Food for Thought Blog

Supporting Individuals Following a Gluten Free Diet

August 20th, 2021Awareness, Food & Recipes

Gluten-free may seem like a diet-trend, however, for approximately 1% of Canadians a gluten free diet is not a choice, but a necessity to help manage the symptoms of celiac disease. For individuals requiring food assistance, it becomes more challenging to access the food they need due to limited donations that meet their dietary restrictions.

According to the 2020 Canadian Celiac Association Survey, 82% of food banks say they need more gluten free foods and 68% of food banks say they need more options for gluten free individuals.

In 2020, 1,703 hampers provided to households throughout Waterloo Region required a gluten free diet. Without a doubt, there is a large need for more gluten free products in the food banking community!

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that occurs when our immune system reacts to gluten and attacks the body’s own tissues. When gluten is consumed, it damages the lining of the small intestines which prevents our body from being able to properly absorb nutrients. Celiac disease is not a food allergy but does require a lifelong commitment to a gluten-free diet to prevent health consequences.

Why is a gluten free diet important for someone with celiac disease?

For individuals with celiac disease, following a gluten free diet is important to prevent a wide range of health complications that can result from consuming gluten.

Short-Term Side Effects
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Upset Stomach
  • Constipation
  • Gas and Bloating
Long-Term Side Effects
  • Iron Deficiency
  • Infertility or Miscarriage
  • Osteoporosis
  • Increased Risk of Some Cancer
  • Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
  • Lactose Intolerance

What foods contain gluten?

Gluten is found in any food that contains rye, wheat, and barley. Some food items that may contain gluten include;

  • Bread, Bagels, Tortillas, Pitas
  • Pasta
  • Cookies, Cakes and Other Baked Goods
  • Sauces, Dips, and Gravies
  • Soups
  • Oats (unless labelled gluten free)
  • Wheat Flour

How to tell if a food is gluten free?

It is always important to double check that a food product is gluten free. Even a trace amount of gluten can cause intestinal damage to someone with celiac disease. Check out these 3 simple steps to make selecting products easier.

  1. Look for a “Gluten Free” logo on the packaging. However, if a product states it is “Wheat Free” this does not mean that it doesn’t contain gluten.
  2. Check the ingredient list. Look for obvious sources of gluten such as wheat, barley, rye, malt, and oats (unless gluten free).
  3. Look for “contains” or “may contain” wheat or gluten on the ingredient/allergen list. Remember, if there isn’t an allergen list you can’t assume it is gluten free.

What are the most needed gluten free donations at The Food Bank of Waterloo Region?

  • Gluten Free Oats
  • Gluten Free Pasta
  • Quinoa or Rice
  • Gluten Free Flours (oat flour, nut flour, brown rice flour, chickpea flour, etc.)
  • Gluten Free Granola Bars or Snack Mixes
  • Gluten Free Sauces and Seasoning Mixes (pasta, soya sauce, salad dressing, gravy mix, etc.)
  • Gluten Free Mixes (muffins, pancakes, etc.)
  • Gluten Free Soups

Looking to donate gluten free products? Non-perishable food donations can be dropped off at The Food Bank, in the bin at your local grocery store, fire hall or police division.