Why am I gaining weight on a gluten-free diet?

You may be gaining weight on a gluten-free diet because these so-called gluten-free products, such as breads, may contribute to weight gain by adding extra saturated fat, sugar and sodium as substitutes. Processed gluten-free foods try to compensate for flavor and texture changes which result from the removal of gluten.
Melina B. Jampolis, MD
Internal Medicine
You may gain weight on a gluten-free diet if you eat too many packaged foods, which replace gluten with ingredients like fat, sugar and salt. Watch nutrition specialist Melina Jampolis, MD, discuss why you should avoid gluten-free packaged foods. 
Megan Ware, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Just because a cookie is gluten-free doesn't mean it's not a cookie! Often many packaged, processed foods are labeled gluten-free and consumers automatically assume the product is healthy. The term gluten-free in no way means that that food is more natural or less caloric. It may even have more calories, additives or carbohydrate than a gluten-containing alternative.
Elizabeth Boham, MD, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Sometimes people fill up on refined processed gluten-free foods when they go on a gluten-free diet. That is not the answer and will often result in weight gain. Going gluten-free can help with many health problems, but remember to just remove the foods that have gluten in them. This includes breads and pastas, cookies and crackers. If you are worried about your weight, do not consume many gluten-free products, like gluten-free cookies or breads. These are processed foods and not something we should be eating regularly. Always reach for whole foods. Instead of pasta or breads, choose brown rice or sweet potatoes for your carbohydrate. These foods are high in fiber and healthy. Processed foods, whether gluten-free or gluten-full, are not good for us and can cause weight gain.
Robyn Goldberg
Nutrition & Dietetics
It is possible to gain weight on a gluten-free diet, or any diet, if you are not learning how to listen to your body's hunger and fullness cues. Gluten-free does not mean calorie-free. It is important to begin learning how to reconnect to the hunger and fullness signals that you were born and blessed with.
Brooke Alpert, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
A gluten-free diet is necessary for anyone with celiac disease or any type of gluten intolerance. Other people follow a GF diet because they feel better eliminating the gluten protein from their diet. However, just because you are avoiding gluten does not mean you will lose weight. It's easy to gain weight on a GF diet especially when you substitute gluten for processed GF foods. The best way to eat, GF or not, is to have plenty of vegetables (green especially), lean protein (animal or vegetarian options), healthy lower-sugar fruit options, as well as portion-controlled whole grains. The grains can be brown rice or quinoa, both gluten-free. Or barley, whole wheat or other gluten products. 

If you want to go gluten-free, just remember not to swap out gluten for an unhealthy option! 
Chelsea Dierkes
Nutrition & Dietetics
If you switched to gluten-free due to celiac disease, you were likely not absorbing what you were eating previously. Once you go gluten-free and give your intestines time to heal, they start absorbing much more efficiently and thus you may be getting more calories, which can lead to weight gain.
Jennifer Shaw
Nutrition & Dietetics
A gluten-free diet can be a good option for someone with a true gluten intolerance, since they lack the ability to properly break gluten down, but if you don't have this problem, there is no real reason that you need to try this type of diet.  

No matter where calories come from, whether the food is healthy or unhealthy, you can gain weight if you take in more than you burn off. Making something gluten-free does not reduce the number of calories, and often times, gluten-free products wind up being higher in calories than their alternatives. Gluten is one of the proteins that helps to give baked products their structure, so without it, breads and similar items can wind up being denser and heavier. Removing the gluten does not make something healthier.

Whether you need to follow this type of diet or not, try eating foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and proteins, like chicken, fish, eggs, and nuts.
Nell Stephenson
Nutrition & Dietetics
All too often, people make the mistake of likening the classification of "gluten-free" with "good for you" and it's not necessarily the case. Being that it's so simple now to procure gluten-free cookies, cakes, breads, wraps and bars, many end up snacking on this still-high-in-sugar, very refined food items. If you're eating these types of foods regularly, it's easy end up with a diet that contains far too much sugar, sodium and far too little fresh veggies and fruit, which should make up at least 40-50% of one's diet.

