Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Supermarket Shuffle

Okay, here's a pop quiz. Shopping in our local big-chain supermarket earlier this week, I picked up a copy of a brochure. Your mission (if you choose to accept it) is to figure out what the brochure is for, based on the following bullet point list contained on one of its pages:
  • Eat more non-processed foods.
  • Eat an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Eat a serving of beans or legumes and nuts daily.
  • Eat fish twice a week, especially wild salmon.
  • Pay attention to your calcium and vitamin D intake to maintain healthy bones.
  • Choose lean poultry and meats as well as low-fat dairy products.
  • Balance the food that you eat with daily physical activity.

Have any guesses? At first blush, it more or less looks like a general guide to living and eating healthfully, right? It's all a lot of common sense "healthy diet" advice. Maybe the calcium and vitamin D line stands out...only a little. Maybe the brochure is for post-menopausal women battling osteoporosis?

How about if I reveal one bullet point that I omitted from the above list:
  • Consult with your doctor before starting a gluten-free diet if you have not received a diagnosis of celiac disease.

Okay, now what do you think about the brochure? It's title is "Living a Gluten-Free Life!" And it's distributed in King Soopers and City Market grocery stores. The brochure includes sections on reading ingredients lists, as well as which store-brand foods are gluten-free. I share it with you for two reasons:

First, by leading with the bullet point list above, I wanted to emphasize how much a good gluten-free diet simply resembles a healthy diet and lifestyle. Eat less processed food. Eat more veggies, fruit, beans, nuts, fish, lean meats. Exercise. Consult your doc. Too often, when it comes to Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, the emphasis is on the "disease" part, or the "intolerance" part. But this bullet point list reminds us of the "health" side of this equation. That's worth being reminded of from time to time.

Second, it reinforces the fact that supermarkets are increasingly embracing gluten-free consumers. Sure, we have resources such as Triumph's gluten-free grocery store guides to help us navigate the supermarket aisles, and a growing suite of iPhone apps to the same effect. But supermarkets are getting in on the act, too. The King Soopers / City Market brochure is just one example.

Whole Foods is another. Their website has a great page about gluten-free living, with sections on understanding celiac disease and WFM's gluten-free bakehouse. (Plus, each WFM location maintains a list of GF foods sold in that store...)

Then there's ShopRite. Produced in cooperation with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, ShopRite's slick publication is titled "Living With Celiac Disease: A Guide to Managing a Gluten-Free Diet." It contains information about Celiac Disease (including prevalence, mode of action, symptoms, and treatment), steps to living with CD, keeping a GF kitchen, tips for cooking, recipes and meal ideas, and a list of manufacturers sold in ShopRite stores that offer GF foods.

If you've been eating gluten-free for a while, chances are these brochures won't say much you don't already know. But if you're newly diagnosed, and walk into your supermarket with wide eyes and a lump in the back of your throat, these resources are wonderful. They're succinct, accurate, and effective. They're helping to raise awareness, not just among consumers, but also among supermarket workers...whether a department manager, stockperson, deli counter worker, whoever. And the ShopRite brochure especially I see as a great resource to give to friends who aren't gluten-free but who might have me over for dinner. When they need quick easy answers about what's the deal with Celiac, what can I eat, and how can they cook for me, these brochures are a great thing to have on hand.

It hasn't always been this way. Those who've been gluten-free for many more years than me can attest to how little awareness there once was, and how few products were available in supermarkets. No matter how difficult it may feel at times to be GF, in this case it really is true that "back in the day" they had it a whole lot rougher than we do now. And so the next time I'm at the supermarket, I'll do my usual supermarket shuffle past the processed foods and towards the fresh fruits and veggies, but I'll do it with a little extra spring in my step. Call it my supermarket shuffle "Dance of Joy" in recognition that it's a great time to be gluten-free.

- Pete


Rachel W. said...

I must say that I get a little irritated when I see statements about consulting your doctor before beginning a gluten free diet. I know the argument is that gluten containing products are often fortified with vitamins and minerals. But following the simple bullet points on the brochure you found (which is similar to what I've seen) seems like a sure fire way to gain and maintain health.

The Standard American Diet of processed food, preservatives, sugar, large servings of meat, and fried everything should come with a warning to consult with your doctor. But then we might put some of our pharmaceutical companies out of business...

peterbronski said...

Hey Rachel... I completely agree. The SAD is profoundly unhealthy, while the bullet points advocate a much healthier way to live and eat. These days I tend to gloss right over "consult your doctor" statements, the same way I used to when they'd make the same blanket statement before a fitness/workout video (consult your doc before beginning any exercise regimine...whatever!). I think it's mostly liability language that covers whoever is posting the information (i.e. don't take our word for it.... talk to your physician!).

Cheers, Pete

Erin said...

Love that brochure! It echoes my sentiments that living gluten free need not be a chore-but can be a joyous exploration of the bounty of naturally gluten free foods. And I completely echo Rachel's and your comments on the general diet.
Thanks for sharing that!