When you have a child who doesn’t sleep well, maintaining a blog is not easy. Anyway, Luke has been fighting naps recently and we are done to one already, but even for that one nap, he fights it and often takes 1-2 hours of trying everything I have to get him to sleep lately! It is sometimes difficult to get him to sleep at night too. So I decided to hold off on the other blog post I was working on for the past 2 weeks and go for something easier, like eating gluten free. Eating gluten free is challenging, but once you know which products to buy, it gets much easier. The first few shopping trips took a couple of hours just because I had to read all the labels! Once I knew which ones I liked and were safe, subsequent trips were much easier. Shopping online on amazon.com has helped too. They sell quite a bit of gluten free products with competitive prices if you use their subscribe and save especially.
WHY GLUTEN FREE?
The main reason people go gluten free is because of having celiac. Celiac is an auto-immune disease where eating gluten attacks the lining of the small intestines, wearing down the villi that absorbs nutrients and keeps food particles from escaping into the bloodstream. People who are celiac will have diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and other digestive ailments when they eat gluten (click here for more info on celiac). But some people may test negative for celiac but have symptoms, which may mean they have a gluten sensitivity. People with an auto-immune disease like celiac are more prone to develop other auto-immune diseases, so you may want to keep that in mind and be more wary about the correlations (click here for more info).
For myself, I have intestinal hyper-permeability (leaky gut), which means that the villi in my intestines have been worn down and food particles leak out into the bloodstream, where they are attacked by antibodies and cause inflammation. People living with an auto-immune disease are more prone to develop a leaky gut. I saw a homeopathic doctor who recommended taking a blood test by US Biotek called a Food Antibody test. I found out that I was allergic to beef, but I also had sensitivities to gluten, dairy, bananas, pecans, coffee, pineapples, brewers yeast, bakers yeast, mushrooms and another half-dozen other items. Also, I’m supposed to avoid certain foods bad for the thyroid like soy, broccoli, cauliflower. I do cheat a little bit on soy and yeast now that Luke is here, but I try to minimize it. Before I eliminated these items from my diet, I could barely make a fist and had severe joint pain. Xrays showed that I had early signs of joint disease. Once I eliminated all these items, I immediately felt better and the joint pain in my hands and body were pretty much gone.
When I was pregnant with Luke, I was very, very strict since keeping inflammation down was also key to calming my immune system to have a healthy pregnancy. Only cheated once and that was by accident from eating at a party that was catered. My advice is to just bring your own food to a party as you never know how things are prepared and many people are still ignorant about what living “gluten free” really means, and they don’t know about cross-contamination or realize that what looks like a plain chicken breast to them has been lightly doused in flour before being pan fried. Luke and I survived of course, but gluten can stay in your system for as long as 3-6 months, so having that “one cookie” will stay with you for a very long time. And people have different tolerance levels to gluten. Some people have disastrous effects from just the slight cross-contamination and need separate toasters, cooking utensils, frying pans, etc. since just a crumb can make them sick. Others can tolerate eating french fries from McDonalds that are fried with their chicken nuggets (so cross-contamination is very likely).
If you have or your child has an autoimmune disease and you believe that diet and nutrition is tied into managing or developing the disease, then you may be interested in reading books like The Immune System Recovery Plan by Dr. Susan Blum (see Resources for a link), which talks about healing the gut, removing allergy trigger foods (like gluten and dairy), and reducing stress to improve managing and preventing auto-immune diseases. Also, you may find that George’s Aloe Water (Vitamin Shoppe, health food stores and walmart) can help repair and heal damage to the digestive system. Some people who have IBS, Celiac, or just a digestive issue will take this and see benefits. Aloe is one of the elements that is recommended to help heal a leaky gut. I like George’s Aloe Water because it tastes just like regular water so I just add it to my morning cup of tea every day. Click here to view it.
I have also heard that going gluten free helps improve behavior and symptoms in autistic children. So whether you are going gluten free for celiac, gluten sensitivity, autism, leaky gut, or other health reasons, living gluten free is challenging, but definitely doable. How sensitive you or your child is to gluten will also determine whether you need separate prep areas in the kitchen (or a lot of cleaning products/wipes), separate cooking utensils and pots/pans, and separate toaster. If the gluten sensitivity is not high, then you can probably get by with using foil for the toaster and not needing a separate prep area or pots/pans. The order you do things may help. For example, I make my gluten free pasta and meals before my husband makes his pasta or prepares his meals. So he can use the same cutting board and pots that I use once I am done.
