What can I eat if Im dairy-free and gluten-free?

If you need to follow a dairy-free and gluten-free diet, you may wonder what foods are still available to eat. Although this way of eating eliminates many common foods, there are still plenty of nutritious and delicious options to enjoy.

Why Follow a Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Diet

There are several reasons someone may need to avoid dairy and gluten:

  • Dairy allergy or intolerance – Some people are allergic to the proteins in milk or intolerant to the sugar (lactose) in dairy products. This causes symptoms like bloating, gas, cramping, diarrhea and rashes after consuming milk, cheese, yogurt or other dairy foods.
  • Gluten allergy or intolerance – Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. An allergy or intolerance to gluten causes inflammation and damage in the digestive tract, leading to symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting and fatigue.
  • Celiac disease – This is an autoimmune disorder where gluten damages the small intestine. It’s a serious medical condition that requires a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity – Some people experience negative symptoms after eating gluten but don’t have celiac disease. This condition is not well understood but does improve with a gluten-free diet.
  • Inflammatory disorders – Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease and eczema may improve with a dairy-free and gluten-free diet.

Following an elimination diet can help determine if you have sensitivities or intolerances to these foods. Working with a healthcare professional is recommended to ensure proper nutrition.

Foods to Eat on a Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Diet

Although dairy and gluten foods are restricted, many nutritious and versatile options are still available:


  • Meats: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, duck, wild game
  • Fish: salmon, tuna, halibut, trout, mackerel, sardines
  • Eggs
  • Legumes: beans, lentils, peas
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds
  • Soy products: tempeh, natto, edamame

Fruits and Vegetables

  • All fresh fruits: apples, bananas, berries, citrus fruits, etc.
  • All fresh vegetables: leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, squash, etc.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Canned fruits and vegetables: watch for added sugars

Grains and Starches

  • Gluten-free whole grains: rice, quinoa, buckwheat, teff, amaranth, millet, sorghum, oats certified gluten-free
  • Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, plantains, yuca, etc.
  • Legumes: beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas
  • Gluten-free flours: rice flour, coconut flour, almond flour, chickpea flour, etc.

Dairy Substitutes

  • Nondairy milks: almond, coconut, soy, rice, hemp, oat, cashew
  • Yogurts: coconut, almond, soy
  • Cheeses: aged hard cheeses if lactose intolerant, dairy-free cheeses
  • Ice cream: dairy-free coconut, almond or cashew based
  • Butter: virgin coconut oil, olive oil, nut butters like almond or cashew butter

Seasonings, Condiments and Beverages

  • Herbs and spices
  • Mustard
  • Vinegars: balsamic, apple cider, white wine, etc.
  • Plant oils: olive, avocado, coconut, sesame
  • Broths and stocks: watch for gluten ingredients
  • Tea and coffee
  • Wine, cocktails and liquors: read labels for gluten ingredients
  • Sodas, juices and smoothies: choose gluten-free options

Foods to Avoid

It’s important to read food labels carefully and avoid these common allergens and irritants:


  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Custard
  • Whey protein powder
  • Casein protein powder
  • Margarine
  • Non-dairy coffee creamers


  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Malt
  • Oats (unless certified gluten-free)
  • Breads
  • Pasta
  • Cereals
  • Beers
  • Soy sauce
  • Salad dressings and sauces thickened with flour
  • Fried foods with batter coating
  • Imitation meats containing gluten

Hidden Sources of Dairy and Gluten

  • Processed meats like hot dogs often contain milk proteins
  • Instant oatmeal and flavored rice mixes may contain gluten
  • Canned soups are thickened with wheat flour
  • Sauces, gravies and salad dressings often contain dairy and wheat
  • Flavorings like vanilla extract can contain alcohol distilled from gluten grains
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications may use gluten as a binding agent

Sample One Day Meal Plan

Here is a sample dairy-free, gluten-free meal plan for one day:

Meal Foods
Breakfast Gluten-free oats topped with sliced almonds and blueberries. Side of turkey bacon.
Lunch Mixed greens salad with chickpeas, avocado, carrots, cucumber and balsamic vinaigrette. Brown rice crackers on the side.
Snack Apple slices with almond butter.
Dinner Seared salmon over quinoa with asparagus. Glass of red wine.
Dessert Vanilla dairy-free ice cream topped with mixed berries.

Tips for Sticking to the Diet

Following a dairy-free and gluten-free diet long-term requires some adjustments. Here are some tips:

  • Read labels carefully – Scan ingredient lists for any hidden dairy or gluten ingredients. Look for “contains wheat” warnings.
  • Find specialty recipes – Search for dairy-free and gluten-free recipes online or in cookbooks.
  • Meal plan – Plan weekly menus and shop with a list to have compliant ingredients on hand.
  • Communicate with friends/family – Let others know your dietary needs when dining out or potlucks.
  • Bring your own food – Bring safe snacks or dishes to social gatherings.
  • Try substitutions – Substitute wheat flour with gluten-free flours in recipes.
  • Supplement if needed – Take calcium, vitamin D or probiotic supplements if eliminating dairy.
  • See a dietitian – Get personalized nutrition advice from an expert.

Potential Nutrient Shortfalls

When excluding major food groups like dairy and gluten grains, you may be at risk of certain nutritional deficiencies over time. Here are some nutrients to pay attention to:


Dairy products like milk and yogurt are high in calcium, which is essential for bone health. Seek nondairy calcium sources like leafy greens, calcium-set tofu, calcium-fortified plant milks and juices.

Vitamin D

Often found in fortified dairy products. Get vitamin D from fatty fish, egg yolks, UV-exposed mushrooms or supplements.


Gluten-free grains and fortified cereals are major sources of fiber. Eat legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and gluten-free grains.


Iron is added to many gluten-containing breads and cereals. Consume iron-rich meats, seafood, spinach, beans, lentils and iron-fortified gluten-free foods.

B Vitamins

Milk is fortified with B vitamins like riboflavin and B12. Take supplements or eat eggs, meat, fish, poultry, spinach and gluten-free whole grains.

The Bottom Line

Following a dairy-free and gluten-free diet limits some food options, but you can still enjoy a healthy, well-rounded diet. Focus on eating lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, gluten-free grains and legumes. Read labels carefully, meal plan ahead and communicate with others to stick to your diet. With some adjustments and planning, it’s entirely possible to meet all your nutritional needs.

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