Not that I am an expert at this gluten-free thing. at all. BUT, I am a recent devotee and having successfully moved myself and two toddlers to a gluten-free diet. during the holidays. while traveling. I feel as if I have a little bit of varied experience with this so far. I kind was forced to dive right in on trying to figure out how to live “normally” again. I have also been hit up by friends a few times in the past 4 months “So, I am going/am thinking about going/HAVE to go gluten-free, can you offer me some good brands/snacks/recipes because whatthef*ckdoIdonow?”
Most recently I got that text from my BF Kelly (aka, Kel Dos). Her daughter, my Goddaughter just got her Gluten Intolerance test back. I won’t go into details, but this little Ginger* has been sick since she came out of Kelly’s womb and long story short, her test showed up for just what I suspected, gluten intolerance. She scored twice that of “normal” levels for Anti-gliadin IgA. And so now Kelly is freaking out about snacks and school and food and just life in general because lifestyle changes are challenging and well, that is the first thing people do when they are advised to go gluten-free; freak the funk out. I did.
The first thing I hear is “I don’t even know where to start”. Well, neither did I so I hit up Pinterest (duh) and searched “How to Go Gluten Free” and found “Gluten Free Goddess” ‘s blog. This gave a good place to start, I recommend you read it for yourself.
Here are the top things that I wish someone told me about going Gluten-Free:
- You cannot be “kind of” gluten free. To feel and see the real effects of a gluten free diet, it is all or nothing. Even a crumb can send you running to the bathroom and/or into the fetal position for hours if you are Non- Celiac gluten intolerant or Celiac.
- Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, farro, malt…and for the die-hards, oats and quinoa have similar properties and some of the gluten intolerant folk can’t digest them either.
- Gluten is hidden EVERYWHERE! Start reading labels if you don’t already. Here are some products you might be surprised to find gluten in: Soy sauce, mustard, BBQ sauce, ketchup, malt vinegar (anything with malt or barley), potato chips, soup, salad dressing, your Thanksgiving turkey, french fries, canned soup, lunch meat, candy, beer, fast food (it is not real food anyway, you shouldn’t eat it.), fake flavoring (like that sprayed on chips and crackers), wine coolers and other malted beverages, artificial colors and food dyes (did you know that these are ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES in over 100 countries outside of the US?) In fact, it is best to just avoid all processed foods altogether.
- Give yourself a two week “wheat break.” It takes your wheat-addicted taste buds that long to adjust the different flavors and textures of “alternative” flours. No bread, bagels, “replacement crackers”, pasta etc.
- When you do decide to dive into the world of gluten-free baked goods always, always toast your bread.
- Gluten-free pasta will crumble into a billion tiny pieces if cooked too long. It still tastes fine, unlike wheat pasta that kind of disintegrates or becomes starchy if overcooked.
It is daunting at first but what you are really doing is setting yourself up for some good ‘ole “clean eating” and by day 3, the pain in the ass that it is to plan and cook and not know what the hell you are going to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…it will all be worth it. It is absofrickinalutely amazing how much better you will feel. Ask anyone who has made the choice, they will tell you the same thing. And the best part, it is almost a guarantee some of you will see weight loss.
The next question I am asked is “what are some brands you have found that you like?” so far here is the breakdown:
I have tried Glutino, Rudi’s (sold at my Costco), both are fine, but my kids dig IN to some grilled cheese when it’s on Glutino’s Multigrain Sandwich Bread. Also garners the “Gluten-Eater Seal of Approval” from Matt. Rudi’s is ok, but it’s easy and cheaper for me to buy, so that is the stand-by bread for when we don’t have any of the good stuff.
I also found a pin from InspiredEats.net (and lives in my neck of the woods, apparently!) “Udi’s Whole Grain Gluten Free Bread – apparently the best GF sandwich bread that does not need to be toasted”
Glutino brand is pretty spot on when it comes to their snacks crackers and chips and pretzels, oh their pretzels! I think they taste better than regular pretzels. They are pretty crunchy and don’t have any weird texture or flavors. Matt approves of these as well. They are about $6.99/ 14 oz. bag at our local store but I found if you in bulk through Amazon you are buying them for about $4.99/ 14 oz. bag. ($2 savings/bag and I like that.)
I would save the calories and pass on the following from Glutino, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate vanilla wafer cookies (aka fake Oreos. I found another brand of fake Oreo’s that are awesome, but can’t remember what brand they are. Will be sure to update when I find them again.)
