3 tips for choosing healthy gluten-free products

"Gluten-free" is hot right now, and don't think the marketing people at food corporations don't know it. Stefanie Sacks offers tips for choosing wisely.
Gluten Free Food Cart
Photo via betterwaygourmet.ning.com

The New York Times reported yesterday that the era of “tough and tasteless” gluten-free foods is now behind us.

But as gluten-free foods get tastier, and more people switch to a gluten-free lifestyle, food corporations are capitalizing by slapping “gluten-free” marketing on every product they can.

“We have a funny way of turning health concerns into fads,” says Stefanie Bryn Sacks, M.S., a culinary nutritionist. “Now you have potato chips that say they’re gluten free. Well, duh. They’re from potatoes, of course they’re gluten-free.”

Stefanie Bryn Sacks
Stefanie Bryn Sacks, M.S., Culinary Nutritionist

To help you see beyond the PR packaging, Sacks offered Well+Good readers these tips when grocery shopping:

1. Most importantly, really read the (whole) label. There aren’t many regulations on where manufacturers can put shiny “gluten-free” stickers, so it’s important to pay attention to the fine print, like where the product was made. “If you’re a true Celiac, you have to look on the back of a package,” says Sacks. “If it says ‘This product has been processed in a facility that processes wheat’ (and many do!), forget about it.”

2. Gluten-free doesn’t equal healthy. While the nutritional value of sorghum vs. tapioca flour won’t make much of a difference because of how processed down flours are, read the entire list of ingredients. “They still have salt, they still have fat, they still have highly-processed ingredients,” says Sacks. Unfortunately, a cookie by another gluten-free name will probably taste just as sweet because it’s still packed with sugar.

3. Eat whole foods.  The best solution? Bypass processed packaging altogether and choose naturally gluten-free whole foods. After all, says Sacks, “If you’re going for processed foods, how much true nutrition are you going to get out of it anyway?” —Lisa Elaine Held

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