While it is challenging, more and more restaurants are coming out with gluten free options than just salads. Here are some that I have tried:
Chipotle: Their rice bowls are gluten free as well as their corn hard tacos. Tell them you are gluten free when you order and they will change out their gloves (ask them if they do not, especially if you have a high sensitivity). I believe all their salsas and almost all their condiments are gluten free. You can check out their website to make sure, but believe that was the case last time I checked.
Lou Malnati’s: Their gluten free pizza crust is probably the best I have ever had! It tastes buttery, although they tell me that it doesn’t contain dairy (hard to believe though so don’t quote me on that). I order it with just olives and onions and then add some prosciutto or pork salami (since I can’t have beef) and sprinkle some Daiya mozzarella cheese (that melts like the real thing) and add some red pepper flakes – yum!
Taco Bell Rice Bowl: Be careful here if you have high sensitivity as you can’t see them prepare your food as easily as Chipotle and they do not change gloves to make your food.
Go Roma: Their salads are gluten free and they do have a gluten free pasta.
Red Robin: Their fries are gluten free (as far as I know) and they have a gluten free bun. I usually get a chicken breast sandwich with avocado and bacon with mayo on a gluten free bun – very tasty!
Five Guys: Their fries are gluten free but last time I checked, they do not carry gluten free buns, but they will do a bunless hamburger.
Steakhouses: Many steakhouses have lots of gluten free options with their steaks, seafood and other meat dishes. Just be careful about anything that comes with a sauce, as these can contain gluten and let your server know so that they can check for you. They typically have many gluten free side dish options such as french fries, steamed veggies, rice, baked potato and mashed potatoes. If you are also dairy free, options are more limited as some put butter/cream/milk in their mashed potatoes and rice/risotto. But a plain baked potato that you can sprinkle a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper on will work. Some places also have roasted potato wedges as well. Just tell the server you are gluten and dairy free and they should be able to help you find something.
Pancake Houses: Many (almost all I have been to) have gluten free pancakes and/or waffles. You also can get eggs with hash browns with a side of your favorite breakfast meat. If you are also dairy free, you will have to ask them if they use butter to make their dishes. Luke loves the gluten free pancakes at Walker Bros. and so do I! Le Peep makes a tasty gluten free waffle as well that is very yummy.
Fast Food restaurants: many places use the same fryer for their gluten (usually onion rings and chicken nuggets) and french fries. Most McDonalds use the same fryer, but some Burger Kings and Wendys have separate fryers. Best to just ask if they use a separate fryer for their french fries. Not many other gluten free options at most of these places besides fries and salads, although some places may do a “bun free” hamburger, like Five Guys (whose fries are also gluten free).
Unless noted, I have tried the product myself. Most of the products can be found at amazon, but for ease of writing, I am not going to link to the product itself, but I will try to note where you can get the products in (). You can save some money by using amazon’s subscribe and save. I’m not sure if you have to be an amazon prime member to take advantage of the program, but you save an additional 15% if you order 5+ items that ship at the same day every month (5% if less than 5 items). Eating gluten free can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. You can eat whole grain brown rice, sweet potatoes and potatoes, which are all gluten free. But for variety, you can try some of the items below and work them into your meal planning as you want to. Obviously, meats, fruits and vegetables all in their raw form are gluten free, as long as they are not pre-seasoned or pre-packaged with other items. So are oats and quinoa. Especially if you are sensitive to even small amounts of gluten, it’s important to read the labels just in case. If the label says it was made in a shared facility with wheat, then use your best judgment on whether to try it as the risk of cross contamination is there. Usually if a product has the label “Gluten Free,” it will pass the test for most people. However, I have read that very sensitive people will still have reactions due to cross contamination that may happen at the plant. Once you know which products are safe for you and figure out your favorites, grocery shopping will get easier. For many breads, since many gluten free products use rice, potato or bean based flours – texture can be an issue so keep that in mind.
