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Celiactive: Tips and tricks to buying the right foods at the grocery store

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Figuring out what to cook for dinner has always been an uphill battle for me since the time I was diagnosed with celiac disease.

Isabela Moreno

Isabela Moreno

For a long time,  my mom and I didn’t have the budget for creative meals and had no idea how to cook anything but a few different, recyclable dinners.

Though these circumstances made planning for dinner somewhat more difficult, the greatest challenge to cooking meals at home came from my picky palette. I was an adamant meat and potato eater and would often refuse to try new things as most children do, but this phase lasted until well into my teenage years. I didn’t start to become more flexible until I was diagnosed.

My diagnosis turned the way my mother and I cooked upside down. We didn’t know what to do anymore; all of our food was wheat-based, and we couldn’t even make the most basics meals. Even after research and extensive grocery trips, we never had more than a few bags of food. For a couple weeks I would eat maybe one meal a day if I felt up to scavenging.

It wasn’t until a good six months into this gluten-free diet that I started to branch out.

At that point my mother and I figured out how to retool some of our staple dinners. I even started to like food that I never cared for in my life.

Things like poultry, mushrooms, and beans were finding their way into my diet and I began to  lose my finickiness over food.  Still, in spite of this, cooking and grocery shopping was still touch-and-go.

Shopping still isn’t exactly easy, but grocery stores and even non-specialty stores seem less intimidating. I now know to look for specific food groups rather than random boxed food to fill my pantry with. So for those of you new to the gluten-free experience, I’m going to offer some guidance.

Vegetables are your friends. This category includes roots like potatoes, yams, carrots, and more. Vegetables will never steer your gut down a questionable alley, so you can depend on them to keep your meals fresh and lively. My favorite veggies include celery, kale, cauliflower, asparagus; they all have fantastic health benefits!

Fruit is always gluten-free. They’re a lot like vegetables. Whichever fruit strikes your fancy will always be safe for you to eat as far as being gluten-free goes. My recommendations are apples, oranges, avocados, peaches, and any other fruit you can think of.

Meat is also gluten-free…most of the time. If your butcher or deli marinates their meat before selling it you, you may need to rethink your purchase. Mystery meats such as Salisbury steak, hotdogs, sausage, and others can be iffy because they usually have fillers that are wheat-based. Make doubly sure that these meats  are good for your consumption even if it means contacting the company that provides them to the grocery store. That said, chicken, beef, pork and goat are usually good if they meet requirements.

Many grains are gluten-free. Fact: Not all grains are evil. Even though a few hyper-processed grains have scorned you that doesn’t mean that all are going to hurt you. Rice for instance is the most used gluten-free grain on the market. And from what I’ve seen in my area, it’s pretty cheap. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is also highly recommended by most gluten-free bloggers, though you should still check labels as some may be contaminated. Despite the name, buckwheat is gluten-free too.

Lastly, soy is not always safe.  Though soybeans are generally gluten-free, it’s still one of the most processed foods in the United States due to it’s easy cultivation and accessibility. Products that are soy-based should always be under scrutinizing eyes. Soy sauce for instance is made with wheat as a primary ingredient. That’s the main cause for sushi being non-gluten-free most of the time. Fear not: San-J has a line of soy based sauces that are gluten-free. They include orange sauce, teriyaki, soy, peanut thai, etc. Make sure that the label says “Tamari” and “gluten-free” or else you may get a taste of wheat.

In short, produce will always be gluten-free unless otherwise stated. I’m not talking about canned produce either as they can be made in facilities that handle gluten. Meat is not murder on your stomach unless it’s marinated. Grains are not all deadly. And soy is not always good for you.

It’s OK to go food shopping. It may even be inexpensive depending on where you go. So fear not, you’re still a part of general society. You can eat foods that others eat. It just takes a little flexibility.

1 Comment on Celiactive: Tips and tricks to buying the right foods at the grocery store

  1. A very helpful, informative article, Isabela. I’m not restricted to a gluten-free diet, but some of my friends are. Now I know more about what to serve when they come for dinner. Thanks!

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