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15 best free-from Christmas foods from supermarkets

The best free-from foods are just a click or walk away, as the big supermarkets cater for the gluten-, dairy- and wheat-free diets this Christmas. Vanessa Chalmers compares their ranges…

The past few years has seen a huge rise in supermarkets launching free-from ranges, such as gluten free, which was once a niche area. In the last year, it has grown by 30 per cent, and retail analyst Mintel predicts it will grow 50 per cent by 2019, as the shops battle it out for the best choice for customers.

Supermarkets are now offering free-from Christmas food options to meet growing demands. Allergen-free food customers spend 73 per cent longer to shop than the rest of us, searching for suitable products, according to Censuswide. But more choice and online shopping is improving customer satisfaction.

60 per cent of households have bought free-from foods in the last year

Not only have the items on the shelves grown, but also the amount of people buying them. Research by Tesco found that 60 per cent of households have bought free-from foods in the last year, despite only 13 per cent of the population have a medically diagnosed condition, according to The Grocer. The market has become appealing to those wanting a diet change.

Battle of the supermarkets The best free-from foods for Christmas
Many people are chosing free-from products despite not having an intolerance

Is free-from healthier?

A free-from product isn’t necessarily healthier or more nutritious than the standard product, says the British Dietetic Association (BDA). ‘Unless someone has a diagnosed health condition such as coeliac disease, or other food allergen, there is no health benefit rationale for the general population to choose a free-from product over the standard version’, says BDA Spokesperson, Elaine Allerton. ‘The free-from version can be more expensive than the standard version, and in some cases may be more calorific, higher in sugars, fat, or salt.

The free-from version can be more expensive than the standard, and in some cases more calorific

‘Gluten-free (GF) bread and pasta will be lower in protein (as gluten is a protein), and gluten free cakes and biscuits may have more added fat, sugar and salt than the standard products. These are added to help improve the texture and binding of the GF product, which means that the GF version may contains more calories. Dairy-free products may be lower in calcium and protein content, may have added sugar and may be higher in saturated fats.

‘Some products will have an equal nutritional status to the standard version.  A quick comparison of nutritional information labels will help’.

Diving into the lucrative free-from market at Christmas is a bit of trial and error when it comes to quality and taste. So I went around to each supermarket, bought a load and had the Healthista team try them in order to find the best…


Sainsbury’s rolled out their new free-from range in September this year, with 140 products, compared to 108 in 2015. They claim to be the first retailer to introduce a free-from category in 2002, which has slowly been broadening.

Sainsbury’s new vegan cheese got a spike of attention in October for reasons which the Healthista office can’t stop laughing about. When the coconut based cheese products came out (feta, cheddar, soft, and Wensleydale to name a few), one Facebook cheese lover was furious they were claiming it to be cheese. In a rant she said ‘Call it Gary or something just don’t call it cheese because it’s not cheese!’ Sainsbury’s had the perfect response:


Sainsbury’s responds to customer feedback on vegan cheese…

The joke went so viral a Facebook page ‘It’s not Vegan Cheese, it’s Gary’ was created, flooded with jokes and memes. You won’t be surprised to hear a vegan now refer to their cheese as ‘Gary’.

Anyway, I went to Sainsbury’s and headed for their free-from section, which quite amusingly was under aisle 29 ‘bread, rolls, and wellbeing’. I don’t remember when cakes and biscuits were listed as under wellbeing, but I’ll take it! I was glad to see a really large section, under which has everyday bits such as bread and cereal, but also luxury looking items like millionaire shortbread and tiffin. There was also a selection of dinner-party type nibbles- cheese crackers, pretzels, and tortilla chips. The thing I got most excited about was the fajita kit. Gluten is hidden in many unexpected items like packet mixes or wraps.

The packaging has key allergen information on the front, noticeable by a quick glance. Egg, soya, nuts, wheat, gluten and milk are highlighted in different colours and there is a little something for everyone. We’ve rated Sainsbury’s as ‘best for the family’ for its extensive range of items, which can be swapped in for someone with requirements, without any fuss from the family. There are plenty of traditional favourites replicating the likes of Mr Kipling, so you’re sure to find something.

