Gluten-Free for Newbies | Triumph Dining

I’ve been following a gluten-free diet for about eight years.  It’s easy to remember because I started right around the time I got married. In fact, I think we ordered the cake then I realized I couldn’t actually eat it. I have other friends who started avoiding gluten around the same time so it’s been nice to bounce ideas off or share new products, recipes and warnings.

Over the years I’ve had other friends reach out to me and ask what to get friends who were newly diagnosed with celiac or just starting out on a gluten-restricted diet. After getting questions a couple times I’ve created a list to easily pass along. On my list I include brands of items that are fixtures in my household:

  • Tinkyada pasta – I don’t buy any other kind so my entire family (I’m the only one GF) eats the same type with me
  • Udi’s bread
  • Glutino frozen personal pizzas
  • Pamela’s pancake mix
  • Betty Crocker’s gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mix
  • Kinnikinnick Foods “Smoreable” graham crackers

I have links to helpful resources for the gluten-free lifestyle. From the Triumph Dining Gluten-free guides to websites, magazines and recipe resources, I also list out brands that I’ve tried but would not recommend, restaurants in my area with a published GF menu and those who are GF friendly.  I also can recommend where to shop for many of these items if the person lives in my area, which is Chicago-land.

Additionally, I list ingredients and foods for them to stay away from. That list doesn’t include obvious offenders, rather it includes those I’ve learned the hard way like:

  • Soy sauce
  • Imitation crab
  • Licorice
  • Soup, sauces, gravy, creamed spinach that may use flour as a thickening agent

The list has changed and evolved over time and will continue to be as I try new products or discover more restrictions. Overall though, I hope it gives the newly diagnosed a place to start. I hope it helps them to see that there are plenty of choices and convenient products still out there for their new gluten-free lifestyle.

Do you have a similar list? What info or items do you make sure to include on your list for gluten-free newbies?


18 thoughts on “Gluten-Free for Newbies | Triumph Dining”

  1. I personally didn’t love the Tinkyada, and thought I hated all brown rice pasta, but turns out Jovial is very awesome.
    Also, now that I can bake and found a cookbook and subsequently flours that work beautifully, I don’t buy mixes anymore. I’ve been using the Gluten-Free Baking Classics cookbook and her suggestion to use Authentic Foods Superfine Brown Rice flour as part of the flour mix, and it works amazingly well. I’ve made a number of things that people cannot tell they’re gluten-free.

  2. Per your “list” for the newly gluten-free…. Nature’s Hilights Brown Rice frozen pizza crust. Crispy and oh-so-yummy and you can put anything/everything you love on top for a quick meal any time. I keep a couple of crusts, organic pizza sauce, mozarella and parmesan cheese on hand at all times and then use whatever meat/chicken/veggies I can around. Good enough for non-GF folks to share (though one pizza is an ideal meal for one, so i don’t share).

  3. Per your “list” for the newly gluten-free…. Nature’s Hilights Brown Rice frozen pizza crust. Crispy and oh-so-yummy and you can put anything/everything you love on top for a quick meal any time. I keep a couple of crusts, organic pizza sauce, mozarella and parmesan cheese on hand at all times and then use whatever meat/chicken/veggies I can around. Good enough for non-GF folks to share (though one pizza is an ideal meal for one, so i don’t share).

  4. Definitely Udi’s bread. I also like the new Barilla gluten free pasta, it has fantastic texture. Trader Joe’s gluten free frozen waffles and pancakes. As it is my son who has celiac, I also offer this advice. Don’t run out and buy a whole lot of gluten free products until you have been following a gluten free diet for several months. Stick to foods you already eat that are gluten free and let your tastebuds ‘forget’ non-gluten free foods. Then buy only one or two new products at a time. You will save a lot of money this way.

  5. I would add corn tortillas to your list of staples. I would also add another note of caution: when dining at restaurants, be sure to mention that you are very sensitive even when ordering off the gluten free menu, as some folks are doing this for general health or weight loss, and I’ve noticed some restaurants getting lax on the details, such as calling fries gluten-free when they are fried in the same oil as chicken tenders. Btw, anytime you order anything fried, you have to ask about the oil. I hate bothering waiters with all the questions but it’s a fact of life. One more thing – I wouldn’t advise eating any oats (even gluten-free) until you’ve stabilized (maybe 6 months), because 10% of celiacs (including me) cannot tolerate any oats, and it could delay healing. Later on if you add them in you should notice a reaction pretty quickly if you’re in the 10%. Also I would say: this gets much easier once you get the hang of it!!

  6. Really nice article, Julie. A free website that’s available for people who either have celiac disease or are thinking of going gluten-free is glutenfreedomproject.com It provides information, lesson plans, healthy eating menu planner along with recipes, and a product directory. Definitely focuses on people not just going gluten-free, but how to do so nutritiously. Since many folks have other food allergies to contend with, the user can choose to avoid recipes and meals that contain eggs, dairy, soy, shellfish, peanut and tree nuts, corn or grains. Hope this is helpful!

  7. I would also add “Against The Grain” to your list. They make wonderful French style bread, rolls, and a pizza crust. They come frozen and can be microwaved to perfection. The texture is like regular bread, so does not crumble like Udi’s and others.

  8. The last comment is very good. Your taste buds will develp over time. It is not good to go buy everything from the start. Stick with non grain products at first also like, real fruit, real vegetables and meat. Sauces are a no go and so are soups from a package or can. You can easily make homemade soup with any long grain or wild rice instead of pasta for the time being. Then slowly introduce a gluten free grain product and see how you do. I was told to work it this way and it was a great for me. Once introducing new products I found out that I am also sensitive to soy and MSG. I highly recommend the Truimph book set for all newbies.

