You’ve probably noticed that there are more gluten-free products and options at grocery stores, restaurants, and back-yard barbecues. Ten years ago, most people had never even heard of gluten. Now it’s estimated that one in three Americans are trying to avoid it. But how much do you really know about gluten? Gluten-free diets can be healthy—but they can also be very unhealthy. It all depends on what foods you include and how much you actually eat.
I used to think that the gluten-free craze was a bit extreme and even irrational (some days, I still think that). I used to also get a little irritated with people who requested certain dietary accommodations at social gatherings or events. Then I met my husband. When he told me that he had celiac disease and explained that he and his kids adhered to a gluten-free diet, I told him that I was okay with that. I was, after all, a dietitian. But as we progressed in our relationship and I started to realize that he really did react to very tiny amounts of gluten and that I would also need to change my diet once we were married, I started to panic. How would I give up whole wheat bread and my favorite cereals and cream-based soups? How was I going to cook for a family if I couldn’t use flour? How were we going to ever afford the extra cost of gluten-free products? And how would this new eating style affect food related social functions with our family, friends, and neighbors?
Thankfully, a dear friend—who also has celiac disease and who is a mom to two children with celiac disease and Type 1 diabetes—mentored me through the process. She reassured me that, thanks to the gluten-free trend (whether it was justified or not), there were lots of options—many more than she had had when she had first been diagnosed. She was right. There are a lot of options now. Personally, I’m really thankful that Cheerios are finally gluten-free. I’m also glad that they make better tasting gluten-free tortillas that are actually big enough for “normal” enchiladas, burritos, and tacos. And, I’m grateful that my husband can still enjoy desserts and other treats that he used to miss out on. Still, I have mixed feelings about the gluten-free trend and the messages that consumers are believing about gluten, wheat, and other grains. Click on the link a few examples of statements that are sometimes confusing or misleading. Do you know the answers?