The Gluten-Free Truth – Who, Why and How!

GF_SymbolDuring the majority of my 24 years as a dietitian, the term “gluten-free” was not the buzzword it is today.  Even a decade ago, most people had never even heard of the word gluten. Now, I hear gluten-free discussed almost daily and can spot products throughout MARTIN’S Food Markets. While a gluten-free diet is not the best way for everyone to eat, it is important for an adult or child diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance/sensitivity.

Celiac disease (gluten sensitive enteropathy/celiac sprue) is a chronic autoimmune disorder of the intestine which interferes with the body’s ability to digest/absorb specific proteins known as “gluten.” Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley as well as hybrids of these grains such as spelt, triticale or kamut. For those with celiac or a gluten intolerance/sensitivity, these proteins must be avoided through careful day-to-day dietary management. In children, the symptoms of these conditions can affect everything from their digestive system to their mood, which makes adhering to a gluten-free diet imperative for some children to thrive. For the millions of Americans suffering from these conditions, beginning a lifelong gluten-free diet can seem challenging. The good news is that your local MARTIN’S is here to help!

Helpful hints for going gluten-free:

  • As a family, make a decision as to whether to go cold-turkey or ease into a gluten-free diet, as well as whether or not the whole family will be adhering to the diet or just the individual.
  • Look for MARTIN’S gluten-free shelf tags throughout the store. These tags are displayed immediately below gluten-free products. Thousands of Own Brands and national brand products are identified as gluten-free throughout the perishable and non-perishable departments!
  • If this diet is for a child, involve them in choosing and trying new gluten-free products by helping you spot the shelf-tag throughout the store. Once your family gets comfortable with a gluten-free diet, then you can start to be mindful about watching sugar content or looking for products with more fiber.
  • Read the label every time.  Recipes, distributors or ingredient sources can change. If in doubt, go without! Avoid foods if there is no ingredient list or call the food manufacturer if you are unsure the food is gluten-free.
  • Wheat-free is not necessarily gluten-free. Wheat-free products may contain rye, barley, spelt or other gluten-containing grains or gluten may be in hidden ingredients. Some naturally gluten-free grains such as oat or millet may be cross contaminated during growing, harvesting or processing.
  • Avoid cross-contamination from gluten-containing foods. Be mindful of products from bulk bins or salad bars as most cannot be guaranteed gluten-free. Store all gluten-free products in separate, covered containers with labels. Use a separate cutting board for gluten-free foods and prepare foods in an area away from gluten-containing ingredients. Buy separate containers of peanut butter and jam and have a separate butter dish for gluten-free users. Use squeeze bottles of condiments and keep separate toasters. 

MARTIN’S in-store nutritionists are here as a resource for learning about a gluten-free diet and finding gluten-free foods that will provide the nutrients you need to stay healthy!  To schedule a consultation or store tour, call Valerie Pulley, RDN at 804-364-3644 or Caroline Roessler, MS, RDN at 804-794-7074. For more healthy tips, visit the MARTIN’S website.

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