Woman researching celiac diet plan on laptop

Celiac Diet Plan: Benefits and How To Create One

Medically reviewed on Sept 20, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

Being diagnosed with celiac disease can have a big impact on your life and lifestyle. When you have celiac, foods that contain gluten can cause your body physical harm. [1]

The key characteristic of diets designed for people with celiac is that they’re gluten-free. [2] Certain sources of gluten, like wheat-based breads, are typically easier to eliminate. However, gluten may be “hidden” in other popular foods, like manufactured sauces or restaurant dishes. [3]

Knowing which foods may contain gluten is a crucial part of creating a diet plan that protects your health. If you want to make a celiac diet plan that suits your physical needs and palate, we’ll cover everything you need to know below.

Benefits Of A Celiac Diet Plan

Gluten-free diets are chiefly prescribed to patients with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. [1] A gluten-free diet is considered the single most effective treatment for treating celiac for three key reasons [1]:

1. Prevents Small Intestinal Damage

Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disorder that originates in the small intestine. With continued exposure to gluten, the villi of the small intestine can become damaged (villous atrophy). Villi are fine, finger-like structures that take in nutrients from food.

Villous atrophy can cause celiac patients to develop nutrient malabsorption, leading to various problems such as [4]:

  • Weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteopenia
  • Anemia

Gluten-free diets help to lower the risk of these issues by combatting small intestine damage. [5] Removing gluten also allows the small intestine time to recover and reverse existing damage. [5]

2. Provides Symptom Relief

Symptoms associated with celiac disease are highly variable. However, there are several that can cause acute discomfort, including [4]:

  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue

When celiac people eat a gluten-free diet, they may notice a reduction in digestive discomfort just a few days or weeks after starting. [1]

Apart from digestive symptoms, following a gluten-free diet can also reduce hidden symptoms of celiac disease. These may include [4]:

  • Skin rashes
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling of the limbs
  • Reduced cognition (“brain fog”)
  • Joint pain or arthritis

With time and consistency, many celiac people find they recover or find relief from celiac arthritis, skin inflammation, and many other extra-intestinal symptoms. [6]

3. Reduces Long-Term Health Risks

A variety of long-term health hazards are associated with Celiac disease. Although these vary from patient to patient, they tend to increase in severity the longer CD remains undiagnosed or untreated.

Specifically, adhering to a gluten-free diet can help reduce the risk of complications like [7]:

  • Nerve damage
  • Celiac arthritis
  • Anxiety
  • Clinical depression
  • Lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma

Who Should Eat A Gluten-Free Diet?

If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, adhering to a gluten-free diet is the best thing you can do for your health.

That said, anyone can try a gluten-free diet. However, if you don’t have gluten sensitivity, you may not notice any benefits. Celiac diet plans may feel inordinately restrictive to people who don’t have the disorder.

By testing for gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, you can decide whether a celiac diet plan is right for you.

How To Create a Gluten-Free Celiac Diet Plan

Gluten-free diet plans are elimination diets. Their primary purpose is to remove foods that contain gluten, which triggers an autoimmune response in people with celiac.

Three basic principles can help you get started [2]:

  • Opt for whole ingredients – The closer an ingredient is to its natural state, the less likely it is to contain gluten. Additionally, cooking and eating most of your meals at home is one of the best ways to lower your gluten exposure.
  • Read your labels – Most people have processed foods at home, whether condiments or candy to satisfy a sweet tooth. You can still use products like these to prepare foods, but it’s crucial to read the food label before buying them. For instance, many cooking sprays and candy bars can contain trace gluten as a result of their manufacturing processes.

    Some common sources of “hidden” gluten include:

    • Soy sauce
    • Pre-made salad dressings
    • Potato or tortilla chips
    • Fried foods, like french fries
    • Energy and granola bars
    • Candy bars
    • Microwaveable soups
  • Avoid cross-contamination – It’s important to be as mindful about food storage and preparation as you are about what you purchase. If you’re the only person with celiac in your household, aim to use your own set of containers and appliances for gluten-free food. For instance, don’t let a non-gluten-free roommate use the toaster you use to toast their non-gluten-free bagels.

With that, designing a celiac diet plan begins with knowing which foods not to eat. After that, you can find enjoyable substitutions that won’t damage your body.

Step 1: Foods To Avoid

The most common source of gluten is found in products containing or made with wheat. You should also remove wheat derivatives from your diet. Some common examples include [3]:

  • Wheat berries
  • Spelt
  • Farina
  • Semolina
  • Durum
  • Graham

Learn more about a wheat allergy vs. celiac disease to seek proper treatment.

Gluten is also found in non-wheat grains, such as [3]:

  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Malt
  • Certain yeasts

Removing the aforementioned ingredients is a solid start for forming a celiac diet plan. While several other grains contain gluten, these are less common.

Gluten and trace gluten can also be found in pre-formulated foods and products, some of which we’ll cover below. As a general rule, it’s important to read food labels carefully when starting a gluten-free diet. This can introduce you to sources of gluten that may not be obvious at first glance.

Step 2: Foods To Enjoy

Starting a celiac-friendly meal plan can be a pleasurable process, letting you discover immune-friendly foods you didn’t know you liked. Many people with celiac find plenty of delicious, nourishing options to fill their plate with. Plus, removing gluten often means bidding goodbye to the painful digestive symptoms that came with it.

