The Ultimate Guide To Going Gluten-Free For Beginners

Uncategorized Oct 04, 2021

by Jenny Jiles

Remember 1992?  Baby Got Back and I’m Too Sexy were at the top of the music charts, flannel shirts and black legging were closet staples, and eating so many bagels?

Bagels with cream cheese, bagel sandwiches, bagel bites, bagel chips. God, bagels are good.

In the 90’s, the world was a wonderful place where muffins (aka cupcakes) were a nutritious breakfast and fro-yo was a totally acceptable lunch. In 1992, The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid had carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates like breads, pasta, rice, and cereals, as the most important part of our daily diet. We were instructed to eat 6 to 11 servings  A. DAY.  Insane, right? 

It’s also important to note that plenty of reports say gluten is perfectly healthy for those of without a clear allergy or intolerance. And then there are people with actual Celiac disease, who HAVE to go gluten-free to, ya know, absorb nutrients from their food. Whatever your journey, here’s a few quick and dirty tips if you’re new to a non-glutenous lifestyle:

  1. Eat Naturally Gluten-Free Foods: Foods in nature that are naturally gluten-free like fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, millet, corn, and quality animal proteins.


  2. Avoid Gluten Grains: I mean duh, but grains with gluten are wheat, spelt, durum, semolina, barley, rye, beer, and malt (malt sneaks into a lot of packaged foods).


  3. Look for the certification: Packaged foods these days will have certified gluten-free on the package. It’s a circle with a GF in the middle and it will be on the package next to other certifications like Certified Organic or Vegan, etc.


  4. Budget accordingly: Unfortunately, good quality gluten-free products are expensive. Why? Because starch is cheap (similarly to refined white flour) and the expensive brands aren't all starch. Read ingredients lists and just limit and monitor your intake of starchy packaged foods.


  5. Be Wary Of Oats: So oats themselves are naturally gluten-free, but usually processed in a factory that processes wheat and therefore cross contaminated with gluten. Check your oat milk too, because you could be unknowingly ingesting gluten, and oddly, canola/rapeseed oil, which I feel is the bigger issue going on in your oat milk.

And some whole foods and packaged foods to help you dive right in:



Instead of a tortilla for your taco or sandwich wrap, you can use:

  • A coconut wrap: Thrive Market has a great one as does Siete Foods.

  • A seaweed wrap: (Thrive Market) I love wrapping avocado, cucumber, rice, sesame oil and seeds for a quick snack.

  • An organic corn tortilla: (Amazon) Some have added wheat so double check the ingredients.

  • A lettuce or cabbage leaf. When in doubt, a lettuce or cabbage wrap makes a great crunchy, healthy, gluten-free wrap or sandwich alternative.




  • Sweet potato noodles: While plenty of gluten-free cooks are spiralizing every zucchini in sight, I prefer sweet potato noodles, which are a vegetable noodle that actually holds up in terms of both taste AND texture. Plus, you can buy them at Trader Joe’s, which makes everyone’s lives 1000% easier.

  • Brown Rice Pasta: Of course, this is the go-to, and Jovial is an award winning pasta and they make excellent organic brown rice pasta in so many shapes (they have a great ancient grain one as well).

  • Chickpea pasta: good added protein as well.

  • Millet Noodles: Lotus Foods has great millet noodles that cook in 4 minutes, perfect for quick homemade sesame noodles or ramen, and brown and black rice pasta too. It’s usually near the Asian section of your store.

  • Buckwheat Noodles: Buckwheat pasta aka, Soba Noodles. I know this one might seem counter intuitive because it has the word “wheat” in the name, but buckwheat is actually a seed and not a glutenous grain. It does have a strong flavor that might take some time getting used to. Also, make sure you read the ingredient list of buckwheat pasta, because a lot of the brands add wheat to the noodles.



