If you’re new to living gluten free you may be wondering which foods are gluten free, or what does gluten free certification mean, or a whole host of other gluten free questions. Most people want to know about gluten free cookies and gluten free cake asap. Whether you’re non-celiac gluten sensitive, have Celiac Disease, have a gluten intolerance, or a wheat allergy, I’ve got you covered.
What Is Gluten Free Certification?
This is a HUGE PSA. If you pick up a product and you only see the written words “gluten free”, the product is not certified gluten free. There are several companies that provide gluten free certification (that comes with a seal companies print on their packages). The USDA says there can’t be more than 20ppm of gluten in your test to be considered gluten free.
Other certifying companies go as low as 10ppm to qualify. It’s important that you spend some time researching these companies and learning what the different logos look like.
When you do your research, you’ll learn that each company has a different set of requirements for manufacturing, transportation, equipment cleaning, testing, and more.
Certification isn’t free. Companies usually pay around $10,000 to go thru the process. If they meet all of the requirements, they’re allowed to use the certification logo on their packaging.
Why Gluten Free Certification Means Nothing To Me (Personally)
In our home, we have someone who is severely allergic to wheat. It means that the certification logo means nothing to us. Manufacturers produce their food on shared equipment with wheat and still be certified gluten free. This doesn’t work for us, as that person still has allergic reactions to those types of products. Not only that, they’re not required to disclose this on the label.
For us, the only option is to call/email before trying new foods. This is why it’s critical that you understand your level of sensitivity so you can shop appropriately. Also decide which certifications you’re most comfortable with, and which logos you’re willing to trust.
Foods That Are Naturally Gluten Free
It’s SOOOOO easy to get caught up in the aisles looking for all the gluten free foods. However, when you’re newly diagnosed, start with foods that are naturally gluten free.
Whilst these items can still be exposed to wheat one way or another, they’re your best default options when you’re new:
- All produce (fruit and veg)
- Protein (Chicken, Fish, Grass Fed and Grass Finished Beef, etc.)
- Salsa, Guacamole, Hummus, Yogurt
- Paleo Diet Compliant Foods
- Cold Pressed Juice
Remember, Organic DOES NOT mean gluten free. Also, wheat/gluten IS vegan.
Foods To Avoid When You’re New
These are just a few items to steer clear of in the first few weeks whilst you’re still getting a handle on things. You don’t want to accidentally cause a problem for yourself…
- Oats/Oatmeal (even certified GF and/or purity protocol)
- Snack Bars
- Bread (even GF bread)
- Vegan Meat Substitutes
Why No Oats?
There’s a portion of people who are Celiac (about 25%) and simply can’t handle oats, no matter how clean they are. There’s no way to tell if you’re one of those people until you trial oats. Our advice is to get yourself completely clean and reaction free (while keeping a detailed food journal). Once you’ve been very strictly gluten free for at least 2 months, then try Purity Protocol Oats (better than GF and Organic). If you fail PP Oats, you can’t have oats. I’m sorry for your loss.
Easy Gluten Free Swaps
There are so many items you’ll have to consider (both food and non-food) when going gluten free. This guide on RAISE goes into full detail with 120 food products, but here are a few to get you started.
Gluten Free Sourdough Bread
Both regular bread and sourdough bread are a very personalized category. However, I want to share the brands Bread Srsly and Young Kobras. Both brands are using gluten free and top 8 free equipment, and they BOTH SHIP within the United States. There aren’t a lot of brands that tick all three of those boxes.
Gluten Free Pasta
There are SO MANY brands to choose from, but not all are made on gluten/wheat free equipment. My winner in this category (based on taste and texture) is Jovial Foods.
The taste testers around here who can have wheat say the rice-based Jovial pasta is the closest to wheat-based pasta. However, my personal fave: Cybele’s Free to Eat. Whilst I can’t eat it, I can cook it without wearing my respirator since it’s rice free.
Gluten Free Soy Sauce
Bad news alert. All of the gluten free soy sauce on the market that I have access to right now is all made on shared equipment with wheat. Ready for the next wave of bad news: all but one brand of coconut aminos is made on shared equipment with wheat. I’ve never used the product because there’s a coconut allergy in our home, so I can’t tell you if it’s any good.
I would urge you to look locally for an option, or call the BIG producers of gluten free soy sauce to see if you’re pleased with their protocols. I hope to try the Kevala Coconut Aminos soon for those who aren’t allergic to coconut here.
Gluten Free Graham Crackers
Another slim-choices category… Gluten free graham crackers are only available from a few brands here in the US (I’d love to see the options in other countries). Some of the brands have ingredients I don’t support, so my winner in this category is Kinnikinnick. The brand I WISH I could tell you about went out of business 🙁
Gluten Free Creme Cookies
We rarely purchase gluten free creme cookies, but when we do, it’s the Kinnikinnick brand. This is due to the allergens in other options. I’m sure the others taste good, but we wouldn’t know.
If you’re excited about spending so much on cookies, check out this cool recipe for an Oreo-cousin type of treat.
Gluten Free Breakfast Cereal
So… Alllll those boxes of gluten free cereal you see on the shelves… Most are made on shared equipment with wheat. Let that sink in for a moment. One of our favorite brands has recently discontinued their cereal which is a real bummer. Many of the companies have this info on the FAQ section of their website which saved me some calls, but others tried to wash away the facts with their “cleaning protocols” information…
Bottom line, there are only two to choose from and one isn’t available in most stores and needs to be ordered online. With that in mind, I want to encourage you to check out the items available from Nature’s Path and Lovebird Foods.
Gluten Free Licorice
Unfortunately, at the time of publishing, there is no perfect swap for this category. Both Candy Tree Gluten Free Licorice and Yum Earth Licorice are made on shared equipment with wheat. I am more comfortable with the process used by Candy Tree. Based on your level of sensitivity, you may be able to enjoy one of these brands.
There are black licorice options out there, but they’re unsweetened and rather unpleasant, so I won’t be talking about them.
2021 Update: Smart Sweets has released a new red twist product and you can watch our review here. The product does contain corn, and we’re not 100% sure of the equipment status yet as they’ve changed their labeling.
If you’re new to gluten free, please avoid the urge to go to the grocery store and purchase anything labeled gluten free. First, learn about the different certifications and definitions. Then, learn how sensitive you are. If you can have foods made on shared equipment with wheat, then congrats! You’ll have loads of options. For others, you will have to call/email Every. Single. Company.
The nice thing about the Gluten Free Guide is that I’ve made over 400 calls for you and eliminated anything made on shared equipment with wheat for the upmost safety.
Also, don’t neglect your gut health. I did an Expert Interview with Dr. Vivian Chen a while back and talked with her about the importance of healing the gut. It will be a long journey, but with baby steps and perseverance, you’ll get there.
For additional help with a gluten free diet, read this in-depth article How To Go Gluten Free: What to do When You’re Newly Diagnosed. You can also follow one of my favourite bloggers on Instagram, @glutenfreewithcoral.