Healthy and Happy Gluten Free Dining

 


Confessions of a Red-Wine Lover

As the year draws to a close, more and more will be making plans to socialize, dine out, or visit relatives and loved ones.

The pitfalls will be multiple: dining, shopping, quick bites, and navigating family meals…Oh boy. This is getting interesting, yes?

What are some of the best methods of dealing with these challenges?

Lets start with dining out and get-togethers this week…

According to Business Week, restaurants are making some very bold and commendable attempts to keep up with the growing numbers of diners seeking gluten-free options.

California Pizza Kitchen took some heavy hitting after announcing gluten-free pizza crust, and um…ahem… forgetting to mention the toppings might not be. Gee.

They rectified this dangerous and business-damaging decision by devising gluten-free facilities with certifications.

Noodles and Co., Texas Roadhouse, and Dunkin Donuts have all made forays into the gluten-free arena with varying success, among others.

Barley-based “Omission Beer” was introduced and became even more controversial with endorsement from Celiac Sprue Association. This apparently made for fun times and provocative comments…

And generally speaking, the National Restaurant Association saw gluten-free meals rise to 5th highest trend in 2013:

Its been a busy year folks!

So what does this mean for gluten-free diners?

One can expect to have more choices, albeit not necessarily better ones just yet. As the Business Week article brings out, we can expect some false starts and serious fact-finding in order as more attempts are made to satisfy gluten-free diners. The reason being, is because not all requesting gluten-free are either Celiac or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive (NCGS) individuals. As a matter of fact, the disparity at present between medical need and diet choice is huge. Nearly 30% of American diners are seeking gluten-free foods in some form, whereas only about 3 million people have been diagnosed as Celiac, and 18 million as NCGS.

The one-in-every-three adults is what really got the ball rolling and turned some industry heads… This ‘trend’ does not appear to be abating any time soon.

2013 has certainly made some strides and put at least one or two good wrinkles in the fabric of gluten-free time…

As for dining choices, the watch word is “CAREFUL”.

As we all know NPD Group released some industry-rocking and long-overdue data recently on the gluten-free demand. Citing at least 200 million restaurant requests for gluten-free in the U.S. in 2012, the press release pointed to a large uptick in consumer demand for dining without that pesky protein.

Diners will need to ask even more pointed questions, and do more research online and over the phone, before plunking down hard-earned money at the table on food. This is especially the case if they have serious medical reason for requesting gluten-free.

Courtesy G. Portokalakis - Crete Greece
Courtesy G. Portokalakis – Crete Greece

Gluten-free food is not an issue folks may gloss over. Half-stepping may be fine for diet watchers, but Celiacs and Gluten-Sensitive individuals will need to pull out their magnifying glasses and be more circumspect in choices, as well-meaning attempts may misfire or simply fall short.

This does not mean one should cower in a corner at home! The industry is progressing and food professionals, are in fact professional. (Most are!:)

Food providers will also need to be careful, of course. But not so much that they would go so far as to discriminate! I’m hearing of more and more diners, (and lets face it, don’t we all have to eat!?), being simply turned away because the staff and management are either too clueless or too callous to ensure a gluten-free option. Tsk, tsk.

It is not rocket science. As my friends in Crete would say, “It only takes a little goodwill.”… Anyone worth their salt in the “hospitality” industry would feel the same…

Times are indeed changing, and salad is no longer the only thing on the gluten-free menu… Look for more soups, stews, and root vegetable dishes this season. Be careful of nondescript thickened or “creamed” soups. Steer towards soups or stews made with stocks and hearty ingredient if details are not forthcoming. When in doubt, roasting, grilling (yes grilling) or broiling, steaming, and baking have a tendency to be safer than some fried foods or items merely given a quick dredge (in some kind of flour) and a saute.

At family gatherings, it becomes much tougher, because of the emotion and nostalgia so deeply woven into our eating habits.

The unfortunate and slightly ungainly “biscuit-topping” trend will have to take a back seat to:

the main entrée (usually some kind of roast or roast vegetable)

salads

vegetable side dishes

and hopefully a gluten-free dessert.

Mousse, puddings, fruit salads, and custards are generally safer. 

The best practice is to bring something delicious you can eat and share! Aside from creating goodwill, this is a great teaching opportunity without having to go preachy at the same time! Let’s face it, when it comes to eating, we are hard-wired to relax and enjoy ourselves! It shouldn’t be stressful!

As always watch out for over-processed ingredients, canned soup ‘homemade’ casseroles, and yes, Aunt Mabel’s fruitcake may get the ix-nay. Sorry. But the good news is that eating gluten-free creates new horizons for everyone, and the more information we share, the better we get at this thing…

Cool, huh?

Next we’ll talk gluten-free travel.

Happy Dining!

From Deelish!

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