I'm not going to lie though. Gluten-free food can at times be an acquired taste. When dealing with a gluten-free dietary restriction for children, sacrificing on taste can make the process of going gluten-free traumatizing. Think about it. This is a HUGE change for a child to navigate.
In going gluten-free, I tried (and honestly failed on many occasions) to find "compare to" products to replace what she felt she was missing out on. We tried a variety of gluten-free macaroni and cheese products, a variety of baked goods and bakery mixes, along with a few new recipes. It's been almost a year since our daughter was diagnosed and I can honestly say that I feel like we are JUST NOW finding a groove with her gluten-free diet.
These are some of my go-to gluten free brands now, and some tips & tricks that I have picked up along the way:
FIND PRE-MADE SNACKS THAT DON'T SACRIFICE ON FLAVOR! Our daughter is a snacker. Finding flavorful gluten-free snacks was a process to say the very least!
These are some of my daughter's favorites:
Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies:If your child (or you) had an affinity for Oreo's these are almost a dead ringer! So thankful for Glutino products as a mom!
Glutino White Bread: This bread is HANDS DOWN the BEST Gluten-free bread on the market! And believe me- we have tried a TON of them. Bread is just one of those things that is incredibly hard to duplicate flavor/texture wise in a gluten-free form. Glutino hit the nail on the head with this though! This bread is AMAZING when making French Toast too! Seriously AMAZING!
LiveGFree Mini Twists Pretzels : These taste just like her old favorite brand (Snyders) and they are a great snack at home or on-the-go (found at ALDI exclusively)
LiveGFree Pizza Crust Mix: This pizza crust was a lifesaver! Our daughter was so discouraged the first few months after her diagnosis. She just wanted all of the "normal foods" she saw everyone else eating...like pizza! But we couldn't find a gluten free pizza that tasted good. This pizza crust coupled with a great pizza sauce and mozzarella solved the problem! It tastes great and is pretty easy to make too! (found at ALDI exclusively)
Live G Free Gluten Free Brownie Mix: These brownies taste amazing! They are actually some of the most moist & delectable brownies that any of us have ever had! The whole family loves them! (found at ALDI exclusively).
Pillsbury Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough: You can find this in the refrigerated section with the rest of the ready-to-bake cookie dough. These are easily the very best "fresh" baked gluten-free chocolate chip cookies we have experienced! SCORE!
Popcorners: These fun triangle shaped popcorn chips are fabulous! They are the perfect gluten-free snack/treat, at home or on the go.
Annie's Rice Pasta & Cheddar: This is the closest mac & cheese we have found to her old instant mac & cheese favorite (Kraft)
A few things to keep in mind when going gluten-free.
- The cost. The cost is an adjustment. If you want to buy pre-made / heat & eat gluten free products, it can add up quickly! I would suggest buying a few gluten free snacks and just find recipes that call for gluten-free baking mixture (in place of flour) etc. It will be far easier on your budget and it's the fresher alternative. It's always a bonus, in my opinion, when you know exactly what's going into your food!
- Not all brands are created equal. As with anything, there are some serious fails in the flavor department when it comes to gluten free products. I'm not going to sugar coat that one! While it can be a major disappointment for an adult to try a cookie/sandwich bread etc. and discover that they don't like it, it is all the more difficult for a child that is adjusting to dietary restrictions. We (myself included) have tried a ton of different brands over the last year, to try and find the brands that TASTE (not just look) most like the brands that my daughter enjoyed prior to her diagnoses (check out our recommendations above).
- Keep an eye on the ingredients lists' on food packaging! Think wheat is all you have to watch out for? Think again! There is a long list of ingredients to avoid which include (but are not limited to): Abyssinian Hard (Wheat Triticum duran), Avena (wild oat), Barley (Hordeum Vulgers), Barley malt, barley extract, Blue Cheese, Bran, Bread flour, Broth, Bulgur, Bulgur Wheat, Bulgur nuts, Bouillon, Cereal, Cereal Extract, Cereal binding, Cracker meal, Croutons, Couscous, Dinkle, Durum, Einkorn, Wild Einkorn, Emmer, Wild Emmer, Edible Starch, Farina, Farro, Filler, Flour (including but not limited to: all-purpose, barley, bleached, bread, brown, durum, enriched, gluten, graham, granary, high protein, high gluten, oat, wheat, white), Germ, Gluten, Glutenin, Graham Flour, Hordeum, Horderum, Vulgare, Hdrolyzed oat starch, hydrolyzed wheat gluten, hydrolyzed wheat protein, Kamut, Malt, malt beverages, malt extract, malted milk, malt flavoring, malt syrup, malt vinegar, Matzo (Matzah), MIR (Wheat/Rye) Miso (it can contain barley), Mustard powder, Oats, Oat Bran, Oat Fiber, Oat Gum, Oat Syrup, Oriental Wheat, Rice malt, rice syrup, brown rice syrup, Rye, Soy Sauce (can contain thickening agents that contain wheat), Seitan, Semolina, Spelt, Sprouted Wheat, Tabbuleah, Triticale, Udon, Vital Gluten, Wheat, Wheat Berry, Wheat Brand, Wheat Germ, Wheat Germ Oil, Wheat Germ Grass, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Starch, Whole Wheat Berries.Additionally, there are some useful printable ingredient guides and fact sheets that you can find on the National Foundation For Celiac Awareness website HERE
- Create a Gluten-Free Environment For Food Prep: Even the slightest trace amounts of trace gluten can make someone with Celiac Disease sick. So, you can't toast that gluten-free bread in the same toaster as you use for regular bread for example. We take added precaution with our daughter because she has had some issues arise with trace gluten. We have a separate set of cookware for gluten-free food prep and we make sure to store all of the gluten-free foods/snacks in a separate cabinet.
If you have any tips on the subject, we would love to hear them! Leave us a comment below.