Food is one of my favorite topics, if you haven’t gathered by now. the amount of gluten-free products seems to be growing exponentially as of late. some people call it a “fad diet”, but I think the amount of people who use this purely as a diet is pretty low, since it’s such a huge commitment. in my view, it seems like it’s a mixture of people who’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease or people who suspect they have some kind of problem with gluten, whether celiac or allergic or the cause of various ailments, such as headaches. I’m convinced that the prevalence of the gluten-free foods and restaurant choices is only going to grow over time. after all, in the USA almost 1% of the population has celiac disease, and under 5% have been diagnosed. that leaves up to 95% more yet to find out and start searching for more gluten free foods and restaurants. so far this has already been proving to be true, since it’s already way more prevalent in stores and restaurants than when I was first diagnosed (and most people had never heard of celiacs or gluten back then, even though it was just a few years ago).
that being said, it’s become hard to keep up with all the new products that come out, and if you want a specific product, you may have to go to one store for that and another for a different item, because with so many GF foods, even the larger co-ops or Whole Foods can’t seem to have enough room to stock them all! so although it sometimes seems like a hassle, it’s actually a blessing to have so many options.
the below products are all specifically gluten free, not the mainstream products that happen to be gluten free, which can change ingredients over time. these are all made specifically for celiacs and those on a GF diet. I’ll start with some of my go-to brands.
one of my favorite brands is Kinnikinnick that’s made right next door in Wisconsin. every product is gluten free, and virtually all are dairy/ casein free (a few of the breads have cheese in them). they make different bread products (a surprisingly good yeast-free bread, amongst other loaves of bread, hot dog/ hamburger buns, english muffins, regular muffins, rolls, cinnamon rolls. etc), all of which are found in the freezer section. some of the goodies they make are donuts~ cinnamon sugar, vanilla, chocolate, and my personal favorite: maple! these are also found in the freezer section. they also make Kinnitoos sandwich cookies, both chocolate (similar to Oreos), and vanilla (yum!) and animal crackers, which taste almost like sugar cookies to me. they also produce frozen pizza crusts (which are very light and airy), S’Morables (gluten free graham-like crackers! the first of it’s kind!), and a crispy chicken coating mix for gluten-free fried chicken, along with many, many other products. in fact, I just saw on their website that they now offer panko-style bread crumbs (available in stores in May), a krispy rice cereal (perfect for krispie rice bars, but available only online with no plans to distribute), graham-style animal crackers, and other new treats. it seems like they’re constantly coming up with new products that aren’t available elsewhere for the GF community. and basically anything I find from this company I’m confident that I’ll enjoy.
another go-to brand, from whom I buy their products with confidence, is Namaste. not only are they gluten and dairy/ casein free, but they’re also potato, soy, corn, tree nut, and peanut free, not to mention certified kosher. they’re easily recognizable as they always come in brown paper bags. I really like the Say Cheez pasta mix, meant to be a GFCF mac & cheese substitute. and while it tastes nothing like mac & cheese to me, I find it strangely addicting. it tastes different from anything else I’ve had~ they use shelled hemp seeds in it as a source of protein (I always like to add new proteins and grains!), and the flavors really grew on me over time, but it may be an acquired taste. it’s worth trying out though. their brownies are the best GF ones that I’ve tasted! I’ve tried a little of their toffee vanilla frosting, which tastes like dulce de leche/caramel, and is hands down the best frosting I’ve ever had!! (besides cakes, it seems like it would be perfect to drip over a cheesecake or on their blondies with a scoop of ice cream!) they also have other frosting mixes and an assortment of cakes. they also have the usual offerings of muffin mixes, pizza crust mixes, a gluten-free flour blend, waffle & pancake mix, etc.
other products that top my list of favorites are French Meadow’s frozen multi-grain bread, which contains amaranth, quinoa, millet, sorghum, and teff~ lots of power grains, and Food For Life Millet Bread (fruit juice sweetened). I’ve recently heard rave reviews of Udi’s brand of gluten-free sandwich bread (which supposedly tastes just like a “normal” white sandwich bread~ so light! I’ve also heard that their cinnamon rolls and pizza crusts are great. I heard of them first a few weeks ago, and by this week I’ve heard about it nonstop~ it’s caught on like wildfire! they’re also a completely dairy-free brand. I will definitely have to try some of their products soon!
I also enjoy La Tortilla Factory’s SONOMA ivory teff wraps~ teff is a great grain to integrate, and these wraps not only taste nice, but are very handy. I store them in my freezer, and when I take one out to use, just leaving it out while you prepare the rest of the wrap, it’s basically unthawed. you can microwave it 10-20 seconds if you want, but that can make it a little slimy-feeling for a few minutes. the counter-thawing method works great.
French Meadow now makes gluten-free flour tortillas! I think it’s the first (and still only) of it’s kind. the tortillas taste great~ the texture is a little tough, almost like a normal flour tortilla that’s a bit stale, because it’s a bit thicker than a wheat flour tortilla. but a few seconds in the microwave makes it nice and flexible. this is another company that’s on the rise to innovate new GF products. and we’re lucky to have them right here in Minneapolis! even their restaurant offers some of their GF goodies (though I’ve been told that they’re officially separate companies now).
Sesmark Rice Thin crackers, which many of my non-celiac friends also enjoy, are very tasty. make sure to get the “gluten free” ones~ the brown rice variety is simply brown rice flour, oil, and salt. and the sesame flavor has those same ingredients plus sesame seeds (and taste way better!). but be very careful to read the ingredients because they also make gluten-containing versions of each. they’re amazingly crisp and tasty for such simple ingredients.
