Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Overdue Reviews - Gluten Free at Aldi's

Last year in November (2018) I had a few appointments set with my naturopathic doctor to see if she could offer any suggestions or help with an issue I was having with my thyroid. I was diagnosed with a non-functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) the year before, and each time I went for blood work, my family doctor had to change the dosage. It never seemed to hit the right dose to keep my numbers where they should be.

A package of cranberry, cashew, and honey gluten free granola from Aldi's in the US.
Delicious Gluten Free Granola from Aldi's
The naturopath thought there might be a chance that I had Hashimoto's because I had several auto-immune diseases. There's really no simple test for Hashimoto's, but one of the things most sufferers seem to have found is that being on a totally gluten free diet helped them, a lot.  My naturopath suggested that I try that for a month.

The other thought was that sometimes a total diet change like that can kick start your metabolism, and I'd also complained about gaining a little weight that I now couldn't seem to lose. She said I wasn't eating enough calories (I was dubious about that), and that my body wouldn't burn them because it thought I was starving it (I wasn't.)

Then, she decided to tack on the fact that I should also go dairy free and see what that did. Seriously. I wasn't really up for that one, but tried it ... for about a week. That wasn't happening so I dropped that effort pretty quickly. I don't eat a lot of dairy products, but really couldn't find a good dairy free "cheese" (replacement). There just isn't one. I can go without milk; without ice cream; without most dairy ... but not without cheese.

An open box of Live-G-Free cake/bar mix from Aldi's, in the US.
Very nice mix!
I was a little doubtful (actually, a lot, not a little) about the GF options after trying the DF, and it was late November. With the Christmas season coming up did I really want to miss out on all the Christmas goodies?

I didn't, not really, but "saving" the option til later also didn't make much sense. If it did help with all the issues (seemingly minor when compared with some issues faced by many other people), then at least the possible answer was also the possible treatment that would help.

And if it did, then I'd have to live my life avoiding gluten. There wasn't going to be an option for eating it just because it was Christmas ... or Thanksgiving ... or any other holiday. The only good thing was that I definitely wasn't a celiac sufferer.

A cold pasta and tuna salad with carrots and green onion, using Aldi's pasta.
Aldi's pasta in a pasta and tuna salad.

So, I embarked on the journey with a lot of trepidation.  Where I live in Canada, there isn't a lot of availability for gluten free products, and what there is turns out to be so expensive you almost can't afford to eat it.  I dutifully bought the $8.05 loaf of bread; the rice, corn, and other pasta (most of which turned to mush) and didn't really find a lot of other things - sometimes I lucked out at the dollar store and managed to find some Glutino cookies (not bad, my husband liked them a lot), and some crackers.

Many types of soups, veggies, meats, and fresh foods are already gluten free. There have been gluten free cereals here for ages (chex, for example) and oatmeal (steel cut, but some regular raw and rolled oats are also gf). It isn't as though a person would starve, you just have a lot less bread and baked goods available if you eat gluten free.  That was 14 months ago.

Then I went to Florida.

Some of the products from Aldi's we tried in their gluten free line up.
These were good - all of them.
And whoooya!  The availability of gluten free products (and sugar free) shot through the roof. Not only was there entire grocery store aisles full of choices, the prices were (mostly) more reasonable. Nearly all the grocery stores in Lakeland (our city in Florida) had a lot of choices, including places like Aldi's.  We like a lot of the Aldi's products, so it seemed pretty natural to try some of their gluten free products.

Out of all the ones I tried, I'd have to say the pretzel sticks were my favourite 'snack'.  My husband loved them ... in fact, we both like them better than 'regular' pretzels.  The other surprise was the bread and bagels ($3.99)  The bread (white) wasn't bad. It didn't stay soft-fresh very long, even when frozen, but it made great toast. So did the bagels - white, and cinnamon raisin.

Rice and quinoa rotinia pasta from Aldi's.
Loved this too!
They have a macaroni and cheese (not powdered cheese either) that my husband liked a lot, and a rice and quinoa pasta that was really good. It didn't go mushy when cooked, yet it was cooked (soft, not chewy or al dente) which is the way I like it. It held it's shape and stayed firm, and even made a really good cold pasta and tuna salad.

Aldi's had a decent selection (crackers, baking mixes such as brownies and cakes, granola, etc.) nearly all of which I tried. There weren't any I'd call "horrible" though a couple were not as good as the non-gluten free type.

One of the package mixes that I brought home to Canada with me was for cheese biscuits - these were delicious, and soft and moist, not in the least dry.  I'll be bringing more than one package back on our next trip.

Some cheese biscuits made up from the Aldi's gluten free baking mix.

On the whole, I managed to stay gluten free during the entire time I was in the US, but since it didn't seem to have any affect (no changes that I could see or feel at any rate) I decided that a 6 month trial was long enough once I returned home and had less availability of products.

One thing I did notice after returning home to Canada is that even in our small town, more and more of the grocery stores here are beginning to expand their gluten free options. They are still quite expensive, but at least they have them.   Still not the amount of variety available in the US, but it's growing. Walmart, Zehr's, and even Food Basics are now offering products that weren't available last year when I started on the gluten free trail.

In the next few posts I'll review and examine some of the other gluten free products I found in the US - certain things I bought in different grocery stores because even in the US not all stories carried all the same products.

... and I'll talk about the fabulous gluten free bakery I found. 

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