Sainsbury's has all the great classics in their free-from range
Sainsbury’s has all the great classics in their free-from range

When it came to the Christmas range, Sainsbury’s offered an iced rich fruit cake, gingerbread man, and Christmas pudding. They also had a white chocolate Santa bar and chocolate coins, which I haven’t seen anywhere else. Sometimes it’s the simple things that can get missed out of free-from.

We loved:

tiffin-sainsburys-battle-of-the-supermarkets-best-free-from-foods-for-christmasLazy Day Free From tiffin made with Belgian chocolate. Free from: Wheat, gluten, dairy, egg, hydrogenated fats (vegan). £2

We couldn’t believe the quality of this product. There are, of course, many vegan products that are still delicious. But we didn’t expect this from a supermarket. A solid piece of chocolate with biscuits bits, it’s got a great crunch to it and is rich in flavour. Just right as a small bite, but don’t expect them to last long.

free-from-mini-choc-logssainsburys-battle-of-the-supermarkets-best-free-from-foods-for-christmasMini Chocolate Logs. Free from: Wheat, gluten, milk. £2.50

These brownies are just the right size for a little treat at nearly 200 calories. They are topped with chocolate icing and icing sugar, looking just like a festive yule log. The brownies are moist and gooey, despite having the typical cake products removed- apart from the sugar. The chocolate isn’t compromised, and our testers said they wouldn’t have known it was free-from. Definitley one for your gluten-free shopping list.

corn-chips-free-fromsainsburys-battle-of-the-supermarkets-best-free-from-foods-for-christmasNatures Store Lightly Salted Corn Chips. Free from: Gluten. £1.50

Not much different to an original totia chip, these corn chips are an easy alternative nibble at a dinner party for example. They are just as good with a sprinkling of salt, so guests would unlikely know the difference. Be warned though, they are very moreish.


Green’s Premium Pils beer. Free from: Wheat, gluten. £1.75free-from-greens-beersainsburys-battle-of-the-supermarkets-best-free-from-foods-for-christmas

This Belgian beer is divinely refreshing out the fridge. It’s better than a lot of popular beers I have tasted, so it really goes to show things can taste just as good free-from. It has citrus aromas and a slight hint of vanilla.



Not only do ASDA have a large free-from range, but their Christmas free-from was the best I had seen in store, which really puts the supermarket ahead of competition. The selection has its own packaging, and contains 13 items, including the gluten free Christmas Tree Cupcakes- 8 cupcakes decorated and arranged in a Christmas tree shape box. The Gingerbread House DIY Kit has also been thought of, and despite being gluten free, its only 50p more than the original kit or the same price when on offer. I also liked that there was a free from stuffing mix.

ASDA has a Christmas free-from section in store

ASDA has made considerable efforts to improve on their already impressive free-from section, which includes all the basics, but also some cleverly designed packaging for party products. They were the first supermarket to sign up to the Coeliac UK’s Gluten-Free Guarantee in all their stores, meaning that every single store, including the smaller ones, will stock at least eight gluten-free everyday essentials such as bread and cereal. As well as this, they have added gluten-free options to their Asda Café menus, featuring brands such as Amy’s Kitchen and Mr’s Crimbles. I was also amazed to see a ‘free from frozen’ section- after all, how easy is it to find a gluten-free pizza? I’ll tell you, not that easy!

I think it would be great to see a little more emphasis on other allergens, as it seems ASDA is heavily focusing on the gluten-free factor.

We loved:

Mince Piesmince-pies-battle-of-the-supermarkets-best-free-from-foods-for-christmas. Free from: Gluten and wheat. £1.50

Every supermarket is in the running for the best free-from mince pie, and ASDA’s is a good contender. The pie stays together well when you bite into it, and has a tangy filling. We were divided over the pastry-filling ratio, some thought there was too much, and others thought there was just enough, after changed it to a thinner pastry. But that’s a debate that will always exist.