A WORD ON SODIUM
Like with everything prepackaged, keep an eye on sodium content. For example, babies a year old shouldn’t take in more than 1mg of sodium daily. Here are some guidelines on max intake:
The maximum recommended amount of salt for babies and children is:
- up to 12 months – less than 1g of salt a day (less than 0.4g sodium)
- 1 to 3 years – 2g of salt a day (0.8g sodium)
- 4 to 6 years – 3g of salt a day (1.2g sodium)
- 7 to 10 years – 5g of salt a day (2g sodium)
- 11 years and over – 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium)
Babies who are breastfed get the right amount of salt through breast milk. Infant formula contains a similar amount of salt to breast milk.
Gluten Free Breakfast Ideas:
Udi Gluten Free Bagels (some grocery stores have them like Whole Foods and Trader Joes – sometimes in the freezer section but can be on shelves at TJ): not bad with Daiya cream cheese or Earth’s Balance if you are also dairy free (I would stay clear of Trader Joe’s dairy free cream cheese – not much flavor)
Trader Joe’s Gluten/Wheat Free waffles (Trader Joes): not as crumbly as other brands so texture wise, the closest I have had to regular waffles – the only frozen kind that Luke will eat!
Bisquick Gluten Free Pancake Mix (Amazon, some grocery stores, some Walmarts): this makes a pretty good pancake – I sometimes add chocolate syrup to it for some extra sweetness and flavor.
Oatmeal: I can’t really comment on favorites as this is on my “no” list, however, you may want to check the labels as some brands share facilities, which may be a concern for anyone with a high sensitivity. There are some that specify “gluten free oatmeal” but some brands come with a pretty high price tag.
Cheerios Regular: These are gluten free, but I believe they are made in a shared facility. Other varieties may have wheat in them, check the labels.
Chex cereals (Rice, Corn, Chocolate, Vanilla, Honey Nut, Cinnamon, Apple Cinnamon – grocery and retail stores): so many varieties to choose from except for Wheat Chex of course! I’ve only tried Rice, Corn, Chocolate, Honey Nut and they are all great, but Chocolate is my favorite with some coconut milk. They also make gluten free oatmeal and granola, although I have not tried them.
Rice Crispies (Brand or generic – grocery and retail stores): Kelloggs does make a Gluten Free Rice Krispies that we buy as the risk of cross contamination is minimal. I have also eaten the Chocolate version of this and haven’t had a bad reaction, although some people might. You can make great Rice Krispie treats with the Gluten Free cereal, non-dairy spread or butter if you’re not dairy free and marshmallows.
Old Fashioned Eggs and Hash Browns with side of meat if you please: Tasty and gluten free! Check labels if you are sensitive. Many target brands don’t specify whether they are made in a shared facility. Their hash browns are very tasty and inexpensive, so try them for yourself.
Breakfast corn tacos (click here to go to Recipes): Essentially roasted tomatoes, scrambled eggs and crumbled bacon in a corn tortilla.
Gluten Free Breads:
Canyon Ranch Gluten Free Bread (some Targets, some grocery stores – some have them in the freezer section but I have seen them out on shelves at Target): best bread I have had for room temperature sandwiches – good chewy texture and tastes good on its own. I give Luke this bread straight and he likes it.
Udi’s Gluten Free Bread (Costco, Whole Foods and some grocery stores – usually in the freezer section, think it’s on the shelves at Costco): not a huge fan but it works well for grilled cheese sandwiches or grilled toast (I put Earth’s Balance spread on it and pan fry it and it tastes yummy that way). Alone it has a crumbly texture that I’m not a huge fan of.
Pamela’s Gluten Free Bread Mix (Amazon has a pretty good deal for a large bag of mix, which makes quite a few loaves for around $3/loaf if I recall correctly): pretty easy to make using a bread making machine. Unlike store bought breads, the loaves you make at home are much larger! Texture is better than Udi’s but not as good as Canyon Ranch.
Glutino Gluten Free Corn Bread (Amazon, Whole Foods, some grocery stores): this is my favorite corn bread, although I do use a modified recipe using coconut oil, agave syrup, coconut milk with lemon juice (simulates buttermilk), baked in an iron skillet. I will try and post it under recipes.
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Corn Bread mix (Amazon, Whole Foods, some grocery stores): this is also very good but I prefer the Glutino brand. I also use a modified recipe that I will try and post later.
Chebe Gluten Free Bread Mix: I made this once to make bread for sandwiches, turkey burgers, etc. It wouldn’t be my first choice as texture was a bit off to me, but it works.
