theTICKER
Traverse City News and Events
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Today's News
Share | RSS Feed  

Local Restaurants, Retailers Go Gluten Free

October 12, 2013
Local Restaurants, Retailers Go Gluten Free

You’ve no doubt noticed more and more “gluten free” mentions on food labels in recent years. Now local restaurateurs and retailers are climbing aboard the trend, recognizing the burgeoning numbers of consumers who can’t properly absorb the protein commonly found in wheat and other grains.

Barbara Benson, president of the Traverse Area Gluten Free Support Group, is one of an estimated three million Americans diagnosed with celiac disease. Eating anything with gluten damages her small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. The only treatment is to eliminate gluten from her diet, which she says “poses challenges” when eating at home and dining out.

“The list of foods with gluten can be surprising,” Benson says. “Spices, ice cream, chocolate, frozen or canned vegetables, and orange juice all can use wheat for filler.”

But now, more and more businesses are making changes to accommodate people like Benson; and it’s big business. According to a study by the group Market Research, gluten free foods are expected to bring in $5 billion in sales by 2015.

Red Mesa Grill in TC has been providing gluten free enchiladas and fajitas to its customers for more than two years.

“It’s been a big hit,” says restaurant manager Bert Baker. “A lot of regulars come in and ask for the ‘celiac menu.’ Regulars rave about it.”

Servers are also able to hit a “celiac” button on the restaurant’s computer system to alert the kitchen staff about special preparations. Baker also says his chefs are trained on how to make gluten free items, to prevent cross-contamination - which is always a concern of Benson’s.

Nick Boudjalis, owner of Boone’s Long Lake Inn, says his restaurant offers about three dozen gluten free items. He says it’s important to give people that option, so they’ll feel “confident” in his dining room.

“The service industry is about listening to our guests and their requests,” he says. “More and more people were requesting gluten free foods.”

An upcoming menu revision at Boone’s will add icons next to gluten free foods so celiac patients can easily see what they can and can’t eat.

Jason Thibodeau, owner of Om Café, has committed to the gluten free movement in a giant way, nothing that 90 percent of his menu items are gluten free or can be made gluten free upon request. The demand for it, Thibodeau says, “increases almost exponentially” every year.

“There has never been a time like today where people are so aware and conscious of what they are putting in their body. It’s a great time to offer tasty healthy food for everyone,” he explains.

But it’s not only restaurants that are going gluten free. Stores like Edson Farms and Oryana Natural Foods Market are also catering to celiac patients. Oryana’s Sandi McArthur says the store has the largest variety of gluten free products in northwest Michigan, with hundreds of products throughout the store marked with red labels, making them easy to find.

She echoes Thibodeau’s assessment of rapid growth, noting an increase in gluten free sales at Oryana each of the past five years.


Most Recent Comments

 
b. positive on October 15, 2013 8:45am

Speaking only for myself and my family; after having been hospitalized and given countless medications that didn't work for me, I have been gluten free for quite some time. Changing my diet, which was not comprised of junk food has made it possible for me (and 2 of my children with the same issue) to not have to worry about getting sick every time we eat. I urge those of you who have an opinion to walk a mile in someone else's shoes before you make snarky judgments.

Lynn in TC on October 14, 2013 5:40pm

To Babbo, Given that the WebMD article was largely based upon info provided by a physician who serves as the Director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, I'm struggling to understand how that is considered "fluff." Especially when compared to medical information from the Huffington Post, which, with respect to medical matters, often prints articles based upon pseudo-science and touting the possible benefits of questionable alternative medicine. In the world of medical professionals, WebMD has far more credibility than the HuffPost.

Tom on October 14, 2013 2:48pm

So we are talking about 1% of the population as people with a problem with gluten. Seems like this is actually programming peoples mind that they are sick or thinking that's the reason I don't feel good, I must be allergic to gluten when in fact they eat junk food all the time. I for one don't believe God would put a protein in wheat that is harming every ones body. Just my opinion.

Babbo on October 14, 2013 2:29pm

Joe L, I don't know why anyone would want to go gluten-free without good reason...it's difficult and expensive. And that webmd article seems like just so much fluff. Here's something with a little more substance, to present the opposing view.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-myers-md-/effects-of-gluten-on-the-body_b_3672275.html

Ms Wu on October 13, 2013 11:37am

There are necessary protocols for the preparation of food products for gluten sensitive (Celiac patients).

Celiac (gluten sensitive) patients need to have their "gluten free" products, entrees, etc prepared in a totally gluten- free area of a kitchen.

"Is there is a specific gluten-free area of a restaurant kitchen in which they do food preparations?"

Cross contamination with gluten products need to be controlled for the Celiac patient. For some the smallest amount of gluten is SIGNFICANT.

For those who are gluten intolerant it may be less significant.

Joe L on October 13, 2013 9:54am

Gluten free is just “in style” right now. Less than 1% of the population has celiac disease. All theses posers that are trying to be trendy are making it less believable for the people who really need a gluten free diet. On the plus side, they will have a better selection while this trend is popular. As for all the so called “health benefits” of a gluten free diet for those without celiac disease, please read the following article on WebMD:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/truth-about-gluten

joseph on October 13, 2013 1:45am

Not a criticism, just a polite question...When did gluten-free, peanut-free, etc. become such a huge concern? I'm guessing there may be more allergies detected, or that we've become, as a people, more less tolerant of the food we eat? Would appreciate intelligent discussion about this issue. Thanks!

Victoria D. on October 12, 2013 9:53pm

I am so excited to learn about place to eat that are gluten free-quite a few people who come up to visit us need to have gluten free diets-now, whether we eat out or in, I have options to present or places to shop! Would love a list of all the restaurants who are on board for people who need to eat gluten free.

Bill G on October 12, 2013 2:59pm

I can remember years ago in Atlanta, the advertisements and signs at ethnic bakeries, high quality gluten wheat only. Go figure. Then it was very desirable now it's a major health problem. I can remember that in my generation fat was good for kids. Supposedly it gave us energy. Is it possible that an ingredient in combination with gluten causes the problem?

Mad on October 12, 2013 10:57am

Along with the gluten free, dairy free (a must for my family) try low fat, low sodium low sugar and low carbs (diebetics). The sodium content in restaurant food prevents us from eating out....period. Salad bars are loaded with preservatives, salad dressings are loaded with salt and sugar. It's difficult for all concerned patrons and owners,but if you do for one group (gluten free) then how about doing for the other groups, too. Just a thought.

Local Resources
Classifieds

Classifieds

Real Estate

Real Estate

Obituaries

Obituaries

Marriages

Marriages

New Businesses

New Businesses

 
More News
Region's Least Wanted Invasives
Region's Least Wanted Invasives
Design Week Comes to TC
Design Week Comes to TC
What is FootGolf?
What is FootGolf?
Your Preview of a Crowded 104th Race
Your Preview of a Crowded 104th Race
Break-In at Toys R Us
Break-In at Toys R Us
72nd Rotary Show Opens Tonight
72nd Rotary Show Opens Tonight
Try Curling This Saturday
Try Curling This Saturday
New Looks, Brands for Downtown Traverse City Bars
New Looks, Brands for Downtown Traverse City Bars
your ad here