More and more restaurants and stores are offering gluten free options. But when it comes to gluten free, what goes into making the products and the price you pay for them?
"Back in the early days when we were first getting into this, people who needed to have gluten-free products, it was very discouraging when they were shopping because they would have to read hundreds and hundreds of labels in order to figure out which foods that they could have,” said Sandi McArthur, Oryana Education & Outreach Coordinator.
And over the years, Sandi says the demand for gluten free has increased.
"We have throughout our entire store developed this system so when a manufacturer has stated on the product then we will actually put it on the tag,” said McArthur. “And that way as people are shopping and they want a cereal or they want a loaf of bread, then they can just go in the aisles that those are and then they can find the products that they need.”
So what is gluten?
"Gluten is the protein in certain grains - wheat, rye, barley,” said Miranda Monroe, Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist
And if you look at labels a lot of our favorite baked goods have things like wheat in it.
So how do gluten free items get made?
"The big difference between baking gluten-free and regular is basically just the xanthum gums,” said Marlaina Norgan, Oryana Bakery Manager. “And the gums made to really build that structure of the gluten-free items. In regular, all-purpose flour goods, that structure is already in the flour."
And if you don't have that structure?
"It would just kind of fall apart,” said Norgan.
And the process to make some of these items, Marlaina says it doesn't necessarily take more time, just a little more attention.
"They are a little bit finicky,” said Norgan. “If the oven isn't at the right temperature when you put it in there or the oven gets opened a bunch of times it's not going to be as good of quality."
So taking into account, time, ingredients and labor, how do gluten free items fair in price compared to your traditional items?
It's just a little bit more… less popular items,” said Norgan. “So we have to pay a little bit more for them until the demand is higher and those prices can go down. Some of the products travel a long way and obviously being up in Traverse City we have that extra couple hours to drive so gas and oil prices and everything has all wrapped into why."
"I actually think that they're not that far off the main course,” said McArthur. “I think cookies are probably about 3 to 4 dollars for a box and most cookies are about that anyways. And so I think that it really depends on the product. The more specialized the product is then the pricier it might get.”
But if you're gluten free or not - nutritionists says, you still have to be aware of what's your eating.
"It's really sort of looking at diet quality and how processed it is overall,” said Monroe.
Miranda Monroe says for those wanting to be gluten free, she encourages them to try and eat naturally gluten free foods like rice, quinoa, fruits, veggies and meat -- like fish and chicken.
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