Yule Log. Free from: Gluten and wheat. £4 in store

 Asda Free From Christmas Yule Logbattle-of-the-supermarkets-best-free-from-foods-for-christmaIf you’re looking for something sickeningly sweet, this is your best bet. A yule log is some family’s [WHAT IS IT: families’ / family’s / families ?!?] must-have treat, and this is still delicious free-from, and covered in a Belgian chocolate icing. The sponge is moist, and layer of creamy icing through the middle is very sweet- maybe a little too much for some.



Tesco stacks a whopping 350 free-from products, granting it the title Retailer of the year 2016 at the Free From Food Awards for the second year running. They were the first to show an advert last Christmas about their free from range, making their presence as a leader in the market well known. They continue to expand, most recently teaming up with Alpro to create a chilled free-from dairy section. Available in stores nationally, the ‘Dairy Alternatives’ section has its own signage of ‘Dairy free doesn’t have to be taste-free’, and encourages buying of more plant-based food and drink.

However, when I went into a store I didn’t recognise this sections existence, and so missed it entirely. I found the dry foods range but felt uninspired. It lacked festivity, with only a couple of Christmas products out, despite knowing there were much more online. There weren’t even mince pies which was disappointing, and only a Christmas cake mix (which is great if you like baking one yourself of course), besides a fruit cake.

Tesco's free-from biscuit selection
Some of Tesco’s free-from biscuit selection

It’s a shame there isn’t more Christmas free-from stock in store to pick up last minute.  The full potential of their free-from foods are accessible online, which is where you have more of a choice of finding everything. It is also broken into sections such as ‘Christmas dinner’ and ‘party food’, to make surfing online easier. But the items sell out very fast. As for everyday bits in store like bread, pasta, condiments, and cereals, there was an abundance to browse.

Tesco are already selling 200 million free-from foods a year, and this is predicted by them to increase at Christmas, 20 per cent more compared to last year.

We loved:

tesco-choc-chip-cookies-battle-of-the-supermarkets-best-free-from-foods-for-christmasChunky Chocolate Chip cookies. Free from: Gluten and wheat. £1.50

Gluten-free biscuits have a little reputation of being more amazing than the normal versions. I picked these up as an office favourite treat, and everyone enjoyed them. They are crunchy and delicious, and not only could you not tell the difference, but some us may be more inclined to continue buying free-from cookies based purely on the taste.

Alpro Vanilla Ice Cream. Free from: Gluten and dairy. £3.50

This ice cream makes me very happy. It tastes no different from a good quality tub, but it has 30 per alpro-ice-cream-vanilla-tesco-best-free-from-foods-battle-of-the-supermarketscent less sugars and saturated fats. How can dairy free-ice cream taste so fantastic? It’s made entirely plant-based, but still has the creamy consistency. We think it’s perfectly satisfying on its own, or topped on a mince pie. It also comes in coconut and hazelnut chocolate flavours.

Peroni Nastro Azzurro Gluten Free Beer. Free from: Gluten. £5.50 for 4.

peroni-nastro-azzurro-gluten-free-beer-tesco-best-free-from-food-christmasA UK’s top beer brand has heard about the gluten-free trend, and jumped on board. It still tastes fantastic- crisp and refreshing. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Peroni has worked to create a process whereby enzymes remove the gluten molecules, but made sure not to compromise the taste. It is also served at Caruluccio’s restaurants, great for coeliacs who enjoy eating out.



A couple of clicks on Ocado will take you to an easy navigated free-from page, with a staggering 1783 products. Having the online platform gives Ocado the ability to sell hundreds of reliable and unique brands. Waitrose, in partnership with Ocado, has been voted the best online supermarket in the UK by Which? readers every year since 2010, for reasons which we can presume include its values to be an environmentally friendly supermarket, reducing food waste and tackling food poverty.

