Healthy Jasmine’s favorite gluten-free products in Chicago

Ten years ago, you would have turned your head when you heard the word gluten. Like so many when I first spoke with a dietician about my migraines and she told me to go gluten free, I was like, “WHAT?! You want me to not eat gluten?” I ignored the advice and continued to suffer the health issues I was experiencing. After a couple more years of being ill and tired, I made the plunge, and as my OB/GYN has told me (who is also a registered dietician), that gluten-free diet probably saved my life.

Being gluten free for more than eight years now, I have sampled and ate a lot of bad gluten-free products. Thanks to companies (and moms) who are working like mad scientists to create wonderful and tasty gluten-free products, we appreciate all of your hard work, time, money and efforts. Today I’d like to give you a list of some of my favorite local gluten-free brands.

I am not a fan of so many gluten-free products because of its high sugar and high carb content, but I want to give a shoutout to some local favorites and offer my pros and cons to them both.

Enjoy Life Foods: I love the product line and love that there are no chemical preservatives. Instead of using BHA or BHT, which extends the shelf life of your products, they use rosemary extract, which is a natural antioxidant. Most of their foods are also corn free except for the flavored Plentils. Hopefully they will move away from corn soon. Their cookies and cereals are sweetened with fruit juices and they offer some great sweet treats. My personal favorites are the soft snickerdoodle cookies, soft brownie cookies and the Vanilla Honey Crunchy cookie, which can make a wonderful cheesecake or pie crust. The SunButter Bars are a great on-the-go toddler snack.

Simple Mills: I stumbled upon this one by chance and when I saw they were made in Chicago, even better. This is great for those who are seeking a grain free/paleo like option and want something that is quick and easy to make. So far, I am pleased. Their pumpkin muffins were amazing, but their banana muffins left me disappointed. The problem with nut based flours is that if the nuts are not stored properly, they will go rancid (just a side note to why I don’t add nuts or seeds to my salads at many restaurants). I can’t wait to try their chocolate mix.

Zema’s Madhouse: I love this mom’s story in helping her kids to improve their ADHD symptoms by going off of gluten and dairy. Her trial and errors in the kitchen lead her to create her own line of foods. I love how nutrient dense her line is and offering various grains like teff, hemp and amaranth. It is unusual to find a mix that is not rich in rice, potato and tapioca. I also like how you can control how much sugar goes into the product. My only issue is the corn-based baking powder. As gluten sensitivities rise, so do corn sensitivities. Just a small simple switch would give this a 5-star review. My favorite is the sweet potato pancakes and the maple pancakes, though I have not tried all of their products.

RxBars: Again, I stumbled upon this bar while working out at a CrossFit gym, but was pleasantly surprised by this bar. I like the grain-free option, but feel it is just a tad high in sugar. I like that it is from dates and not from brown rice syrups, agave or other junkie sugars. This is a whole food bar and I would recommend this bar over many others and it is a great post-exercise recovery or mid-day snack bar. The Coconut Cacao and Coffee Cacao are my favorites.

Mark Bar: A local trainer (and chef) created this bar to improve your exercise performance. Made with quinoa, this high-fuel bar is great to eat before you work out or makes a great mid-morning snack. The Peanut Butter Chocolate is my favorite, though the taste can be gritty from the quinoa. It is higher in carbs than most bars, making it the ideal pre-workout or mid-morning snack.

While there are other locals, such as OMG I Can’t Believe it is Gfree and The Gluten Free Bar, which I like, the OMG is high in carbs and sugars, so it great for those once-in-a-while treats or quick frozen meals. The Gluten Free Bar has a soy-free option, which would be my first choice over any of the other soy-protein based bar. It is great for those following a vegan diet as the combination of the pea and rice protein makes this bar a complete protein.

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