My friend and I took a road trip with our kids a few weeks ago to spend the day at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool. After a full day of swimming, sun, and realizing our brown bag food was all gone, we stopped at a small market for snacks . I was craving potato chips, a treat I love but try to avoid. Anyway, we decided junk food was going to be a sweet splurge for the ride home and began to search the potato chip aisle. I was amazed at all the bags of chips trying to disguise themselves as healthy; organic, all natural, and especially the ones marked gluten free. I’m sorry but gluten free potato chips do not make you healthy.
Gluten Free is a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry
Americans spent seven billion dollars on gluten free foods last year. For the one percent of the population who suffer from celiac disease, a gluten free diet is necessary to prevent gastrointestinal distress and other inflammatory problems. However, while only a small percentage of people are truly gluten intolerant, almost 30 percent of people say they are trying to eat gluten free.
I do agree that eating copious amounts of bread and pasta can make anyone feel bloated and lethargic, but does that mean we are sensitive to gluten or that we ate too much? Spending double the price to buy gluten free chips, cookies, crackers, and lasagna isn’t going to make anyone healthier if they don’t control portion size and have a variety of nutritious foods to go along with all the gluten free goodies.
Gluten Free Deja Vu
I am maybe a bit more sensitive to the diet of the day bandwagon because my mother jumped on every diet fad imaginable when I was a child. From sugar free to low fat to Slim Fast, you never knew when our whole pantry might be replaced with the latest diet craze. More recently, we’ve seen low carb, Paleo, and even raw foods become popular. Gluten free is not original in concept but does seem to offer a new bonanza of marketing options for companies taking advantage of the latest trend.
Being Gluten Free Without Breaking the Bank
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness estimates that eventually 50 to 60 percent of the population will be diagnosed with celiac disease. If that holds true, many more of us might be looking to go gluten free.
If you’ve done the homework and feel a gluten free diet might benefit you, keep in mind that vegetables, fruits, dairy, and non-processed meats are all naturally gluten free. Snack foods are generally not healthy, whether they are gluten free or not. Filling your kitchen up with processed, gluten free foods is going to cost a fortune and probably isn’t going to make you any healthier. A balanced diet with a few snacks thrown in here and there is the best way to achieve lifelong nutritional health.
If you do suffer from true gluten intolerance, I know many groceries offer gluten free flour. While it might not be as convenient, preparing food from scratch is almost always cheaper than buying processed. Anyone can save money by cooking at home.
Will Gluten Free Last?
It remains to be seen if gluten free will become a long term way of eating or go the way of the Atkin’s or Scarsdale diets. If you believe some researchers, more and more people will be diagnosed as gluten intolerant. Others believe gluten has been here for a long time, and it’s our processed diets that are causing the problem. Either way, don’t jump on the gluten free bandwagon just because it’s popular. If you want to eat a healthy diet, limiting wheat might be part of that plan, but make sure the foods you put into your body are nutritious and not potato chips disguised as healthy because of a gluten free label.
Have you enjoyed benefits of a gluten free diet? Do you think people associate gluten free with being healthy?