The Gluten-free Diet is Not a Fad

Everyone knows that American Food companies tend to follow the latest diet trends, so it’s no surprise that gluten-free product releases have risen substantially over the last two years. In fact, there are so many products rolling out that it’s hard to keep up with them all. As with any market, most companies are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon to make money, as well they should. Also, with any market, some companies are in it for the long haul and others are in it only as long as they are making the amount of money they deem necessary to stay in the game.

In the world of food manufacturing, most companies rely on “experts” to tell them what the trends are for grocery shoppers. For quite a while now, the gluten-free market has been the fastest growing segment of the food industry – growing an average of 28 percent per year since 2004. As with anything on a roll, it either slows down or in some cases – comes to a stop.  Think about the Atkins craze from several years back. There are only so many gluten-free consumers and if every company is competing for their business, there is less money to be made by each one. Therefore, the market might be starting to correct itself, just a bit.

Some companies are learning that putting “gluten-free” on the front of a package might not be the best idea. At least, it’s not a good idea if they are also trying to market the product to mainstream consumers. I’d be happy to see Chex cereals move “gluten-free” to the back of the box if it means more gluten consumers will buy them. The Strawberry Chex cereal was discontinued about as fast as it was introduced, due to “lack of interest”. According to General Mills, there are no plans to discontinue the other gluten-free Chex cereals presently.

Someone recently sent me a very interesting online article that I hope people will take the time to read in full here. Basically, someone quoted in the article states that the gluten-free market might be a house of cards just waiting to fall. Yes – that is what this trend forecaster “expert” says. I really wanted to see how others felt about the article and Nancy Lapid at About.com has an interesting perspective on the situation. While it’s doubtful that the gluten-free market is about to fall like a house of cards, companies listening to the advice of this trend forecaster might jump out of the gluten-free market shortly after they’ve entered it – or they might not jump in at all. That is not good news for any of us.

We have come so far in the four short years that I’ve been gluten-free that I can hardly believe how great things are for the gluten-free set. People that live in larger cities still have many more choices than those in smaller communities, of course. Cities offer more gluten-free dining options as well. However, online ordering makes it possible for everyone to buy exceptional gluten-free products and prices continue to come down. That trend can continue as long as there is enough competition in the market to keep companies from getting greedy. In some cases, gluten-free products do not cost more than gluten products. Examples of this are some soups from Progresso and yogurts from Yoplait. Both of those lines are owned by General Mills.

Let us know what you think about the “expert” opinion of this trend forecaster by leaving a comment below. Do you think the gluten-free market is about to dissolve as quickly as it surfaced?

Gluten-free Offerings from Tandoor Chef

tandoorichickenwingsAbout two years ago I was investigating the natural food section of the freezer at Publix and came across several items from Tandoor Chef which did not seem to contain any gluten ingredients. I called the company to inquire about the gluten-free status of said items and was told that they could not claim that any of their products were gluten-free due to processing practices, etc. You know the drill. Skip to a few weeks back when someone representing Tandoor Chef contacted me about the new gluten-free line-up from the company.

chickenpadthaiUnfortunately, I do not care for most Indian cuisine I’ve tried in the past. For those of you that enjoy it, you might want to check out the fairly extensive gluten-free items that are now offered by Tandoor Chef. When is the last time you picked up frozen seasoned chicken wings and didn’t see wheat in the ingredients? I’ve never done so, but in fact, the Tandoori Chicken Wings are now labeled gluten-free! That is the only offering in the appetizer category, but it’s pretty rare to find frozen gluten-free appetizers of any kind that are actually labeled as such.

For entrée’s, the offerings are quite impressive. Check out the full line-up:

  • Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Daj Rajastani
  • Chicken Biryani
  • Chicken Curry
  • Chicken Tandoori with Spinach
  • Chicken Masala
  • Paneer Tikka Masala
  • Channa Masala
  • Chicken Pad Thai
  • Palak Paneer
  • Palak Tikka Masala
  • Vegetable Pad Thai

It appears from the website information that ALL of the chutneys are gluten-free:

  • Hot Coriander Chutney
  • Mint Chutney
  • Tamarind Date Chutney
  • Coconut Chutney
  • Madras Tomato Chutney

chickentikkamasalaMany of the above listed items are products that I called to inquire about way back when. The items were likely gluten-free at the time, but since the company really could not confirm that fact, they chose to be safe rather than sorry. While I’m glad to see companies trying to be responsible regarding the safety of their products for the allergen community, there is a way to go overboard. I’ve been noticing some “may contain wheat” allergen statements on items that are also marked “no gluten ingredients”. How can both statements be on the same package? If there is a chance that wheat is in something, then it might actually contain gluten and should not be labeled “no gluten ingredients”.

Tandoor Chef products might be a little less costly than other some other frozen gluten-free entrees. The cost of the line was one of the reasons I wanted to check the gluten-free status in the firs place. I was not checking because I wanted to try the items personally, but wanted others in my area to know if any of the meals were gluten-free. Indian cuisine is particularly gluten-free friendly so it makes perfect since that Tandoor Chef made the decision to make gluten-free products available to the quickly growing gluten-free consumer market.

If any of our readers have tried these products, please let us know how they were in the comments below.

