Tackling a trip to the grocery store can be a daunting task for a new celiac. The foods that used to be familiar are now new and foreign to you, and it seems as though you cannot feel safe eating anything unless it has “gluten free” printed across the front and costs three times the regular amount. However, gluten free grocery shopping is not nearly as tough as it may seem. Here are some tips that I would have liked to know when I was a new gluten free shopper.
1. Look up your most frequented grocery store on the internet. Most grocery stores these days have a gluten free shopping list on their websites- some may even have an entire section devoted to food allergies and other health concerns. If your grocery store does not have any information on their gluten free options either online or in person, you might want to consider trying another store. Natural markets like Whole Foods or Central Market may seem overpriced and overly trendy at first, but these are almost always safe havens for gluten free eaters. These stores will be worth any extra money you spend, just because they will save time and stress.
2. When in doubt, shop the perimeter of the market. This is where you will find foods that are almost always naturally gluten free: fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats. As a gluten free shopping rookie, you might want to just keep it simple and stick to this outer area and the natural foods aisle (if there is one).
3. Take into consideration that although there are some great looking gluten free pastries out there, your body doesn’t need those refined sugars right now. You need time to heal, and what your body could really use is anything fresh and unprocessed. I made the mistake of feeling deprived of baked goods right away after going gluten free, so I went and bought pretty much every kind of g-free cookie I could get my hands on. This resulted in a slowing of the healing process and me gaining weight faster than I should have. Remember that the best way to be gluten free is through focusing on fresh, all-natural foods.
4. Don’t completely shy away from all mainstream brand names. There are more and more well known food brands that are embracing the gluten free community by offering their products in gluten free versions, or even altering the recipes to make them gluten free! This is especially the case in cereal- Chex, Rice Krispies, and Fruity/Cocoa Pebbles are some great g-free cereals that will cost much less than the lesser known counterparts. Lays potato chips, Yoplait yogurt, and Pace salsa are some mainstream foods that have “gluten free” right on the label.
5. Before putting yourself through the annoyance of reading all of the ingredients on a food item, look for anything saying “gluten free” or anything with this symbol:
|Seeing this will save you a lot of time and strife.|
6. Be careful when seeing foods marked as “wheat free”, “organic”, or “all-natural”. Wheat free DOES NOT mean gluten free. Foods made with wheat can certainly be defined as organic or all-natural. You need to see the words “gluten free” to be 100% sure you can eat it (unless of course it is something like an apple or celery).
7. Bring your cell phone with you when shopping. If you are unsure if you can eat something, call up the company to ask them if they know the gluten free status of their foods. You could also call up someone at home who can look it up online for you. You would be surprised at the amount of forums discussing whether or not certain items are safe to eat.
8. Only go grocery shopping when you have lots of time: for the first few times to go, it will most likely be a long and stressful process. But don’t worry- it gets so much easier with time! You’ll be a pro soon enough!
9. Go with a list in hand. This will cut down the time it takes and will also keep the stress (and bill!) down to a lower amount than if you just wandered and picked up random stuff.
10. I know that this sort of contradicts what I just said, but… try to have some fun exploring new foods! Feel free to take some time exploring the natural/gluten free sections of your grocery store!