Did you know that most oatmeal found in stores contains wheat? Or that most soy sauces contain wheat? Having started a gluten-free diet three months ago, I’m now familiar with these sneaky facts, and with what a challenge going gluten-free can be. There’s been much debate about whether the gluten-free diet is beneficial for everyone or just people with Celiac disease (which is thought to affect between 0.6% and 1% of the population worldwide1). But if you’re interested in trying a gluten-free diet, there are some things you may want to know first.

1.    Going gluten-free is still considered a fad. Many people don’t take you very seriously if you don’t have a gluten allergy or Celiac disease and still choose to go gluten-free. You’re ‘that person’ who needs to be catered to at dinner parties, or who calls restaurants ahead of time to ask ‘is there gluten in that?’ for every menu item. Not all restaurants are willing to cater to allergies, and fast food is pretty much off the table (although, that should be a good thing).

2.    It’s expensive. Unless you can afford to shop exclusively at Whole Foods or your local natural food store, you may be limited to shopping in tiny corners of your local grocery for pre-packaged food and baked goods. Gluten-free food can be extremely expensive (and some of it doesn’t even taste good!). I’m sad to admit I’ve paid $8.00 for a half-loaf of terrible, dry, crumbly bread. But I have also found some delicious gluten-free products (at more than double what the ‘regular’ option costs). There is a lot of trial and error involved.

3.    It’s time-consuming and labor intensive. I find myself spending a copious amount of time reading food labels. It’s shocking how often I’ll scan the entire ingredients list of a once beloved, seemingly gluten-free food only to see ‘wheat’ as the second last ingredient.  It’s also difficult to know what to eat. At the beginning of this challenge, I was eating popcorn for dinner out of laziness and confusion. But three months in I think I’ve finally got the hang of it: I’ve learned to create meal plans that are satisfying and don’t make me feel like I’m depriving myself of what I want to eat, and that I can share with my family without it being considered ‘weird.’

Going gluten-free hasn’t been easy, but I have felt the digestive benefits and have to admit that trying a whole new assortment of foods and recipes has been fun as well (like the well-received gluten-free chai latte cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese icing I made for my colleagues at AXON Toronto).

Now I’m waiting for the day I can just walk into a Starbucks and order a gluten-free muffin to go with my coffee. Fingers crossed this fad is here to stay.

Caroline Chin

References:

http://www.celiaccentral.org/celiac-disease-research-news/center-for-celiac-research-directors-update-celiac-disease-landscape-9093/

http://www.food.com/recipe/chai-latte-mini-cupcakes-gluten-free-446309