Whole Grains

As a person with celiac, you can still enjoy many gluten-free grains as a source of carbohydrates. Some delicious ones to try include [3]:

  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Amaranth
  • Wild rice
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet

It’s often said that people with celiac disease can’t eat bread or pasta. However, this isn’t necessarily true: people with celiac should not consume bread, pasta, or other grains that contain gluten.

Today, there are many types of bread and pasta made with alternative gluten-free grains. Some popular options include:

  • Lentil-based pasta
  • Chickpea-based pasta
  • Potato flour bread
  • Grain-free bread
  • Rice flour bread
  • Tapioca flour breads

Pastries and other baked goods can also be part of the equation on a celiac diet plan. You can try looking for a manufactured gluten-free brand at the supermarket or using gluten-free grains at home to make your favorites.

Whole Fruits And Vegetables

Most vegetables are safe to enjoy on a gluten-free diet. Just be careful to avoid preparation methods like [3]:

  • Battering
  • Oil frying

These can introduce gluten to a food that wasn’t there naturally.

Fruits are also fair game on a gluten-free diet. But, like with vegetables, it’s important to watch for preparations like [3]:

  • Storage in syrup
  • Sugar-coating

Like battering and frying, these methods can cause cross-contamination with gluten if you aren’t preparing them yourself.

Meats And Proteins

Luckily, you can include as much fresh meat, fish, and plant-based proteins into your gluten-free diet as you’d like. Just be on the lookout for potential gluten cross-contamination with [3]:

  • Breading
  • Flouring
  • Marinades
  • Sauces

Many deli meats also contain hidden gluten. [3] If you’re unsure about certain cuts, be sure to ask a server or butcher whether their products are certified gluten-free.


Many celiac people can enjoy dairy products like cow’s milk and butter safely. However, while most dairy products are gluten-free, some people with celiac can’t eat them comfortably.8 This is because existing small intestine damage can cause lactose intolerance in some people. [8]

If you’re unsure about whether you can enjoy dairy, consult with your healthcare provider. They can tell you whether you may be lactose-intolerant. They can also tell you if you can eat dairy products once your small intestine has had time to heal.


Finding gluten-free beverages can be a slippery matter if you have celiac. Favorable non-alcoholic beverages include:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Seltzers
  • Pure fruit juice
  • Many sodas

Just be sure that coffee beverages made with non-dairy milk are certified gluten-free.

If you drink alcohol, it’s important to know which beverages may contain gluten. These include [3]:

  • Beer
  • Lager
  • Ale
  • Malted beverages
  • Undistilled liquor
  • Some flavored or mixed cocktails

Wine, cider, and distilled liquors are usually okay to enjoy on a gluten-free meal plan.

Step 3: Guidelines For Starting Your Celiac Diet

To complement your list of gluten-free ingredients, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the following Celiac diet plan guidelines. These ensure you create a diet that’s safe, delicious, and easier to stick to:

  • Understand the meaning of “gluten-free” – The FDA is in charge of controlling food labels and their meanings.9 A product must contain no fewer than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten if it carries any of the following labels [9]:
    • Gluten-free
    • No gluten
    • Free of gluten
    • Without gluten
  • However, a “gluten-free” label does not necessarily mean the product is completely free of gluten. [9] Some people with severe Celiac may still have an immune response to small or trace amounts of gluten.
  • Be vocal when dining out – If a server or chef isn’t sure whether a dish has been made with gluten, or cross-contaminated with gluten, it’s best that you skip it. Fortunately, many gluten-free establishments are opening up as gluten-free diets become more necessary and popular.

Screen for Celiac Disease With Everlywell

Although your celiac status may be difficult to adjust to, with an adventurous attitude, it’s possible to find delicious ways to take care of your health. Plus, you can start your new lifestyle habits clear-headed with the Everlywell Celiac Disease Screening Test.

Everlywell offers the convenience of home testing with CLIA-certified, physician-reviewed results. If you require further care or want to know if you may have silent celiac disease, Everlywell can even plug you into a vetted network of telehealth counselors who can guide you in creating a diet plan that works for you.

Find out more by browsing our collection of at-home nutritional health tests today.

Can Celiac Disease Go Away?

Hidden Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Silent Celiac Disease: Symptoms & Causes

Understanding Refractory Celiac Disease

Wheat Allergy vs. Celiac Disease: How Are They Different?


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.-g). Treatment for celiac disease - NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. URL. Accessed Sept 15, 2023.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.-f). Eating, diet, & Nutrition for Celiac Disease - NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. URL. Accessed Sept 15, 2023.
  3. Sources of gluten. Celiac Disease Foundation. (n.d.). /URL. Accessed Sept 15, 2023.
  4. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2023c, September 12). Celiac disease. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed Sept 15, 2023.
  5. Dietary changes for celiac disease. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2019, November 19). URL. Accessed Sept 15, 2023.
  6. Laurikka, P., Nurminen, S., Kivelä, L., & Kurppa, K. (2018, August 3). Extraintestinal manifestations of celiac disease: Early detection for better long-term outcomes. Nutrients. URL. Accessed Sept 15, 2023.
  7. Maureen Leonard, M. (2020, May 28). Can celiac disease affect life expectancy?. Harvard Health. URL. Accessed Sept 15, 2023.
  8. Do I have to avoid dairy products?. National Celiac Association. (n.d.-a). URL. Accessed Sept 15, 2023.
  9. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Gluten and food labeling. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. URL. Accessed Sept 15, 2023.
Everlywell makes lab testing easy and convenient with at-home collection and digital results in days. Learn More