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For many people, part of their health journey requires healing the digestive tract, which can mean avoid gluten for periods of time. Going gluten-free can be a challenge at first…stick to simple choices at the beginning, until you start to navigate the ins & outs of gluten containing food. It is always best to focus on eating whole foods that are found in nature (as opposed to processed foods).
Fresh produce. All fruits and vegetables are gluten-free!.
Quality Meats & Poultry Meat, chicken, eggs and fish are all naturally gluten-free (watch out for added broths, seasonings and marinades). Choose organic and free-range grass fed bison & beef whenever possible. .
Vegan? Plain tofu is gluten-free (but watch out for baked versions with seasonings that may contain wheat). Avoid seitan- “faux meat” made from vital wheat gluten.
Read those labels. Gluten is often the vegan protein source.
Allowable starches – potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squashes are all okay and all gluten-free.
Plain, whole grain rice is gluten-free (watch out for par-cooked, instant or flavored processed rice in cartons or boxes- these may contain wheat in some form, as seasoning). Italian Arborio rice aka risotto rice makes an elegant meal.
Quinoa is a gluten-free, faux grain that contains all eight essential amino acids…it is nutty in flavour and only takes 20 minutes to cook. You can also find pastas made from quinoa.
What about dairy?
It is suspected that almost half of the people who are intolerant to gluten also react to the proteins in milk, casein and whey, and many others find it difficult to digest the sugar in milk, called lactose (lactose intolerance).
If dairy is fine for you, cultured plain organic yogurt is gluten-free; try it with a dab of honey, all natural 100% fruit jam or pure maple syrup. Flavored yogurts could be trouble- especially those with added granola or flavors made with barley.
Plain, aged block cheeses are generally safe; start with a wedge of good Parmesan and aged cheddar; both are high in calcium and have zero lactose. Double check “low fat” versions of dairy food for added starches or fillers that may not be gluten-free.
Luckily, many non-dairy milks now say ‘Gluten-Free’ right on the package. Call the company when in doubt. Try the new chilled coconut milks in a carton, or almond milk, organic non-GMO soy milk, and hemp milk.
For sandwiches think: wraps made with corn, teff or brown rice tortillas (please check on these, as some brands have tested high in gluten), lettuce wraps, or rice paper wraps. There are several gluten-free breads available with a wide variety of quality and taste. Toasting makes almost any gluten-free bread bearable.
What about oats? Although the protein in oats is not the exact same problematic protein found in wheat, rye, barley and spelt (note: spelt is NOT gluten-free), commercial oats have been found to contain gluten, possibly due to cross contamination in the harvesting, storing and milling process. If you want oats, be sure to look for the gluten-free symbol on the label.
Foods to avoid
Aside from the obvious foods (standard breads, breadcrumbs, rolls, muffins, bagels, donuts, croissants, cereal, pizza, fried food, pasta, beer, crackers, pretzels, cookies, cake, brownies, pie crust) I advise saying no to processed foods and mixes, fast food, junk food, snack food dusted with added flavors, packaged seasonings, soups and dressings- in other words, anything with ingredients you can barely pronounce.
Avoid high fructose corn syrup as much as possible. HFCS is a relatively new super-refined, super-sweet cornstarch based sweetener (added to so many products now, it’s ubiquitous). HFCS can cause digestive troubles in an already sensitive system. Blended/herbal teas can contain barley, malt, or flavors derived from gluten grains.
As for alcoholic drinks, many are safe. In general, avoid flavorings, mixes, and ‘malt’. Potato vodkas and unflavored rums and tequilas are naturally gluten-free. Distilled whiskey is as well. Cognac is safe; and good brandy is usually fine- but watch out for added flavors that may not be gluten-free.
Bottled red and white wines are most often safe, but be aware that many older wineries use antique oak barrels sealed with food grade paste (aka wheat). It’s best to call the winery and check. For those allergic to casein, egg proteins, or fish, be aware that modern methods of winemaking often include a fining process that utilizes one of these top allergens. Many wineries use casein and egg. There are also gluten-free lagers on the market now, just be sure to check labels.
- Rice cakes and natural organic peanut, almond or cashew butter with a dab of honey.
- Plain roasted almonds with raisins
- Sliced cheddar cheese and a handful of grapes
- Carrot sticks handy to dip in homemade hummus
- Flavored yogurts with organic plain yogurt and natural fruit preserves.
- Organic popcorn.
- Gluten-free organic dark chocolate on hand for a real treat
- Organic tortilla chips. Fab with salsa and guacamole.
- Gluten-free crackers with sliced cheese or hummus