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Registered Dietitians Answer Your Questions about Restaurant Nutrition

Should I Follow a Gluten-Free Diet?


There's a lot of information and misinformation out there about gluten-free diets and who should eat gluten-free.  Learn more about the gluten-free diet and whether or not you should follow it.
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Q: I hear a lot about gluten-free diets and see more and more restaurants promoting gluten-free choices.  Should I be on a gluten-free diet?
 
The answer is maybe! Your physician is the best person to help you know for sure. In recent years, there has been a lot of hype surrounding “gluten.” On one hand, this hype has led to the increase in availability of gluten-free products on the market and gluten-free menu items offered at restaurants, making it easier for those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance to find safe choices. On the other hand, there has also been a lot of misinformation surrounding the benefits of a gluten-free diet for those who do not have a medical condition. If your goal is weight loss, following a gluten-free diet may not be your best option. It’s important to know that there is a higher risk of vitamin deficiencies anytime something is eliminated from your diet. Purchasing gluten-free products can also put quite a strain on your wallet. For example, a standard 20 oz. loaf of bread at the grocery store will cost around $3.00-$4.00 versus a 12 oz. loaf of gluten free bread, which costs over $6.00! 
 
If you do suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it is imperative that you follow a strict gluten-free diet to prevent any damage or distress to your body.  If you are uncertain, talk to your doctor about developing a plan to determine whether or not you do have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. Typically, the first step is to start on an elimination diet to cancel out any other possible culprits causing gastrointestinal distress. There are also certain tests that can be used specifically to diagnose celiac disease. Unfortunately, there are currently no validated tests to reliably detect non-celiac gluten intolerance.  
 
The most important things to keep in mind when choosing a diet are to listen to your body and to consult with your physician and other health providers, such as a registered dietitian. Be sure to discuss with these health professionals the best ways to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients you need!

When eating out at restaurants, do your research and communicate with your server, especially if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease.  Many restaurants now offer gluten-free menus and meals to make it easier for guests to make the best choices for them.  Some restaurants take additional precautions to prevent cross-contact in the kitchen, including training and certification.  Find gluten-free and other allergy-friendly meal choices on AllergyEats.com.  Many participating Healthy Dining restaurants, like these, offer special menus and options for those following a gluten-free diet.  

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