With such ease of browsing, you can compare different brands on pricing and branch out to new things. Ocado offers such a vast range that you could do your entire shopping list just from the free-from section, which must be amazing for those with intolerances. Not only that, but those with intolerances who want to eat a healthier diet, too. What supermarkets tend to forget is giving free-from eaters a choice of healthy food too, which Ocado is clearly aware of. Vegan hummus, gluten-free carrot and parsnip fries, dairy-free mango and passionfruit yoghurt- you are really spoilt for choice.

When it comes to Christmas treats, there are a few extra special options. This makes Ocado great for gifts, too. Never know how to surprise your vegan chocoholic? Some of these below will knock their socks off.

We loved:

Booja Booja Champagne Truffles Artisan Collection. Free from: Dairy. Organic. £21


They are a little on the pricey side, but that’s understandable once you have this box of chocolates in your hand. The 16 truffles themselves are top quality, rich, and bursting with boozy flavour. But the box itself, we found, was the best part. It has an intricate design, passed through generations and painted by artisans in India, and purple velvet inside, so you can keep it afterwards.

booja-booja-ice-cream-best-free-from-foods-battle-of-the-supermarkets-christmasBooja Booja Organic Caramel Pecan Praline Ice Cream. Free from: Dairy. £5.99

Perfect for any nutty fan. Dairy free, but still very creamy, this caramel precan praline ice cream contains just seven ingredients: water, cashew nuts, coconut syrup, roasted pecans, agave syrup, sea salt, and vanilla.

Lavolio Fruit Garden Miniature Tin. Free from: Gluten. £5

fruit-garden-lavolio-sweets-best-free-from-foods-battle-of-the-supermarkets-ocado-christmasReal pieces of cherries, apricot, lemon zest, nuts, and chocolate, all inside sugar casing of different colours and sizes (a little like mini eggs, but better). The hand crafted treats are beautifully presented in a keepsake tin.



The scene of slobbing out on the sofa, bursting at the seams with fullness after a roast, but continuing to pick at some cheese and crackers may seem all too familiar. Christmas is one day of the year, so many of us go all out in treating ourselves, and that’s fine! But the stomach ache or nausea which follows may be all too common for those with an intolerance. If you happen to treat yourself with some food that normally you stay clear from, Holland and Barrett is a typical go-to for remedies.

The website, of course, has a ‘free-from’ section, which includes a large (over 300 products) free-from nuts section. I think this is rather absent from other supermarket options. H&B also always has its penny sale offer- where you can buy a selected item and get another for one penny, mix and match- which is an added bonus considering the extra money free-from foods cost. Furthermore, the website, which we recommend over stores for more selection, has customer reviews about the product. This means you can get trusty advice from others with an intolerance.

We loved:

Milk Thistle Effervescent tablets. Vegan. £7.99

milk-thistle-holland-and-barrett-battle-of-the-supermarkets-best-free-from-food-christmasTraditionally milk thistle, a plant, is a natural remedy across the world for upset stomachs and indigestion. Many people rely on it for a range of health properties, including keeping the liver happy, and even to slow certain cancers, but there is little substantial evidence. You can dissolve the tablets in water for a tropical drink, but H&B also sell capsules.

Bedtime Yogi Tea. Free from: Caffeine. £2.35

bed-time-yogi-tea-holland-and-barrett-battle-of-the-supermarkets-best-free-from-food-christmasThis could be used all year round. But with excitement, parties, or even stress, a lack of sleep might be on the cards during Christmas, especially Christmas eve with the children. This tea contains herbs associated with calming affects- chamomile, fennel, and valerian. Its natural herbs are really relaxing, and sent me off to sleep quicker than normal. It’s a better choice than many teas, being caffeine-free, but fingers crossed you won’t be up in the night for the toilet…

Hang Dr Weekend Supply. £7.99

dr-hang-holland-and-barrett-battle-of-the-supermarkets-best-free-from-food-christmasWhoever spends Christmas Day hungover is doing it wrong! But it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a drink or few the night before. Try Hang Dr for hangover relief; you take three capsules before going out, and three before bed, to revive the body before the next morning. It’s full of vitamin B’s, magnesium, and zinc, to keep you alert throughout the day. It can also be taken as a daily supplement, or before a long day of travel or gym session.






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