Gluten-Free Meal Kits | Delivered To Your Door
Gluten occurs naturally in many foods, such as bread, cereals, pasta, and cakes. For those who suffer from celiac disease, eating gluten can cause serious health problems. As such, if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, then you should only buy foods that are labeled ‘gluten-free’.
Many people who do not suffer from celiac disease (or who have yet to be diagnosed) also adopt gluten-free diets based on the belief that avoiding gluten is healthier. While there is no scientific evidence that a gluten-free diet is healthier for people who don’t suffer from celiac disease, this decision is ultimately one that comes down to preference.
For those who have adopted a gluten-free diet either for health or personal reasons, then meal kit delivery services, such as Blue Apron, Plated, and Sun Basket may seem a bit intimidating at first. That’s because it may not be immediately clear whether a meal kit service offers gluten-free options or if their gluten-free options may have been processed at a facility that also handles gluten ingredients (thus increasing the risk of cross-contamination). Below we will look at what gluten is, how to avoid gluten in products, and how to tell if a meal kit delivery service offers gluten-free options.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and any crossbreeds involving those grains. Any food that contains these grains will contain gluten. Some foods that you will find gluten in include cakes, bread, pasta, cereal, and so forth. Gluten gives these foods their distinct shape and texture. It is what gives bread its doughy quality and, in fact, gluten comes from the Latin word for glue.
Why Do People Avoid Gluten?
There are two main reasons people avoid gluten: because they have celiac disease (or other health issues) or because they believe that gluten is unhealthy for them. For those who suffer from celiac disease, gluten can indeed be very dangerous. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, and when people suffering from celiac disease consume foods containing gluten, then the gluten causes damage to the lining of their small intestines. The damage caused to the small intestines means that celiac disease sufferers are not able to absorb important nutrients, which over time can lead to very serious conditions, including cancer, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, diabetes, and anemia. That is why it is so important for people suffering from celiac disease to avoid gluten. About 3 million Americans suffer from celiac disease and many of them are unaware of the fact.
Other health conditions that can necessitate a gluten-free diet are non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia, and wheat allergies.
A lot of people who don’t suffer from any of these health conditions also avoid gluten because of a belief that gluten-free diets are healthier. However, there is no proof that a gluten-free diet is healthier than one that contains gluten. Indeed, by avoiding gluten, you could make it harder to get many essential nutrients, like fiber, iron, and calcium. A gluten-free is also not an appropriate weight-loss diet as many gluten-free products are high in sugar and calories.
How to Avoid Gluten
Many food products now carry labels claiming to be gluten-free. However, you may be wondering whether these labels can be trusted and who decides what counts as gluten-free. Until 2013, gluten-free claims on food were unregulated, meaning that people who wanted to pursue a gluten-free diet had to trust that the food manufacturers claiming their foods were gluten-free were being honest. Since 2014, however, most foods claiming to be gluten-free must meet requirements set down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).
For a food to be considered gluten-free, it must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. This is such a small amount of gluten that even celiac disease sufferers would be unharmed by it. Additionally, foods can be labeled as gluten-free if they do not contain wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of those grains or any ingredient derived from those grains.
Remember that the gluten-free label is voluntary, meaning that many gluten-free foods may not actually carry the label.
Additionally, while most foods are covered by the USFDA regulations, foods that are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including meat, poultry, and some egg products, do not fall under USFDA regulation.
Also, alcohol, which is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is also not regulated by the USFDA. Many alcoholic drinks, especially those made with malted barley and hops, contain gluten.
Finding Gluten-Free Meal Kits
Some meal kit delivery services have begun catering specifically to gluten-free customers and may offer gluten-free meal kits options to customers with each delivery. Green Chef offers a wide range of gluten-free meals, for example, while Gobble also offers meals that are either labeled gluten-free or which have ingredients that can be substituted for gluten-free ones. Some services, like Plated, do not label their meals as gluten-free, but they do have search options that allow you to find meals that do not contain gluten. Other meal kit delivery services, including Blue Apron, do not label their meals as being gluten-free or provide a search feature for finding gluten-free meals. Instead, you will have to look at the recipes on offer and see if the ingredients are gluten-free.
Also, keep in mind that even if a meal is labeled as gluten-free, it may still have been prepared in a facility that processes gluten foods. Some companies, including HelloFresh, do take measures to reduce the risk of gluten cross-contamination though they may not advertise as offering gluten-free meal kits.