#WellnessWednesday: Easy Gluten-Free Snacking, Shopping & Cooking!

Going Against the Grain: Easy Gluten-Free
Snacking, Shopping & Cooking!
by Dr. Christina Tarantola, PharmD, CHC of TheFitPharmacist
co-owner of The Diet Doc Pittsburgh North


Why gluten-free? Gluten-free diets have become popular in the last few years due to the increase in food allergies and celiac disease amongst Americans. Changing your diet can seem daunting or restrictive, however, there are many options to consume gluten-free foods without sacrificing taste! Many new food companies such as Udi’s have met the increase in customer demand for gluten-free products. Udi’s has everything from bagels, pizza, and burritos to brownies, cookies and muffins. Even Betty Crocker and Kellogs have jumped on board to offer their customers gluten-free alternatives.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat and irritates the gastric lining of the stomach, causing physical symptoms such as gas, diarrhea and cramping. For those who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease, the immune system attacks the body causing inflammation in the gut when exposed to gluten or wheat. This change in lifestyle is challenging because gluten is found in many bread products such as cereals, pasta, even alcohol!

Check out these easy tips for cooking, baking, shopping and snacking!

Cooking/baking tips:

1. When boiling gluten-free pasta, err on the side of undercooking it. There is a narrow window between when the pasta is done and when it turns soggy.

2. Xantham gum is a plant-based thickener that will help give your baked goods the desired texture. It’s an essential ingredient for gluten-free breads and cakes to turn out well.

3. If you are using gluten-free pasta made from corn, buckwheat or quinoa, pair them with a flavorful sauce. These grains have a stronger flavor than typical wheat pasta. Buckwheat pasta pairs well with gluten-free tamari.

4. According to Mayo Clinic,

“Cross-contamination occurs when gluten-free foods come into contact with foods that contain gluten. This can happen during the manufacturing process, for example, if the same equipment is used to make a variety of products. Cross-contamination can occur at home if foods are prepared on common surfaces or with utensils that weren’t thoroughly cleaned after being used to prepare gluten-containing foods. Using a common toaster for gluten-free bread and regular bread is a major source of contamination, for example. Consider what steps you need to take to prevent cross-contamination at home, school or work.”

Shopping tips:

1. Many online blogs have lists of gluten-free options and grocery lists to make shopping more simple. For example, Mayo Clinic has a comprehensive food list to guide you in grocery shopping as well as a list of what foods to avoid: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530.

2. Read food labels, even condiments or dressings! Many contain gluten.

3. Although shopping gluten-free is more expensive, consider it as an investment in your health. Those who choose a gluten-free lifestyle find they have more energy since the body is not utilizing extra energy to break down the large gluten protein structure.

4. Some food labels include a “may contain” statement if cross-contamination is likely. But be aware that this type of statement is voluntary.

Foods may also be labeled as “gluten-free.” If a product carries a gluten-free label, the Food and Drug Administration requires that the product contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Be aware that products labeled “wheat-free” may still contain gluten.

You still need to check the actual ingredient list. If you’re not sure whether a food contains gluten, don’t buy it or check with the manufacturer first to ask what it contains.

Dining out tip:

**Be careful about eating out at restaurants. Ask restaurant staff members if they have choices that are truly gluten-free, including being prepared so as to avoid cross-contamination.

Snacking ideas:

1. Gluten-free bars like LARABAR or KIND bars are delicious and gluten-free.  (Snarkynurse comment: These are DELICIOUS!!  I love the lemon one the most!)

2. Fruits and vegetables such as apples, grapes, carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and celery are easily portable and can be brought to work for snacks.

3. Gluten-free pretzels such as Snyder’s of Hanover come in mini’s, twists and chocolate-covered varieties.

4. Blue Diamond Nut-thins Almond Crackers are also delicious and gluten-free!

Gluten Free Resources:

1. www.Celiac.com has a free forum and community where readers can pose questions and topics

2. www.celiac.org Comprehensive resource directory that lists gluten-free products in many categories, including baby foods, OTC medicines, condiments and sauces, frozens foods and personal care.

3. www.glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com has Gluten-free diet “cheat-sheets” for easy recipes

4. www.celiaccentral.org Has gluten free college student toolkit, symptoms checklist, blogs, e-cookbooks and getting started guide.

Keep in mind that you can make SMALL changes each week without feeling overwhelmed. Check out a new gluten-free bakery or try a new recipe! You can still enjoy food AND stay healthy.

*Stay tuned for next week’s article on #WellnessWednesday by @thefitpharmacist where we will focus on tips and tricks for staying on track with your health goals while traveling: I’m A Traveling Nurse- How Can I Eat Healthy On the Go?

Dr. Adam Martin, PharmD, ACSM-CPT and Dr. Christina Tarantola, PharmD, CHC are the owners of The Diet Doc Pittsburgh North. They are passionate pharmacists and nutrition consultants that strive to help their clients lose weight, reduce medications, and feel energized and empowered to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thedietdocpittsburgh
Website: www.thefitpharmacist.com
Email: nutriglorx@gmail.com


1. Tryba, Lynn. Integral Yoga: Taste for Life. “A Personal Journey.” January 2014.
2. Gluten-free diet. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530. 2016.

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