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  2. Gluten Free Diet and Lifestyle
  3. Keeping healthy
  4. Vegetarians and vegans

Vegetarians and vegans

  • It is possible to follow a gluten-free diet and not eat meat or animal products, but you must ensure you get all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs - in particular, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Vegetarian and vegansIf you have coeliac disease and are vegetarian or vegan, you may be more limited in the food you can eat, and also have to be careful that you are getting all the nutrients that your body needs.

People with coeliac disease can sometimes have nutritional deficiencies, such as anaemia due to iron and B vitamin deficiencies, and osteoporosis because of problems absorbing calcium.

There have also been reports that some people on a gluten-free diet eat less calcium, which can also be true of people on certain vegetarian or vegan diets. Plan your meals carefully to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs.


If you aren’t eating meat and fish, you need to make sure you’re getting protein from other sources. Non meat sources of protein which are also gluten-free include:

  • textured vegetable protein*, made from soya, and tofu*, made from soya milk
  • pulses (peas, beans, lentils)
  • eggs (if you eat them)
  • nuts and seeds


To have good bone health and prevent osteoporosis, you need a diet rich in calcium. Foods rich in calcium include dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurts.

If you are following a vegan diet, you can drink soya and rice milk* fortified with calcium as an alternative to cow’s milk.

Other non dairy sources of calcium include:

  • tofu*
  • dark green vegetables such as kale and broccoli
  • seeds such as sesame seeds and sunflower seeds
  • kidney beans or baked beans*
  • dried fruit such as apricots and figs
  • calcium fortified soya milk*, soya based puddings and orange juice.

You may need to take supplements to make sure you’re getting enough calcium. Your GP or dietitian can give you further information and advice about this.


If you don’t have enough iron in your diet this can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. The following foods are all good sources of iron suitable for a gluten-free and vegetarian or vegan diet:

  • pulses (peas, beans, lentils)
  • eggs (if you can eat them)
  • dark green vegetables
  • dried fruit
  • nuts and seeds

To improve iron absorption, include food and drink rich in vitamin C with meals, such as fruit juice, citrus fruits and potatoes.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in foods such as milk and eggs, so deficiency is not usually a problem for most people on a vegetarian diet.

If you are following a vegan diet, alternative sources include:

  • fermented soya products
  • seaweeds
  • fortified margarines
  • fortified yeast extracts.

Many specialist vegan foods are supplemented with vitamin B12 but may not be gluten-free, so it is recommended that you take additional supplements.

Vitamin D

You need vitamin D to absorb enough calcium.

Vitamin D is made by the skin from spending time in the sun. The amount of vitamin D people make will depend on how strong the sunlight is. In the UK, people will get more vitamin D from sunlight in the months between March and September but will have difficulty getting enough vitamin D in the winter months.

Food sources of vitamin D include:

  • oily fish (if you eat fish)
  • eggs (if you eat them)
  • fortified products such as margarine, spreads and breakfast cereals.

Public Health England and the Scottish Government provide advice on vitamin D intakes, based on recommendations from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, saying:

  • Everyone in the general population aged 4 years and older, is recommended to have an intake of 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day. In the winter months they may struggle to get enough vitamin D and should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, from October to February. 
  • All infants from birth to one year of age should have an intake of between 8.5 to 10 micrograms per day. This should be as a daily supplement, unless the infant is having more than 500ml of infant formula a day, as formula milk is already fortified with vitamin D.
  • Children aged one to four years should have a supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day, all year round.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consider taking a supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day
  • Those in groups at risk of vitamin D deficiency, such as those who are housebound, older people, those with darker skin tones and those who cover their skin completely when outside, should consider taking a supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day, all year round.

Vitamin D supplements and multivitamins are now widely available to buy from pharmacies, supermarkets and health food shops. If you are taking a calcium supplement, some calcium supplements are combined with vitamin D.

If you are concerned about meeting your nutritional requirements, talk to your dietitian or GP for advice about your diet and supplementation.

*Marinated tofu products may contain gluten so it is best to check each product to see if you can eat it. Check your Food and Drink Directory for suitable products.

Meatless alternatives are listed in your Food and Drink Directory; see the index for different pages.

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