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A question I’m asked often and want to answer often is what should I eat if I have to stop eating gluten? And I’m here to tell you exactly what I recommend.
If you’re new here, I got diagnosed with what’s called nonclassical celiac disease at the age of 24. That basically means I have an autoimmune response to ingesting gluten but the symptoms are atypical from what most people know celiac disease to be.
I was a definite latecomer to the gluten free scene and felt overwhelmed by having to cut out so many of my favorite things. Can I live without pasta, pizza, beer, and bread? Yeah, duh. Do I want to? Absolutely not.
This list I’m about to give you is absolutely not comprehensive and to be honest, it’s not the healthiest list by any stretch. These things aren’t vital to my wellbeing; it’s just a list of the things I choose to eat that haven’t left me feeling like I’m missing out on the delicious, gluten-y versions that I miss from my pre-celiac days.
Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Gluten Free Soy Sauce
Soy sauce was a thing that made my head spin when I found out that it’s traditionally brewed with wheat, and that’s why I chose to put it first on my list. It’s one of those kitchen staples that is so ordinary and everyday to us that we might not think twice about putting it in a recipe and it could cause autoimmune flareups to happen without realizing where it came from, but traditional soy sauce is definitely not gluten free.
I’ve used the Kikkoman tamari (another type of gluten-free soy sauce) as well as the San-J brand tamari and neither have a taste as close to traditional soy sauce as this one.
Pro tip: bring a small container of gluten free soy sauce with you when you go out for sushi. Sometimes restaurants will have tamari or gluten free soy sauce on hand, but if they don’t, you’ll be happy you brought your own.
Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread
As a person that is thoroughly toast-obsessed, both the Trader Joe’s white bread and the whole grain bread (which I couldn’t find a picture of but is my personal favorite) are so delicious. They’re not artificially sweet-tasting like some gluten free breads are, and they don’t try to mask a lack of gluten by adding a ton of seeds and nuts to the meat of the bread.
Another plus: it doesn’t fall apart in sad little crumbles when you take a bite, and it doesn’t turn into bready concrete when you toast it. The biggest complaint that I think most people have with gluten free products, especially bread, is that they crumble into bits at the lightest touch. This is because gluten is the agent that binds it together, acting almost like a glue. This bread won’t let you down there, I promise.
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Flour
This particular flour absolutely slaps. It’s the best gluten free baking flour I’ve found on the market to date, and I’ve tried pretty much all of them. From Pillsbury to boutique brand, this ones takes (and bakes) the cake.
It’s called a 1:1 flour because you can substitute it in any recipe calling for wheat flour at a ratio of 1:1. This is because they include the binding agent xanthan gum in lieu of gluten which, like I said before, acts like the natural glue in the flour and holds your baked goods together.
Pro tip: If I’m baking something particularly dense, such as a butter cake or zucchini bread, I will add in an extra 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum to make sure it’s not too crumbly.
I get it from Vitacost, the online health food store, at a fraction of the cost of my local grocery store.
If you do a lot of cooking at home, then tapioca starch will be your frequently-used answer to a lot of creamy recipes. I use tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour) instead of flour when making a roux for soup or sauces. It’s flavorless when stirred into a recipe.
I’ve used the Bob’s Red Mill tapioca flour that I have linked and pictured here, but after trying quite a few brands, I’ve never really built up a brand loyalty for this product. They’re all very similar and all taste the same. I’ve never noticed a difference when I switch between brands. I do like the fine texture of the BRM one, though.
Pro tip: A little goes a long way. It’s very similar to cornstarch in consistency, so start small and add as you need more. You can always add to your recipe on an as-needed basis, but you’ll have a heck of a time trying to thin it out if you go nuts.
Kirkland (Costco private label) Blanched Almond Flour
Not all almond flours are created equal.
In fact, not all almond flours are even considered a flour — sometimes you’ll come across bags of ground almonds that are more course than a flour, called almond meal. Me personally, I go for almond flour. I want that smooth, delicate flour mouthfeel instead of the mealy feel of, well, meal.
I’ve tried lots of different brands of almond flours from Bob’s Red Mill to King Arthur and ALDI private label, and the Kirkland brand is my favorite and is the best-priced if you have a Costco membership (which is $60 per year). Three pounds of it is sold for around 12 dollars, versus 6-8 dollars for 8-16 ounces of name-brand almond flours.
Pro-tip: Keep your almond flour in the fridge. I don’t know if it’s snake oil, but I truly believe it helps keep the flavor fresh for longer.
Omission Pale Ale
There are quite a few beers out there that are legally gluten free (per FDA standards) which is less than 20 parts per million (ppm). Beers that fall into this category are ones like Corona, Guiness, and some lagers and they’re what’s called minimal-wheat beers. I am not a doctor, but it’s alleged that people with a mild gluten allergy may be able to get away with drinking one of these, but people with certain types of celiac disease probably can’t and should stick to certified gluten-free. For people who don’t want to risk it: enter Omission, a dedicated gluten free brewery.
Pre-celiac diagnosis, beer was a huge part of my life. I had friends that I’d made in breweries, and Jake and I even centered our honeymoon in Asheville, NC (the beer capital!) around breweries. I’ve spent upwards of $100 on a single bottle of a rare beer with my friends, where we planned entire dinner parties around sharing in the unique experience of drinking it together. Beer played a big part in the things Jake and I did for fun and on dates, and I loved stretching and growing a complex palette with beer.
Although I miss that part of my life something terrible, Omission is one of the best gluten free beers on the market in my opinion. It’s widely available and it’s refreshingly hoppy and light. To me, it tastes just like the pale ales of yesteryear I’d come to accustomed to drinking and missed dearly.
