By: Nancy Segreto, BS, Nutritionist, Vermont Department of Health, Morrisville
WIC in Morrisville office recently offered a class on Gluten-Free Living in partnership with the Morrisville Co-op. WIC provides nutrition education as well as healthcare referrals and supplemental foods for income-eligible pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five. WIC offers wellness classes and activities that are often open to the public, free of charge.
The class focused on simplifying the process of planning, shopping and cooking gluten-free, as well as sharing basic facts that could clear up common misconceptions. Participants played a ‘Fact or Fiction’ sorting game, sampled delicious healthy gluten-free foods and went home with mini binders filled with tips, recipes, planners and a free gluten-free cookbook for busy people on a budget.
What’s all the craze about eating gluten-free?
Why are so many people choosing to be gluten-free? Are gluten-free foods healthy? Is there a roadmap for navigating the myriad of gluten-free foods on the market? What is the difference between food allergies, celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity? How do we sort gluten-free fact from fiction?
Gluten is a protein found naturally in wheat, barley, and rye. It is also used as a filler to improve texture and is found in many processed foods. People who have been diagnosed with celiac disease or with non-celiac gluten sensitivity must follow a gluten-free diet. Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a gluten-free diet. Fortunately, a gluten-free diet will improve symptoms, according to a 2008 Journal of the American Dietetic Association (now Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) article.
How do you plan a gluten-free meal?
MyPlate is the latest USDA nutrition guide, a pie chart (plate) depicting a place setting divided into five food groups:
- 50% vegetables and fruits (mostly vegetables)
- 20% protein
- 30% whole grains, with additional healthy fats and dairy.
To become gluten-free only the whole grains section needs to be adjusted, choosing grains such as quinoa, rice, millet, teff, and gluten-free oats instead of wheat, barley, and rye. WIC offers brown rice, corn tortillas, and gluten-free breakfast cereals as alternatives to whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta and breakfast cereals made with gluten.
|Traditional Diet Whole Grains||Gluten Free Whole Grains|
|Wheat, barley, rye|
|Rice, quinoa, millet, teff, oats, corn||Rice, quinoa, millet, teff, GF oats, corn|
|Baked goods- all (use sparingly)||Baked goods with GF flour only (use sparingly)|
Myths and Misconceptions
Avoid the gluten-free processed food traps! That chocolate cupcake is not good for you. Gluten-free processed baked goods usually have more sugars, carbohydrates, and additives than their wheat counterparts. These items should be used sparingly as a treat or when everyone else is eating the pizza or party cake, and the gluten intolerant person wants to join in.
If you suspect you have celiac or NCGS, experts recommend being screened by a healthcare provider. If you try a gluten-free diet, stick with whole foods and grains and use baked goods sparingly. The Celiac Foundation website has a wealth of resources. You can also check out the Morrisville Department of Health Facebook page for upcoming scheduled classes and events.