Udi’s Gluten Free Hamburger Buns (Whole Foods, some grocery stores): A little bit on the small side but what isn’t that is gluten free? Texture is pretty good
Gluten Free Pita (Whole Foods): A little crumbly but you can use to make gyros or other sandwiches or toast them up and eat them with some hummus.
Gluten Free Pizza Crusts:
Chebe Pizza Crust Mix: Wonderful pizza mix that takes just like the real thing. I follow the directions except I increase the olive oil to 1/4 C. I also bake just the crust for half the baking time and then take it out to add the toppings for a crispier crust. Then you can add your sauce (I just use a spaghetti sauce), cheese (I use the dairy free Daiya mozzarella cheese) and toppings (I like sweet onions, black sliced olives, green and red peppers and salami on mine). Very easy to make the crust. Just mix the ingredients, roll into a ball (I split it into 2 balls to make 2 individual pizzas) and spread into a pan (I use a tart pan for easy removal since it has a gadget attached to remove the crust, however, there is enough olive oil in the pizza crust that it is easy to remove anyway).
Udi’s Pizza Crust (Whole Foods, some grocery stores – check in the frozen section): Not bad but I prefer the taste of the Chebe’s crust, although this is easier to use since it’s already frozen.
Annie’s Frozen Dairy Free Gluten Free Pizza – there are a few brands out there that make their own gluten free frozen pizzas, but this is the only one I’ve seen that is both dairy and gluten free. I just bought one but haven’t tried it out yet. Will update once I do.
Gluten Free Noodles/Pasta:
Annie’s Pad Thai Rice Noodles (amazon, some grocery stores): makes great stir fry, pad thai and peanut noodles
Pasta D’Oro (amazon, some walmarts, some grocery stores): makes decent pasta but can easily get soggy and melds together easily once cooked so not the best for left overs or for to go meals.
Trader Joes Gluten Free Brown Rice Pasta (Trader Joes): this has a nice texture, tasty and inexpensive. This also holds up well for left overs as well as meals on the go.
Racconto Gluten Free Potato Gnocchi (other brands of gnocchi may also be gluten free – check labels): Very quick and easy to cook and pretty tasty.
Gluten Free Soups (careful about sodium intake as many prepackaged soups carry quite a bit of salt):
Progresso makes several soups that are gluten free and dairy free, such as Lentil Soup, Split Pea with Bacon or Ham (Ham has potatoes in it so more hearty) and also has some other varieties that are gluten free but has some dairy.
Panera has several soups that are gluten free. Their creamy tomato soup is gluten free but not dairy free. Their chicken tortilla soup is both gluten and dairy free. Both very tasty.
Kirkland also has some soups that are gluten free. I’ve only tried their chicken tortilla soup, which is pretty good.
Chicken Avocado soup (click here to get recipe): one of Luke’s favorite meals! I add brown rice and sweet potatoes to make it hearty. You can also add corn and other veggies to change things up as well.
Greek Lemon Soup (click here to get recipe): When I made this, it was a bit watery so be careful how much water you add since the recipe itself doesn’t specify how much water to add. Check comments since some people just use store bought broth instead, which you may have more success with. Wild Harvest Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth is an excellent choice for broth as it only has 150mg of sodium in it per serving, one of the lowest I have come across.
Gluten Free Snacks:
Glutino Vegetable Crackers (amazon, some grocery stores): Luke loves these! So does my older son. Unlike some other gluten free crackers, this one has good taste. They have other varieties but Vegetable is our favorite by far.
Tabetai Rice Crisps Bangkok Sweet Chili or Salt and Vinegar (amazon): The Bangkok Sweet Chili has lots of flavor with a little kick so only recommend those who like a little spice in their snacks.
Readily Available (check labels as some may have been made in a shared facility and some varieties may have gluten in them- read labels and check manufacturer’s website/call them if in doubt): Popcorn, Veggie Sticks/Chips, Potato Chips, Cheese Puffs, Frito Lays, Doritos
Stubbs BBQ Sauce (most grocery stores): I believe all their sauces are gluten free.
Salad dressings: many are gluten free. Some like Ken’s salad dressing will specify Gluten Free on the label. Be wary of malt vinegar as this can cause a reaction in some.
Coconut Vinegar (Vitamin Shoppe, amazon): Coconut is a great anti-inflammatory and I also chose this due to the fact that many vinegars use yeast in their distilling process. From what I can tell, it didn’t appear that yeast was used but don’t quote me on that. Tastes similar to rice vinegar. Not as tart in my opinion.