Barilla Gluten-Free Pasta
I say pasta to encapsulate an entire type of food, but I’m gonna be honest: I’ve only had the spaghetti version. But, my friends, it’s real good. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to regular pasta since going gluten free.
For a while, I was on a Banza kick. Banza is a great gluten free alternative, and I still absolutely love it in certain meals (it’s great for macaroni and cheese, soups, and putting with chili if you’re a crazy noodles-with-chili person like I occasionally am). It’s a high-protein, lower-carb pasta due to its chickpea base, but that’s just it… it tastes like chickpeas.
I’m the kind of girl who loves a basic butter, parmesan, and garlic noodle, and the Banza made me not enjoy my cherished basic pastas. I mentioned this to a gluten free friend last fall, and she pointed me in the direction of Barilla, and I haven’t looked back. It’s made with corn and rice flour, so the flavor is almost that of regular pasta. It’ll never be the same as a delicious, glutinous noodle, but it’s pretty damn close.
Pro tip: Monitor your cooking time. Gluten free pasta cooks differently than wheat pasta. Stir and sample during the cooking process and pull it out before it gets too soggy. Its texture can go from good to mush in no time.
Sweet Loren’s Place & Bake Sugar Cookies
You. Guys. These cookies are out of this world. They are absolutely mind-blowingly good. They’re not only gluten free, but they’re vegan, dairy free, and nut free. So, yes, I eat the cookie dough straight out of the package. I’m probably still not supposed to, but hey, I can’t help what feels right.
I first tried these cookies after seeing them on sale at our local grocery store. I’m a sucker for a new gluten free product, and I absolutely love sweets, and I really love sugar cookies. So, naturally, I immediately bought two packages.
When I took them home, I threw one package into the freezer and preheated my oven. After only a few minutes, my house smelled like I’d been baking all day and my mouth was watering. And I hadn’t even eaten them yet. I debated taking the second package out of the freezer to bake that too, but I resisted. And now I can tell you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the dough freezes beautifully to be used at a later date.
Guys, I’m not gonna lie, I’ve never had a sugar cookie that kicks as much butt as Sweet Loren’s. Loren, if you’re reading this, I love you so damn much.
ALDI Gluten Free Mini Pretzels
If you know me, you know my love for ALDI runs deep. I’ll put it this way: if MySpace was still around, ALDI would be in my Top 8.
I think ALDI makes a lot of people skeptical because of their super-affordable prices, and I understand. I’ve been duped by many an ALDI dupe, and it’s not a fun place to be. When ALDI started releasing a line of gluten free products a few years ago under their own private label as Live GFree, I was a skeptic. I mean, the name alone. It’s cheesy.
But, alas, I gave it a shot, as I was quite literally living GFree.
The first thing I tried were these pretzels. Aside from their insane crunch that takes a little getting used to, they’re delicious and both Jake and I love to snack on them. They don’t do the “fall-apart” thing that many gluten free products do, but, you’ve been warned. That crunch is.. crunchy.
Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers
Okay, again with the snacks. But I warned you, remember? I said this list was just going to be many types of snacks.
These crackers rule. They’re decently healthy as far as nutritional density goes and they’re taaaaasty. They pair well with basically anything and they crumble into soups and chili nicely.
Another plus: they’re almond flour crackers, not almond meal. And if we’ve learned something today, it’s almond flour > almond meal.
I find these crackers at Costco for ~$8 for a two-pack, but even then they’re a little pricey. We don’t snack on them like crazy so it lasts us a while.
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread
Okay, this is the best. I mean it. It’s better than most homemade cornbreads I’ve had and that feels a little sacrilegious to say, but I’m confident here.
My sister-in-law (who does not abide by a gluten free diet) recommended this to me after she had it on a camping trip. Let me tell you something, guys, this stuff is the perfect density with the most wonderful crisp crust.
This link takes you to a four-pack of this for $12 which is a great price! I’d happily pay more than that for this. One package makes about 12 muffins (and lets be serious: cornbread muffins are great because no one is trying to steal the biggest piece).
Things to Consider
If you’re going gluten free in today’s world, it’s going to be easy thanks to it being a weird health trend. You’re going to be okay. But you have to remember your why for going gluten free. If it’s to improve your health, you may want to consider nutritional value and opt for things like jicama sticks and snap peas and cucumbers to dip and spread things onto in lieu of crackers (or make your own almond flour crackers — this is my favorite recipe). Read the ingredients of the things you buy and use and decide for yourself.
A lot like going vegan, you’re still going to have plenty of unhealthy options. I mean, shoot, most candy is gluten free. You can go gluten free and potentially feel worse if you don’t have a good relationship with food and if your body isn’t getting enough vital nutrients.
Like I said, I love to sub out jicama, snap peas, and cucumbers when I want a dippable or portable snack that isn’t a cracker. I also love ordering burgers at restaurants without the bun. So far, every single restaurant’s gluten free bun has left me disappointed, even when the gluten free bun comes from a local bakery or is marketed as “artisan”. Just skip it.
And speaking of restaurants, advocate for yourself! Ask if their fries are breaded. Ask if their wings are breaded. Ask if they use the same fryer for gluten free items as they do for non-gluten free items. Ask if they put their regular buns on the grill if you need to avoid cross-contamination. Sometimes, eating out and traveling can be a pain in the butt when you can’t eat gluten, but it’s totally possible.
If you have a favorite that isn’t on my list, I’d love to know what it is!