Last summer our family learned that we need to go off gluten. Our young daughter was diagnosed with Celiac, so no barley, rye, oats (unless marked gluten free), or wheat. And no cross-contamination. At first I felt quite overwhelmed. Preschoolers are not exactly known for adaptability and risk taking when it comes to food… so I was a bit worried! The fact that pasta is one of our daughter’s favourite “food groups” made me even more anxious about making the switch to gluten free.
I won’t lie … at first it was a bit tricky. She didn’t really understand why, all of a sudden, she could no longer eat many of her favourite snacks and meals. We tried out many different gluten free pastas, bread products and other snacks, trying to find alternatives that she would enjoy. Some of them were definite no’s – even I couldn’t bring myself to eat some of the pastas and macaronis that we tried! But over the past several months we have found some great options. Our daughter now asks me whether something is gluten free, and ok to eat, and she is no longer upset about avoiding some of her old favourites. Now that we have gone through the hard work of finding some yummy alternatives, I thought I’d share our findings in case anyone else finds themselves in this same position. Possibly save you from some rather unpleasant food testing! :)
Please note: the products listed here are not necessarily chosen due to nutritional value – that’s for you to evaluate and decide based on your needs! Healthy snacks like fruits and veggies are always gluten free – this list is to help find alternatives to some of those favourite kid snacks as you transition to gluten free. And I always recommend checking the box for the Gluten Free label before purchasing or consuming any of these products. Ingredients can change over time. These products were all found in British Columbia, Canada.
Favourite Grocery Store Finds
Catelli GF pasta: We have tried a lot of pastas, and this one is definitely our favourite! We love the spaghetti and fusilli and recently used the macaroni to make a homemade macaroni! I’ve found this pasta at both Save On and Thrifty Foods.
Annie’s Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar: If your child is anything like ours, macaroni is a favourite! Annie’s makes a gluten free version that is fairly good, if you aren’t up for making your own from scratch!
Epicure Mac & Cheese: This is my childrens’ new favourite macaroni and cheese, hands down! Epicure products are all gluten free!
GF Bread: Until recently, our favourite GF bread was the Udis whole wheat bread found frozen at Thriftys and Save On. But it wasn’t cheap! Then we discovered Little Northern Bakehouse’s GF Seeds and Grains Loaf at Costco – one package includes 2 loaves, each larger than Udis, for just a little bit more money than 1 loaf of Udis!! And it’s delicious!
GF Cereal: If your child is a fan of cereal for breakfast, there are a few gluten free alternatives that we have come across so far. Kellogs makes a Gluten Free Rice Krispies option, which I have also used for our Christmas Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls (yum!). Nature’s Path also makes some yummy GF options including granola, cereals, and their Gorilla Munch Cereal.
Maple Leaf Natural Selections Deli Meat and Hotdogs: If you’re looking for gluten free lunch/deli options, Maple Leaf makes various deli meat (such as oven roasted chicken breast) and hot dogs (pork wieners) that are not only gluten free, but also made with natural ingredients/no preservatives added. Costco even sells packages of the deli meat!
Special K GF Granola Bars: Sometimes you need a quick and easy snack that you can throw in your purse in case of hunger emergencies! Not maybe the healthiest snack, but in a pinch they do the trick (and are quite delicious!). Both Save On and Thrifty Foods usually sell these.
Made Good granola bars: These bars are a new hit with our family – a favourite to take on our hikes. Our daughter loves the granola bars (Costco sells them in a big box!) and the Chocolate Chip Crispy Squares (I ordered these online once thinking they were granola bars and now they are frequently requested by our daughter!). We love that the granola bars have six veggies hidden in them, and are nut free and safe for school lunches!
Sensible Portions Veggie Straws: These are a delicious snack, and one that our daughter loves. Costco sells a big bag which seems to be the best deal!
Simple Mills Almond Flour crackers: We’ve tried a number of gluten free crackers, and these are our daughter’s current favourite. We buy them at Costco, and my husband and I love them too! She also really likes Hot Kid Rice Crisps – I’ve only been able to find these at Thrifty Foods so far, not Save On.
RW Garcia 3 Seed Sweet Potato Crackers: these crackers are delicious, and can be purchased in bulk at Costco!
Snyder’s Gluten Free pretzels: These are another snack alternative that our daughter enjoys. We found them at Walmart.
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free pancake mix: We like to make our waffles/pancakes from scratch, but discovered this mix when we took it camping. Super easy and quite tasty! If this one is sold out, our second favourite is probably Pamela’s Pancake mix.
Namaste Muffin & Scone Mix: I’ve been making muffins from scratch lately, but if I need muffins/scones for an event unexpectedly (and don’t have the ingredients in the house to make my own!) these are a great substitute. Throw in a few chocolate chips and they are quite yummy! So far I’ve only seen these mixes at Lifestyle Markets, Country Grocer, and our local health food store.
GF Flour: I’ve tried a few different gluten free flours, and Bake My Day’s flour is currently our favourite. We also used to always use Namaste Perfect Flour blend, and love it as well. One thing we missed when we switched to gluten free was waffles on a special weekend morning! I tried at least 3 different gluten free recipes off Pinterest, and each time the waffles came out paper thin, and just not what we were used to. Then I tried substituting the Namaste Perfect Flour blend cup for cup in my regular waffle recipe and they came out fluffy and delicious!!
