No pity needed for gluten-free eaters

By Crystalee Beck

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, April 6 2012 6:46 p.m. MDT

Many restaurants offer menu items for gluten-free eaters. Pizza Runner, located at 3017 Harrison Blvd. in Ogden, welcomes customers with food allergies.

Crystalee Beck

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I'm a gluten-free gal. Anything with wheat flour is on my no-no list, unless I want serious intestinal retaliation. Yes, that means I avoid breads, pastas, pizza, cookies and even sneaky gluten-hiding foods like licorice and barbecue sauce.

According to Celiac.com, at least 3 million Americans, or about one in 133 people, have celiac disease, so I’m not alone in the food-navigation process.

In my workplace, often co-workers bring in platters of baked goods to share. They make their way through the cubicles, generously offering treats, and pass by me with a slightly ashamed whisper: "Sorry!"

No pity needed, folks. I've said it many times, though perhaps it's hard for gluten-eaters to accept: I am glad to be free of gluten.

Not only am I protected from stomach aches, I also don't eat most junk foods — simply because I can't.

Also, since I learned of my gluten-intolerance four years ago, I’ve enjoyed palate experimenting and discovering “safe” new tastes like Thai food.

With so many new companies now recognizing the food allergy market, it’s only getting easier to be gluten-free. For example, ordering a gluten-free topper on my wedding cake a couple years ago was no big deal.

Many others like me have found the gluten-free lifestyle to be a healthy, happy way to live.

“It’s not as hard as it seems. Now it’s easy with all the gluten-free products out there,” said Bethany Hilton, who created the blog Gluten Free in Utah after she became gluten-intolerant in 2006 to “help others who are living (or should be living) a gluten-free lifestyle.”

“It’s worth it because I feel so much better,” Hilton said.

For those who recently learned they are gluten-intolerant or have celiac disease, Hilton gives words of assurance.

“Figure out what works for you — everyone has their own gluten-free style. Know that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to be gluten-free, and yes, food can still be good.”

Gluten-free eaters like Hilton and I are finding an increasing number of local specialty restaurants and customized options on menus. Websites like The Urban Spoon share handy lists of Salt Lake restaurants that are gluten-free-friendly.

Eleanor’s Bake Shop, located at 9495 S. 560 West, Building D, in Sandy, offers an exclusively gluten-free menu with options ranging from specialty cakes to sweet rolls to brownies.

A family-owned bakery, it’s named after Grandma Eleanor, who “lovingly passed (celiac disease) on through the gene pool” to the family who “opened up shop to share (their) love of gluten-free food.”

“There are a lot of options for those who are gluten-free,” said Treasa Stewart, Eleanor’s granddaughter and part-owner of the bake shop. “I eat better than I used to eat, with more fruits and vegetables. I feel better mentally and physically, just all-around better health.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Yep, gluten-free works for me.

Crystalee Beck is a writer, marketer and traveler who lives with her husband in Ogden. Gluten-free pretzels are the way to her heart. Follow @Crystaleelee on Twitter or email her at delightedtowrite@gmail.com