Yesterday I addressed how to start a gluten-free diet and what foods are naturally gluten free. It can be an overwhelming transition, but if you’re doing it for health reasons like Celiac or a gluten intolerance, the benefits are worth it.
One of the things that has made my life easier is the growing number of gluten-free products on the market. Older brands are adding “gluten-free” labels to their products, and new items are being introduced every time I go to the grocery store. Now I can eat gluten-free pasta; I buy gluten-free cereal and energy bars, and I can pick up a few packages of gluten-free crackers when I’m on my way to way to a party.
While some people call a gluten-free diet a “fad diet,” I hope it sticks around. Not everyone follows it for the same reasons I do, but it sure is a lot easier for me to go grocery shopping with everyone jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon.
How do I shop for gluten-free food?
My advice to people starting a gluten-free diet is to focus on the foods you already enjoy, rather than try to eat all of the gluten-free substitutes. But, once you’re comfortable with eating gluten free, you’re going to want to try some of the growing number of breads, pastas, crackers and baked goods available on the market.
One of the best things that happened to me was for a friend who was already following a GF diet to take me through the grocery store and point out what brands she liked, what had hidden gluten in it and what wasn’t worth my money.
If you don’t have a friend like this, you can still do a lot of research. Take a look at some of the reviews on Viewpoints. Leave a comment here and I’ll tell you what I think. Some stores will have lists you can pick up at the customer service counter that will tell you all of the gluten-free foods in the store.
The most important thing when grocery shopping is to read the label, read the label, and read the label again. Don’t just look for the big “NOW GLUTEN FREE” badge on the front of the box. Read every single one of those ingredients in the list. Am I harping on this too much? I bought a tub of hummus one time without reading the label. I had bought it several times before so I thought I was safe. After a few days of feeling horrible I took a look at the label and realized the recipe had changed and it now contained soy sauce.
Finding hidden gluten on the label
So what are you supposed to be looking at the label for? The big one is wheat, obviously. Also stay away from soy sauce, modified food starch, natural flavors, artificial flavors, barley, malt (extract, syrup, flavoring, vinegar), matzoh, seitan, semolina, panko, graham, hydrolyzed protein. The list gets even longer, but those are the biggies.
Think that’s intimidating? It kind of is, but remember, the more ingredients and processing that goes into the food, the more likely it is to contain gluten. Try to stick to food products with short ingredient lists that you can pronounce.
Favorite gluten-free brands
I’ll be reviewing some brands in more detail and doing product comparisons later, but here are some of the brands I like for their taste, ease to find at the grocery store, and price.
Udi’s (98/100) – Great gluten-free sandwich bread, hamburger buns, hot dog buns. You won’t feel like you’re missing out with Udi’s gluten-free bread.
Crunchmaster (97/100) – Multi-grain crackers that hold up to dips and cheese, and they’re pretty tasty on their own.
Chex (98/100) – Not all Chex are gluten-free, but the Rice and Corn varieties are. And bonus, the Apple Cinnamon and Chocolate varieties are also made gluten free.
Amy’s Frozen Meals – I don’t like to eat frozen meals a lot, but I keep a few of these in my freezer for a quick lunch or dinner. Again, not everything is gluten-free, but all of the packages are labeled very clearly. The rice pasta macaroni & cheese is a favorite.
Those are some of my favorites, but I have a few new packages of gluten-free pasta to try. I’ll be posting my reviews here soon.
What are your favorite gluten-free foods? Help others out when they’re trying to decide what to buy by writing a review.
Editor’s note: If you have professional experience with gluten-free foods or specialty diets, Viewpoints is recruiting experts in priority product categories to write for our blog. Check out this overview of the Viewpoints Category Expert Program, including qualifications, compensation and how to apply.