Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Little Rant About Gluten-Free Foods, in Three Acts

Act One: In Which We Explore Gluten-Free Replacements

If you are Gluten-Intolerant, you may have passed through a phase of dismay:

"No more pizza!? No toast?! No cookies, ever?!?!" you may have said.

"Just buy gluten-free", you may have been told.

"Phew", you may have thought. Until you saw the price of gluten-free replacement products (pizza crusts, bread, cookies...), and your number one health problem was no longer gluten intolerance, but heart failure - a four dollar cookie?!?!?! A nine dollar pizza crust!?!?!

"It's for my health - I'll suck it up", you may have thought.

And then you looked at the ingredient list. Now, I am willing to pay a pretty penny for a nice, organic grass-fed steak, ripe, organic cherries, and local, organic vegetables. I will also pay a premium for organic dairy. Where I draw the line is paying a premium for crap. Yes, that's right, that replacement food you are eating is filled with crap.

So why don't health care professionals teach healthful eating and promote real-food diets? One can eat fully satisfying, nutritious meals that do not include gluten or gluten-free replacements (that, let's be honest, most often taste like crap. Because that's what's in them.).

Case in point: On my lunch plate today - gazpacho (a thick, cold tomato soup), grilled lemon-pepper chicken breast, and an avocado salad. I'm full, everything was good and easy to make, and nothing was a replacement.

You're probably wondering about treats. Without getting into how treats have become staples of our diet and how we would do well to redefine "treat", I will just say that there are lots of recipes for fabulous sweets that do not include gluten. My mainstay is, which I've written about here.

Act Two: In Which the Celiac is Charged Extra

When you're out, you may find gluten-free options on a menu, and let's face it - sometimes you DO just really want to eat a pizza or a hamburger in a restaurant. Too bad you have to pay more for it! Why is there a surcharge for gluten-free substitutes? Do restaurants think everyone is going to jump on the gluten-free train and they'll end up loosing money? Doubtful. The problem is that gluten intolerance is not always considered serious. Imagine if you were charged extra because you were allergic to peanuts. Ludicrous. Trust me, restaurant people: gluten intolerance and celiac disease are real things and they are not fun. It is also not fun when you say you gave me a gluten-free bun but actually forgot to make the switch.

Act Three: In Which I Get my Hate on for the "Gluten-free" Label

I hate that label. In Spain, they've gone crazy - why would you put that on yogurt? Yogurt should never contain gluten. Chips should not contain gluten. Julienned carrots should really, really not contain gluten. Wheat and other grains have been used as cheap fillers for way too long. Let's get back to real, people! And let's keep this label for special breads or crackers which traditionally would contain gluten.

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