  • Carrots, cucumbers, radishes, endive, are great subs when you’re in dire need of crunch. Prepping them in little jars is critical to satisfy that crunch-urge fast, so the teeeeniest bit of meal prep for this, will pay dividends.

  • Edward & Sons: These have one ingredient, organic brown rice. I LOVE that in a packaged product. It is simple, and doesn’t have a lot of flavor and so great for dips, cheeses and any party board.

  • Mary’s Gone Crackers: These are hearty, seedy, super crunchy crackers, great for dipping as well. They do have fermented gluten-free soy in them so don’t worry about that in the ingredient list.

  • Simple Mills: These crackers are super clean and have that classic, cracker saltiness.

  • Plantain Chips: Thrive market makes a great one with sustainable palm oil and Trader Joe’s are great too, but the jury is somewhat out on the healthiness of sunflower oil, so don’t eat them like you would vegetables. (pro tip: incredible with guac).



Ideally you want some sprouted, whole grains and a naturally leavened sourdough – and this is NOT easy to find. Most stores typically have woefully unhealthy gluten-free bread options – don’t ever fooled into thinking “gluten-free” means that it’s automatically healthy. Most ice cream is gluten-free, so, ya know.

Here ARE some breads that have better ingredients and really satisfy that “bready” urge.

  • Food For Life: These breads are made with high quality ingredient, like brown rice, almond, millet and flax, and these grains are sprouted for added nutritional bonus. They also make delicious English muffins and tortillas. 

  • Trader Joes has a pretty decent gluten free-bread, made with a simple list of ingredients. Not organic, has canola oil and sugar, but one of the cleaner gluten free ingredient lists I’ve seen. It toasts up really well and is a great price point. Head to your local Trader Joes for this one.

  • Canyon Bakehouse bread is better than most because it’s 100% whole grain and their bread is dairy, nut and soy-free. It does have sugar, agave, but you can’t win 'em all. It is available most places and they have hamburger buns and bagels too.

  • Bread SRSLY: It’s sourdough, it’s spectacular, and it’s bonkers expensive.  It’s worth it if you are recently celiac and desperate for a real sourdough fix. Available through their website or smaller health food markets.

  • Cooks Sourdough: This is one of my favorites because it is a naturally leavened sourdough that happens to be made with gluten-free ingredients. If you love the taste of sourdough (and who doesn’t, really?), give this one a try. Plus, sourdough is sneakily one of the healthiest breads out there, so this gluten-free version is truly guilt-free. This is available and delivered right to your door through Amazon Prime.

These are available at most national grocery chains or can be delivered to your door through Amazon Prime. If you are at your local store and don’t see any on the bread aisle, check the freezer section, where most of these breads live.



  • Soy Sauce. Most soy has wheat in it. Swap it for gluten free organic soy sauce (Tamari) or coconut aminos.

  • Packaged soups, sauces and broths. Wheat is added to thicken sometimes so read the ingredient list.

  • Veggie burgers. Most veggie patties add wheat flour to help bind it. Read the ingredient lists. I like Hilary’s Veggie Burgers.

  • Ice Cream. Yep. It’s in there too. Love a good textured, chewy ice cream. It might be the stabilizers made out of malt.

  • Cross contamination. Restaurants don’t normally have a separate area for gluten-free, so if you are truly Celiac, be aware of what else is touching your seemingly gluten-free pizza or French fries. More details on dining out, below.



  • Thrive Market is a great online marketplace to get started with your new Gluten-Free Lifestyle - they offer a Gluten-Free Starter kit!

  • Amazon Prime can deliver most of these items listed to your door within 2 hours. They can shop with Whole Foods and through other retailers - this is such a game changer.

  • Instacart varies on which stores they partner with in different parts of the country, so visit their site to see what stores they deliver from in your area. They deliver quickly and save you time.



