The gluten-free diet experienced significant backlash over the past year. Last October, The New Yorker published “Against the Grain,” an article that lambasted gluten-free eating as a fad and unnecessary for most people. Adding fuel to the fire, when “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” asked gluten-free pedestrians to define gluten, no interviewees correctly identified it as a protein, bolstering the idea that people ditch gluten just because celebrities do.
What’s more, some researchers now suspect that FODMAPs (Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols)—a group of carbohydrates found in wheat, garlic, onions, beans, apples and more—are the real cause of gastrointestinal distress for many Americans who assume they are sensitive to gluten. This theory quickly garnered major media attention, further painting the gluten-free diet as unnecessary or even wrong. But all of this criticism has done little to hinder gluten-free category growth.
According to Mintel, sales of gluten-free products grew 44 percent to $10.5 billion from 2011 to 2013—and they are predicted to increase an additional 48 percent by 2016. But these marked increases do not simply stem from more food and beverage makers slapping gluten-free labels on products. Rather, dedicated companies are working hard to improve the quality and caliber of gluten-free offerings. This means fluffy baking mixes that bear little resemblance to the sawdust-tasting gluten-free versions of 2010, lower-sugar snacks that use nuts and plant proteins to boost nutrition, and products containing naturally gluten-free grains, beans and fruit purees. As a result, gluten-free consumers—whether they are new to the diet or have been following it for years—can now find ample products that deliver on taste, health and simplicity.
With the foods and beverages in this guide—all tested to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten as per the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of gluten free— shoppers can have their (gluten-free) cake and eat it too.
Gluten-free products for making the transition
Shoppers who’ve newly decided to eat gluten free—whether they have just received a celiac disease diagnosis or they suspect they are sensitive to gluten—want foods that can ease the tough transition to this restrictive diet, which often excludes favorite baked goods, breads and snacks. That’s why foods targeted to this audience are uniquely designed to make the gluten-free life, well, the good life. We’re talking about flours that mimic regular white flour, baking mixes that create gooey organic chocolate brownies, and soft-baked granola that’s rich in butter and brown sugar. Additionally, individually packaged snacks and beverages entice these gluten-free newbies with their take-along convenience. In short, these products are all about taste and ease.
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
A versatile, Certified GlutenFree blend of flours such as sweet white rice, whole-grain brown rice, potato starch, sorghum and tapioca, this product is perfect for cookies, cakes, muffins, pies and more. Gluten-free bakers appreciate that Bob’s functions in recipes exactly like regular wheatbased flour. SRP: $4.95
Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free Bread & Pizza Blend
From seasoned gluten-free baker Karen Morgan (who was making gluten-free goodies long before the diet was trendy) comes six new flour blends. Expertly crafted for professional-grade glutenfree goodies, each hefty bag contains hardworking ingredients such as tapioca, sorghum, gluten-free oat flour, rice and millet. SRP: $9.00
Luna Chocolate Cupcake bar
Luna recently transitioned its line of bars to gluten free. The new Chocolate Cupcake flavor is a harmonious blend of ingredients including organic soy protein, organic flaxseed, organic brown-rice syrup, organic chocolate and cocoa butter. Four grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein and a bevy of essential vitamins and minerals round out this nutrition bar. SRP: $1.39
The Toasted Oat Granola White Chocolate + Macadamia
This Certified Gluten-Free goodness is chewy, sweet and decadent. Sprinkle this buttery (yes, it contains butter), robust granola onto yogurt or ice cream (thankfully it is gluten free) or, as I did, eat it by the handful. Packaged in an attractive, reusable cylinder. SRP: $8.99
Living Now Gluten-Free Organic Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix
This vegan, Certified GlutenFree, USDA Organic brownie mix is made from superclean ingredients you can find in your pantry, including turbinado sugar, cocoa powder, brown-rice flour, tapioca flour and golden flax meal. It’s also free from soy and nuts. SRP: $6.99
CalNaturale Svelte You’ve Got Appeal Banana Crème
A dairy-free, stevia-sweetened shake that contains 11 grams of protein and just 180 calories, Svelte’s new flavor is made with USDA Organic ingredients including soymilk, banana puree, rice syrup and inulin (for fiber). Added turmeric extract, calcium and vitamins B12, D and E boost nutrition. SRP: $2.99
Gluten-free products for advancing health goals
Meet the gluten-free eaters who are starting to pay more attention to their health. These increasingly savvy consumers seek products that are lower in sugar and higher in good fats, fiber and protein. Low-nutrition ingredients such as tapioca starch, potato starch and xanthan gum are replaced by better-for-you whole oats, fruit purees, chia, flaxseeds and nuts. Protein derived from peas, rice and other plant sources also appear in these products, increasing satiety and promoting fullness.
