Gluten-Free Gluttony

Since when did a gluten-free diet turn from a necessary lifestyle choice for poor, bloated souls into part of the organic/raw/vegan/low-carb/paleo/caveman/you're-so-annoying-I'm-gonna-punch-you food trend? It has gotten so bad you can't even tell anymore if that customer at a restaurant who asked for 50 modifications to his sandwich actually suffers from celiac disease or is just a twit.

Then again, maybe there's a there there. According to a 2011 New York Times article, 1 in 133 people suffer from celiac disease, which makes the population of bright-eyed people shopping in the gluten-free aisle at Mother's Market a little more understandable. But their wheatless existence isn't flavorless: The surge in gluten-free lifestyles has led to a boom of products, some of which are actually edible.

There are others you want to avoid. Take French Meadow's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie. It looks straight out of Mrs. Field's oven, but tastes like hollow sadness soaked in Splenda. The cookies remind me of those awesome store-brand ones with the pink frosting and sprinkles that make you feel as though you're gonna die after eating one . . . except with no flavor to make them worthwhile.

Gluten-free pasta is hardly better. Rustichella makes a rice-and-corn substitution in pretty boxes, but the package is about the only good thing; the pasta is awkwardly chewy and will absorb the flavor of whatever you pair it with instead of complement it.

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The one gluten-free foodstuff companies seem to have perfected is bread. Udi's makes every kind of multigrain, flax-seed, baked-with-birdseed bread you can imagine, and the loaves taste close to the real thing. The only obvious difference is the texture—light and airy, not as dense as normal bread.

But don't go thinking these foods will slim you down, says Pat Douglas, an honest-to-goodness diagnosed gluten-intolerant gal. "Some people think this food can make you lose weight, but that's not true," she says. "You still have to watch what you eat."


Follow me on Instagram: @lp_hastings.

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