Jennifer is back with another episode of “Gluten-Free Life” on behalf of Gersky’s!
If you or someone in your family suffers from gluten sensitivity, the best thing you can do is to learn how to shop for gluten-free foods at your supermarket. And of course, it’s even better to learn how to cook them. Here are my best tips for navigating the supermarket, finding gluten-free foods, and preparing your favorite foods without gluten!
Get to know the gluten-free section at your local supermarket
Every major supermarket carries gluten-free items. The trick is figuring out if they have a designated gluten-free section or if gluten-free foods are mixed in with everything else. Some stores will have labels on the shelving by the price with a “gluten-free” or “GF” symbol. Rather than walk around aimlessly, ask the store manager or employees to find out how they have it organized.
You can’t go wrong with natural foods
Foods that are naturally gluten-free can be found in your produce, meat, seafood, and dairy sections. Still, read the labels so you don’t wind up with gluten. While you’ll be fine with produce, at the deli choose brands that are certified gluten-free like Boar’s Head.
Research gluten-free brands first
When I first went gluten-free, I asked my neighbors on NextDoor where they found gluten-free foods and what brands they recommend. Boy did they give me plenty to work with! Thanks to that simple post, I discovered gluten-free pretzels, bread, pasta, donuts, frozen meals, and snacks.
Skip things with vague ingredients
Not everything gluten-free is labeled as such. For example, black olives. I went to buy some to put on a gluten-free pizza. The sliced ones were not labeled as gluten-free on the shelf but the big ones were and there was no difference in ingredients.
But if you see something that reads “natural flavors” or a vague nod to “seasonings,” beware…it probably has gluten. I’ve experimented way too many times and have reacted every single time. Reading the labels will help especially since it has to proclaim it has wheat or was produced in a facility with wheat. But it is not the only way to keep from coming into contact with gluten.
Know how to swap
With so many gluten-free products out there, it’s only a matter of swapping when you want to make a treasured recipe. For example, if you want to make eggplant parmigiana, a personal favorite of mine, you need flour and breadcrumbs. There are gluten-free versions of both of these items!
King Arthur flour makes a gluten-free all-purpose flour that is a 1:1 swap for regular flour in recipes. It contains xanthan gum, a binding agent you’d need to add if you were trying to bake. My gluten-free banana bread had a weird texture to it until I learned about binding agents. Using flour that already includes it simplifies your new gluten-free life, believe me.
Want gravy with those mashed potatoes? Those packets have gluten. Instead, buy chicken or beef broth (Swanson and College Inn are both gluten-free) and make it with your gluten-free flour and butter.
Once you start getting to know your store and the wide range of products available to you, it will be easier to avoid gluten. My best advice is to find those pantry staples – flour, baking powder, breadcrumbs, etc. – and stock them so you can always make your best dishes in a new gluten-free format.
Happy gluten-free eating, until next time when I provide tips about how to eat gluten-free at restaurants and catered events!