Last week we discussed my seven tips for starting a gluten-free diet. Today we are discussing everyone’s favorite topic: shopping.I know it is a lot of information all at once, but remember: this is a crash course! If you didn’t have time to read last week’s post, here are a few of the key tips we discussed:
- Learn your terms. Increase your vocabulary to include words like millet, quinoa and buckwheat. Learn what sneaky terms mean “beware: gluten!” for an easier time shopping and navigating menus.
- Stick to whole foods. Vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, natural fresh meats, fish and dairy, many whole food meat and dairy substitutes like tofu, most tempeh (check the label), most nut, soy and rice milks are gluten-free. Stick to these foods to start.
- Go easy, don’t be too hard on yourself. This is a new experience! Start slowly.
- Embrace it. This is a great thing you’re doing for your body- be excited! Find fun replacements for your old favorites, experiment in the kitchen and learn to love being gluten free.
Today I am focusing in on one of the most daunting tasks when starting a new diet: grocery shopping.
Personally, I love grocery shopping. But I understand not everyone does. I find it exciting to spend hours perusing the shelves, reading label after labels (and end up buying nearly nothing that has a label anyway, heh) and discovering new products. But not everyone is a chef and can get away with “I’m going to Whole Foods, see ya in three hours!”. And not everyone has the kind of time I’m lucky to have. So I feel ya. You won’t want a trip to the grocery store to feel worse than a trip to the dentist. You want it quick and painless, and maybe even fun. I can do fun.
Before you go…
1. CLEAR IT OUT. Yep, all of it. All of that sneaky gluten hiding in your cupboards and even in your fridge (check those salad dressings and condiments!), get rid of it. You don’t want it around, because you don’t want the temptation and you don’t want to make that kind of mistake! That wouldn’t be fun. If you do not have celiac’s disease (I say this because if you do, ideally you should have a 100% gluten-free kitchen) and your loved one is still on the bread train, make separate shelves for your stuff and his/her stuff. If you both stick knives in the mustard container to spread on your sandwich, get separate containers and label them. You don’t want that yucky bread residue in your mustard! If you’re not that sensitive, don’t worry about it, but be careful- learn what your limits are and go from there. If anything, get rid of all the major items you won’t be needing anymore. You’re gluten-free now, there are much better options!
TIP! Please don’t waste. If it’s unopened, donate it to your local shelter or food bank. If it’s open and still fresh, pawn it off on your husband. That’s what I do.
2. Make a list. Start simple with whole foods. Your vegetables, fruit, meat if you eat it, etc. Then, make a list of your “must-have” replacements. Do you eat a sandwich every single day (switch it up, sister!)? Do you LOVE wraps? Are you not willing to give up Spaghetti night? Ok. But make sure to write these items down so you can search for adequate replacements while you’re at the store. This way you won’t feel deprived, or tempted to dig into the tummy-wrenching box of semolina. Be armed with a few gluten-free recipes up your sleeve you want to try, and search accordingly. Remember, you don’t have to go and replace every single glutinous item in your pantry- this would be super expensive and unnecessary! You’re focusing on whole foods, so you don’t need half that junk anyway, I would guess. Plus you’ll be finding all sorts of new options you’ll come to love, chances are you won’t miss what you threw away.
3. Find out if a store has a gluten-free list or section. Whole Foods and Trader Joes both have great gluten-free product lists. Check online. For other stores, call ahead, if need be! It’s great to be prepared. As gluten-free becomes more mainstream, I see more and more stores dedicating entire sections, even aisles to gluten free. Most health food stores have at least a small gluten-free section. Awesome!
Once you get there…
4. Shop the perimeter. You’ve probably heard this from so many health professionals in regard to shopping for a healthful diet. Well I’ve got an insider’s secret for ya: It’s true! The good stuff is around the outside. You usually walk in to the beautiful produce section- take advantage of those lovely health promoting gorgeous fruits and veggies! Go crazy! Spend half your money here, I dare you. Then move onto the refrigerated section. If you’re into the meat and dairy, you’ll find it here. (You’re buying organic and free range, right?) Grab a dozen eggs, these are totally gluten free and seriously versatile. Beware of meats that are pre-packaged: deli meats and sausages often contain gluten. Read labels and don’t be afraid to ask. In addition, bleu cheeses are often made with wheat to create the mold- don’t buy it unless you know! Tofu and tempeh are usually safe, but steer clear of the seasoned varieties if you don’t know every single word on the label. Avoid all faux-meat replacements at all costs, please. Daiya cheese is a great gluten-free, soy-free cheese replacement for a treat.