The Paleo diet is a perfect fit for all of us, including those who have a celiac diagnosis as it's naturally gluten-free.
Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Gluten-free does not mean calorie-free. There are still calories and carbohydrates in these products. Often GF products can contain lots of sugars. Check the calorie and carb count before eating.
Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics
The short answer is gluten-free does not equal fat or calorie free. In fact, many gluten-free foods such as breads and cereals have just as many, or more, calories than non-gluten free foods. A gluten-free diet is meant for someone with gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance (called celiac disease). And while a gluten-free diet can be very healthy, loaded with potatoes, beans, lentils, corn, oats, and even rice, it does not set someone up for weight loss unless they are cutting back on total calories and fat while eating gluten-free.
Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics
Some gluten-free items can be higher in fat, sugar and sodium that can lead to weight gain if consuming a large amount of these products. Sometimes the fat is from nuts and seeds which are "good" fats but none the less -- fats. My advice is to consume gluten-free items but be mindful of the quantity of pre-packaged items you are consuming. And don't forget to focus on 5-9 servings of fruit and veggies per day as these are also gluten-free!
Laura Katleman-Prue
Nutrition & Dietetics

This is a very difficult question to answer without knowing the composition of your diet, how much you are eating or your level of exercise. Gaining weight is the result of eating more calories than you are burning. It could be that you are eating too many calories to create the deficit you need to lose weight.

Interestingly, gluten-free foods may actually have more calories than the traditionally baked products. Many times manufacturers add extra fat to the product so that the food is more tender and palatable.

All individuals, whether with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, should work with a registered dietitian to develop a healthy, well-balanced diet that meets their unique medical and nutritional needs and better manage their weight. You can find a registered dietitian near you at
Fad Diet
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics

A gluten-free diet is not a weight loss diet! The basic principle of lower calories eaten vs. higher calories burned = weight loss holds true. If you are not careful with your portions and caloric intake, weight gain is possible and certain even on a gluten-free diet.

Karen Ansel
Nutrition & Dietetics
Gluten-free diets may sound like a magic bullet for weight loss but they can actually backfire. One reason is that prepackaged gluten-free foods often have added fat and sugar added to make up for the lack of flavor and texture that results when foods are made without gluten. As a result, many gluten free foods can have more calories than their gluten-containing counterparts. Gluten-free pizza, pretzels and cookies are all prime examples. Another reason is that gluten-free foods are often highly processed and low in fiber. Without fiber to slow down their digestion they don't fill us up so we're likely to eat more of them in order to stay full. Bottom line: unless you have celiac disease, you don't need a gluten-free diet. Otherwise, your best bet for weight loss is a well-balanced, portion-controlled diet.
Rachel Begun
Nutrition & Dietetics
There are many reasons why weight gain is experienced on a gluten-free diet. For those who have celiac disease and are starting a gluten-free diet for the first time, your intestines are healing and you are now absorbing nutrients. This is a healthy weight gain and, if eating nutritious foods and taking in the right amount of calories, your weight should balance out after several months on a gluten-free diet. Prior to going gluten free, celiac disease patients are not absorbing nutrients and so are often underweight or weigh less for the amount of calories they are taking in.

