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  • Writer's pictureKatie Miller

A Beginner's Guide to Gluten Free Living

So you were just told you had to cut gluten out of your diet… what now? More often than not, a physician, dietitian or other medical professional will recommend a gluten free diet, but of course, they are not an expert. They’re not planning on telling you how to grocery shop, the keys to limiting cross contamination or what brand of gluten free bread or pasta is the best. That’s where I come in! Read on for everything you need to know about starting (and maintaining) a gluten free diet.


If you’re just starting your gluten free journey, welcome to the community! I’m so glad you’re here. Going gluten free can be extremely intimidating, scary, stressful, even upsetting. It’s okay to feel all these feelings and really “sit in the suck” as I like to say, but know you are not limited as a person because of your food limitations!



What is gluten? How do you avoid it? What do you do if you accidentally eat it?

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It acts as the “glue” that holds a variety of foods together. People can become gluten free for a variety of reasons including (but not limited to): Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, a wheat allergy, IBS, or Crohn’s Disease. Specifically for someone with Celiac, eating gluten can be extremely dangerous to their body, as ingestion causes the body to trigger an immune response that damages the small intestine.

Diagram depicting an enlarged visual of a healthy intestine compared to an intestine of a person with Celiac Disease.
Credit: Celiac Disease Foundation

To avoid gluten entirely, you need to know how to properly read ingredient labels! When you’re taking a look, keep an eye out for ingredients such as wheat flour, wheat protein, wheat starch, bulgur, malt and farina. Of course, there are many other ingredients that may not jump out at you immediately. So, the best course of action is to download apps such as GF Scanner and Fig, which are made so you are able to scan a barcode and find out if it’s a safe product to eat.


If you accidentally get “glutened”, take a deep breath and do your best to relax. Your body will only have the ability to heal if you are giving it the time and attention it deserves. My best practices are: get somewhere comfortable (especially if you are out of the house when you’re glutened), put on comfortable clothes, munch on something light like crackers or broth, take pain relievers and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I always drink as much water and Gatorade as possible right after I get glutened. I personally have extreme fatigue when I get glutened, so if you’re similar, listen to your body and sleep! Others have recommended to have activated charcoal supplements on hand, and although I have never tried this method, everyone is different with different symptoms!



I have a gluten-shaped hole in my heart. Which safe products should I fill it with?

I’m so glad you asked.

I have been overwhelmed in the gluten free aisle many times myself, but have compiled a list of my favorite staple products and brands!


Bread

One of the first things people think about when they think of gluten is, of course, bread. At least for me, I never realized how many different types of bread I used for various reasons, so I compiled a list of my favorites below.

Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Bread, Hawaiian Sweet flavor
Credit: Canyon Bakehouse

Sandwich Bread: Canyon Bakehouse (I personally love the Hawaiian Sweet flavor, but the Heritage Style is also super popular!)


Baguette: Schär (Comes in a pack of two & are packaged separately, so you’re able to save one for another time.)


Pita Bread: BFree Pita Bread (This one tastes just like regular pita bread! You can tell that it’s gluten free a bit based on the consistency, but it’s the best one I have found and freezes well.)


Croissants: Schär or Mariposa (Schär if you want a quick fix - found in the frozen section - Mariposa if you want the real deal and have a few dollars to spare!)


Bagels: Canyon Bakehouse or Trader Joe’s (Both are great, but Trader Joe’s prices for gluten free can’t be beat!)


Burger Buns: Rudi’s Brioche Burger Buns (I recently found these and absolutely love them! They are the perfect size and don’t fall apart like many burger buns do.)



Crackers & Cookies

Crackers: Simple Mills is my favorite brand for crackers! I often use the Almond Flour Fine Ground Sea Salt for cheese and crackers, and their Almond Flour Farmhouse Cheddar crackers are a great replacement for Cheez-Its.

Bag of Savor by Suzie Grain-Free Pretzels, Sea Salt flavor
Credit: Savor by Suzie

Pretzels: Even before I became gluten free, I was eating Snyder’s Pretzels, so I definitely recommend those! My favorite pretzels of all time, though, have to be Savor by Suzie - they’re addicting! For soft pretzels, I often will buy them from local bakeries such as The Happy Mixer in Pennsylvania, or I will make them using Trader Joe’s gluten free pizza dough.


Cookies: If you’re looking for a packaged chocolate chip cookie, WOW is an awesome brand, and one of the only ones I buy! I first tried them in Disney World and quickly fell in love, so I found them as soon as I got home. OREO has also made a gluten free option that tastes just like the real thing, so those are also an option. Please be aware that the gluten free OREOs contain oat flour.



Pasta

Box of Jovial Gluten Free Fusilli
Credit: Jovial

Banza: This brand is a chickpea-based pasta that is naturally gluten free! So, if you’re looking for a little extra protein in your diet, this one's for you.


Barilla: My family bought this brand for most of my childhood, so it was the first one I tried after I went gluten free! It’s a solid option with lots of different shapes. The one “con” I have noticed is that it tends to fall apart once you reheat your leftovers.


Jovial: My absolute favorite gluten free pasta brand! Every single one I have tried has been great; the consistency, texture and taste are perfect. I highly recommend!


Honorable Mentions

Feel Good Foods Egg Rolls: These can be found in the freezer section! They come as both Vegetable Egg Rolls, Chicken Egg Rolls and Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls; they’re delicious and only take about 20 minutes to heat up in the oven, toaster oven, or air fryer. Dip it in Wegmans Sweet Chili Sauce and you’re all set!

Box of Feel Good Foods Chicken Egg Rolls
Credit: Feel Good Foods

King Arthur Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Cup: My good friend recommended these to me last year, and they’re now one of my favorite sweet treats! Mix the contents of the cup with water and microwave it for about 30-40 seconds: delicious and quick to make!


Kraft Gluten Free Mac and Cheese: Another popular brand that has made their most popular product gluten free! I don’t eat this one often, but when I do, it takes me right back to the snow days of my childhood!


Katz Donut Holes: Sold frozen, and delicious at whatever temperature you choose to eat them! One of my favorite replacements for fresh donut holes when you don’t have access to a good gluten free bakery.



Although all of these amazing gluten free products have popped up over the years, it’s important to remember everything that is naturally gluten free, such as fruits and vegetables, yogurt, cheese and meats! Being gluten free is as much of a mental toll as a physical one, so don’t forget to focus on what you can eat, rather than on what you can’t.

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