5. Now search for those gluten-free replacements. If your store has a gluten-free section, you’re in luck. Start there. Then make your way to the freezer section- most gluten free breads and wraps are kept here, and most will stay freshest in this state.
6. READ LABELS. Don’t just grab an item because you “think” it is gluten-free. Be a gluten detective. Check that label carefully and make sure there is nothing potentially glutinous on the label before buying. Remember your terms.
Terms that seem weird, but are really ok:
Shoyu (soy sauce)
“binders”, “fillers” and “coatings”
Hydrolized plant protein (HPP/HVP)
Modified starch/modified food starch
Items that often contain gluten: asian condiments like shoyu (soy sauce- use tamari) and teriyaki, many thai sauces (check labels or better yet make your own!), salad dressings, blue cheese, packaged meats as well as deli meats and sausages, miso (made from barley), sauces/soups/gravy powders (make your own!), distilled vinegars (apple cider is ok).
TIP! When in doubt, call the manufacturer. They will be able to help you the best!
7. Organize and label your items if you’re sharing a home with a gluten-eater. Then, start cooking! I always love the first cook after a grocery shop. My mind is full of ideas, my kitchen is stocked and everything is fresh! Now is the optimum time to start experimenting.
8. Try something you don’t really like? Remember, gluten-free items are often an acquired taste. They’re not what you’re used to… yet. Give it a second try, and if you still don’t prefer it- try again! Don’t get discouraged. Keep trying, you’ll find things you love, I guarantee it.
As a starter, here are a few of my favorite gluten-free pantry items to keep a look out for:
*Remember, I only start looking at these items after I shop for my fruits and veggies, beans, nuts/seeds and tofu/tempeh!!*
- All-purpose flour mix- Bob’s Red Mill and Namaste Foods
- Brown rice flour and Garbanzo flour- Bob’s Red Mill
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips- Tropical Source
- Millet, Eden brand or organic bulk
- Buckwheat (same as above)
- Quinoa, any organic brand will do
- Rice- I like to have a few different varieties on hand. Usually we have short and long grain brown and basmati and some white japanese short grain for special occasions
- Corn- I buy Cascadian Farms organic frozen, works like a charm!
- Mary’s gone crackers
- Rice crackers
- Brown rice wraps- Food for Life
- Corn tortillas- 365 by Whole Foods
- Brown rice bread and millet bread- Food for Life
- Bagels/Muffins (as a treat!)- Udi’s
- Lundenburg brown rice couscous
- Lundenburg brown rice rotini
- Trader Joe’s Gluten-free spaghetti
- Ancient Harvest Quinoa pasta- penne variety
- Soba noodles- any wheat-free brand.
- Rice noodles- usually buy these from the Asian food store. (Be careful of udon and somen- these are wheat. Rice stick and vermicelli are gluten-free.)
- Almond Breeze/Pacific Almond milk
- Tempt Hemp milk
- So Delicious Coconut Milk
- Ryza Rice milk
- Sunshine burgers (freezer section- or better yet, make your own!)
- Organic hummus, Sunflower Kitchen, Sabra or Trader Joe’s organic original
- Alexia fries (freezer section- Nick loves his fries!)
- Food Should Taste Good chips
- Pirate’s Booty (my sister loves this!)
- Guiltless Gourmet tortilla chips
- Tamari pumpkinseeds- Eden foods
- Pure bars
Do you have any tips for shopping gluten-free? Anything to add to the list?
Please note I am not a doctor or medical professional. What I am is a natural foods chef and gluten free girl with a whole lot of personal experience. My tips do not replace your doctor’s advice.