My Favorites for Gluten-free Folks
As you’ve probably noticed while grocery shopping, gluten-free products have exploded. If you were gluten-free only a few years ago, you would have had to to seek out a speciality health food store, and would probably be pretty disappointed by your options.
But now gluten-free products are available in nearly every store. Is the gluten-free alternative always healthier? Not necessarily. Here’s a few reasons that people go gluten-free:
Severe gluten allergy (like Celiac’s)
Avoiding all grains for special diets like paleo, Whole 30, and low-carb diets like keto
Reducing highly refined foods and looking for less processed alternatives
This is a wide-ranging list and you can see how a food that might fit one category might not fit another. Many gluten-free versions of packaged foods like pretzels and English muffins are actually quite processed and substitute various gums, high-carb starches, and additives to mimic the holding power of the gluten protein. That type of substitute would work for a someone with Celiac in that it wouldn’t trigger a reaction, but wouldn’t necessarily be health-promoting for them or anyone else on the list.
So I compiled a list of a few gluten-free products on the shelf that I think are tasty, work well (they don’t fall apart or crumble) and are made of mostly whole-food ingredients. One caveat: of course, it’s always going to be better to eat actual real food at home instead of anything in a package regardless of how “healthy” the label is. I can’t really think of an instance where I could realistically tell myself that eating a box of crackers is a better option than eating a baked sweet potato. Oh and actually a second caveat: I’m not recommending a gluten-free diet to anyone with this post (I personally am not GF)—this is simply a round up of better-for-you options in that category.
This one is a tie for me. My favorite gluten-free pasta that’s most similar to regular wheat pasta is Jovial Rice Pasta. My favorite GF pasta that doesn’t really taste like real pasta is Tolerant Red Lentil Pasta. I like the lentil pasta because it’s super high in both protein and fiber so it makes a great vegetarian dinner. One tip when you are shopping for gluten-free pastas: always choose small, compact shapes like rotini or fusili. Alternative pastas rely on starches to hold the pasta together which are generally not as strong as the sticky gluten-protein that holds white pasta together. So long shapes like fettuccine are more likely to break apart, while short shapes like fusili and macaroni hold together much better.
Crackers are my go-to snack and probably the carb I most crave. My favorite brand for GF crackers is Simple Mills. (I also gave a shoutout to them in my post on my favorite snack foods.) They have both almond flour crackers that are made of a blend of nut and seed flours combined with cassava flour and they also have sprouted seed crackers. In addition to being gluten-free, these crackers are also totally grain-free, making them work for a variety of diets like paleo and Whole 30. My favorite kind is the Sea Salt flavor for the almond flour crackers.
While granola is an iconic health food, it’s often really not that nutritious of a product, often loaded with sugar and flour. (Plus, I mean, who sticks with the 1/4 cup serving??) If you are buying granola and looking for a GF options, Purely Elizabeth is one of my favorite brands for taste. It’s not too sweet and even a little salty and made with gluten-free oats. They also have probiotic and grain-free options, but my favorite is the Ancient Grain Granola in the Original flavor.
Bread is the white whale of gluten-free baking. I have yet to find a whole foods-based GF bread in the store that I really like (but if you have one, PLEASE let me know in the comments!). In this instance, I’d definitely recommend learning how to DIY, specifically through the Gluten-free Baking Academy. I purchased this online class for myself and it’s insanely comprehensive.
I’m all about the sweet treats, as long as they aren’t too sweet and don’t taste like packaging. And at the store, that can be hard to find! So my go-to purchase for a GF treat is Hail Merry Dark Chocolate Bites. These chocolate coconuty bites are now sold refrigerated—they are basically the packaged version of my Raw Chocolate Macaroons. So good.
Everyday, corn tortillas should be naturally be gluten-free and are a good option at the store or in taquerias. (My favorite are the Chicago brand El Milagro). There can be an issue with cross contamination with some corn tortillas though so if strict GF or grain-free is important to you, check out Siete Family Foods Almond Flour Tortillas. Siete Family has a few other varieties too like Cassava and Chia, but the almond flour are my fave. They toast up nicely, hold together well and have a nice rich taste that’s very reminiscent of flour tortillas.