For those on a gluten-free diet who don't have celiac disease, or who have celiac disease and continue to gain weight after a long time on a strict gluten-free diet, weight gain can be a result of the gluten-free food choices you are making.
Gluten-free packaged products are often higher in fat, calories and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts and devoid of nutrients. Eating too much of these foods can lead to weight gain. A healthy gluten-free diet should consist mostly of naturally gluten free foods, including: fresh fruits and vegetables; lean meats, poultry and fish; low-fat dairy; gluten-free whole grains; legumes; nuts; and seeds.
Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics
A gluten-free diet is not a calorie-restricted diet, and can still lead to weight gain. The best thing to do for weight loss is to monitor the portion of gluten-free foods that you are eating, and meet with a registered dietitian. Find one at
Dee Sandquist
Nutrition & Dietetics

If you are substituting gluten-free products for gluten-containing counterparts, you are most likely eating more calories overall. Prepared gluten-free foods such as cookies, cakes and breads generally have less fiber and more fat. The fat helps the texture and flavor, however, adds calories. The quality of the diet is important. Choose nutrient rich foods that include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Eat less of sweet treats and baked products that are gluten-free.

Louise Goldberg
Nutrition & Dietetics
Baked goods, breads, crackers or pastas that are gluten-free tend to use more refined flours that are very low in fiber and less filling. This means you may eat more of these foods (and consume more calories) in order to feel satisfied. Excess calories leads to weight gain.

If you do not have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, there is little justification for staying on a gluten-free diet. It would be better to stick with high fiber, satisfying foods.
Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics
If you are gaining weight on a gluten-free diet, you are probably eating more calories than you think. Just because you are omitting foods with gluten, such as bread or pasta, you may be consuming big portions of rice or gluten-free carbs.
Nadine Pazder
Nutrition & Dietetics
You are eating too many calories or not getting enough exercise. Or both! A gluten-free diet is not low in calories. But it can be low in fiber so you may be eating more of those grains to feel full. And getting more calories in the process. Make an appointment with a registered dietitian to get a plan that meets your specific needs.
Michaela Ballmann
Nutrition & Dietetics
It is actually more common than you might think to gain weight on a gluten-free diet, especially for those with no medical reason to go on this diet. Unless you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or a wheat allergy, there is not much evidence that you will benefit from this diet. A gluten-free diet involves replacing gluten-containing foods with gluten-free substitutes. Unfortunately, these substitutes are often more calorically-dense and lower in fiber than their gluten-containing counterparts. For example, white rice and tapioca flours are both commonly used, but are both very low (or absent) in fiber. I would recommend using gluten-free flours higher in fiber like amaranth, brown rice, millet, quinoa, and teff.
Julieanna Hever, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Gluten-free has nothing to do with weight loss. Simply stated, gluten is the primary protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats. Avoiding a single protein has never been shown to promote weight loss.

Weight loss is a simple calculation, balancing calories in and calories out. The problem with this glorified concept of gluten-free eating is that the only benefit of following a diet omitting gluten is reserved for someone that has a gluten intolerance or allergy or has been diagnosed with celiac disease. Some other people may perhaps find a benefit with eliminating gluten if this means they are cutting out processed foods which happen to be predominant in gluten-containing foods....particularly wheat and wheat-derived products.

I recommend everyone, regardless of whether you are gluten-intolerant or not, eliminate processed and refined food products including cookies, cakes, most breads, crackers, doughnuts, and other similar products for optimal weight management.
Alexandria Hardy
Nutrition & Dietetics
There is a common misconception that gluten-free foods are healthier than foods that contain gluten. This is untrue, as plenty of unhealthy, high calorie foods and beverages are technically gluten-free but contribute no nutritional value to the diet. For example, many baked goods can be made with gluten-free mixes but are still calorically comparable to "regular" cookies and cakes.

