How food, diet, and dieting affected my writing and my life. And maybe effects yours…
Here’s my current theory on gluten-free “snackage.” Have something to fill most gaps in your snack cravings, and then consciously work to eat them much, much slower than you normally go through something. At the least, you are trying to heal your body of an overload of gluten. At the worst? You have actual gluten damage that has messed with your digestion and slowed your ability to absorb nutrients. Remember that you may actually eat less once you stop eating gluten. Your stomach may be happy with less.
Foods may be wholesome, natural, organic – but still not gluten-free. Also – some things may just disagree with your stomach, but the pain may not be caused directly by gluten. For example – I avoid pretty much anything made with canola oil, but especially chips cooked in canola oil. Canola may be “neutral” but it’s heavy – and it can change rapidly under high heat conditions. It seems to upset my gut. This may be because I have not been gluten-free long enough. At any rate, for now, even if the product is gluten-free, if it contains canola oil, I avoid it. I might get that oil back – but I’m living with what I can eat.
Spicy may be a problem – corn may be a problem. Since a lot of celiac sufferers have trouble with tomatoes and peppers, salsa may be a bad idea for now. (Macrobiotic fans might be on to something, as far as easy digestion goes.) Eventually, you may want to eat these things – but for now? Listen hard to your body – it will tell you what it wants, and what it doesn’t want.
Here’s a quick list of some favorite snack groups, and one (or more!) guaranteed gluten-free varieties. I’ve tried to pick brands that have a chance of being found nationwide. These are not, by any stretch of the imagination, the only things available , or even the best – but they’re considered tasty by large groups of people, and many of them are purchased not because they are gluten-free (GF) but simply because they taste good.
Let’s start with chips. Are you a potato chip fiend? Go with Kettle chips for absolute safety – but look for these specific varieties: “All Kettle Brand® Potato Chips (including our Kettle Brand® Baked, Organic, and Krinkle Cut™ Potato Chips) are gluten free and processed in a gluten free environment.” Note that not all their groups are completely GF. You’ll have to read labels, if you want to try any of their other lines.
The brand called Utz does not add anything gluten-free to their products – but they don’t test for it, either. You can find potato chips here that are probably GF, but they don’t guarantee it. They check in periodically to see if manufacturers have changed how they make seasonings, flavorings, etc. But they do not watchdog this information. So – if you’re not being hysterical about avoiding gluten, this might be a new brand to try.
Beanitos are not only gluten-free, they are also corn-free, which is rare. This is important both for variety and rotation in diet, and also important if you are sensitive to corn. These chips were recommended by a good friend who says these are good stuff (and she just dropped gluten and corn, so her taste buds are still looking for the same fix gluten gives her.) They come in several varieties, too! However, they contain real beans. The Beanitos people treat them, so the gas problem you can have with beans is a rare response to their chips – but these chips do contain real fiber. On their site, they say “… we suggest a measured approach when adding fiber to your diet.” Translation: I wouldn’t eat an entire sack at one sitting!
Lundberg Rice Chips are a great, crunchy mix of several rices and corn. They come in seven flavors (I really like Sea Salt, and will try Wasabi next) Their rice cakes are gluten-free, and they have GF risottos, too. So some goodness and convenience can still go hand in hand.
Want to try a high-end chip? Get your hands on Xochitl chips. Gluten-free! Foodies love them! Thin, crisp, and great flavor is reported by many. I love these chips, when I get the ones cooked in sunflower oil. But sometimes? They use canola oil. I can’t stand those. So, give them a try and see where you fall on the Xochitl scale.
According to a December, 2010 e-mail I received from a rep at Pita Pal Industries, Inc., their Hummus line is free of gluten. I specifically asked about the “spices” portion of their organic hummus. So – I’d say give it a try, see how it does with your system.
Salsa is one of those things that can be a communal taste, or can be something people zero in on for a specialty taste. A national food line with gluten-free salsa is Amy’s. Amy’s has several GF salsas, including mild, medium, and black bean & corn. Specialty salsas that are GF include Gringo Valley Salsa (actually certified gluten-free) and Tommy’s, which is sold as GF in Austin, TX at the local Whole Foods, but GF is not stated on their site.
Crackers? Oh, you must try Mary’s Gone Crackers. If you like whole grain, crunchy goodness, cracked pepper, flax seeds in profusion – definitely try Mary’s!
Blue Diamond has been making gluten-free crackers for over a decade. Nut-Thins are gluten-free, as are Almond Breeze (for drinking or in coffee or over cereal) and most of their almond products, even the flavored nuts. (Jordan Almonds and Wasabi & Soy Sauce Almonds CONTAIN gluten, so don’t accidentally pick up those two varieties.) Check out their site for a list of their GF foods. But note that Nut-Thins are not dairy free.
Nationally, for deli meats and cheeses, the place to go is Boar’s Head. Their meats, cheeses and condiments are gluten-free. BUT REMEMBER – is the machinery cutting the meat and cheese clean of gluten? Find out when your deli breaks down and sanitizes its equipment (probably in the a.m., but also possibly the night before, I.E. cleaning and “mothballing” for the next day.) Go in first thing in the a.m. to get your meats and cheeses or, if you have to go by during the day, ask if they will sanitize the slicer before preparing your order.
Hain Celestial Group, Inc. has set up a separate URL for the gluten-free foods in their line. Note that not all items in a given line are GF. The Imagine line has numerous GF items, but many soups, broths and stocks are not GF. You must read the boxes. (I used to like their soups, but since they use some form of nightshade in almost everything they make, I don’t eat their soups right now.) However, you may be able to use them! Just remember to check for anything else you know gives you trouble.
I hope to do a separate post on chocolate, but just to tide you over, here’s a couple of brands. Hain’s chocolate line, Dream, is gluten-free and dairy-free. This means both their eating chocolate and their baking chocolate, I’m glad to say, is GF, because quality chocolate really makes GF chocolate chip cookies POP! Hain’s processes their chocolate on dedicated machinery so there’s no chance of contamination.
Soft and Hard drinks? Scuttlebutt on the celiac sites is that Coca-Cola and Pepsi products are gluten-free. Most of them have been for years. However, before you buy a twelve-pack of something, I think I’d break down and read the label. Might as well be safe on this. My favorite root beer is gluten-free, and organic — Maine Root! Their Ginger brew is stunning, as well. Otherwise, assume a root beer has gluten unless it specifically says it does not.
The easiest beer to find is Redbridge, and it’s a decent light beer (yes, beer – it’s fermented, it’s hopped, the whole nine yards.) Beer is made all over the world, out of a lot of things. Redbridge is made from sorghum. This will taste light to a lot of beer drinkers, and will taste better the farther away from barley and wheat beers you get. But for now – you must have something in that niche? Redbridge. (Or sake, wine, or hard cider…but that’s another post!)
May this list get you through your next snack attack. Now, it’s your turn to share munching secrets. Help us out! I’m trusting I don’t have to tell you that fresh veggies and fruit are all right. What else do you like to munch on when you have a snack attack? Popcorn? (Remember to make your own – don’t trust a self-contained popcorn packet unless you read the label.) Sorghum popcorn? Tell all!
Cat Kimbriel is a fantasy and science fiction writer with a practical streak, a passion for great characters, and a focus on justice and compassion. Her current ebooks can be found over here.