Whatever the Reason..."Gluten Free" Means Gluten Free
Gluten free dieting is no longer considered a necessary inconvenience for those who get sick from eating wheat, barley, and rye. Several people have looked to gluten free dieting as a healthier way of living. Just take a look at my post about the Top Ten Gluten Free Celebrities. Here is an excerpt from www.hivehealthmedia.com on the Gluten Free Benefits for Anyone:
"Basing your diet off of the gluten-free phenomenon can be genuinely healthy and may benefit your cholesterol levels, digestion, and energy level. You don’t have to worry about the little things like soy sauce and malt flavorings, but if you avoid the major red flags in the gluten-free diet, you just might start to feel healthier. For example, you would have to avoid everything that’s fried because of the breading, which would allow you to avoid the oil and fat, as well.
Most desserts would be off-limits, decreasing your sugar and fat intake. However, healthy grains like rice and corn would still be in the mix, giving you the carbohydrates your body needs. With many of the over-processed starches removed from your diet, you’d be likely to start eating more fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products in addition to healthy grains. You would also be giving up most fast food (can’t have those buns) except for salads, helping you to avoid even more grease, fat, and oil, but you could keep French fries on the list of deliciously unhealthy foods you would still be allowed to eat. Overall, you would consume less junk food and more fresh food, which is a healthy way for anyone to eat."
So it's great to go at least semi-gluten free if you are able. However, with rising numbers of those who are dieting for general weight loss and a healthier life-style, it concerns me how seriously restaurants are taking me when I request gluten free menu items.
The issue really stood out to me once when I was visiting P.F. Chang's for their wonderful GF menu options. (The only reason it hadn't made my list of Favorite Gluten Free Restaurants was because I had not discovered it at the time that post was written. They have several menu options for the gluten free dieter and mix up your own sauce right there at the table.) At this particular visit, I informed my server that I wanted the gluten free fried rice and he responded with something along the lines of, "Are you getting that because you HAVE to eat gluten free?" I found it weird he asked me that, but I'm thankful he did. Though, it shouldn't make a difference whether I eat gluten free for purposes of intolerance or health benefits. The food should still be prepared with the same care as to not cross-contaminate.
I often wonder now when I visit restaurants if it is necessary for me to actually say that I have Celiac Disease or, since many servers may not be familiar with the disease, maybe I need to just tell them I have a wheat allergy. Previously, I had been under the assumption that I didn't need to be so detailed as to why I was ordering from the gluten free selections. I mean, gluten free is gluten free, right? Perhaps not. It's a great thing that the gluten free diet is receiving more exposure and restaurants are adapting their menus to suit, but I fear many restaurant workers may see it as a fad and not take it that seriously.
This leads me to the question of how do we solve this problem? For now, I am sure to mention that I am ordering gluten free due to an allergy. They seem to take particular caution once hearing this since they do not want any of their restaurant patrons to have an allergic reaction at the table. Not that it would happen in my case, of course, but better to be safe than sorry. Still, as a community, perhaps we need to speak up so that we may be taken seriously. Whatever our reasons are for ordering gluten free items, the same attention and care should be taken when preparing them.