I also found Private Selection Sea Salt Rice and Bean Chips are delicious and get the Gluten-Eaters Seal of Approval from my good friend, G. (Private Selection Labels can be found at Kroger and affiliate stores.)
Hot damn, do I love bagels. In high school, every single morning (if I made it on time) I would buy a bagel from the caf (they were shipped in from a local joint in my hometown, Elaine’s Bagels. Holy moly are those the best bagels I have ever had in my life. And I miss them.) When I was working in downtown Boulder prior to birthing my nuggets, every morning on my way to work I would stop in at my local coffee joint, The Cup and I would order a toasted sesame bagel with veggie cream cheese and a large Yerba Mate (yeah, I don’t drink coffee, but I love the owners and baristas.) I love bagels. I love them and I miss them.
I have replaced them with an ok, gluten free rendition from Udi’s. Really make sure these are toasted and eat them while they are still hot. I mean, nothing can replace the deliciousness of a NY style bagel so this is just something I will live with.
Save the calories on Glutino brand bagels, they are hard and gross.
There really are a lot of gluten free pasta out there and it’s kind of preferential. I really don’t care if I am eating corn or quinoa or rice pasta, but my neighbor across the street, she is very particular and often times I am on the receiving end of products she doesn’t like. Not a bad deal, right? So my recommendation is to try out a few and see what you like. My other recommendation is not to eat gluten free pasta when it is cold. I found out the hard way that it is just gross. And lastly, corn pasta needs a little extra loving in the water (or sauce) as I have found that it takes a long time to cook through. I have served my family crunchy spaghetti more times than not lately. Hmnmm, a foodie that can’t cook spaghetti…..
Spices mixes :
Make your own, there is so much filler crap in most of those packages and it is cheaper to make your own. Go to the bulk section of your natural grocery store and stock up….or, you can be as lucky as me and have access to Savory Spice Shop in Boulder. I found some great homemade spice recipes on Pinterest. You can also search by the specific spice mix you’re looking for, taco mix, Greek Seasoning, Cajun Seasoning, Steak Seasoning etc.)
- 14 Homemade Spice Mixes by Wellness Mama
- any spice mix you could possibly need (from Old bay to Emril’s Essence) at La Belle Cuisine blog
Flour, Baking mixes and Xanthan Gum?:
THIS was my biggest fear. I had just figured out high altitude baking and now this? And what in the hell is xanthan gum? Fear not! Bob’s Red Mill makes a very versatile gluten free baking mix. (and is sold at my Costco!) I use it as a 1 to 1 ratio and typically add some amount of xanthan gum to it even though it already has it in the mix. It’s what I used for my gluten free chia blueberry pancakes.
and xanthan gum, btw is like a “gluten replacement” to add volume and viscosity to baked goods and breads (and this kick ass cheese sauce!)
(EDITORS NOTE: After posting on Facebook, one of my favorite gluten-free friends left me this comment: “I use the Bob’s Mill General Purpose for savory recipes, as I find the presence of garbanzo flour to lend itself best to things like quiche. King Arthur’s general gf flour is great for pie as it is less savory, but so is the price.” Thank you Vicky for that great advice! Always great to hear from others with experience!)
ALCOHOL! also known as, “Oh no, I can’t drink beer.” You are wrong! You can, you just have less choices! And really, let’s look at that as a good thing because who really needs WALLS and WALLS of choices of beer when you really just need one little section.
I found a local craft brew called New Planet, they make a Raspberry Ale that I really like.
also check out this pin – 5 Gluten Free Beers Worth Trying by Food Republic. I have had the Omission Pale Ale, it was a fine pale ale, as far as they go. I don’t really like them particularly, so…
Also, there are a variety of hard cider’s on the market, Woodchuck makes different flavors; they’re good, but too many or you’ve got a belly ache on your hands. Most hard cider’s are gluten free (Hornsby and Harpoon’s are NOT, beware).
Liquor is iffy, as some vary brand by brand. Like gin for example. I love me some Bombay Sapphire but not anymore! I read somewhere it has gluten in it, I read somewhere that it doesn’t. I’ll go by what my belly tells me and that is “Girl, why are you doing this to me?” and so, it is no more. A simple google search of whatever your product is + “gluten free” after it should come up with enough search results for you to make your own judgement call on whether or not to eat it. Also beware of the mixers put in your drinks. For example, I’m going to assume a lot of margarita’s are made with a bottled mix unless otherwise noted. Stay away from that crap, seriously, margarita’s are not supposed to be bright, lime green anyway.
