Mom's Burning Questions: Should I Go Gluten Free?

Gluten free is a term relatively new to the food world. What does it mean, and is a gluten free diet right for you?

Should I go gluten free?

10 years ago, most people had never heard of gluten, but today gluten (or its lack thereof) is a buzzword in the food world.  The “gluten-free” seal is on all sorts of packaging, and people saying it’s a good diet for weight loss.  But what IS gluten, and should I avoid it?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat products. It’s what gives dough a stretchy, elastic quality.  The more you knead or process dough, the more gluten is developed.  Bagels get their chewy texture from having a high gluten content.  Many people think eating gluten-free will help them lose weight, but that’s not the case, especially gluten-free packaged foods that can be even higher in sugar.  Inherently, gluten does no damage to your health unless you have an intolerance for it, or test positive for celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that can damage the lining of the small intestine.  In reality, most people have no problem digesting gluten, and maintaining a gluten-free diet can limit your food choices.  There’s really no reason to avoid gluten unless you need to for your health.  However, when choosing wheat-based foods, especially breads, go with whole grain choices instead of processed packaged products.  My favorite whole grains are quinoa, brown rice, oats, and wheat berries for a serious boost of fiber. 


If you have concerns about how gluten affects you, the best thing to do is see a doctor before eliminating gluten from your diet.  While celiac disease is not common, there is a spectrum for gluten intolerance, and it’s worth talking to your doctor about any gastrointestinal issues to determine if gluten may be the culprit.  The National Foundation of Celiac Awareness is a great resource for more specific information about a gluten-free lifestyle.

Are you following a gluten-free diet?  Tell us more and your favorite food choices.

- Stacey Antine, M.S. R.D., author, Appetite for Life and founder, HealthBarn USA. What puzzles you about keeping your family healthy?  Tell us what’s on your mind by emailing info@healthbarnusa.com.  Stacey will answer those questions here weekly.


Here’s one of my favorite gluten-free recipes from the Appetite for Life Book.

This hearty and healthy whole-grain risotto, made with brown rice instead of the traditional Arborio, has even gotten the thumbs up from some Italian grandparents of our HealthBarn kids—they’ve made the switch!  Like you, they love the fact that it’s high in calcium and protein, and is a good source of fiber, vitamin C and iron.  Like the kids, they love that it tastes delicious.



1 teaspoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup short grain brown rice

2½ cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

¼ teaspoon saffron threads

12 medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese



  1. In large non-stick saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic; cook 30 seconds.  Add rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Stir broth, parsley, rosemary, and saffron into rice mixture; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, heat 1 quart water to boiling over high heat. Add shrimp and cook until opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Drain shrimp; keep warm. 
  4. When rice is done, remove saucepan from heat; stir in Parmesan. Add shrimp to rice mixture and toss until mixed.  Serve warm. 

Makes 4 servings (1 cup per serving).

Nutrition Facts per serving: 260 calories; 4g fat (1g sat fat, 1g mono, 1g poly, 0g trans fat); 35mg cholesterol; 43g carbohydrate (3g fiber, 2g sugar); 11g protein; 220mg sodium; 6% Daily Value (DV) vitamin A; 10% DV vitamin C; 15% DV calcium; 10% DV iron.

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James Martino December 01, 2012 at 11:14 PM
My daughter has Celiac and has been Gluten Free for years. She is doing quite well. Many vendors have truly improved GF products over the past 5 years with many being equal to or better than their Gluten counter-part. Pizza Fusion is a favorite, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods do a good job. Sugar Flake Bakery in Wyckoff (birthday cakes and pies) and Carousel Cupcakes in Ridgewood are great local places for desserts. The scope of people who are responding well to GF diets is expanding and should be considered by all folks who are having either digestive or developmental issues. Please be sensitive to the prices these vendors need to charge. Producing GF products often requires separate facilities, tools and more expensive ingredients. They are doing all of us a great service and appreciate our support.


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