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Gluten-Free Eating Is a Huge Hassle!

By Samantha Koplik

     Everywhere I go I have to explain to people my strange meal choices. Cold cuts without bread is an odd lunch choice in many people's opinion, but for me this is nothing but ordinary. Eating gluten free is hard when glutenous snacks are still a consumer favorite. So many people don’t even realize what they are putting in their mouths. Half of my friends, family, and peers don't even know what gluten is, yet they know it’s popular. Why then, is gluten free eating becoming more popular, if most  people can’t even recognize what gluten is?


     When my facebook friends were asked to take an anonymous survey about gluten allergies in today’s society, only thirteen of them responded (instagram is more popular nowadays...or maybe nobody saw the link!!!) , so there is possible bias in the following data and percentages. When asked why gluten free eating is more popular, 30.43% of people agreed that the gluten free lifestyle is just a fad, 56.52% agreed the gluten free lifestyle is popular because of celiac disease and gluten sensitivities and 13% of people had no idea why gluten free eating has become popular. Gluten free lifestyles are more popular mainly because media has portrayed the diet as beneficial. Miley Cyrus even jumped on board with this new fad and tweeted, “For everyone calling me anorexic I have a gluten and lactose allergy. It's not about weight it's about health. Gluten is crapppp anyway!”.


      Although gluten free diets  are advertised as a healthy choice by many celebrities and food bloggers, many people, such as myself, have no choice but to eat lousy gluten free bread. I know if I had the choice I’d much rather eat goldfish and oreos over dry gluten free crackers.


     Often when glutenous foods are replicated without gluten, the texture is off. As a baking enthusiast, I have learned that gluten gives breads and cakes the elastic stretchy texture that binds everything together. Without gluten, everything just crumbles. Often to substitute for the absence of gluten a chemical called xanthan gum is used.


     Many people said they thought gluten free food would taste the same as regular glutenous food. While in my own experience this can sometimes be true, more often than not gluten free food has a different texture or flavor than foods containing wheat or barley. The naturally gluten free foods such as fruits and vegetables taste the same, but most of the processed foods in the gluten free industry are just not up to par.


     Furthermore, gluten is perceived as unhealthy but it’s truly harmless. Maybe gluten is perceived as unhealthy because It’s contained in so many processed foods. Many glutenous foods have health benefits that are overlooked. Almost all whole grains contain vitamins and fibers that are great for one’s health. Eating on a gluten free diet means you are steering clear from common, accessible and healthy foods, not just the “crapppp” Miley talks about.


     While the market is shifting to target people of all diets, not all restaurants are catering to the growing gluten free population. Some restaurants who do cater to the gluten free community don’t advertise it. The Olive Garden, for example, has gluten free pasta and a gluten free menu, but when people were asked  how gluten friendly it was, 41.67% of people said it was not gluten friendly at all. Although the breadsticks are tempting and are definitely not gluten free, the variety and the quality of the gluten free food is outstanding. It’s a shame no one knows!


     The Olive Garden is a special case though. Restaurants such as the Texas Road House or fast food industries such as McDonalds or KFC do not cater to gluten free customers. It’s a huge hassle to find food to eat on the go when the only options for gluten free consumers are sit down meals! Having to hold up a whole line of customers while looking through an allergen list is not an experience anyone should have to endure.


     Although gluten free eating has some health benefits, as it naturally omits processed foods from one’s diet, eating gluten free is not always healthy or convenient.  Hopefully the uneducated self taught nutritionists out there will stop forcing themselves to eat inconvenient and less satisfying meals.


     From seven years of my own experience, I know gluten free eating is a hassle. Eating this diet for popularity reasons is not logical and it should not be pursued unless it is for health reasons such as allergies.

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