It is also important to note that us folk that can’t tolerate the gluten, have difficulties with artificial sweeteners, coloring (!), and flavoring. You wonder why kids are so insane at birthday parties. It’s not the sugar, it’s all of the chemical dye pumped in them from the food coloring. THESE CHEMICALS ARE ILLEGAL IN SO MANY OF OTHER DEVELOPED COUNTRIES. Do not eat them, do not feed them to your children, it is poison.
I also get this a lot – “How did you know you’re kids had gluten issues?” After I got my initial recommendation to go GF I read up on what some symptoms could be, it made perfect sense.
It started when Grant was about 9 months old he laid his head down on some carpeted steps and cracked both of his front teeth. I thought that was really weird, but I have always had bad teeth (despite my almost obsessive flossing and brushing) so I thought little of it. Turns out people with gluten issues tend to have bad teeth/weakened enamel etc. When he was 2 1/2 he started Pre School 2x/week. He missed his first day because he was puking and from that point on until 13 months later he had the “stomach bug” approximately 13 times. He had big, dark “allergy shiners” under his eyes, but tested negative for all allergies. Diarrhea, rashes on his bum, skin issues on his face, congested nose, sleeping issues, behavior problems (from an otherwise very nice little boy), lashing out, mood swings. I know the latter part sounds like a typical 3 year old, but not mine. I pulled the gluten and less then 3 days later my little Nugget came back. The rashes and dark circles and belly cramping and mood swings and sleeping issues…everything went away. Brody was different, he was only 16 months when it was pulled from his diet and I saw NOTHING other than this…..His teeth are super sensitive. Since he started teething his teeth bleed. If he bumps his head and he has something in his mouth, you can expect bloody teeth. Like they are not properly secured in his little skull. He also chipped both of his front teeth when he bonked his head another time. So, the enamel issue raised a flag for him. Recently we gave him some gluten to see what would happen, you know, to see if he really was intolerant or if it was just me. Yeah, he is, and it really crushed his belly, and he definitely let us know about it for the next 3 days, and it was rather unpleasant. ‘Nuff said. Kids are not supposed to be sick all of the time even if they are in day care, if they are I would look deeper.
“What do your kids eat for snacks? And what about Cheerios, aren’t you in prime Cheerio time with your youngest?” Currently in my pantry for snacks, Go-Go Squeeze, Clif Kids Organic Z Fruit Rope, Lara Bars, apple cinnamon rice cakes, dried fruit, freeze dried fruit (my MIL is a THRIVE representative), Glutino Gluten Free Pretzels, Pirate’s Booty, Veggie Straws, popcorn (air popped, not bagged). They love to dip the pretzels in hummus, tzatzki, yogurt dip (mix in a little cinnamon and honey and it’s a dip!) peanut butter etc. Also, of course, fresh fruit, cheese sticks, yogurt (buy Greek and mix in your own fruit, jam, granola, chia seeds or try this doozy of a recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough greek yogurt, it is amazing!). Or if they can come up with something healthy, I’m not one to say no. Sometimes Grant wants to make muffins or bake something, I’m all for it! It’s definitely not as convenient but I make my own with individual snack bags and vacuum seal them. 15 minutes of prep saves a lot of time when you can just grab and go and not have to worry about it on your way out the door. I always have snacks on me. Always. My boys can turn into ravishing (whiny) dinosaurs in a blink of an eye.
As for my Cheerio replacement, Amazon Subscribe & Save to the rescue again. I have Nature’s Path Organic Whole O’s, Gluten Free Cereal, 11.5-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 6) delivered to me every 3 months (it saves about $0.84/box this way.) They are made of rice, have a slight sweetness to them (they are not bland) and are very crunchy. Neither of my boys care that they aren’t eating Cheerios, it’s not a big deal. In fact, I like them better, they are crunchier.
Whoa. Bet you didn’t read that in one sitting.
So now, for your benefit, I shall end this long-haul of a post but will leave you with this little teaser, coming soon: How To: Travel Gluten Free and some Gluten Free apps. Yeah, I know…so exciting.
*Names are changed to protect identities, but appropriately nicknamed “Ginger” due to her incredibley awesome, Strawberry Shortcake red hair.