HEALTHY EATING: ‘Gluten free’ new sign of the times


There’s a new sign of the times in nutrition, and it’s “gluten free.”

Although U.S. dietary guidelines for the majority of us advise eating more whole grains, a small yet significant percentage of the population has good reason to proclaim, “Wait! That’s not so easy.”

An estimated one of 133 people cannot eat wheat, rye, barley and perhaps oats because they suffer from a gluten intolerance that can lead to a diagnosis of celiac disease.

Gluten, a protein found in some grains, causes a reaction in the small intestine leading to a host of serious symptoms including abdominal cramping, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, anemia and weight loss or gain, and can cause long-term damage to the intestinal tract.

Often misdiagnosed initially, an estimated 3 million people have celiac disease. Avoiding gluten-containing foods stops the symptoms and can give the body time to heal.

However, eating a gluten-free diet is not as simple as it sounds, because it means saying bye-bye to such basics as pizza, birthday cake and beer. And when dining out, you have to trust your meal to someone else.

Even a stray crouton in a salad can trigger an intestinal flare-up.

The increased demand for gluten-free menu options is being taken seriously at a growing number of Atlanta restaurants, including Shaun’s and Park 75 at the Four Seasons.

Several national chains such as Outback, Carrabba’s, Carino’s and Wildfire offer gluten-free menus, too. Wildfire’s menu has a full range from appetizers to desserts, including gluten-free beer and vodka.

The most important ingredient, however, is attention to staff training in the nuances of preparing and serving gluten-free foods.

Gluten-free hamburger buns, for instance, are toasted on a separate grill, and there are tongs and cutting boards designated for gluten-free menu prep.

Finding gluten-free cooking ingredients can take dedication, too. Wildfire’s menu planners quiz food manufacturers. With soy sauce, some brands are gluten-free and some aren’t.

Then there’s all-important attention to taste. Diners at Wildfire can dig in to cedar-planked salmon and celebrate with flourless chocolate cake.

The Four Seasons hotel invites guests to enjoy gluten-free sandwiches and scones for afternoon tea.

A great resource for finding gluten-free menu options for dining out is www.celiacdisease.

Gluten-free facts:

• Avoid grains of wheat (durum, semolina, kamut, spelt, triticale), rye, barley and all derivatives.

• Oats are tested individually.

• Allowed grains are rice, corn, soy, potato, tapioca, bean sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, arrowroot, amaranth and nut flours.

Other foods and ingredients containing gluten:

• Breading, broths, coating mixes, communion wafers, croutons, imitation bacon, imitation seafood, marinades, pastas, processed meats, roux, sauces, gums, self-basting poultry, stuffing, soup bases and thickeners.

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at

9 comments Add your comment


June 30th, 2009
9:25 pm

It’s about time. My wife and I both have a history of celiac in our families, and she’s been diagnosed with a gluten intolerance. It’s incredibly difficult to find gluten free options, and removes a lot of your everyday favorites. A lot of things use soybean oil, which contains gluten, and other gluten containing products. I’m just glad there are more restaurants opening up options for it now.


June 30th, 2009
9:35 pm

Too bad Marcus and Lisa got cancelled. You could learn a lot about gluten from them.


June 30th, 2009
9:55 pm

There’s some very good info in this article, so thanks for that. I’ve eaten at Shaun’s and a number of other restaurants that are starting to cater to those of us who suffer from celiac disease and I’m very appreciative of the concern.
I was at the Taqueria del Sol last week and the person taking my order steered me away from something I would normally have ordered telling me she thought there was an ingredient in it that had gluten. That didn’t happen just a year ago.
Kroger has a remarkably good line of gluten free foods. It is possible to find gluten free options at a “regular” grocery store.


June 30th, 2009
10:28 pm

Gluten free bakery opening soon in Atlanta. Send your e-mail address to to be included on taste testings.


July 1st, 2009
7:42 am

It’s actually a funny thing…the whole gluten free swing.
A lot of people seem to be struggling with gluten intolerance…I myself having Crohn’s Disease.
One of my favorite, safe, things that I eat is gluten free pasta.

I stumbled across this company that makes amazing gluten free pasta. From what I understand, they just started shipping nationally, which is pretty cool. They’re based in Connecticut and since that’s where I am I don’t have to worry about the shipping…but they’re all made fresh and packaged with dry ice.

You definitely can’t tell they’re gluten free!
So for many of you looking for good tasting gluten free options like I am, consider DePuma’s Gluten Free Pasta.

Hope this helps! But yeah, great article!

Carolyn O'Neil

July 1st, 2009
9:35 am

I love reading all of your comments. Keep ‘em coming. Very helpful information for all. As you know, there’s only so much that fits into
one of my columns. So this is great way to add details.


July 1st, 2009
8:24 pm

This is great news. I’ve had Celiac Disease for over 4 years and eating out is not easy. It’s really neat to be able to go to a restaurant that has a gluten free menu, makes me feel almost normal.


July 6th, 2009
5:06 pm

I’m compelled to correct poster #1.

Soybean oil does NOT contain gluten.


July 8th, 2009
12:09 pm

Thank you, Tom. I do indeed stand corrected. It was soy sauce, not soybean oil, that I was thinking of when I wrote that. And soy sauce only has gluten because a lot of soy sauces have wheat as an added ingredient.