It’s impossible not to notice the enormous amount of gluten free products everywhere lately. Whether it’s in the grocery store, convenience store, vending machine or restaurant – it’s hard not to think about trying these products. After all, they’re healthier than other foods, right? Think again. If you have celiac disease, then yes- it’s essential for your health. For weight loss? Not so much.
Having lunch with a friend the other day, we noticed a gluten free section on the menu. This brought up the subject of the virtues of gluten free diets. “So much healthier!” my friend exclaimed, and was excited to tell me about a new snack food she found. “It is really healthy and so delicious”, she said. Was it? Delicious it was, but healthy- well… let’s see.
Those with gluten intolerance may also feel some relief by avoiding gluten, a wheat protein. But the average person does not need to cut gluten out of their diet, despite what the media and food manufacturers would have you believe.
Of course, lots of gluten containing products are unhealthy, especially if they are refined and processed. But so are gluten free products that are heavily processed, and most of them are.
Let’s just look at the yogurt covered gluten free pretzels to the left.
You’ll notice that there are 150 calories, 7g fat (6g of which are saturated), and 12 g of sugar (that’s 3 tsp)- and just in 9 tiny pretzels. These little morsels are so tasty and impossible to resist (thanks to those clever food scientists) I could inhale that amount in approximately 30 seconds. Now look at the servings per package. This small 5.5 oz bag (yes you read it right) contains 5 portions- according to the manufacturer. Now, I ask you- who decided that? And who could possibly resist eating the entire bag? Someone with intense discipline (maybe Gandhi?), but the average mortal will be wolfing down this entire bag- along with 750 calories, 35g fat and 60 grams of sugar (15 tsp!). Ouch. Still think this is a healthy product?
Now take a look at the ingredients. Sugar, palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, corn starch, potato starch, palm oil and a host of other unfamiliar ingredients- none of which your grandma would recognize. And- it’ll set you back over $4 bucks to boot.
So, before you jump on the gluten free bandwagon- check out the the nutrition facts panel and then decide if it’s worth it. Maybe the new nutrition facts panel will help clarify these confusing and misleading labels in the future.