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Gluten-free is easy to be with many Massachusetts restaurants’ menu options

Posted by Alex Pearlman  December 30, 2011 05:46 PM

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wheat gluten-free diets.jpgBy Kristen Micho

If you have a gluten or wheat intolerance or have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, gluten-free dining is a necessity. But gluten-free diets are also becoming trendy: Gluten-free food sales totaled $2.64 billion in 2010, and research predicts that dollar amount will reach nearly $5.5 billion by 2015. A Fall 2010 survey found that only 8-12 percent bought gluten-free foods due to Celiac Disease or intolerance, and 13 percent buy gluten-free to treat other conditions.

In Boston, gluten-free menu options have increased as well, making dining on this diet simpler.

“It was virtually impossible to find gluten-free restaurants when I was first diagnosed and lived in Boston,” said Sara Antani, 26, who has been gluten-free for four years. “Restaurants have much more knowledge now and can accommodate gluten-free in some way.” Antani recommends Burton’s Grill in the Fenway area, the North End’s Nebo, and the various Stone Hearth Pizza Co. locations.

“Now that the information is out there, things are improving in a huge way,” she said. And the information is getting out there. Research by Dr. Alessio Fasano from the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research indicates that Celiac Disease diagnoses have increased exponentially.

At Abigail’s in Kendall Square, manager Mark Cicerano has noticed the heightened need for dietary accommodations. The restaurant educates its staff about what allergens are in each dish.

“During any single meal period, we get at least 5-10 people with dietary restrictions, which averages to about 20 per day,” he said. “Though gluten-free may not be the most common request, it is the largest single allergen we are asked to exclude.”

While some restaurants are simply willing and able to make accommodations, others offer an entirely different set of options to their gluten-free guests. The 15 Massachusetts locations of Not Your Average Joe’s all offer a full gluten-free menu.

“We are experts in accommodating our guests’ nutritional and dietary needs, and we are seeing more requests for gluten-free modifications,” said Kristen Struck, the restaurant’s food and beverage director. One percent of their sales come from the gluten-free menu, she said, though that number has risen over the past 24 months.

With grocery stores and restaurants incorporating gluten-free products and dishes into their offerings, living gluten-free is becoming easier every day. Though gluten-free dining may still have its challenges, the trend is taking off -- and, lucky for those who subscribe to it, shows no signs of slowing down.

Do you eat gluten-free? What restaurants would you recommend?

Photo by wit (Flickr)

About Kristen -- A 2010 Endioctt College graduate with a health promotional degree and journalism background from Harvard Extension, I currently live in Brighton and work in research at Brigham and Women's Hospital. I also coach lacrosse.

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