May is Celiac Awareness Month, a good time to celebrate advances in research, treatment, and recently developed food products that make life easier for those who must avoid gluten in what they eat. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, it is estimated that 1 out of every 133 individuals has celiac disease, and about 83% of those individuals are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions. So even if you don’t suffer from this life-changing sensitivity, chances are you know someone who does. During the month of May, Wegmans Food Markets is sharing information from experts on living a gluten-free lifestyle, and calling out gluten-free ways to eat, cook and entertain that are easy and delicious. A quick overview:
- Wegmans stores have gluten-free product demos with sampling on Saturdays in May.
- Alessio Fasano, MD, director for the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, will talk about new developments in his field in an interview on the Wegmans Fresh Stories blog.
- Also on the Fresh Stories blog, Chef Bill Makofski will share ideas for making gluten-free meals everyone will love, so mealtimes are easier.
- Summertime entertaining: Beginning May 12th, Wegmans’ entertaining guide will note which offerings have no gluten ingredients, making it easier to choose a menu all guests can enjoy.
- Tweets from @Wegmans with the hashtag #WegGF feature additional tips and facts about living gluten-free.
Gluten is a protein naturally present in wheat, barley and rye. It is also in an enormous range of foods, from baked goods to sauces to food additives. For most people, gluten has no harmful effect. However, gluten can cause serious health problems in about one percent of the population. In people with celiac disease, gluten triggers an autoimmune attack on the small intestine, leading to bloating, pain, diarrhea and other symptoms. It can also cause similar symptoms in people with gluten sensitivity, a different condition from celiac disease. Avoiding foods with gluten helps individuals in both groups.
Today, says Wegmans Nutritionist Kazacos, it’s a lot easier than it was just a few years ago for folks to shop, cook, eat gluten-free and entertain like everybody else. One reason is better labeling. Examples: The gluten-free Wegmans Wellness Key on food packages, the labels on Wegmans prepared foods pointing out which dishes are made with no gluten ingredients, and now, the option for Catering department customers to see at a glance which dishes have no gluten ingredients.
Another reason is more gluten-free products that taste as good as the traditional foods they are replacing. “Many of the most popular foods you can think of – bread, pizza, pasta, cakes, cookies – are traditionally made with wheat flour and are, therefore, off-limits in a gluten-free diet,” says Kazacos, who has gluten sensitivity. “But over the last decade, new gluten-free versions have reached grocery shelves and some taste so good you’d really never know the difference. Everyone at the table can eat and enjoy the same things – it’s easier for the cook or host, and it helps those on a gluten-free diet feel just like everybody else, instead of ‘different.’ That may be especially important for gluten-free kids.”
A hot new, gluten-free option for pizza-lovers
Wegmans has begun a pilot program at 42 stores in six states. The Pizza Shop will bake a Conte’s Gluten-free, Bake-in-Bag Pizza (Pepperoni, Mushroom Florentine, or Margherita) for customers to enjoy in the Market Café. The pizzas are assembled and packaged in a dedicated gluten-free facility and arrive frozen. The pizza shop bakes the unopened bag in the pizza oven for 10 minutes, and gives the customer the hot unopened package, thus helping to minimize the potential for cross-contact with gluten from other pizzas baked in the same oven.
The affordable, gluten-free pantry for warmer months
Wegmans’ seasonal list of products that families use most, with prices frozen through August 24, helps to keep gluten-free foods affordable. In addition to foods that are naturally gluten-free like fresh fruits and vegetables, poultry, fish and dairy products, more than 160 products are labeled with Wegmans’ Gluten-free Wellness Key, quickly identifying them as suitable for those living gluten-free. Here are a few examples: Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Gluten Free Homestyle Waffles, Thin Shaved Smoked Honey Ham, Food You Feel Good About Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce & Baked Beans, Food You Feel Good About Organic Lemonade, Wegmans Creamy Ranch Salad Dressing, Food You Feel Good About Mandarin Orange Bowls, and Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.