“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Last week, something happened to my friend, Hannah that infuriated me. Hannah has Celiac disease, which means she’s allergic to gluten. Upon visiting one of her favorite restaurants, one that offers completely gluten-free options, she was left feeling shamed and angry.

Had I been there with her, my big mouth may have gone loose and words would have flown. Bad words. I may have been banned from said establishment for life but it would have totally been worth it.

Two members of this restaurant’s staff were beyond rude. Not realizing Hannah had just ordered a gluten-free sandwich, their comments ranged from the unnecessary, “Ugh, this person who needs gluten-free food is so annoying,” to the uneducated, “It’s not like this diet does anything,” to the downright dangerous, “Oh, I guess I better change my gloves now, “ (laden with sarcasm).

Not only did these two employees make complete asses of themselves, they disrespected a customer and their employer. A company that touts itself as a provider of gluten-free food has a major responsibility to uphold that. One, people on gluten-free diets deserve it and two, people who need gluten-free diets could get horribly sick from eating contaminated food. Think of a child with a peanut allergy who, maybe doesn’t even eat peanuts, but eats food prepared in the same area as peanuts. Celiac sufferers have that same degree of sensitivity to gluten.

This brings me to a slight problem I have with gluten-free diets – not people who have Celiac disease and who’s lives depend on eating this way, but people who think gluten-free is the hippest new weight loss diet like low-carb or low-fat. And they just have to jump on the bandwagon.

What the world has come to…gluten-free cherries.

I have nothing against people who choose a gluten-free lifestyle for personal reasons. I mean, come on, I’m a vegetarian. Not because meat makes me sick or I’m allergic to it; I just don’t like it and I choose not to eat it. What I have a problem with is people who have no clue what gluten even is and, therefore, have de-sensitized people to its actual significance.

The people who insist they need it (and really don’t) and have made it an annoying request that almost always results in an eye roll from the server. The people who have contributed to it being nothing more than a buzzword, a marketing term food companies can use to jack up prices, and make themselves seem “healthier.”

That image of cherries? That’s real. I didn’t Photoshop that. I’ve also seen proud “gluten-free” packaging on products like milk and eggs.

To understand my frustration, here’s a little lesson: Gluten is a combo of two proteins; it essentially acts as a “glue” that holds together products like wheat bread, rye crackers and flour tortillas.

As a rule of thumb, it’s typically found in more carb-rich foods and, also, barley-based beers (which is partly why gluten-free and cider beers have become so popular). So, will cutting it out of your diet lead to weight loss? It could. Now, does gluten sound like something you’d find in beef jerky or fruit?

Educate yourselves, people. If you need or choose to be on a gluten-free diet, know what it is and where it’s found. Don’t let yourself to be up-charged for gluten-free rice cakes and coffee. Don’t pay more for gluten-free versions of breads, cupcakes, and cookies unless you have Celiac disease and can’t live without them (I’ve read research that cautions people who don’t have Celiac disease to avoid these types of foods, as they’re processed differently and not necessarily good for you). And please don’t call it a diet.

Finally, for the love of all things good, if you work in a food establishment that proudly promotes gluten-free options, please learn why that’s important. Understand that not everyone is trying out “the new gluten-free diet” – know that some people will legitimately get sick if they eat it. Respect that and treat them like a small child with a peanut allergy. You wouldn’t roll your eyes at a kid with a peanut allergy – would you?

How many of you live a gluten-free lifestyle? Is it due to Celiac disease or for personal reasons? The comments are yours so please use them.

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