Beginner’s Guide – So You’re Ready to be Gluten Free
Living Gluten Free
Just a little warning before we get started, this is going to be a lengthy and informative post. If you’re seriously ready to be gluten free read all the way through. If you’re looking for some quick tips, scroll to the bottom helpful tips and quick review. Ok if you’re here for the long haul here goes…
Eat Clean & Eat Fresh
First the best advice is to eat fresh fruits and veggies that you prepare yourself. The same goes for meat meat. Sometimes packaged, canned and pre-seasoned veggies and meats have additives that contain gluten. Eating fresh might not always be an option one thing that has saved me is downloading an app called Eating Clean – available on iPhone. The logo colors are grey/white/green and their logo is a fork and spoon crossed in an X. Inside the app you can choose what food allergies and alerts you want to be notified of. When you go to the store, scan the barcodes of items that aren’t labeled gluten free. I seriously scanned almost my entire cart full of items (as I put them into my cart) the first few trips to the store. Once you learn the items you can eat it gets easier. If you are an Android user I’ve heard the app Healthy Food, Allergens, GMO by NxtNutrio is great for doing this as well.
Don’t Be Fooled
Don’t assume a packaged item is gluten free because you have bought it before; in a different brand. Trust me, it can be tricky because you would think store brand vs brand name would have the same ingredients, but it is not always the case. For example I like to buy chickpeas for my salads. The Great Value brand contains gluten or may contain traces of wheat but Bush’s brand is labeled gluten free. Actually most of Bush’s beans are, and worth definitely worth small extra cost for your well-being.
Crackers and Loaf Bread
Another tip from personal experience, gluten free crackers are terrible. I now use corn tortilla chips for
anything that I previously used crackers for, like soups, dip, etc. Gluten free bread is hit or miss. I haven’t found one worth buying with a good cost vs taste ratio. I’ve heard Udis is good but it is $7 a loaf and I don’t really care for bread anyways. From personal experience, never buy loaf bread made from rice. Rice bread is dense, dry and tastes like cardboard. (If you’re in central Florida check out Purple Onion in downtown Lakeland. They have yummy gluten free sandwiches – just ask for their gluten free bread. Some of their soups are gluten free too and so delicious).
Tacos and Burritos
For tacos, Old El Paso makes good hard corn shells (just make sure to scan the package with your Eating Clean app first to make sure). I tend to prefer soft shells, so I buy corn tortilla wraps instead of flour. Warning: they tend to crumble pretty bad. There are more expensive gluten free wraps for making burritos and sandwich wraps but I do not have personal experience using them. When we make tacos at home I put all my toppings in a bowl and scoop out a bite onto my corn wrap and take a bite to avoid a crumbled mess. Making a full taco and trying to eat it = no go with corn wraps. Also make sure to read the labels on or scan your refried beans and taco seasonings too – some have gluten, some don’t.
Seasonings and Cheese
Be careful with all seasonings. A lot of companies will use ingredients that contain gluten for anti clumping purposes. Packaged shredded cheese contains gluten for the same reason. Most block cheeses are ok but I don’t use much cheese so I can’t really recommend based on taste / brand.
Pasta & Cereal
There are great gluten free pastas out there. I personally use Tinkyada and Ronzoni. FYI they do take longer to cook and will turn the water yellow but give them a chance, they taste just as good as regular pastas. If the yellow water from gluten free pasta bothers you (it often does me) just rinse your pasta halfway through cooking, fill with new water and continue cooking. As for cereal, a safe bet is corn or rice chex, you can get it plain or in a variety of flavors like vanilla, cinnamon, and honey. Recently General Mills started making some of their top sellers like Lucky Charms and Cheerios gluten free too.
I’m also a big sweets person, even though I try to stay away from processed sugars. Baking using gluten free flour is pretty much the same but the texture can be a bit drier / dense. However I admit I use stevia instead of sugar and applesauce in place of oil so that could also be a reason for texture differences. I use Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour and it works great for cookies and pancakes. I haven’t quite mastered a gluten free, sugar free, oilless cake but I’m going to keep trying! There are gluten free pancake mixes too if you don’t wanna make them from scratch. For ice cream, most plain flavors are ok. It’s when you have additives and flavors that it can get iffy. (When in doubt scan everything with your app lol) I eat Breyers fat free, no sugar added vanilla ice cream and add my own fresh fruits. I’m not a big fan of dairy products either so sometimes I’ll opt for sherbert but it has a good amount of sugar. I recently heard of a brand called Arctic Zero which is non dairy, low sugar, gluten free, fat free and non GMO. I haven’t tried it personally yet but some of my fitness friends say its great. One of my favorite desserts are smoothies. My base is always 1/2 a frozen banana and Silk Almond Milk then I’ll add fresh fruit to suit my mood.
As for eating out, try to pick places with specific gluten free menus. Most places will offer their allergy info or gluten free menu on their websites. Also, look for reviews from people who have been to your selected restaurant. You can find quality information about their personal experiences and the restaurant’s willingness to accommodate gluten free needs. Be aware, some restaurants fry their flour breaded items in the same fryers as their ‘gluten free’ items…eat there at your own risk or avoid fried items. I avoid these foods personally because of cross contamination. I had to learn the hard way that it’s better to just do without than risk feeling bad later. Chances are, there is something you can order everywhere you go but your choices will be limited. Oh another thing I almost forgot (because I don’t eat much of it), some salad dressings contain gluten. Be sure to ask every time when eating out or scan with your app when in the grocery store. Different brands = different ingredients. Ranch, Bleu Cheese and Vinaigrettes will be gluten free in some brands but not others, just be carefull.
Quick Tips for Eating Gluten Free
I know this is a lengthy amount of information to process but these are my main tips for staying gluten free:
* Grow or buy your own fresh veggies and fruits from a produce market
* Buy fresh meats, prepare & season everything yourself *Check all seasonings
Of course you can’t eat at home all the time. If you’re like me hunger strikes every couple of hours.
* Meal prep / bring food with you if you will be going to a party or leaving the house for an extended period of time.
* Invest in different sized tupperware containers for meals, veggies, fruit, desserts.
* Check restaurant’s gluten free menus online before going out.
*Read reviews and experiences from others online about different restaurants. (The Find Me Gluten Free App is great for this).