The What, Why, How & Wow of Gluten Free Foods

Here's the super simple secret about going gluten free: accentuate the positive of a gluten free diet by eating naturally gluten free foods and then find the very best gluten free versions of gluten foods to have as occasional treats. The compounded benefit of following a gluten free diet is that it rules in whole fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, nuts, legumes in their natural state and rules out the bulk of processed and refined foods that have crept their way into our diets, e.g. breads, pastas, crackers, cookies, cereals, cakes, sauces, gravies...(see our Gluten Free Diet, Simplified and its Gluten Free Diet Plan: The Whole Swap for more about going gluten free.)

Our Best Picks for Gluten Free Foods...

Great...except for those stubborn hankerings for pancakes, pasta, brownies, heck, even a simple sandwich. So here's what to reach for when you're eating gluten free and just gotta have that (occasional!) gluten food fix...

Gluten Free Alternatives for Gluten Foods

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  • GLUTEN FREE FLOUR & BAKING MIXES
    Our favorite gluten free flour for baked goods, made from scratch (breads, pie crusts, biscuits, etc.), is almond flour. Our go-to flour substitutes in recipes where flour is not the primary ingredient (soups, sauces, etc.) are almond flour or a gluten free all-purpose flour blend. King Arthur's Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour is the best of these we've found. Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour runs a close second for savory recipes like socca bread and gumbos, but not so much for sweet recipes given a slight bean taste that might be detected since its primary ingredient is garbanzo bean flour. And our top pick for a gluten free baking mix is Pamela's Baking Mix for pancakes, dumplings, biscuits, etc.
    Recipes to try: Baked! Spring Stew, GF Tortilla-Naan, Socca, Baked Pancake w/ Fresh Fruit

Mavenjoy Best Picks
for
Gluten Free Bread Alternatives

- Brown Rice Spring Roll Papers
- Paleo Wraps
- Toasted Seaweed Sheets
- More Breadless Wonders

  • GLUTEN FREE BREADS
    Breads are by far the most challenging food for me to go without. I adore breads of all varieties -- a crusty outside, airy inside baguette slathered with herb butter or dipped in olive oil with cracked pepper...somebody stop me! Finding a truly adequate substitute is quite challenging, but there are some acceptable and even promising options. The real upshot here is that bread is no longer a food staple in our house and that means a lot less calories, fat, power drains and food-like ingredients. Our absolute favorite sandwich bread is from Georgia's own Pure Knead (check for it at Kroger). Toasted or not this bread works like real bread in texture and taste, and it's non-GMO (+ vegan, egg-free, and dairy free!). Try Pure Knead for these healthy lunch ideas. Another best bet is to scout out a local gluten free bakery or keep trying to perfect a homemade gluten free bread recipe of your own using organic ingredients. Just know that once you see what all has to go into those recipes to begin to achieve "bread", the sheer amount and type of ingredients is enough to ensure that it stays the occasional treat when you want to have a slice of something or a sweet splurge like the goodies found at local gluten free bakeries, read on...

Mavenjoy Local Picks: In addition to Pure Knead, Atlanta has the wonderful Sally's (Gluten Free) Bakery and they ship -- their C.R.A.W. bread makes a perfect breakfast bread.

Another grand gluten free find in the Atlanta area is American Gra-Frutti for treats like Mia's apple cinnamon muffins (dairy free and soy free too) and cheese straws, crackers and much more. You can find Gra-frutti goodies in Whole Foods, but there's an added bonus in going to the source, chatting with Gra-Frutti's gracious owners and enjoying some super soulful artwork too. {Update: Gra-Frutti's Light White Sandwich Bread makes for amazing gluten free French toast. Soak slices in almond (original or vanilla) milk, egg, cinnamon and vanilla then brown in skillet with a bit of butter or coconut oil.}

Mavenjoy Tip
Use julienned, shredded or thinly sliced cabbages, zucchini and carrots for fresh whole food alternatives to pastas and grains for stir-fries and salad like these.

