Gluten Free Shopping Can Be a Challenge
Whether you are going gluten free to deal with celiac disease, because of a sensitivity to gluten, or just because you want to cut gluten out to live a healthier life, learning how to shop gluten free is important. Especially in the US, labeling of products with or without gluten can be confusing. You need to know what is okay and what isn't.
Lately you may be seeing a lot more products marked "gluten free" with a price mark-up even if the product is naturally gluten free! You need to educate yourself to ensure you are getting both high quality foods and a good deal on these foods.
Image from Amazon.com.
You'll see it everywhere...
I'm sure you've noticed... gluten-free foods seem to be popping up everywhere and you see the "gluten free" label slapped on all kinds of food. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but there is something I'm seeing that gets me a little angry.
Companies want in on the "gluten free" craze where people are going gluten free to try to lose weight. They are putting the label on everything from apples to milk and fresh meat, the type of thing that is NATURALLY gluten free and jacking the prices up because of the label.
Don't fall for these tricks. Many foods are naturally gluten free. There is no need to pay more just because it is labeled that way!
This one can be tricky.
Gluten itself is a protein present in processed grains, so obviously grains are an issue. Luckily there are several grains that are naturally gluten free.
The grains you'll want to avoid are wheat, rye, and barley. Obviously this could make things like bread difficult but more and more companies are finding ways to make gluten free bread out of the grains that are safe for people sensitive to gluten.
Gluten-free grains include quinoa, rice, millet, corn, buckwheat, and gluten free oats. If you aren't familiar with these, quinoa is probably the best one to start with because it is easy to cook, very tasty, and getting very easy to find. You can normally find most of these in the average grocery store with gluten-free diets becoming more popular, but if not you can check your local health food store.
If you are buying gluten-free flour, be sure to check the ingredients to make sure it is made of one of these safe grains or beans like chickpeas.
Watch for unexpected gluten!
Regular meat is naturally gluten free. Chicken, pork, beef, lamb, and so on aren't an issue. Processed meats may be though. If you plan to buy hot dogs, sausages, sandwich meat, or any other processed meats you will want to check the label for any ingredients known to contain gluten.
Generally it is better to stick to unprocessed meat whenever possible. You won't need to worry about not noticing something with gluten in the ingredient list and it will also help you keep your sodium intake from getting too high.
Watch for things like wheat, barley, or rye in the ingredient list as well as gluten itself. Generally higher quality hot dogs or sausages are less likely to contain these types of fillers and binding agents.
Fish is the same. If you buy a salmon fillet from the meat counter, gluten isn't a concern. Once you are going for processed or breaded fish like fish sticks, you need to check the ingredients for gluten.
Part of a healthy gluten-free diet.
Beans are a great source of gluten free carbs, the fuel of the body, as well as protein and minerals. If you are gluten-free, beans should have a place in your diet.
All beans on their own are gluten free. This includes chickpeas/garbanzo beans, black beans, white beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and so on.
One thing to remember when buying beans is cross-contamination. Most dried beans will be processed in the same plants that process flour. This means you have a very small chance of cross-contamination. If you are very sensitive to gluten, this is a concern. Canned beans are safer in this regard but also more expensive and higher in sodium. (Make sure you get low sodium beans if you go canned.)
If you are buying soups with beans, you will once again need to check the label for ingredients containing gluten.
Luckily, almost everything!
While milk itself is naturally gluten-free, many people who are sensitive to gluten are also lactose intolerant. If you have trouble with gluten, be careful with milk until you know whether or not you are sensitive to lactose as well.
Dairy products that will be okay include milk, sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese and cheese. Most yogurt will also be okay, but this is where you need to check labels. Some yogurts have additives that contain gluten.
If you do end up being lactose intolerant, there are several brands of lactose free milks you can try though!
Cookies, muffins, all of that good stuff.
A healthy gluten free diet will be full of foods that are naturally gluten free. Fresh, whole foods are the healthiest options. This doesn't mean you need to skip those yummy looking gluten-free cookies altogether though! Nothing wrong with indulging in a yummy treat.
You can find many gluten free substitutes for things like cookies, cakes, bread, and more. You'll probably want to use these sparingly though because they are usually much more expensive due to being a "specialty food."
If you want to try making these yourself, you can buy gluten free flour in most stores. I'm a big fan of garbanzo bean flour but there are many other options available as well and I'll link to some below.
These are some of the most popular gluten-free flour options currently available and you can get them all on Amazon!
One of the hardest parts of eating gluten free is learning to cook using these flour substitutes or finding recipes the entire family will love. Luckily more and more people are coming up with delicious recipes without gluten!
Check out some of these great books.