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Gluten free to be, you and me

Trader Joe's on Preston Road in Plano offers a large assortment of gluten free products throughout their store.
Trader Joe's on Preston Road in Plano offers a large assortment of gluten free products throughout their store.
Leeanne Rebic Hay

It seems like there has been an explosion of foods in TV commercials, on supermarket shelves, and on restaurant menus advertised as ‘gluten-free’ or marked with ‘GF’ these days. Many people wonder what the fuss is all about, and some just think it is a crazy diet fad. Yet for those of us who have sensitivity to gluten (like an allergy), these are lifelines to 'normal' eating.

Non-Specific Gluten Sensitivity – or NSGS for short – is the fancy name for people with this condition. (It is not Celiac disease.) Gluten is found mostly in wheat and products that contain wheat. Many people find that in as little as one week of not eating gluten, their symptoms of stomach pain and severe gastro-intestinal distress disappear. Over a longer period of time, what many of them find is one little side affect…weight gain. Wonder why?

With an office in Plano, Angela Lemond, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, reveals that many packaged gluten free foods contain white rice flour as their primary ingredient. White rice flour is digested and metabolized just like white sugar. Eating an abundance of sugar-like carbs often contribute to significant weight gain (see www.lemondnutrition.com).

If you are new to eating gluten-free food or just want to learn more about it, you must become a snoop. In supermarkets, that means being one of those people who stands in the aisles and reads labels. Some products will clearly display the words ‘Gluten-Free’ on the front of their packaging.

Many others will be gluten free, but will not. Some product ingredient labels will shock you when you read that there is gluten in them. (Example: Many salad dressings and sauce mixes use monosodium glutamate or MSG as a thickening ingredient. If you see any part of the word ‘gluten’ in an ingredient label, cross that product off of the gluten free list.)

Certain products in the supermarket are naturally made without gluten like corn tortilla chips. However, companies do add flavorings and toppings (like ‘nacho cheese’ which you would think would be only a dairy product) to diversify their products. A nacho cheese corn tortilla chip made by a well-known manufacturer contains gluten. Sigh! Yet, there are terrific substitutions if you take the time to read labels.

Trader Joe’s Supermarket at 2400 Preston Road in Plano will give anyone a FREE complete list of every product in the store that is made without gluten. They also use shelf tags that will identify products in their stores with the symbol ‘GF’, and in their monthly flyer will they promote their gluten free products in addition to their other items.

Trader Joe’s also has its own private label nacho cheese flavor tortilla chips that are made without gluten, are delicious and reasonably priced. If there isn’t a TJ’s near you, consider making the drive to the closest one to you. You will be amazed at what you can find there and how little it costs to eat healthfully and well. For locations visit: www.traderjoes.com

It would be great if all companies would inform and support their customers like this. Since they don’t, this is the goal of this column - to find companies, products, and places that have gluten-free goodness - and tell you about them each week. Whether in my neighborhood of Plano, Texas or wherever I may travel (both literally and virtual), there’s a big gluten-free world out there to explore, and I want to share it with you.