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. meetup.com
• 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 email@example.com