Following a gluten free diet is easier than ever. Those with a gluten allergy or celiac disease can often find gluten free foods at the supermarket.
For example, a line of gluten free food called Irresistibles is now available at Metro, a chain of supermarkets in Ontario and Quebec. When a supermarket starts carrying a gluten free house brand, you know that the gluten free diet has hit the mainstream.
A gluten free diet can be at its most challenging when you walk into a supermarket hungry, and can’t find anything to eat, or so it seems.
Actually, supermarkets have always been full of gluten-free food, its just that it needs some preparation, and many are used to meals that are ready-made or at least partially prepared.
Gluten-free prepared food has been the big challenge, excluding the much bigger challenge of eating gluten free at restaurants and friend’s houses.
For example, I used to be able to walk into a supermarket, and walk out with a loaf of bread, some cold cuts or cheese, and a tomato or two. Going wheat-free made this impossible. Yes, there are rice cakes, but they just aren’t the same. They fail to be sustaining and break easily.
When I discovered rice crackers and hummus, my wheat-free world changed. Finally, there was something I could eat directly out of a supermarket.
Still, all meals had to be prepared from scratch. Not that I mind, I’ve always prepared meals from scratch. But others prefer some conveniences, and I don’t mind conveniences either!
Gluten Free Ingredients Vs. Gluten Free Food
When looking at gluten-free food you can buy in a supermarket, it is important to distinguish between gluten-free ingredients, for example meat and vegetables, and gluten free prepared food or partially prepared food, such as baked chicken or Kraft Dinner.
All fresh meat, vegetables and fruit are safe. Cold cuts may not be. You have to be careful with sausages for example, which often have wheat as a filler.
Kraft Dinner is based on gluten, so replacing that with a gluten free variety for those with a gluten allergy or celiac disease is most welcome to some.
There is a big gray area: food ingredients such as non-gluten grains or even dried fruit and nuts, that have been contaminated by the handling and packaging equipment. While theoretically this can lead to cross-contamination, in practice it is hard to know if you’re risking a major gluten influx or nothing at all. But it can be risky.
Gluten Free Food Up-Side: Convenience
Prepared gluten-free food in the supermarket has big convenience advantages for those with celiac or a gluten allergy.
Not only does this save time, it alleviates the stressful question “now that I can’t eat gluten, what can I eat?” It can also really help with hosts who want to offer their guests gluten-free food but are unsure how to proceed.
A note of caution though: a host may feel they are offering gluten free food, but cross-contaminate in the kitchen.
Gluten Free Food Down-Side: Unhealthy Food
The biggest problem with offering prepared food for a gluten free diet is that it opens the door to unhealthy food, in other words, over-processed food with questionable ingredients.
Without prepared gluten-free foods, you’re pretty much forced to make your own food from scratch. This is time consuming, and painful for those who hate to cook, but generally leads to healthy foods made from basic ingredients.
The increased availability of gluten-free foods is a positive sign. Finally, the large minority of celiacs in the population (approximately 1%) are being catered for. Newly diagnosed celiacs and those who discover a gluten allergy can much more easily find something to eat.
The area that most needs attention, guaranteed gluten-free basic ingredients such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit etc. needs more attention. This will probably come as awareness grows about the increasingly large number of people on a gluten free diet.
What are your experiences with gluten free food in the supermarket?