Gluten free shopping list, grocery, and restaurant ideas

When I was diagnosed with celiac, gluten free wasn’t a thing. I had to drive 2 hours to get to a Whole Foods, and while they had some GF stuff marked, I felt adrift in a world full of food with nothing to eat. Ugh.

Fast forward many years, and I occasionally get asked by friends and family for tips and ideas for other folks newly diagnosed with celiac or require eating gluten free for other reasons. Below is my rough shopping list and restaurant list that has grown over time. Keep in mind, it’s based on my eating preferences/cooking preferences and restaurants I like. There’s a LOT more you can find that’s gluten free at the stores, but if your brain is freaking out and you’re hungry, hopefully this list will help you find a good starting place.

1) Restaurants

(This is a short list of chains that I have found in multiple cities; also check out my restaurant list organized by geography for other non-obvious chain places I’ve found great GF options at.)

  • PF Changs – huge gf menu, designated clean cooking area
  • Outback – great GF menu and educated staff
  • Chili’s – good selection from GF menu but changes month to month so make sure to look online or ensure that the GF menu is the correct month/what the kitchen is cooking from.  (Airport Chili’s often have a subset of the regular menu)
  • Wendy’s – plain potato is safe for fast food
  • Chipotle – burrito bowls are gf, just watch cross contamination and ask them to change their gloves when making yours.
  • (Other restaurants – if they don’t have a GF menu, the waiter/waitress/chef will probably know what can be modified. Grilled chicken, steak, or fish tend to be easy to modify on the fly for most chefs, but make sure waiter/waitress is aware that there shouldn’t be any bread products added to the plate, and that simply removing them from the plate does not make the dish ok to eat.)
  • Other restaurants I eat at all the time that have decent (I.e. Not just salad) gluten free options:
  • Ram
  • BJ’s
  • Red Robin
  • Old Spaghetti factory
  • Olive Garden
  • Applebee’s
  • Melting Pot
  • Ruth’s Chris

Go ahead and download the “Find Me Gluten Free” app – my go-to resource for finding things, especially when traveling. Their web interface can also be helpful when pre-planning a trip, although I find their app to be most easy to use.

2) Mainstream grocery store products

(Most normal grocery stores have a GF section or GF products mixed in. Whole Foods/specialty GF stores of course will have options, but tend to be a little more expensive. I usually end up buying one or two things new to try from the local stores, and then if I like it, it’s often cheaper to bulk order online. Keep in mind, though, specialty gluten free products will be more expensive than what you’re used to. Recalibrate your brain accordingly!)

  • Amy’s – frozen dinners/frozen pizzas, also some canned soups
  • Glutino – some frozen stuff
  • Udi’s – frozen breads of various kinds, and frozen dinners
  • Frozen vegetables – green giant corn and broccoli and cheese are gf
  • Soup – Progresso has several canned styles like chicken and rice that are gf. Campbell’s is not :(. Pacific is good for canned cream of chicken or cream of mushroom (they come in boxes).
  • Pasta – Rice pasta is pretty easy to find, quinoa also tends to be in most stores. In my opinion, rice is easiest to cook (I mess up quinoa pasta somehow) and tastes just the same, but a lot of my friends prefer quinoa as a grain and as a pasta. If you need rice noodles for asian dishes, I don’t know the brand but most of them are already GF and I’ve seen them in my QFC and Whole Foods.
  • Evol frozen dinners – a good portion of their boxes and even some of the burritos are gf and really good.
  • Some Lean Cuisines are now GF
  • Frozen pizza – some of the main brands like Freschetta now have GF options )individual and family size) plus gf brands like Udi’s
  • Cakes/cupcakes/cookies – Betty Crocker has gf chocolate chip cookie, yellow cake, and chocolate cake mixes that are all really good; Bob’s red mill has mixes; and now my QFC has half a dozen other brands to choose from. King Arthur has an awesome gf cookie base mix.
  • Bisquick now has a gf version for pancakes, biscuits, etc.
  • Flours – there are a ton of different kinds (you’ll probably hear of Pamela’s baking mixes, GF Pantry, etc.), but I generally stick with Bob’s Red Mill. There are a trillion mixes and flours in my QFC, and they work really well substituting for non-gluten-free recipes, but if you have more cultured taste buds (mine are those of a 5 year old), you may want to play around with your own GF flour mixes and preferred baking methods if you’re substituting in recipes.

Snack/on the go items:

  • KIND bars – nut/fruit etc bars, are clearly marked
  • LARA bars are GF (but not luna bars or clif bars, last time I checked)
  • Rice, Cinnamon, Chocolate, Corn Chex cereal are now gf
  • Tostitoes & salsa or cheese dip
  • Veggies & hummus or other dips
  • Nut Thins – crackers made from pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc made by Blue Diamond – my personal favorite
  • Rice cakes – some of Quaker are gf
  • Glutino – they do pretzels, crackers, bars, wafer cookies, etc
  • Bread – Rudi’s frozen original sandwich bread is good; so are Udi’s frozen products. They both also have hamburger buns and hotdog buns. Don’t be dissuaded if you find them in the freezer section by the organic/natural products. You can let it thaw, or sometimes I wrap in a slightly damp paper towel and microwave and that softens them up better. (Disclaimer, I abstained from bread for two years w/ celiac based on lack of availability at that point, so if you just turned GF you might have not have dulled your taste buds the way I have, and might not find these as tasty).
  • Fresh fruits and veggies, of course, or nuts. Freeze dried fruit is generally usually safe, as is fresh fruit,  but double check packages of dried fruit – often is mixed on equipment as other wheat containing products 😦
  • Beware of trail mixes if you don’t know the ingredients, a lot of times the chocolate pieces will have wheat in them or there are other tiny nuggets of gluten hidden in there.

Note: The jury is out on whether lotions/shampoos with wheat ingredients are truly harmful – the only time I’ve encountered this is some Aveeno body washes have wheat ingredients. Many people say just don’t drink it (duh), but the idea of rubbing something with wheat on my skin just makes me nervous so I don’t do it if I know that it has a wheat ingredient.


Not to overwhelm, but when you need this reference:

(Make sure you know ALL the ingredients that contain gluten – wheat barley and rye are only a few, most people forget malt but it’s made from barley & will make you sick. Here’s a good site w/ info & safe vs. not safe ingredient list: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/#examples and http://www.celiac.com/articles/182/1/Unsafe-Gluten-Free-Food-List-Unsafe-Ingredients/Page1.html

Also, when in doubt, don’t eat it. If you’re gluten-free because of health/medical reasons (like celiac), you’re better off not eating something or sending it back and requesting something to be made with closer supervision to ensure no cross-contamination than it is to get ‘glutened’ and feel awful for hours/days, etc.)

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