Nature’s Path Homestyle Gluten Free Frozen Waffles: Sometimes you just don’t have time to make waffles from scratch – in that case, these are a good substitute!
GF Pizza: Dan’s Farm & Country Market in Saanichton has delicious gluten free pizza crusts! You can find them in the freezer in packs of 2 or 4. They are a great size, and the yummiest we’ve had so far! Costco also has a pretty tasty GF cheese pizza (Sabatasso’s Gluten Free Four-Cheese Pizza) – we just throw on a few extra toppings of our own! Our daughters latest favourite is the Udis pizza crust. We use Primo pizza sauce and our own toppings.
Classico Spaghetti sauce: Classico makes some delicious spaghetti sauces that are labeled gluten free (but not certified). Costco even sells them in a 3-pack!
Kinnikinnick Frozen Cinnamon Sugar Donuts: Our school offers a monthly fun lunch for the kids, which has been a bit tricky for us. None of the options are GF, and our daughter always feels left out. One of the things the kids can order is a donut. After a ton of searching, I finally discovered these frozen donuts – it’s not quite the same as a fresh one, but our daughter really enjoys these and it makes her feel included on Fun Lunch days! We found these at Fairway Market – they also sell a chocolate option!
Glutino GF Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies: These cookies remind me of eating Oreos as a child; our daughter loves them for a treat!
Island Farms Ice Cream: If you are looking for gluten free ice cream, Island Farms has a huge selection of gluten free choices (although please see the note about possible cross-contamination at the top of the website linked above).
Pinty’s GF Chicken Breast Strips: One of the things our daughter missed the most when we switched to gluten free, was chicken strips! Despite my best efforts, my homemade ones were just not as tasty! When we discovered these, she was a happy girl!!
M&M Food Market: If you’re looking for quick meal/snack alternatives, M&M Food Market also has a selection of gluten free choices. We have yet to try any of these, but there seem to be a number of options available!
Other Thriftys products: Instead of having a dedicated GF aisle (like Save On Foods), Thrifty Foods includes their GF items throughout the store. Each item is marked with a GF label on the shelf. Next time you’re there, swing by Customer Service and they will give you a list of all of the GF products they carry. A great way to find some new alternatives you may have otherwise missed!
Skin Care Products
Everyone Kids 3-in-1 Soap: Our local health food store sells this kids soap, clearly marked as Gluten Free. As children’s hands are often in/around their mouth, we opted to go for a Gluten Free soap. I love the smell of the lavender one!
LaCoupe Orgnx Shampoo & Conditioner: Our Costco store sells this shampoo and conditioner, which is also marked as Gluten Free. I love the smell of this shampoo and conditioner, and it leaves our daughter’s hair so soft!
Red Robin: Red Robin takes their Celiac orders very seriously, with a Manager typically delivering the meal to your table. They will even bring out an iPad to walk you through the various options available for different allergies. Their delicious french fries can be made gluten free, and our daughter loves the “Chicken Stickens” (chicken pieces on a stick!)
Rockn’ Rolls Modern Sushi: Our 4-year old daughter loves sushi. I mean, really loves sushi. For her last birthday, we asked what she’d like to have for dinner and guess what she picked?! So when we found out she had to eat gluten free, one of our first orders of business was to find a gluten free sushi option! We found it at Fisherman’s Wharf. Any of the rolls at Rockn’ Rolls can be made gluten free, and they are careful to make it on a separate working space. Plus, what a great place to go for sushi!
Other options: If you’re looking for other gluten free options, the Celiac Scene website is an incredible resource. You can search for restaurants with gluten free items all over Victoria and the island. I would recommend calling ahead to confirm the availability of gluten free options if possible (we took our daughter to Famoso for gluten free pizza, only to arrive and discover they had been out of gluten free flour for a couple months!)
Other Celiac/Gluten Free Resources
For any other families that might be overwhelmed with the prospect of going gluten free, there are many other useful resources that can really help with the transition:
VGH Celiac Workshops: The Victoria General Hospital offers a series of Celiac workshops which I found incredibly useful. Your doctor can provide you with more information about this great resource.
Epicure: All Epicure products are GF, and we have found many favourites so far: the banana muffins (buy the package and add a few ingredients – so fast to make!), the guacamole mix, the Ranch dip mix, the biscuits, the macaroni, and the taco seasoning!
Elana’s Pantry GF recipes: There are numerous gluten free recipes available online, and through Pinterest, but Elana’s Pantry is one of my favourites. Elana herself is Celiac, and offers many delicious gluten free recipes. Some of our current favourites (for treats or birthdays) are Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies and Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes.
Bake my Day wholesale Bakery: Bake my Day is currently located in Duncan, but she often arranges deliveries to Victoria and Sidney (follow her on Facebook for more info!). Fairway Market in Sidney also sells her sausage rolls and possibly other products. We love so many of Bake My Day’s creations – all gluten free: the sausage rolls, apple turnovers, tarts, samosa rolls! They are all absolutely delicious!!
The Celiac Scene: As mentioned above, if you’re looking for other gluten free options, The Celiac Scene is an incredible resource. You can search for restaurants with gluten free items all over Victoria and the island. I would recommend calling ahead to confirm the availability of gluten free options if possible (we took our daughter to Famoso for gluten free pizza, only to arrive and discover they had been out of gluten free flour for a couple months!)
If your family has someone with Celiac, or eating gluten free, do you have any other gluten free finds to share?
Note: new gluten free options added to this post in October 2020.