when possible.

Quinoa

Missing grains on the gluten-free diet? Quinoa is a great substitute for gluten-containing grains. It’s naturally gluten free and is higher in protein than many other whole grains.

Rice and wild rice

Like quinoa, rice and wild rice are also naturally gluten free.

Beans, peas, and lentils

Staples of the plant-based diet, beans, peas, and lentils are naturally gluten free. Load up on these nutrient powerhouses for extra fiber and protein.

Lentils on top of bread topped with tomato and basil, on top of a wooden table

Coconut aminos and tamari

Both sauces are delicious substitutes for soy sauce and are gluten free.

Bean and lentil pastas

Traditional pasta is made with wheat. Fortunately, many gluten-free alternatives are now available on store shelves. Try pasta made from beans or lentils, and get the benefit of extra protein and fiber while also avoiding gluten. You’ll also be able to find pasta made from rice and corn.

Gluten-free cereals and crackers

Similarly to gluten-free pasta, gluten-free packaged snacks like crackers and cereal are also more readily available. However, you may eat any cereal or cracker that is gluten free. Examples include oats, rice crackers, and gluten-free muesli or granola. Many options are made from seeds or gluten-free flour blends. If you have Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, make sure to buy oats marked gluten free, as these grains are often cross contaminated with wheat.

Common questions about a gluten-free plant-based diet

Is a plant-based diet good for Celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a condition that requires the complete elimination of gluten from the diet. The most important part of a diet for managing Celiac disease is the elimination of gluten. Adding a plant-based diet to a gluten-free one offers the same health benefits to someone with Celiac disease as it does to people without Celiac disease. This is especially true if your gluten-free plant-based diet includes minimally processed foods, is low in sodium and saturated fat, and meets the recommended daily intake of fruits, vegetables, beans, and healthy fats.

What are some easy meal ideas for a gluten-free plant-based diet?

Simple meal ideas for a gluten-free plant-based diet are abundant. Grain bowls made with gluten-free grains or burrito bowls with a base of beans and topped with veggies, salsa, and guacamole are both easy meals that you can throw together with what you have on hand. Other gluten-free plant-based recipes like smoothies; gluten-free oatmeal with fruit; stir fry with tofu, vegetables, and a gluten-free soy sauce; or tacos made with corn tortillas are all easy meals to enjoy on a gluten-free plant-based diet.

Are all fruits and vegetables gluten free?

Yes, all fruits and vegetables are gluten free. Keep in mind that some pre-made sauces, dressings, or dips for fruits and vegetables may include gluten, so be sure to read labels before adding them to your plate.

Are oats gluten free?

Oats are naturally gluten free but are often harvested alongside wheat or processed using the same equipment that is used to process wheat. This results in an increased likelihood of gluten contamination. To err on the safe side, buy certified gluten-free oats to ensure they don’t contain gluten.

Will I lose weight on a gluten-free vegan diet?

Weight loss is largely determined by a calorie deficit, not by the avoidance of specific ingredients like gluten. If switching your diet to a gluten-free vegan diet results in a calorie deficit from the diet you typically follow then yes, that will result in weight loss. However, the elimination of gluten and/or the avoidance of animal products alone will not result in weight loss if there’s no change to your total daily calorie intake.

slices of toasted bread with guacamole and spinach on top

Plant-based gluten-free recipes

Looking for tasty recipes that fit this diet? Try one of these nutritious and delicious options:

The bottom line

Don’t let your need for avoiding gluten steer you away from also eating plant based. Eating a gluten-free plant-based diet is doable, but you must be prepared to read labels and make modifications to your grocery list. And don’t forget that many naturally gluten-free foods are also plant based! Focus on those plant-based foods that are naturally gluten-free for a balanced and nutritious diet.

Learn how to follow a gluten-free plant-based diet with ease! Discover the foods you can and can’t eat, recipe ideas, and answers to common questions.

Plant-Based Eating |

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