Simple Squares Chili Pep
Made simply with cashews, almonds, honey and unsweetened coconut. The newest flavor, Chili Pep, contains a warm hit of chili pepper. This small but mighty bar displays four certification labels on the front of the package: USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten-Free and Certified Paleo. SRP: $2.29-$2.49
TeeChia Sustained Energy Cereal
Made from six nutrientrich grains and seeds, TeeChia exemplifies the trend toward better-foryou carbs while also packing 7 grams of protein per serving. It contains chia, flaxseed, quinoa, amaranth, pumpkinseeds and ramón—a Central American seed. SRP: $3.50
Nii Bar Almond Chocolate
Although Nii bars remind me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (“We are the knights who say, Ni!”), this tasty glutenfree, soy-free and vegan bar contains 7 grams of protein and clean ingredients including organic dates, cashew butter, dried cherries, walnuts, rice protein and hempseeds. SRP: $2.99
Bonk Breaker Coconut Cashew
The name of these threebite squares of energy appeals to endurance athletes. Most flavors contain less than 11 ingredients that range from cashews to brownrice syrup to rice protein isolate. While not USDA Organic, this bar employs organic dark chocolate and dried bananas. SRP: $2.50-$2.75
Kameda Crisps Savory Rice Snack Black Pepper with Roasted Peanuts
A reasonable snack at just 140 calories and 4 grams of protein per serving, these crunchy rice-and-corn crackers are the ultimate party snack. Flavored with tamari soy sauce, garlic and onion powders, and salty peanuts. SRP: $3.99
Wholesome Chow Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
These USDA Organic, Vegan Verified, gluten-free cookies are pleasantly grainy and contain sugar, chocolate chips, rice flour and vanilla. This company works with the Celiac Sprue Association to certify that gluten-free products contain under 5 ppm of gluten. SRP: $4.99
Munk Pack Oatmeal Fruit Squeeze
Made with gluten-free oats, fruit purees such as banana and açaí, flaxseeds and even quinoa, these squeeze packs for grownups don’t taste or feel like baby food. They’re substantial enough for long bike rides or hikes. Plus, you gotta love the cute packaging.
Gluten-free products for going the distance
The next iteration of gluten free follows the same tenets as clean eating and paleo. These products contain simple, pronounceable ingredients and are almost entirely free from grains and dairy. Rather, they feature simple staples such as beans, high-protein pseudograins like quinoa, and even responsibly raised meat. Pining for pasta? Go for it, as long as it’s made from navy beans or chickpeas rather than durum wheat. Need a gluten-free snack? How about dried bananas or spiced, dehydrated pinto beans? Seasoned gluten-free shoppers prefer short, simple ingredients lists and products that don’t disappoint on flavor or texture.
Ancient Harvest Bean & Quinoa Supergrain
Pasta Plain ol’ durum wheat pasta is going the way of the dodo, thanks to the bevy of brands creating high-performance noodles made out of protein-rich ingredients. Ancient Harvest differentiates by combining only organic bean flour with organic quinoa flour. SRP: $3.49
GinnyBar Karma, Love & Apricot
From gluten-free expert GinnyBakes comes a filling vegan and paleo bar, packed with toothsome USDA Organic ingredients such as apricots, nuts, seeds, coconut and berries. Sweetened with a touch of agave nectar, dates and raisins, this bar radiates good karma and love. SRP: $2.49
Epic Chicken Jerky Bites Currant + Sesame BBQ
The newest offering from the maker of paleo meatand-fruit bars, Jerky Bites are high-protein, snacksized meat squares. They’re flavored with add-ins like cranberry, sriracha, chia, sesame, chicken, pork, beef and bison, providing clean, whole-food nutrition. SRP: $6.49-$6.99
Snack Out Loud Foods Crunchy Bean Snack
Who knew the lowly pinto bean would be the next hot snack ingredient? Gently roasted for optimal crispiness, these glutenand nut-free snacks contain 150 calories and 7 grams of protein per serving. Plus, the Sea Salt flavor includes just three ingredients: pinto beans, sunflower oil and sea salt. SRP: $1.99
Banza pasta made from Chickpeas
Never feel guilty about eating a huge portion of pasta again now that Banza chickpea pasta is on the market. Made with chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein, xanthan gum and spices, each sizable portion offers 13 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. Plus, Banza cooks in 4 to 6 minutes. This is fast food we can get behind. SRP: $3.99
Barnana Organic Original Chewy Banana Bites
Now in a new singleserve package, Barnana’s one-ingredient product is a gluten-free godsend. USDA Organic dried bananas offer ample nutrients like potassium (duh), fiber and even a touch of protein. It’s a paleo-friendly snack that appeals to consumers seeking simpler, back-tobasics foods. SRP: $2.49
Simple Mills Chocolate Muffin & Cupcake
This line of gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, soy-free baking mixes impresses. Made with minimal, paleo-friendly ingredients such as almond flour, coconut nectar, arrowroot powder and flax meal, this mix creates baked goods that rise beautifully. Stay tuned for new packaging. SRP: $7.99