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Eating gluten-free has its challenges, but it’s not impossible to do. Whether you’re planning a family vacation, getting ready to celebrate the holidays, or just sending your kids to school, our quick tips, tested tricks and easy-to-manage guidelines will help make living gluten-free as hassle-free as possible.

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Tips for Gluten-Free Grocery Shopping

Submitted by on December 18, 2009 – 12:32 pm3 Comments
Tips for Gluten-Free Grocery Shopping

I spent about 2 ½ hours shopping for groceries the first time I went to the store with my list of ingredients to avoid for dairy and gluten.  It was extremely frustrating and disheartening as I thought about having to this week-after-week, year-after-year…

Over time, however, I noticed some things I could do that would actually simplify the process, making it easier and less time-consuming to shop.  As a result, I now try to follow these “rules” whenever I shop:

  1. Many prepared/packaged foods contain dairy, gluten, or both.  Their ingredient lists are also typically long and full of complex chemical names that take forever to read through. Largely ignore these sections of the grocery.
  2. If you must by prepared foods, try the Organic or Natural prepared foods.  The ingredient lists are MUCH easier to read and evaluate.  Plus, they taste better and are better for you.  Organic chicken soup has things like “water, chicken, carrots, celery, and sea salt.”  Very easy to read.  The non-organic chicken soup has “monosodium glutamate, flavoring (who knows what’s in that), disodium inosinate (what?), and color added (why?).”
  3. Recent changes to food labeling laws have also made it easier to decipher ingredients. Manufacturers must clearly indicate the presence of the most common allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, wheat, fish, and shellfish.)  However, barley, rye and other gluten-containing ingredients are not on the list, so remember that the absence of wheat may not mean the absence of gluten.
  4. Keep a list of the products you know are safe for your allergies, but check the ingredients EVERY time you shop. They can change without warning.
  5. Specialty stores like Whole Foods and Trade Joe’s have a wider selection of specialty foods that may meet your needs.  But driving to these stores – in addition to traveling to your regular grocery store – can be time consuming.  So, STOCK UP when you’re there if you can.
  6. Stick to basic ingredients as much as possible.  Raw fruit and vegetables do not contain dairy or other unexpected ingredients. Neither does raw meat, or plain rice, or dried beans, or eggs… well, you get the picture.
  7. NEVER buy prepared foods, like salads, from the deli counter; the risk of cross-contamination is too great.  I once found peanuts in a Mediterranean pasta salad (which weren’t listed in the ingredients) and I’ve also seen employees spill salads into other salads while spooning them into containers.  And who knows where those spoons have been.
  8. NEVER buy food from the bulk bins.  As with the deli counter, the risk for cross-contamination is too great.
  9. Manufacturers may have cross-contamination issues too.  When in doubt, send them an email, or give them a call.  Many are great about responding to questions about allergens.

My grocery shopping takes considerably less time now, thankfully!  I also spend less money on processed junk food, and more money on the healthy stuff, like fruits and vegetables.  In short, I feel good about what’s in my cart and what my family is eating.


  • Roxolana says:

    Hey Selina – after reading your article I have a question – you mentioned that rye products contain gluten. I thought that Wasa light rye crackers were gluten free. Are they? What is the scoop?


  • selina says:

    Wasa Light Rye Crackers are wheat-free, but they do contain gluten. Rye flour has less gluten than wheat flour (which is why rye breads are much more dense than wheat breads), but if you are sensitive to gluten, you shouldn’t have them.

    Some alternatives that we use are Hol Grain Crackers (made with brown rice), Blue Diamond Nut Thins, Lundberg Rice Cakes, Real Foods Corn Thins, and Orgran Crispibread. Some of these are available at my local grocery, and the rest at specialty food stores like Whole Foods.

    Thanks for your question! Selina.

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