How to be Vegan with Celiac Disease

By Dayna Weiten, RD

Dayna is a Registered Dietitian with over 20 years experience as a clinical dietitian at Winnipeg’s largest teaching hospital and is a new member of the CCA Professional Advisory Council. Her areas of speciality are celiac disease, food allergies /intolerances, other gastrointestinal conditions, hypertension and hyperlipidemia/high cholesterol.

There are various types of vegetarian diets. If someone does not eat meat, chicken or fish, but still uses cow’s milk, they are considered a lacto-vegetarian. If they also include eggs, they are lacto-ovo-vegetarian. If no animal foods are included in the diet, it is termed vegan. Going vegetarian—especially vegan— is a huge food trend. But in order to be healthy, it has to be done right.

Don’t make this common mistake!

It can be very easy to create a diet that omits meat and chicken by using more cheese and other milk products. Milk, cheese and yogurt are excellent sources of protein and contain many other nutrients. The one drawback is that they are a poor source of iron. Lacto-vegetarians need to ensure they are including good sources of iron in their diets.

The key is protein

gluten-free veganWhen someone eating gluten-free decides to become vegan, or someone who is vegan is diagnosed with celiac disease, much of the advice given to nonvegan people with celiac disease would still apply: Eat whole unprocessed foods as much as you can, eat lots of vegetables and fruits, eat grains guaranteed to be gluten-free, use healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado. The differences come when we think about protein sources. Reading labels on processed foods is especially important as wheat is a common ingredient in prepared vegan entrees such as veggie burgers. You can make your own veggie burger as there are many recipes available which could be modified to become gluten-free.

If you are using non-dairy milks, try to use a type that has calcium and vitamin D added as these will contain the same amount of calcium and vitamin D as cow’s milk and are therefore good sources of these nutrients. These products vary in the amount of protein provided.
Soy beverages are a good source of protein. Other milk alternates such as almond, rice, hemp or coconut are not good sources of protein. Read the labels as some flavoured non-dairy beverages may contain gluten.

Good protein sources for vegans that are also gluten free would include:

  • Pulses (dried beans, peas and lentils) – dried or canned
  • Nuts and seeds, nut or seed butters (read labels to make sure no gluten added)
  • Soy protein/tofu (Note: Read labels on prepared soy protein products as wheat may be added as a filler/binder in some products)

Make sure you are including sources of these important nutrients:

Soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, spinach, blackstrap molasses

Vitamin B 12
Fortified beverage that is GF, nutritional yeast or a B12 supplement

Fortified beverage that is GF, tofu processed with calcium sulfate, almonds, kale, bok choy, blackstrap molasses

ground flax, hempseed, walnuts

Vitamin D
most people do not obtain sufficient vitamin D in their diets; a supplement of 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D is recommended

Great vegan snack choices

If you’re gluten-free and looking for vegan snack options, try the following:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Roasted chickpeas (commercial GF roasted chickpea snacks are available)
  • Homemade GF/vegan muffins or snack bars
  • Some dairy-free cheeses are gluten-free