  • GLUTEN FREE PASTAS & GRAINS
    Ok nothing is ever going to compare to the real deal when it comes to pastas, BUT happily there are some very tasty gluten free pastas available. Tinkyada has an organic line of fail-safe gluten free pasta that cook up and taste right (its brown rice spaghetti is our tried and true fave but we dig Bionature for its gluten free capellini. Choose stir-fry rice noodles from Thai Kitchen for noodle salads and brown rice couscous from Lundberg for cold salads but also soups! And certainly organic rices and quinoas of all colors and kinds are great gluten free grains -- try Lundbergs Rice products and organic tri-color quinoa. And good Southerner that I am, I must mention good ol' grits and polenta too.
    Recipes to try: Baked Risotto, Sausage & Vegetable Ragu with Creamy Polenta, Hoppin' Joy, Vietnamese Noodle Salad
  • GLUTEN FREE PIZZAS
    Pamela's Gluten Free Bread Mix makes a really good pizza crust, acceptably close to the real deal. Amy's Rice Crust Pizzas are also a good choice (and they're organic!) -- just load them up with lots of good ingredients like caramelized onions, roasted garlic, corn, arugula, thinly sliced summer squash, shrimp or hot-spiced anchovies. An Udi's or Rudi's pizza crusts will do in a pinch as an acceptable solution for crisp, thin-crusted gluten free pizzas and though not organic are non-GMO.  
    Mavenjoy (Cooking) Tip: For a crisp thin-crusted Udi's/Rudi's pizza: Place oven racks at the very bottom and top; preheat oven to 400; place room temperature crust with toppings on foil and slide foil with pizza onto bottom rack, cook 7-8 minutes; then slide pizza onto top rack and cook another 5-7 minutes until toppings are bubbly and crust is golden crisp. We super-load our pizzas so decrease cooking times for less ingredients. 
  • GLUTEN FREE CEREALS & BREAKFASTS
    We skip oats too, so when we're at a loss for a steaming hot bowl of breakfast yummy, we choose Bob's Red Mill Creamy Brown Rice Cereal or Mighty Tasty Gluten Free Hot Cereal. We recently discovered buckwheat groats as an excellent substitute or complement to granola. And for cold cereals Nature's Path is an outstanding little company with Organic Mesa Sunflower Flakes and Organic Whole O's -- the perfect additions to nut cups and yogurt cups. They also make for crunchy "faux fried" crusts and toppings when crushed for a gluten free panko. We also love Nature's Path Gluten Free Waffles -- check out these super simple waffle ideas for a quick breakfast or snack.

WANTED: MORE ORGANIC, NON-GMO AND GLUTEN FREE FOODS

It's a real challenge to find good, healthy gluten free alternatives to gluten foods that are also organic or at a minimum sourced from non-GMO ingredients. It's especially important to encourage companies producing gluten free products to verify that their products are GMO free because so many gluten free foods use corn, soybeans, potatoes and rice, which are some of the most common genetically engineered crops. 

Use this super nifty tool from the Non-GMO Project to encourage the companies and foods you value to participate in the Non-GMO Project by:
(1) Checking to see if a brand or product you buy is verified as GMO free
(2) And if not,
submit a request asking the company to become non-GMO verified