Gluten-free Travel Tips and Tricks

go picnic 2Spring break is coming up in our area soon. It seems that the place to go if you live in the Atlanta area is the beach. Most people with kids that we know go to Destin, FL for spring break. Like any other trip, some people on restricted diets tend to get anxious when it comes to traveling. Some people will actually go to great lengths to avoid travel when possible. However, more and more of us are not only traveling, we’re eating some great food along in the process. The days of it being unsafe to ever eat out if you have celiac disease are long gone, but it does require some planning to find the best places to dine out. Of course, there are no guarantees that a meal will be gluten-free, unless it’s being served in a completely gluten-free restaurant.

Even if you map out where you’re going to eat every meal while vacationing (or traveling for other reasons), there will be times when you need some type of food or snacks in between meal times. It’s less expensive – and less worrisome – to pack your own safe food for such occasions, than to worry about where to buy such items at your destination. It’s great that Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are popping up pretty much everywhere, but vacations tend to be more fun if they’re not full of stress about what you’re going to eat and when.

go picnic 1There are two great websites that cater to gluten-free consumers in need of travel sized foods. Minimus.biz now has a small gluten-free selection, but many items available there are actually gluten-free and not marked as such. Some of the dressings from Ken’s and Kraft are examples of such items. The ingredients are clearly listed for each item on the website and if you are unsure of the gluten-free status of an item, you can contact the manufacturer to confirm. Other examples of gluten-free items that are not necessarily in the “gluten-free section” on Minimus.biz are honey, mustard, mayo and bbq sauce packets – to name a few.

The most exciting travel food website at our house is Go Picnic. That site sells pre-packaged gluten-free “meals-in-a-box”. The two meals we rarely leave home without (for extended trips) are Explore Munch and Zesty Break. The Explore Munch meal contains a turkey pepperoni stick, Snapea Crisps, strawberry applesauce, Mrs. Mays Sunflower Crunch, white cheddar cheese and Surf Sweets gummy bears. The Zesty Break meal includes turkey pepperoni slices, Sheffa Zesty Snack Mix, dried apricots, asaigo gourmet cheese spread, Mary’s Gone Crackers, mine Larabar and a mini chocolate bar.

The gluten-free meals from Go Picnic are not only gluten-free but they are free of refined sugar, artificial ingredients and MSG. Though MSG is gluten-free, not everyone agrees on how healthy – or unhealthy – it it might be generally speaking. These meals are not only perfect for traveling, they are great for gluten-free kids. The boxed meals remind me of lunchables, which all contain gluten and therefore are off limits for gluten-free kids of all ages. All the individual items might be small enough to get through airport security, in case you are traveling by air. We take the food items out of the Go Picnic box in order to save room when packing. Since the meals include a folding spork, all you need to do is add a drink and you’re good to go!

Other easy-to-pack gluten-free travel snacks include energy bars, crackers, pretzels, cookies and dried fruit. Don’t forget to check out the Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide for places to eat in the U.S.!

Suggest a Restaurant & Win a Restaurant Guide

Help ButtonWe’re in the process of updating our Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide. (Can you believe its our 5th edition already!) We’ve already uncovered over 500 new leads and counting. We’d like to hear your suggestions, too. Submit your restaurant recommendation in our comments. We’ll research them for our upcoming guide…meanwhile, it’s a great forum to share your favorite restaurants with your fellow blog readers.

Please let us know the name of the restaurant, what city and state its in, and why you’re recommending recommending it — does it have a gluten-free menu, gluten-free beer, or is the staff super-knowledgeable about the diet?

When the new guide is out in the summer, we’ll choose 10 people at random to win a free copy!

Gluten-free Easter Candy and Baked Treats

spjellybeansHolidays that are connected to candy, including Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween, bring many people with food allergies or intolerances a lot of anxiety. Which candies are gluten-free and which are not almost seem to change with the seasons. Some traditional favorites in the original versions have remained gluten-free for a while, but some such items are not gluten-free when you find them in a mini form. Not one to be really into candy, once I went gluten-free, I found out which of the few things I like (but rarely have) were gluten-free and left it at that.

The original versions (in the standard size) of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, and Baby Ruth bars were all gluten-free four years ago and they still are today. One of the most famous Easter candies is Marshmallow Peeps. The traditional version of those funny looking treats are not only gluten-free, the package even bears gluten-free on the label these days. Make sure to read the label of all new Peeps products before purchasing. The gluten-free candy list over at Sure Living Foods is pretty comprehensive and our Gluten-Free Grocery Guide contains about seven pages of safe candy. Surf Sweets just introduced gluten-free jelly beans and they are also free of corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors. As candy goes, Surf Sweet products are pretty healthy and very tasty!

rainbowcake102
Shabtai-Gourmet Rainbow Squares

People looking for gluten-free baked treats for Easter might want to check out the many delicious offerings from Shabtai-Gourmet. The gluten-free, dairy-free and Kosher treats from this bakery are in a league of their own for products with those distinctions. The exceptional Raspberry and Apricot Roll cakes are good enough to serve to gluten eaters at a holiday brunch. They are very moist and perfectly sweet. We try to keep the apricot flavor in the freezer all year long. Items from this line hold up really when frozen and don’t take very long to thaw out.

Shabtai-Gourmet Marble Cake
Shabtai-Gourmet Marble Cake

The Marble Cake and Sponge cakes are also moist and delicious. The sponge cake works great for strawberry shortcake and is delicious plain! These cakes stay fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks. This tasty line of gluten-free baked goods is available at many health food stores. Check this store locator page to see if they are available at a store in your area. and the website offers FREE shipping on all orders to the 48 continental U.S. states.

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy yourself and eat fabulous food during holidays of any kind. There is no reason to let the fact that you’re gluten-free keep you from enjoying life to the fullest every day of the year!