In recent years, the number of patients suffering from some form of gluten sensitivity has increased dramatically. Roughly 1 percent of the population is believed to suffer from celiac disease.
This is an unfortunate condition where intestinal damage is caused after consuming gluten. However, it’s estimated that more than 6 percent of the population suffers from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If you fall into either of these categories, then finding acceptable food options can be extremely difficult.
What is and Where Do You Find Gluten?
Gluten is actually a range of different proteins that are found in various forms of wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is very useful for helping foods maintain their shape. It can be thought of as a type of glue that holds bread, cereal, and cookies together.
It’s very obvious that some foods contain gluten, such as those just mentioned, but there are also a number of foods, sauces, and condiments with gluten that you wouldn’t expect.
A person with celiac disease would suffer greatly if they consumed one of those foods that contain gluten. And even a person with a mild gluten sensitivity would find the experience extremely unpleasant.
Thus, the best option is to learn what foods contain gluten and then avoid them entirely. This is becoming somewhat easier as manufacturers are becoming more aware of the problem and are beginning to take extra steps to label their food products.
It can take years for a person to learn which foods are and are not acceptable. Performing as much research as possible certainly makes it easier. Some of it is learned through trial and error. Some unexpected sources of gluten include certain salad dressings, sauces, beer, soups, food coloring, and yeast. Oats may not contain gluten but are often grown near farms of wheat, barley, or rye and experience some cross contamination.
Why the Gluten Sensitivity?
Conservative estimates believe that around six percent of the population is sensitive to the gluten proteins. However, there have been much larger estimates in previous years. One gastroenterologist believes that the percentage could be between 30 and 50 percent. A recent study indicated 15 percent of Americans may have blood antibodies that respond to gluten, which would indicate an unwanted reaction.
There are many Americans who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, chronic headaches, or autoimmune disorders. Among those groups of patients, more than 60 percent of them have tested positive for gluten sensitivity with Enterolab, a well-known gluten sensitivity testing service.
But why are so many people experiencing this condition? It’s not fully understood why gluten sensitivity exists in such a large number of people. However, some experts believe that it may be due to human evolution and the rise of the agricultural era.
For millions of years, humans lived in bands of hunters and gatherers. Their diet likely consisted of fruits, nuts, plants, and small amounts of meat. The human body may have evolved to digest this particular diet very efficiently. It was only between 12,000 and 20,000 years ago that the agricultural era started and humans began to farm.
This would have been the time that grains became commonplace. Humans stopped moving, started building houses, and farming grains. Prior to this, very little gluten would have been ingested. Suddenly humans are consuming gluten on a daily basis. 20,000 years later and the body still has not evolved to properly handle this new diet.
This is only one theory among dozens. Whatever the cause may be, it’s clear that non-gluten food sources need to be identified for millions of people. This is easy to accomplish when you’re cooking all of your meals at home and have control over each of the ingredients. But how do you find gluten-free food options when you’re eating on the go?
The Best Fast Food without The Gluten
Fast food restaurants around the globe are taking steps to include gluten-free food options on their menu. And you can even modify some existing orders to remove the elements that include gluten.
Here are just a few examples of fast food menu items that don’t include any gluten.
1. The Bun-less Burger
Choosing to have the bun removed from a burger is often a great way to turn a meal into a gluten-free option. This doesn’t apply to all burgers. For example, the Big Mac from McDonald’s uses a sauce that includes gluten. But it does work for Sonic bacon cheeseburgers, Burger King Whoppers, and Chick-Fil-A grilled chicken sandwiches.
2. Grilled Instead of Fried
Any time you decide to order chicken from a fast food restaurant you should always choose the grilled option. This applies to nearly every menu option available at Chick-Fil-A.
You may not be able to enjoy their standard chicken sandwich or their chicken nuggets, but the grilled chicken sandwich without a bun and the grilled chicken nuggets are both excellent gluten-free alternatives.
3. Greens Are Your Gluten-Free Friends
Salads are becoming more commonplace at fast food chains as well. You can order a house salad from KFC, McDonald’s, Wendys, Whataburger, Subway, and Arby’s. It’s very important that you ensure there are no croutons and there is no salad dressing otherwise the gluten will still be present.
You’ll also have to opt out of bacon bits at most places because they often use imitation bacon made from wheat rather than real pieces of bacon.
4. Consider Chili
A few different chains also offer delicious chili options. These are perfect as the weather continues to grow colder. Most cities have a Wendy’s somewhere and their gluten-free chili is excellent. Just don’t add any crackers to the mix. Instead, order one of their famous baked potatoes on the side.
It’s a delicious combination. Depending on where you live, you might also have access to Culver’s, which is another source of gluten-free chili on the go.
5. Cheat Day? French Fries are Gluten Free…
If you’re on a diet or watching your weight, it’s probably a good idea to avoid the french fries. But, if your diet calls for a cheat meal (Weight Watchersis one diet that has some awesome cheat meal options) or you just want to indulge is some gluten-free deliciousness, then french fries are one option to consider.
Which fast food restaurant has the best fries? McDonald’s is hands down my favorite.
It’s a good idea to take note of what fast food restaurants are in your area. From there, you can begin to compile a list of their gluten-free food options. It will take some time to figure out what you can and can’t eat. Eventually, you’ll be able to order your favorite gluten-free fast food options with extreme confidence.
Ben Corbin brings nearly 20 years of experience as a health and wellness author and writer. He holds a master’s degree, has a passion for health and fitness, and is driven to provide readers with accurate and honest diet reviews. Learn more about Ben and the DadQuarters mission at our About page.