A decade ago, when I found out I had Celiac Disease, I was grateful to finally understand what was wrong with me. However, I underestimated how much my life had to change. It would take YEARS before I actually started to follow my diet, for no reason other than missing delicious foods.
Back then, gluten-free options were not the same as they are today. The bread had the texture of a wet sponge and was littered with holes. If I wanted a cupcake or something sweet, I had to make it entirely from scratch or spend a ridiculous amount of money at a restaurant or bakery, hoping it would taste somewhat normal. These days I find myself with a different problem. Now I have so many choices that all the pounds I kept off because I had nothing to eat are catching up to me. The world has changed for those living with Celiac Disease; we are taken seriously, and people have realized we do LOVE food when it’s not killing us.
Gluten-free bread and I mean a good, soft, yummy sandwich bread, used to be impossible to find here in the States. The first time I tasted a slice of bread worth the calories, I was in Portugal in 2015. The brand Schär had so many options. They had a sweet breakfast bread that was amazing with nothing but butter and a cup of coffee, and their sandwich bread was to die for. I am not going to lie–I cried a little bit as I left Portugal, thinking I’d never find another bread like that back in the States. And I was right…..but thankfully not for long.
In 2017, my husband and I went to visit his family in a small town in Alabama. We drove from Florida, so all my snacks were gone when we reached his aunt’s house. Not wanting to risk getting sick meeting his relatives for the first time, we went to their supermarket. The moment we walked in, we knew there wouldn’t be many choices, so after taking a quick look, we ventured to Walmart, hoping to have better luck. I never expected to find the bread that I loved in Portugal in the middle of a small town in Alabama. Though they didn’t have my breakfast bread, they did have my sandwich bread, cookies, and tasty cakes. I really can’t tell you how satisfying it was after twelve years to be able to open a SINGLE wrapped cake. I was able to bite into the delicious chocolate frosting, knowing that I didn’t only have a few days to eat twelve more cupcakes because I’d be wasting ten dollars.
It was heaven.
Even though we don’t have all the Schär options here in Florida, we have many other options for delicious gluten-free foods.
For the traditionalist, Betty Crocker has you covered from a chocolate cake mix to their sister brand Bisquick, allowing you to take back breakfast by making pancakes without any worries. If you want to branch out and try something different, there is Krusteaz. Krusteaz also has cake mixes and chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon crumb cake, and a sinful honey cornbread. If you’re looking for a great breakfast, treat you should try Martha White’s blueberry muffins (I always add fresh berries because no box ever gives you enough). Another friend to the gluten-free baker is Pillsbury. I found that their mixes and flours are probably the closest to regular food.
The Lance brand has old favorites if you are searching for things to pack your kids’ lunches with. Their little peanut butter or cheese cracker sandwiches could easily be confused for their traditional counterparts, which is great if your little one loves Cheezits. Glutino has the closest thing to an Oreo, and I’m not mad about it. They also have chocolate-covered pretzels, which I thought I would never have again unless I made them myself. If you’re a cookie monster like me, Enjoy Life foods have both soft-baked cookies and crispy, crunchy ones, and to make it even better, they have small snack-size bags that fit great in any purse.
For me, breakfast and lunch were always the hardest. When it came to dinner, I swayed more to rice and potatoes as my starches because the pasta alternatives were not an option in my book for years. They would fall apart in the water or turn to mush. It was easier just to avoid it altogether. Now I don’t have to do that anymore. Brands like Barilla have come through in a big way with not only having small pastas but spaghetti, fettuccine, and LASAGNA options. Muellers also offers an extensive array of pastas. These two brands have probably been the best ones I have tried out. I now feed other people without them asking why there’s a strange taste in their mouths. When it comes to gluten-free mac and cheese, I usually make a big box of pasta and pour Velveeta original cheese sauce packets over it. If f you can’t find any of them (there are days that my supermarkets don’t have them), I’ll grab a box of Annie’s, which has both a deluxe rich and creamy option as well as the classic kind.
I don’t know what happened for the markets to wake up and take gluten-free food seriously, but I am beyond grateful. Eating food without gluten that has the correct texture and actually tastes like what it’s supposed to makes living with this disease a little less daunting. For many, making the switch isn’t easy. It’s hard to change the way you’ve eaten your entire life, and for most, the change affects their families as well. Thankfully now they don’t have to go through the same trials and errors I did with cardboard and sponges but instead get to go right to the good stuff.