Warning: non-paleo content contained in this post! When discussing my "diet" with friends and acquaintances, I realize that cold-turkey paleo is a tough idea to swallow for most people. To me, the worst offender of toxic Standard American Diet foods is any food containing gluten. Gluten is linked to so many disorders that it is hard to list them all. The list includes celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, migraines, neuropathy, joint pain, IBS, fibromyalgia, restless legs, anxiety, schizophrenia and just about any other inflammatory or autoimmune disorder.
When people complain about various aches and pains, instead of recommending full-blown paleo, I often suggest they start by removing gluten-containing foods from their diets. That often sparks the next phase of the conversation. "But what do you eat? What about bread? I like pasta too much. Gluten-free foods are too expensive. But gluten is in everything!" Right - it is in just about everything and potential contamination lurks in every package. Eventually, down the line, they come to realize that a paleo diet where you EAT REAL FOOD is the easiest and (surprise!) the best for you, but a good start in the right direction eliminates gluten. REAL FOOD usually does not come in packages.
It's hard to think of a life without pasta, sandwiches, bagels, donuts, and beer at first. That's because gluten is very similar in action to an opioid - it is addicting. Withdrawal is real. Yes, you can go cold turkey paleo. If I had known about paleo four years ago, that might be what I would have done. I was gluten-free for three years before primal eating and I think that made primal easier for me. I probably tried every GF food product out there. Most are crap, pure and simple. But a very few are decent. This post is for the folks who want to dip their toes in the gluten-free water rather than take the paleo plunge. These are the very few products I have found that are decent substitutes for gluten foods. All of these are carb-heavy but good.
Bread: Udi's brand - they have white sandwich and raisin breads. Look in the freezer section. If you are local to me, Saubel's in Shrewsbury, Giant, and Wegman's carry it. It's carb heavy but good.
Rolls, pizza crust, french bread: Against the Grain brand - same stores carry it. This is made from a tapioca and cheese base similar to brazilian cheese bread. Also, Chebe makes a nice brazilian bread mix and a pizza crust mix that are very good.
Pasta: Tinkyada brand - I like this pasta better than wheat-based pasta. It is rice-based and surprisingly filling, so you really don't want that much of it. When you go paleo, you'll sub spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles (my favorite) or eschew the noodles altogether for meatballs and sauce.
Cereal: There are quite a few options out there. Chex cereals, Bakery on Main, several others are gluten-free. Check the label and only buy it if it is marked gluten-free. Many cereals like Rice Krispies contain barley malt which contains gluten. I don't like cereal any more. Once the gluten cravings stopped, my desire for subs like these just stopped.
Crackers and pretzels: I like Glutino brand. There are lots of other options, but I find those have the closest taste to regular crackers.
Baking Mixes: Surprisingly, there are several of these. Pamela's and King Arthur's gluten-free flours are good. I like almond flour better however.
Pitfalls: Many products (notice I didn't say food) have hidden gluten. Manufacturers are required to declare wheat, but they are not required to declare barley, spelt, or rye which are all gluten grains. Many ingredients have gluten components as well, so be wary of anything that has barley, malt, natural flavorings, or artificial flavorings. The most common non-obvious contamination sources are things like soy sauce, soups, spaghetti sauces, and many candies. Restaurants are nearly impossible unless they specialize in GF foods. PF Changs, Outback, John J. Jeffries in Lancaster, Five Guys (ask for no bun and tell them you have an allergy) are pretty safe choices. Chipotle has a few items that are GF but they are going to kill you with their use of soybean and other oils anyway. Check out gluten-free forums and sites for lists of safe foods.
Better yet, eat paleo (see my sidebar for many great paleo sites, but I like MarksDailyApple and Robb Wolf's sites the best). Paleo eliminates several other toxic foods as well (lectins, phytates, omega-6 oils, etc.) and you'll be eating the way 2 million years of evolution designed you to eat. And you will never feel better!