While food culture and eating habits are different around the world, people everywhere love to enjoy a good meal. When you host an international exchange student with AFS, your family has the chance to try lots of new ingredients and ways of preparing them.

Your exchange student might have a special diet you’re not familiar with—such as Kosher, Halal, vegan, or gluten-free—but that doesn’t mean you can’t share your home and your dinner table together!

Today we’re going to talk about the gluten-free diet and some easy ways to accommodate students who follow it. You’ll likely find that it’s simple to adapt your grocery list and cook delicious meals that make the whole family happy.

What is “gluten-free?”

If you’re gluten-free, that means that you generally can’t eat wheat-based products like bread and pasta.

Someone might be gluten-free because of a personal preference, but many exchange students who follow this diet have Celiac Disease, which affects 1 out of 100 people worldwide. A person with Celiac Disease can’t digest gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye.

But there’s tons of foods that they CAN eat, including some delicious ingredients you might not expect.

Gluten-free grocery shopping

Here’s a breakdown of the foods that a gluten-free student can eat, and some foods they should avoid:

  • Fresh or frozen meat, poultry, and fish
  • Kidney beans, black beans, and soy beans
  • Fresh, canned, dried, or frozen fruits
  • Fresh, canned, or frozen vegetables
  • Tomato paste and canned tomatoes
  • Baking soda
  • Nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, and others)
  • Butter, margarine, and vegetable oil
  • Milk and milk powder
  • Yogurt and cheese
  • Eggs
  • Corn and Cornmeal
  • Quinoa grains and flour
  • Brown, white, and wild rice
  • Wheat, rye, and barley
  • Many pastas and breads
  • Some cereal products
  • Faro
  • Malt
  • Matzah
  • Soy sauce
  • Oats/Oatmeal
  • White or self-rising flour


Gluten-free prepared foods

There are also plenty of pre-made packaged gluten-free meals for you to try. You’ll likely find the popular brand Amy’s—which offers gluten-free burritos, chili, ziti, and casseroles—in the frozen foods section of your local grocery store. (It’s always a good idea to stock up on a few frozen meals for those days when you don’t feel like cooking!)

Another brand to check out is Annie’s, which has a variety of healthy gluten-free options. You’ll even find that many well-known brands like Barilla pasta, Chex cereal, and Quaker oatmeal carry gluten-free alternatives.

Gluten-free cooking

If you ARE in the mood to whip up a delicious gluten-free meal, here are some awesome recipes to check out:

Gluten-free oatmeal

Gluten-free Italian flatbread

Thai pineapple fried rice with gluten-free soy sauce

And best of all, you and your exchange student can have lots of fun in the kitchen making these yummy gluten-free desserts:

Homemade Oreos

Lush Coconut + Berry Ice Pops


As AFSers will tell you, some of the best family moments happen around the dinner table when everyone is gathered together, sharing food and going over the day’s highlights.

New to AFS? If you’d like to find out how hosting an international exchange student can have a powerful impact on your family, fill out our hosting interest form.