Thursday, August 9, 2012

Becoming Sensitive to Gluten

 by Shannon Schilling
Sitting down for a gluten-free break
gluten-free staff member

When I was diagnosed with gluten hypersensitivity a year ago, at first I thought that I would never be able to eat anything good again. Thankfully, I was wrong.

People with gluten hypersensitivity, gluten intolerance, or celiac disease are unable to properly digest the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. As a college student, I ate a lot of gluten prior to my diagnosis so cutting it out of my diet completely felt a little like the end of the world. All the things I loved - pasta, bread, baked goods - gone!

Although my school's dining services did their best to serve me, I sometimes still felt like I was not eating enough because I did not have enough options. In addition, I would see all my friends eating gluten-filled foods, making me feel like an outsider, something no one wants to feel like when they are miles from home! It took a lot of willpower for me to stick to my diet and not give in to the gluten peer pressure.

Eventually, I discovered (and am still discovering) many great products that are gluten free. However, most of the items can be expensive for a college student's budget. So even though it's been a year, I still find myself stressing about food and health as well as schoolwork and a busy schedule.

When I started working for Bonnie a few months ago, she mentioned that we would do taste tests for new products before putting them into a basket, and I had to break the news about my diet. As we discussed the rising amount of gluten-free products in the marketplace, we realized we had an exciting opportunity: make gluten-free baskets.

Gluten-Free Dips from Rothschild Farm
As luck would have it, we discovered that some of our products were already gluten free, such as many dips from Robert Rothschild Farm. But we went searching for more products and not just gluten-free items, but good gluten-free items. I think there is a common misconception that something labeled gluten free does not taste good, but I try every day to find products that disprove this.

We found a number of great-tasting gluten-free products and I was very excited to be able to use some of my expertise at work and I think Bonnie was excited to once again have a taste-test partner.

Gluten-Free Care Package
We decided to make two gluten free baskets: the Gluten-Free Care Package, designed for the GF college student with plenty of nutritional and energy-boosting snacks, and the Gluten-Free Goodie Tray, a slightly healthier version perfect for any occasion.

I wish that I could say our baskets would be safe for those with celiac disease, but due to how some of the products were processed and packaged, we've decided to only recommend our baskets for people who are just gluten intolerant. 

Gluten-Free Goodie Tray
What I have learned from a number of other gluten-free people is that not everyone has the same level of sensitivity and not everyone reacts to gluten in the same way. Therefore, if you are interested in purchasing a gluten-free basket, I encourage you to speak to the recipient about their allergy and to call in and speak with me. I will not claim myself an expert, but I do have some experience in this area and I would love to work with you to make sure that you are getting exactly what you need.

I definitely enjoyed putting these baskets together with Bonnie and I am excited to get to send them to people who struggle with the same thing that I do.

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