Having CELIAC DISEASE, I must admit, I was thrilled when I heard that the GLUTEN-FREE industry is growing at 20 % a year. I spend a lot of time in grocery stores buying food, and doing research for my gluten-free cooking show The Missing Ingredient so these figures came as no surprise to me. It is evident by the ever growing number of new gluten-free products on the shelves in most mainstream grocery stores chains, such as A&P. The Gluten-free Gold Rush as I like to call it, is underway as major food manufacturers fight for gluten-free shelve space in order to get your gluten-free food dollar.
At first, I thought this was great news for all of us that have to follow a gluten-free diet because it is medical must. Then I began to read the ingredient lists on many of these products and I became truly alarmed. Those of you that watch my cooking show or have heard me lecture know I am all about the home cooked meal. I believe that any prepared food that you can buy, you can make yourself. I research gluten-free, prepared food products for those people that write to me and say they don’t like to cook and would rather open a package and call it breakfast, lunch or dinner.
In an attempt to get certain textures and flavors, food manufacturers are putting numerous ingredients in these gluten-free foods that have little or no nutritional value. If you have Celiac disease, you have a digestive disease and have difficulty absorbing vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. So why choose something packed with fillers and additives that are hard for a healthy person to digest. Just because it says gluten-free on the front of the package doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
I watch people in the grocery store just look at the front of a package, see the words gluten-free on the front, and just throw the item in their shopping cart. If you have Celiac Disease or a food allergy you have already incorporated the practice of reading food labels into your grocery store experience so why stop reading ingredient lists now just because it says gluten-free on the front of the package.
We are all painfully aware of the mistakes that were made in the conventional prepared food industry and the price society is paying for these mistakes, such as childhood obestity, diabettes and heart disease. While the gluten-free industry is in its infancy lets make sure we don’t allow the same mistakes to be made. Knowledge is power!
We pay a fortune for gluten-free products and therefore we need to demand that manufactures use healthy ingredients that are beneficial to good health or we won’t buy their products. If manufacturers expect us to pay $6.99 to $10.99 for a loaf of frozen gluten-free bread then they should be using nutritious grains such as Quinoa and Amaranth to justify the high retail price they are charging for their products. I don’t want to eat bread that has cheap starches or modified corn starch, etc as their main ingredients instead of variety of healthy grains.
In our excitement of seeing more, and more, gluten-free products on the shelves don’t stop reading the food ingredient lists. Know where you and your family are getting your calories and nutrition from. Also, as the gluten free industry grows, lets not forget to support all the mom and pop companies that have been making quality gluten-free products for all of us when the big guys weren’t interested.
Stay Healthy, Read the labels!