Amy’s Kitchen makes some great frozen meals, my favorites of which are the pizzas and baked ziti. they also do kids meals, complete with a fruit and veggie, which can be fun even for adults! many of their products are dairy-free as well.
Bell & Evans makes some great chicken nuggets and chicken strips!! (just like “normal”!) make sure you grab the gluten free versions.
Dr Praeger’s makes a great fish stick! make sure to grab the gluten-free version though, as they make both.
Thai Kitchen’s Rice Noodle Bowls & Mixes are tasty and convenient. they can be made in their bowl in the microwave, or in 3 minutes on the stove, which is why I refer to them as my “gluten free ramen”.
Tinkyada noodles were my early favorites~ and they have all shapes and sizes, and even some in organic version. don’t overcook or the water can get very starchy (with gluten free noodles in general). my new favorites are DeBole’s (corn) spaghetti noodles, which taste just like a “normal” angel hair pasta, and Bionaturae, which uses a blend of grains to give it a great texture. there are lots of other brands of noodles, made of different grains. it’s good to test different kinds and see what you enjoy.
Bob’s Red Mill is my standard brand for gluten free flours and starches, they’ve made great efforts to keep their gluten free grains separated in dedicated GF buildings, and test for gluten regularly. Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix is one of my favorite products for making (not pancakes), but corn dogs! it makes a great batter! although it’s a little thick to make onion rings or something more delicate. their cornbread mix is pretty convenient to make. Ener-g brand also makes quite a few starches that I can’t find elsewhere.
San-J Gluten Free Tamari sauce is my go-to instead of soy sauce, it’s just a bit thicker so you don’t need to use as much. I prefer it over soy sauce anyway.
Bone Suckin’ Sauce (BBQ) sauce bills itself as gluten free. I’ve yet to try it, but have included it anyway, since the people I know who’ve tried it have loved it.
some of my favorite cereals include Erewohn’s Rice Twice, Health Valley’s Corn Crunch’ Ems and Rice Crunch ‘Ems, which aren’t as sweet as Chex (most of which now show on the box that they’re gluten free now!). another popular one, which kids love but it gets a little sweet for me (but still tasty), is Envirokidz Gorilla Munch. Envirokidz makes a lot of fun cereal varieties for kids.
for snacks, I love Glutino’s Pretzel sticks, Envirokidz Lemur Bars (which are the chocolate and peanut butter flavor), Lara Bars (pecan pie is my fav). I also keep plain nuts, usually raw, on hand (Trader Joes has a huge assortment, including their “just a handful” packets, which are easy to carry around, in case of a food emergency.
Betty Crocker’s gluten free chocolate chip cookie mix is a nice, inexpensive option, and easy to make for a party or gathering. they have other gluten free mixes as well. Cherrybrook Kitchen’s Gluten Free Dreams’ chocolate chip cookie mix is egg free, so if you like to snack on cookie dough, this is a good one for you. their frosting mixes seem to be quite popular as well, but I haven’t tried them. I also love French Meadow’s frozen chocolate chip cookie dough, which rarely makes it to the oven before I eat it. as far as pre-made cookies go, besides the Kinnikinnick’s Kinnitoos that I mentioned above, Pamela’s cookies (which come in many varieties) are quite popular, though I haven’t tried them much myself.
Ice Creams~ mmm! many mainstream brands are gluten free, but my favorite is actually a vegan & gluten free brand: Good Karma Rice Divine. friends without dietary restrictions agree that it’s delicious. it’s light, but still rich and creamy, and they have some great flavors. the plain vanilla tastes a bit like sugar cookie dough, so the chocolate chip tastes more like chocolate chip cookie dough. the mint swirl is fabulous. and my other fav is the carrot cake (still gluten free!) it’s so good!! there are several other varieties as well, but these are my favorites.
while I haven’t tried the gluten-free / sorghum beers that are so prominent in America (Redbridge and Bard’s Tale are the most common), I have tried Germany’s Schnitzerbrau, which was very good. in fact, a friend of mine with a normal diet seemed to prefer my Schnitzerbrau to his own German beer at times. I’m trying to get Gasthof’s in North Minneapolis to carry their brand, or at least find a local liquor store that can import it. (so give Gasthof’s a call to request if you wish to help in the cause! it would be fun to actually get to participate at their Oktoberfest!)
there are tons of other foods that I enjoy, and everyone’s favorites are different, so don’t be afraid to try new things. this may seem like a bit too much information for those first starting on the gluten free diet, but I’m hoping to steer you towards some good products to start out. but for those of you who’ve been gluten free for awhile, hopefully some of these products will be new to you, so you can try them and see what you think.
the vast amount of new products is another reason why gluten free sampling fairs are nice~ Fresh & Natural and Lakewinds have them periodically. HyVee in Rochester recently had a big gluten free celebration, coinciding with their recently revised list of their brands’ gluten free foods (which is VERY extensive!!). also, Corborn’s Delivers has open houses from time to time with samplings of all their food, including some gluten free items.
and although I have a ton of processed and packaged foods on this list, I still prefer to cook my own food and have more control over it. every once in awhile there are reports that a “gluten free” product contained gluten after all, which is rare, but is always dis-heartening. and I like to view my change in diet as a way to explore new foods and things I never would’ve tried before, and to use my celiac diagnosis as a way to improve my diet overall, instead of always seeking GF substitutes for the processed foods that I’m replacing. it’s a fresh start! so I’d encourage you to be adventuresome in nutritional eating, as well as finding the processed comfort foods we all need every now and then 🙂