Shopping for quality gluten-free goods can be challenging. Dietitian Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite For Health teamed up with celiac expert Rachel Begun, MS, RD, to create a list of the best gluten-free picks.
The "gluten-free" lifestyle is a fad that appears to be fading, but for individuals suffering from celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune condition that affects about one percent of the population as well as millions more that are truly gluten sensitive, avoiding the protein present in wheat, barley and rye is the only way to alleviate their symptoms.
Many shoppers believe that gluten-free foods are healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts. However, many gluten-free choices are often actually less nutritious — with less fiber and nutrients and more calories, sugar, saturated fat and additives. Finding healthier "g-free" packaged foods can be a real challenge.
To start, the healthiest way to eat gluten-free diet is to load up on the foods that are naturally gluten-free, including produce, meat, fish and poultry, dairy foods and beans, legumes nuts and seeds and healthy plant-based oils.
When it comes to grains, things get a little trickier. While many grains (amaranth, quinoa, teff, oats) are naturally gluten-free, they are sometimes contaminated by gluten-containing grains during harvesting, storage, transport and processing.
Here are our picks for gluten-free grain-based foods that are good for you too!
There are few gluten-free breads that can be considered nutritious. However, there is a new bread brand, Silver Hills, that has two gluten-free varieties that are healthier. Silver Hills' Omega Flax contains 5 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein and only 1 gram of sugar per slice. It's made from sprouted whole grains and is vegan. Their other variety, Chia Chia, is made from sorghum and chia seeds and has 3 grams fiber, 2 grams protein and 2 grams sugar per slice.
Yes, you can have pasta and be gluten-free too. And it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice taste, texture or nutrition. Some perfect picks: Bionaturae's Organic Gluten-Free Penne made with rice, potato and soy, with 5 grams protein and 2 grams fiber. Love spaghetti? Andean Dream's Quinoa version will make you feel like you're having the real thing, while providing 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams protein.
There are some great-tasting gluten-free crackers for your mid-afternoon snack. Look for ones that are made with whole grains and low in saturated fat like Mary's Gone Crackers, which is made solely from whole grains, seeds and no refined grains or added sugars. The crackers pack in 3 grams of both filling fiber and protein.
Oats are a 100 percent whole grain that provide beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol and keeps you feeling fuller longer. And, there's particularly good news about oats for those who need to be gluten-free: two recent studies found that adding oats to a gluten-free diet may enhance the nutritional values of the diets, particularly for vitamins and minerals, as well as increasing antioxidant levels. Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they may come in contact with gluten-containing wheat, rye and barley in the field, in storage or during transportation. Look for oats, like Quaker Gluten-Free Oatmeal, that have been carefully sorted to remove grains that contain gluten.
When it comes to gluten-free cold cereal, the same rules apply that you'd use for regular cereal. Aim for one that has at least 3 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and less than 5 grams sugar, and no saturated fat per serving. Healthy and tasty bowls making the cut include Kay's Naturals French Vanilla Protein Cereal and Nature's Path Mesa Sunrise (corn, flax, quinoa and amaranth) and Arrowhead Mills' Organic Gluten-Free Sprouted Corn Flakes.