Americans are buying snacks sans gluten at a record pace. The gluten-free foods market is valued at a whopping $4.2 billion, and is expected to exceed $6.6 billion by 2017. That’s a lot of snackage!
Gluten-free snacks and granola bar-type products make up the largest portion of sales (15%) of gluten-free packaged foods, according to a report from Packaged Facts. Do you have some packaged gluten-free snacks in the cupboard?
Snacks are not evil. Snacking can be a tool to improve one’s diet, even. There’s not a thing wrong with gluten-free snacks if your diet is otherwise healthful, balanced with enough fresh, whole foods (and if you can afford the calories). Everybody needs a treat now and then, and if you don’t have the time or interest in making your own gluten-free snack foods, then packaged snacks are your option. However, if that’s not the case, composing a diet based on packaged gluten-free snack foods is a mistake nutritionally.
Why? Because like any other packaged snack, they are usually not bursting with nutrients, fiber or any other redeeming quality except for being gluten-free. People who need gluten-free food are lucky to have snack products available in increasing number and variety, but they are are just snacks. A gluten-free cookie is still a cookie…
Wise snack choices can add vitamins and minerals, fiber and phytonutrients to your diet. They can be a chance to get in another fruit serving or a way to pack a little more protein into your day, for example. If you’re craving a snack and want it to be gluten-free, reach for fruit, veggies or protein foods first—you’ll get more nutritional bang for your buck (and with some packaged gluten-free snacks, those bucks add up fast—cha-ching!). That’s the same advice dietitians would give to everybody! Yes, treat-type snacks can have a place in the diet, it’s just not at the top. Real food is what should make up the bulk of a gluten-free diet (and everybody’s diet). After your nutritional needs have been taken care of and if you can afford a few more calories, then fine, have a gluten-free cookie or granola bar—even a G-free beer.
Ok, I think I’ve beaten that point to death—I’m sure you’ve gotten the message. Now, I’m off to have a juicy, fresh pear. I have been patiently waiting for three days for them to ripen and today is the day!
–Kit Broihier, MS, RD, LD
Images from: The Daily Mail/UK, USA Pears, hellocotton