Portion sizes are also key (reference "My Plate" for more information) as being gluten-free does not equate to larger portions. The bigger the serving of food/drink, the more calories it will contain.
Sarah Koszyk
Nutrition & Dietetics
When it comes down to it, in order to lose weight on any diet, one must technically consume less calories than expended in order to have a deficit. If a person is following a gluten-free diet, make sure that portion sizes are still accountable and a balance is found in all the food groups such as gluten-free grains/starches (potatoes, yams, rice, quinoa, etc.), vegetables, proteins, fats, fruits, milk/dairy. Also, make sure to read the labels on gluten-free packages because a brownie is still a brownie. Even if the brownie is gluten-free, it still has calories, fat, and sugar. One should still be aware of portion sizes and frequency with packaged goods.
Molly Morgan
Nutrition & Dietetics
The reason may be because many gluten-free products are higher in fat and calories than their gluten containing counterparts. Quick tips: up the amount of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, brown rice, and products that are all naturally gluten-free and downplay the amount of processed gluten-free foods. This should help reduce your overall calorie intake and slow/stop the weight gain.
Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
A diet without gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, reduces intake of these low calorie whole grains with fiber which provide a feeling of fullness. Many gluten-free snack products are offered on the market which provide extra calories with few nutrients including fiber. A diet low in fiber may result in increased hunger and food intake. If extra calories are consumed from these gluten-free snack foods, than expended in energy weight gain may result.
Tracy Konoske
Nutrition & Dietetics
Gluten-free foods in a processed form may contain A LOT of calories. In addition to having more calories than non-gluten free items, most are still unrefined meaning that the grains are not enriched with iron, B vitamins, etc. And people who are eating gluten free for the right reasons (celiac, gluten intolerance) may need all the nutrients they can get to heal. 

Better ways to eat gluten free are to stick to whole, natural foods. Like any fruit in its natural state, any vegetable in its natural state, nuts and seeds with or without salt (but check ingredients when smoked or in a processed trail mix item), and whole grains like quinoa, white or brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, teff, etc. Protein sources like chicken, pork, beef, and seafood can be cooked from scratch so that you avoid gluten sources in marinades, rubs, etc. 

Living without gluten does not have to mean living with bigger clothes!
Amy Jones
Nutrition & Dietetics
It depends very much on the reason you are following a gluten-free diet. Are you diagnosed celiac/gluten intolerant?  Particularly if you are celiac, the weight gain you see may be due to increased absorption of food (now that the small intestine is healing). In my experience with patients, a few pounds of weight gain is very common as patients start feeling better on the gluten-free diet.

If you are following the diet for other reasons, it's important to remember that gluten-free foods can be higher in calories, and many "junk" forms of gluten-free foods (i.e cookies, brownies, cakes) can derail your weight loss efforts. Focus on lower calorie items like gluten-free whole grains (quinoa, amaranth), fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. 
Donna Feldman
Nutrition & Dietetics
Going gluten-free does not guarantee that your diet will be either healthy or lower in calories. It just means you're avoiding foods with gluten, a protein found in wheat. There is nothing magical about gluten-free for weight loss. Your body still does the age-old calorie math of "Calories In (food) vs. Calories Out (exercise and metabolism)." Too many Calories In means weight gain. When Calories In equals Calories Out, you just stay the same weight. Even when the calories are from gluten-free foods.

If you're gaining weight, you're eating more calories than you need. A gluten-free diet that's full of gluten-free cookies, gluten-free cakes, gluten-free snack foods and bars is easily going to be high calorie. Soda pop, candy and ice cream are technically gluten-free, but they're still high calorie.

The best way to lose weight is to stick to simple, unprocessed foods: vegetables, fruits and non-wheat whole grains like rice or quinoa, lean meats and dairy products. This is always good advice, whether or not you're eating gluten-free. A diet of gluten-free junk food is not going to help you lose weight.
Dr. Mark Hyman, MD
Family Medicine
It's a surprising statistic, but a study found that 81% of people suffering from celiac disease (gluten intolerance) who followed a gluten-free diet gained weight. That's because there is a common misconception that anything labeled "gluten-free" must be good for you.

Many processed gluten-free foods and gluten-free junk foods not only contain almost twice the calories as their traditional counterparts, but they can also be double the price. In addition, processed gluten-free foods are lower in fiber, so you won't stay full as long, and many people who follow a gluten-free diet are missing out on the benefits of good carbohydrates like brown rice, fruits or beans, which all help to regulate blood sugar.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.