Is the gluten free diet a fad or a truly important healthful diet? I have two opposing opinions, both of which are probably right.
I have been gluten-free for over twenty years, so you can be sure that for me, this diet is not a fad. However “everyone” seems to be jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon these days. Gluten-free is main stream. Is this a good thing? Yes and no. Here’s why I think this:
The Advantages of the Gluten-Free Fad
In many ways, the more gluten-free options, the better. Many restaurants have dedicated gluten-free menus, or at least an allergy chart which helps you choose (hopefully) safe orders. Supermarkets have entire gluten-free sections of varying sizes, and these sections are getting bigger and more comprehensive all the time.
The level of awareness itself has grown by leaps and bounds – from literally none outside a very small and isolated group of people, to practically everyone, at least everyone living in major centers.
All the choices and awareness helps immeasurably in following a gluten -free diet. It is no longer a chore to eat out. I can buy treats instead of having to make them myself. Live has become easier and my level of stress around food has dropped.
This is all driven by a growing awareness of celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and gluten allergy. If you have any of these conditions, then you health and well-being depend on a strict gluten-free diet. I don’t even put my gluten-free bread in a toaster that has been used for wheat-based bread for fear of cross-contamination. I can use all the help I can get.
How the Fad Endangers the Serious Gluten-Free Diet
The problem with the fad part of the gluten free diet is that not everyone takes it as seriously as I need them to in order to eat safely. For example, I ate at East Side Mario’s in Sudbury, where they have a reduced gluten-free menu that is barely adequate. While they promise gluten-free food, it is a half-hearted attempt, and they ended up serving salad that had the croutons removed (I found part of one at the bottom of my salad bowl, after I had nearly finished the salad) rather than a gluten-free, crouton-free salad.
The gluten-free fad provides a false awareness. Yes, people have heard of the diet, but not everyone gets how serious it really is.
Some brands are not clear about which of their products are gluten-free and which aren’t. You may think a brand is gluten-free, but then accidentally grab one of their other wheat-based products by mistake. This has happened to me more than once, with disastrous results.
There is also debate over oats: can they be gluten-free or not? If you think not, as I do, then you have to watch for food that is labeled gluten-free, but contains oats and is therefor not what you should be eating.
In short, the popularity of the gluten free diet means those of us who are serous about it are back to being very careful, checking ingredients, and carefully cross-examining waiters, but now we have to watch for false confidence in a potentially fake gluten-free meal.
Does any of this ring true for you? Perhaps you disagree? Please leave a comment and share your experience, opinion or question.