The aisles at grocery stores across the nation are brimming with gluten free products. Whether you’re eating gluten free or not, delicious cookie and brownie mixes and baked goods labeled as “gluten free” may tempt you.
However, when shopping for gluten free goods, remember to look for these five things:
Gluten-Free Certification: I have talked numerous times about my preference of supporting brands that are certified gluten free by a trusted third party (see my blog post about Gluten Free Certifications and Seals). Many companies put their own gluten free label or seal on their products saying “gluten free” – but buyer beware, that is a self-certification with no regulation. Celiacs, in particular, need to be especially vigilant.
Ingredients Matter: Of course you need to look for ingredients that are gluten free – as there is a lot of confusion as to what is gluten free and what is not. One ingredient that is confusing to many of us is oats. Many products seem gluten free, but if they have oats, and it’s not marked as “gluten free oats,” we have a problem. Avoid things like trans fats and partially hydrogenated whatever too.
Junk Food: Remember, a cookie – whether gluten free or not – is still junk food. If you want to indulge, look for boxed mixes and baked goods that keep sugar at a minimum and use whole grains. Ingredients are listed in order of amount in the product. So if the first ingredient is “white rice flour,” and the second ingredient is “sugar,” you’re probably about to spike your sugar sky high and eat a ton of empty calories. One baking mix I personally like is by Whole Note Baking Company (affiliate link); it’s made from a gluten free blend of seven whole grain flours.
GMOs: Avoid products riddled with genetically modified ingredients. Remember, about 90% of our soybean crop is Roundup resistant thanks to Monsanto. Wheat and corn crops also are from GMOs too.
Unclear Labels & Statement: Companies spend a lot of money finding the right words to put on their packaging. Do you really know what “natural” means, or does “low fat” even matter? Do you really know what organic means? Take a look at my blog post about nutritional literacy and get up to speed so you become an expert label reader and, for lack of a better word, bullshit detector!
You may see labels that say, “Manufactured in a shared facility with wheat” or “May contain traces of wheat.” These statements tell scream, “eat this at your own risk.” I avoid it as someone with Celiac, but if you are gluten sensitive or gluten free by choice, you may not have to worry if a trace amount of gluten gets in your products. Read my post, “What Does May Contain Wheat Really Mean?” to get to the bottom of decoding confusing and sometimes contradictory statements.
When shopping for gluten free products, remember that “gluten free” doesn’t equate to “good for you.” Be a detective label reader, understand where ingredients come from and how they’re manufactured, and look for product statements that include correct gluten free certification labels and are made in dedicated gluten free facilities.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.