Coconut Aminos (Vitamin Shoppe, amazon): Due to my Hashimoto’s, soy is not good for the thyroid, so I try to avoid it when I can. But this is a great substitute and less salty in my opinion. It makes a good dipping sauce and you can use it to substitute for soy sauce in pretty much any recipe. I use it for a Thai peanut noodle dish you can find under Recipes.
Gluten Free Frozen Foods:
Amy’s Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese: I’ve only tried the Gluten and Dairy Free variety (they have both), which uses Daiya cheese. Pretty good, especially with a dash of Tabasco sauce.
Amy’s Pad Thai: Even though I’m supposed to avoid tofu (soy), I do eat this once in a while. Sauce is pretty good and it is pretty tasty. I like it with a little hot sauce.
Amy’s Red Curry: Same comments as above for Pad Thai.
A Taste of Thai Noodles Pad Thai or Peanut Noodles (Target, Walmart, amazon, some grocery stores): Easy to make and you cook it in the container so a great option to take with you for meals on the go.
Thai Kitchen Noodles (Roasted Garlic, Spring Onion, LemonGrass Chili – amazon, Walmarts, some grocery stores): I like the Roasted Garlic and Spring Onion but not a huge fan on the LemonGrass Chili. I have also had some issues with product quality on their red chili oil with it being more like white chili oil (no heat) in it. I have a bottle of red chili oil on hand to use when that happens. I also tend to eat very unhealthy with this by adding salami to it and then eating it with Lays Salt and Vinegar chips. So eating gluten free is not always eating healthy 🙂
Thai Kitchen Curry Kit (walmart, some grocery stores): They provide you the rice and sauce and you add the chicken or whatever meat or vegetables you want. It’s pretty good.
Bombay Potatoes (Walmarts, some grocery stores, amazon): It’s an Indian dish made with potatoes and chickpeas in a slightly spicy sauce. I like to eat it over brown rice and it makes a quick meal.
Gluten Free Meatballs with GF Pasta (Click here for the recipe.)
Gluten Free Tacos (Click here for the recipe.)
Gluten Free Turkey Lettuce Wraps (Click here for the recipe.)
Gluten Free Peanut Noodles with Shrimp (Click here for the recipe.)
Fried Pork Chop or Chicken Breast (Click here for the recipe.)
Peach Pork Chop (Click here for the recipe.)
Rotisserie chicken with rice and steamed veggies: Just get a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store (most should be gluten free but check the labels just to be sure), sprinkle some lemon juice and herbs on and serve with some steamed vegetables and rice. Quick meal and tasty too.
Gluten Free Potato Gnocchi with Dave’s Butternut Squash Sauce (can get at Costco)
Glutino Gluten Free Chocolate Cookies and Chocolate Chip Cookies (amazon, walmart, some grocery stores): These are the 2 varieties I have had and are pretty good, although the consistency is off. I’ve had some packages that were stale and others that were great, all within the expiration date.
KinniToos Oreo Cookies (amazon – click here to view): These are pretty close to the real thing.
Bob’s Red Mill Chocolate Cake Mix (some grocery stores, amazon): This makes a pretty good chocolate cupcake. Slightly odd aftertaste when you first eat them, but that seems to go away for me – oddly enough. You can try masking it with plenty of frosting, which many are gluten and dairy free (check labels).
All but Gluten Choco Pies and Bite Size Brownies (some grocery stores – our Jewel carries them by the deli): very yummy!
Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt: I can’t have these because it has dairy but most of the varieties and brands are gluten free
Gluten Free ice cream cones: they do make them! I did try them once and they weren’t bad!
Non-Dairy Spreads: Earth’s Balance (Trader Joes and some grocery stores), some other brands with similar names also have non-dairy spreads
Daiya cheese and cream cheese
Frozen fruit bars
Almond or coconut ice cream
Chocolate covered coconut ice cream bars (some grocery stores although I have only seen them at Sunset Foods): Sorry but I can’t remember the name of the company who makes them. They are pretty good but it’s not creamy like ice cream.
Frozen Almond Bites (some grocery stores – they had them at Dominicks but alas they are no more – haven’t tried looking for them elsewhere yet): Very yummy if you can find them.
Coconut and Rice Milks (how to make dairy free buttermilk – Click here for the recipe.)
Good luck and good gluten free eating!