Gluten-Free: Trends and Muddy Waters

19 Aug 2010, Posted by Jennifer Iannolo in news & buzz

Photo by Elephi PelephiGluten-free is everywhere. I saw it in every aisle at this year’s Fancy Food Show, which was encouraging, but made me wary at the same time. Tuesday’s Toronto Star echoed my thoughts.

Remember that low-fat thing? Everyone thought fat was the culprit adding unwanted pounds to our tummies and thighs — until everyone realized that those products screaming “LOW-FAT” were filled with extra sugars, unhealthy carbs and glue-like substances to make up for the missing texture. Guess what’s going to happen to gluten-free when Big Food gets its hands on the genre? I’ve already passed over the “Wonder Breads” of gluten-free, which are sickly sweet and have a grotesque, soft-sticky texture.

For those of us who must eat this way by necessity, or will soon need to, this muddies the waters terribly, and people suddenly faced with a life-changing health decision may find themselves in over their heads. When I’m looking for a gluten- or dairy-free product, I look first to manufacturers who have a reason for being so — typically it’s because someone in their family, or they themselves, have become ill. Same goes for restaurants. There is a vested interest in creating a product or dish that not only tastes good, but is also resplendent with health benefits.

Big Food just wants your dollars. All 4 billion of them.

Having said all of that, I firmly believe in caveat emptor — but I also feel compelled to help consumers make that decision based on solid, unbiased information with the goal of health. And as someone who has stood, overwhelmed, in the grocery aisle, I know that this is one big honking task to take on. That’s what Zenfully Delicious is for, but holy hell is there a lot of work ahead. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is already doing a great job, so I’ll stick to the bigger issues.

So until the new site launches, I encourage you to read your supermarket labels. Know what all the gooey and unhealthy additives are, and be on the lookout for them. We’ll be doing product reviews to help you with the process, but for now, keep it natural!

Photo by Elephi Pelephi