This is tough because cross contamination is real. If you are part of the 1% of people who are celiac, then you need to seek out restaurants with clear separation. Most places will ask if your gluten request is an allergy or preference. If it is a true allergy, then they will let you know if they think you should move forward with the order or not. Seriously. Some places make the effort and separation, but some can’t guarantee it and don’t want to take on that liability.

Example: if you want french fries because you think, “I can eat a fried potato,” be wary. The fries are fried in oil with other gluten products. Also, many wheat fillers are added to salad dressings, soups, stews, and you’ll need to ask specifically about the ingredients. Like mentioned above, if you want sushi, most places have a gluten-free soy sauce now, so just ask for it.  My main suggestion is to stick to simply prepared whole foods, like mentioned earlier in this post. Organic lean meats, wild caught fish, with sautéed or roasted vegetables.

But, sometimes you just want to go somewhere familiar. Here are some places that make an effort to have gluten-free options on the menu and some even have separate gluten-free areas for less chance of cross contamination:



  • Chipotle: Thankfully, most of their menu is gluten-free. Even the queso! Yes. Queso. Don’t order a tortilla, but nearly everything else is gluten-free and you can go the extra step and ask them to change their gloves before they start of your order.

  • Shake Shack: You can order burgers with a lettuce wrap instead of bread here, and unlike most places, the fries are gluten-free, too. They take extra steps to keep your food safe from cross contamination as well.

  • Starbucks: You can find a Starbucks almost anywhere you look these days and they offer a breakfast sandwich on a gluten free roll. It's prepared in a certified gluten-free environment, sealed and warmed in a parchment bag to avoid any cross-contamination. They also now offer a variety of snack options like Kind Bars, Siggi’s Yogurt, Hippeas and other variety of other certified gluten-free items that vary at locations. Also, stick to plain coffee or espresso drinks, as the powders and syrups are not guaranteed.

  • Pizza Rev: The gluten-free dough is placed directly onto a clean tin plate, versus directly on the stone bed where the other wheat doughs are placed. This really helps the kind of cross contamination that happens in a pizza joint.

  • Wendy’s: When fast food is the only option, Wendy’s has baked potatoes or gluten-free salads and dressings, and their burgers are gluten-free without the bun, so ask for a lettuce wrap.

  • In-N-Out Burger: The “protein style” burger (their lettuce wrap) is gluten-free and insanely delicious.

  • Chili’s: Chili’s offers a separate gluten-free menu so you don’t have to wade through the full extensive menu. So helpful that they’ve narrowed it down.

  • Olive Garden: Olive Garden offers gluten-free pasta now, as well as several other dishes, such as chicken and salmon.

Always alert the staff when you have a severe gluten allergy, because most places will do their best to accommodate, though most will not say you are completely safe from cross contamination.



If you are looking for some recipe inspiration, here are some great gluten-free Instagram accounts we’re digging:

  • Lisa Bryan From @downshiftology: I love her dreamy photos. The recipes are clean, and she creates INCREDIBLY high quality and extremely helpful meal prep videos to help you with your week ahead.

  • Alex Snodgrass From @thedefineddish: She has delicious and creative weeknight dinner recipes on LOCK and she won a Saveur Reader Choice award too. And her house is #goals.

  • Teri Turner From @nocrumbsleft: She is the author of a Whole 30 endorsed cookbook, No Crumbs Left, to help you navigate your gluten and grain free life. Also, you must try her infamous marinated onions.

  • Jenny Jiles @jennyjiles: That’s me! I focus on radically simple recipe strategies to make your life healthier and happier.



If you’re still with me at this point, thank you. Thank you for hanging on until the end.  To recap: real, whole fruits and vegetables are always your friend and always the best first choice for all of us. But when we find ourselves in real life, and we need crackers, pasta and sandwiches, hopefully you got some good take aways to make your gluten-free journey a little bit easier.


Jenny is a writer, cooking coach, and host of Cliffs Notes Kitchen, where she shows how simple, bite-sized shifts with minimal effort, can create lasting changes in your health. You can find more of her articles here.


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