Almost six years ago, our family learned that we needed to go off gluten. Our young daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease, so no barley, rye, oats (unless marked gluten free), or wheat. And no cross-contamination. At first I felt very 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 was 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 tricky. She didn’t really understand why, all of a sudden, she could no longer eat some 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, and that would make the transition easier. 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 years we have found some great options. Within the first several months, our daughter began asking me whether something is gluten free, and ok to eat, and she was 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 it’s always recommended that you check the ingredient list 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 we use the macaroni noodles 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 quite good, if you aren’t up for making your own from scratch!
Epicure Mac & Cheese: This is my childrens’ new favourite macaroni and cheese. Epicure products are all gluten free!
GF Bread: At first, our favourite GF bread was the Udis 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. Nature’s Path makes some yummy GF options including Coconut & Cashew Butter Granola (currently sold at Costco), 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 turkey breast) and hot dogs that are not only gluten free, but also made with natural ingredients/no preservatives added. Costco even sells packages of the deli meat.
Made Good granola bars: These bars are a hit with our family – a favourite to take on our hikes. Our daughter loves the Chocolate Chip 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 after that they were now sometimes 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 children love. 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!
RW Garcia 3 Seed Sweet Potato Crackers: these crackers are delicious, and can be purchased in bulk at Costco!
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 or Bisquick Gluten Free waffle 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 mix is currently our favourite. Robin Hood GF flour has been a great one too. We also used to always use Namaste Perfect Flour blend, and like 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!!
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! Recently we tried Western Family Cauliflower Pizza Crust and the kids loved it! We use Primo pizza sauce and our own toppings. They also love Compliments GF four-cheese pizza – and my husband and I really enjoyed the cauliflower version.
Classico Spaghetti sauce: Classico makes some delicious spaghetti sauces that are labeled gluten free. 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 children really enjoy these and it makes them feel included on Fun Lunch days! We found these at Fairway Market – they also sell chocolate dipped, maple glazed, and vanilla glazed options!
Island Farms Ice Cream: If you are looking for gluten free ice cream, Island Farms has a huge selection of gluten free choices. A lot of Chapman’s icecream is also labeled gluten-free – but be careful, not all of it!
Pinty’s GF Chicken Nuggets or 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 (tap Categories and Filters and choose Dietary Choices > Certified Gluten Free). We have yet to try most of these, but there are lots 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 Dippin” (chicken pieces on a stick!)
J&J Wonton Noodle House: Celiac-safe Chinese food!! We’ve only eaten here a handful of times, but it was delicious!!
Baan Thai: Baan Thai serves delicious food that both us and our kids enjoy! Our kids love the Phad Thai and also the chicken satay with rice and peanut sauce. They have always been very good about gluten free orders, treating it like an allergy.
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!
Gluten Free Recipes online: There are numerous gluten free recipes available online, and through Pinterest, but Gluten Free on a Shoestring is one of my favourites. I have tried many of her recipes and never once been disappointed! Some of our favourites are GF Vanilla Cake, and Soft & Chewy GF Ginger Cookies. Another site I really like is Let them Eat Gluten Free Cake – her recipe for GF Focaccia Bread is incredible! Another site we enjoy is Elana’s Pantry.
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 sometimes 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!!
B Gluten Free: we absolutely love B Gluten Free. She is often at the Sidney/Victoria markets and sells a wonderful assortment of GF bread and treats. The mini donuts are delicious!! Follow her on Instagram.
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: this post was first published on my original blog in 2018 but has been revised and expanded for this post.