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Gluten-free menus: embracing the craze!

By Katya Baxter, Nutritionist,

Call it a trend, a fad, or a diet, but gluten-free fare IS a big deal. One in one hundred thirty three individuals in the US claims to have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Not only that, but between 2006 and 2010, sales of gluten-free products in the US have been skyrocketing at an annual rate of 30%, and are predicted to reach $5 billion by 2015 (

Whether we want to or not, we have to embrace the gluten-free phenomenon.

Two weeks ago at the NRA show I had the chance to walk down the ‘health foods’ isle.  I realized that about three quarters of it was dedicated to gluten-free products!

As careful as I try to be when it comes to anything processed, the reality is that we will never be able to completely eliminate processed food from our daily life. And given that it is rather difficult to find a good-tasting specialty packaged food that caters to a particular dietary habit (vegan patties, rice crackers, zero-calorie pasta, anyone?), I am always on the lookout for those hidden gems that pleasantly surprise my taste buds.

This year I was thrilled to find even more great gluten-free breads, flours, pastas, tortillas, energy bars, cookies, cakes, chips, and even such pre-mixed items as soups and sauces! And not only great-tasting, but made from reasonably clean ingredients. My top favorite brands are:

Now that more and more packaged gluten-free foods are pre-made and better-tasting, it only takes a small tweak in the menu, and, voilà, you have a gluten-free option!

As a ‘professional eater’ and a frequent restaurant-goer, I no longer see a reason why a restaurant would not offer at least one gluten-free dish (of course, there are exceptions). Food manufacturers are coming out with great-tasting gluten-free products, and the notion that gluten-free pizza tastes like cardboard is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Offering gluten-free options on the menu makes sense for everyone – it gives the culinary team an opportunity to learn, creates a new revenue stream, and certainly makes all those gluten-free folks happy and coming back for more.

What keeps you from putting a gluten-free option on your menu?

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