  • GLUTEN FREE CRACKERS, CHIPS & SNACKS
    Gluten Free Matzo and Beanitos! We love gluten free matzo for a no fuss, good ol' cracker that's plain enough (in a good way) to go with anything and everything + it makes a great panko and breadcrumb. Beanitos are a full-bodied chip, meaning they have a richer taste and texture for a gluten free chip with high fiber, some protein and non-GMO too -- original and chipotle are our favorites. Another stand-out chip for us is Flamous Falafel Chips -- they are such a welcomed change to the same ol', same ol' chip, whether you've gone gluten-free or not. Vegetable chips make a super choice for gluten-free'ers.
    Organic corn chips are usually a safe option too, or try out Way Better Tortilla Chips, jam-packed with healthy ingredients.
    Pre-gluten free, we were BIG Zapp's Potato Chips fans so happily we can still partake in their All Natural "Dirty" Chips with lots of great flavors, all gluten free + no preservatives or hydrogenated oils either and with good ol' Southern roots to boot! 
    A good gluten-free cracker, like bread, is harder to come by. Glutino makes a traditional table cracker that tastes very much like its gluten counterpart (same goes for its pretzels), but the ingredients aren't organic and there are quite a lot of them. On the other end of the spectrum is the very worthy Mary's Gone Crackers and Snacks -- fantastic independent company and ingredients! Absolutely Gluten Free Crackers and Flatbreads may be the tastiest of all though.
    And last but not least, fresh popped organic popcorn  is an oldie but a goodie, try our P'corn Sunshine. And for a super treat, try Susan Rice's Truffled Popcorn, made with North Carolina truffles -- different and deliciously addictive!
  • GLUTEN FREE TORTILLA & WRAPS
    Organic corn tortillas are also a good choice but check the ingredients for added flours and/or wheat. And look for rice paper (see our pick below), sometimes called spring roll skins -- not only do they make healthy, fresh, gluten-free spring rolls, but you can stuff them with other tasty ingredients too, like hummus, carrot and cucumber sticks and loads of greens! Food for Life Brown Rice Tortillas make a nice sandwich wrap, soft taco, quesadilla or burrito, but you really have to experiment with warming methods to strike the right texture. Also Amy's offers an array of frozen organic, gluten free burritos and wraps including Indian, Asian, Mexican and breakfast styles. Alas, homemade is the best way to go for tortillas, try this simple recipe.**Our New Wrap Faves: Brown Rice Spring Roll PapersPaleo Wraps, and  Toasted Seaweed Sheets!
  • GLUTEN FREE FROZEN MEALS & FOODS
    When you need a bite in a hurry, but you need it to be to gluten free and want it to be healthy and delicious, Amy's comes to the rescue and then some. They have a wide variety of organic, gluten free frozen foods that taste homemade. It's definitely not the frozen pea-laden dinners of yesteryear, with tamale pie and enchiladas to rice bowls and noodle stir-fries to choose from. Applegate has frozen gluten free (and casein free) chicken breast tenders and hot dogs, a favorite for kids -- big and little! Feel Good Foods has rolled out some exciting new gluten free frozen foods that we're particularly excited about sinking out teeth into -- egg rolls and dumplings (yipee!) with no GMO ingredients, MSG or artificial flavors or additives.

More evidence mounts supporting the benefits of chocolate to help lower blood pressure, improve the blood vessel function and decrease levels of insulin. Dark chocolate is also a good source of polyphenols and flavonoids.

  • GLUTEN FREE DESSERTS & TREATS
    The sweets category is another tall order for gluten free foods because when I want sweets, I crave hot baked ooey-gooey goodness and that tends to be a challenge for gluten free to achieve. But alas, King Arthur Gluten Free Brownie Mix goes a long way to providing that genuine fresh baked fix. We came up with our own method for these delicious, easy brownie cookies using King Arthur's brownie mix. Again, scoping out a local gluten free bakery is sure to yield good results. Another favorite gluten free treat of ours hails from my old hometown of Memphis, Mary's Gluten-Free Goods. She ships her fabulous Memphis Crunch, which is a buttery chocolate almond toffee that you will absolutely crave forever after. For a simple, even healthy go-to, have a square of 70% cocoa or higher dark chocolate -- always satisfying and delicious. Some of our favorites (as much for their ways of doing business as their fantastic chocolate) include: Alter Eco, Theo and Askinosie Chocolate -- don't miss Askinosie's Chocolate University, wow!
  • GLUTEN FREE BEERS
    For many gluten-free'ers, beer is an insurmountable hurdle (like bread is for me), but there are some decent and growing options. Our favorite pick is probably Estrella Damm Daura. A good plain ol' beer-beer is Redbridge -- clean, nice, fine. Bard's has a bit more flavor or depth to it. And Green's ales (especially Amber Ale) have some fruit and pureness to them that work well. Check out our cocktail recipes with gluten free suggestions.

Share Your Favorite Gluten Free Foods

Truly good tasting and good for you gluten free foods are a precious discovery. So when you hit on that extra special find, we beg you to share it! Which gluten free food has been your saving grace or delicious indulgence? Do you have a favorite flour for gluten free baking? Have you discovered that elusive gluten free bread with the taste and texture we pine for? We're eager to discover the best of the best...so please share your "tried and true" gluten free favorites. We'd love to hear about your tips and tricks for finding, storing and using your best pick too. And definitely give a shout-out to the company or story behind the food that makes it extra special to you.


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