  9. In addition to the above mentioned Udi’s, Pamela’s Kinnikinnick items, I try to keep GF Bisquick, King Arthur GF brownie and cake mixes, and Progresso creamy mushroom soup on hand. Anxious to try the new Pillsbury GF products next; GF friends have told me they’re yummy!
    Bette Hagman’s GF cookbooks have enabled me to re-create many of my mom’s “classics”, but safely, and with no taste difference!

  10. The best pasta I have tried so fR is Venezia . My husband didn’t even know he was eating a GF pasta and he usually can tell. Best flour is Jules.

  11. During the early months being celiac, while your gut is healing, it’s especially important to eat good, wholesome, nutritious foods. Many celiacs find that even after cutting out all gluten, they still don’t feel quite right, and that they only start to see long-term improvements after cutting out the gluten substitutes as well. The substitutes are ok for an occasional treat, but if you’re making them a staple of your diet you may find you’re not seeing the recovery you’d hoped for!

    I’ve found that going to traditional cuisines from parts of the world that aren’t wheat-based is helpful – there are many traditional recipes that are naturally g-f. Some of my faves are Indian, Mexican and Thai (but always check labels and ask servers at restaurants)! Gluten substitutes may taste good, but often aren’t very nutritious and can prolong irritation to the gut (think g-f breads, pastas, pizza dough, pastries, etc. etc.). As much as possible, try to avoid these and find other naturally g-f foods (for starches, stick to potatoes, rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat/kasha, and so many others; and focus on simple veggies and proteins as your mainstay).

    Because we have a hard time absorbing nutrients, celiacs often don’t do well on a vegetarian diet – protein and other nutrients from animal sources are easier to absorb. Make sure you’re going beyond just dairy – calcium interferes with iron absorption, so if most of your animal protein is coming from dairy, you risk developing iron deficiency anemia.

    Finally, homemade bone broths are high in natural gelatin, which is very healing for the intestines – make a habit of having a cup or two a day of beef, chicken or fish broth. They’re easy to make at home (and if you have a pressure cooker, they’re relatively quick too!). Or, add plain, unflavored gelatin to recipes to increase your intake – your gut will thank you!

    Best of luck to the newbies out there!

  12. On the good to eat side; Mary’s Gone crackers, are enjoyed by even non GF eaters, Against the Grain rolls are my favorite bread, Glutino bagels and pretzels are very close to the gluten versions,
    On the avoid list; Teriyaki sauce and for that matter most brown Asian sauces contain soy sauce

  13. As a Branch Manger of a support group, I heartily endorse these suggestions, especially about starting out slowly and eating around the perimeter of the store– proteins like meat, fish and chicken (not breaded or fried), fresh veggies and fruit, brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc. Stay away from all processed foods whether canned or frozen for now. You will throw away a lot of products before you find those you like! Both Udi’s and Canyon Ranch make a very good bread; there are many pastas on the market both those from brown rice, some from corn, some from quinoa and the newest ones from Barilla and Ronzoni made from a combination. It will come down to what your family likes- be sure not to overcook. Be wary of canned or boxed broth– Swanson. Progresso, Imagine and Pacific are all gf. For Thanksgiving stuffing there are a few new mixes to the market this year. Above all, beware of turkeys that have broth or seasonings injected into them. Learning to read labels is critical and even then mistakes can be made! When in doubt, don’t eat it!, and always ask questions or call the 800 number on the label!

  14. Good post! I liked Tinkayada pasta best until I tried Biaglut corn pasta from Italy…you can order it on Amazon. The taste and texture is just like the real thing. Also Food4Life gluten free English muffins are great…I have them for breakfast or to make mini pizzas. But I do agree that you should avoid loading up on processed GF foods…they are pricey and can have a lot of calories. I would also say that a lot of recipes are pretty easy to convert to GF with a substitution or two, so don’t be afraid to try.

  15. I found anything made with Guar Gum vice Xynithm Gum (sorry for the spelling) leaves a funny after taste. I live in the SE United States and we have a bread brand called Rudi’s…lightly defrosted in the microwave and the bread texture is great for “soft” sandwiches kids (read big kids) really love.

    I have great difficulty with dairy…not eggs or milk to make a product, but milk, and added cheese to a meal. Almond Milk, unsweetened 30 calories, high fiber and more calcium than milk has been a real bonus to my life.

    I’ve been at this for ten years now and am still surprised by the amount of Gluten in some Gluten Free free foods allowed by the FDA. European brands are held to a stricter standard.

  16. I also love Namaste pizza mix. One bag makes (2) large pizza’s or you can make one at a time. My non GF family likes it. It has a wonderful flavor and texture. I bake it on a stone. I love to keep some on hand, it is easy to fix when you have a craving for pizza.

    Also love to use Quinoa in my GF diet. Cook as directed, cool, add your favorite veggies chopped then add Italian dressing. Great side dish and very healthy too!!

  17. I agree with Sue’s comment also. SInce being diagnosed and going gluten-free, I have developed a taste for a lot of fruits and vegetables that I didn’t used to “like”. I don’t buy a lot of gluten-free specialty products because they are expensive and not always healthy, but I do use Bob’s Red Mill products (cornbread. pancake mix, and GF oats). I’ve used the new Pillsbury gluten-free pizza dough. And for spaghetti, I like DeBoles Gluten Free Rice Angel Hair Plus Golden Flax.

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