Gluten Free Paradise – Part II

As a Registered Dietitian, I have counseled many patients with celiac disease. But when I started living with my celiac husband ten years ago, I understood in a whole new way how challenging it can be to live a gluten free lifestyle. I spent hours perusing labels in natural foods stores, cooking from scratch and opening boxes of homemade gluten free cake and brownies that my late mother in law painstakingly prepared and sent from San Diego. There were no gluten free brownie mixes in the stores back then.

My own diagnosis and then two celiac kids followed. And I am truly amazed at how much simpler the grocery shopping experience has become. When my kids are going to a birthday party, I can pop into a store like PCC Natural Markets and buy a gluten free cupcake mix and gluten free frosting in no time at all. And if I am really running late, then I can buy already prepared gluten free cupcakes instead. Talk about easy.

One year ago, PCC Natural Markets had the special honor of being recognized by The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) as the first gluten free endorsed retailer in the country. I remember seeing that headline and being excited about it but only recently have I found out exactly what that achievement means and how hard earned it actually is.

GIG is a national non-profit that provides support to people with intolerances to gluten. PCC worked closely with GIG for 18 months to ensure compliance with GIG criteria for gluten free product identification and handling. PCC also developed and implemented comprehensive staff training (for all staff) and consumer education programs about gluten intolerance.

PCC offers about 2,000 gluten free food and body care products. They also offer gluten free store tours (I would have loved one of those ten years ago!) as well as gluten free cooking classes.

I had an exceptional customer service experience related to one of PCC’s cooking classes. I signed my five year old up for a cooking class last summer and when I called PCC to register, I mentioned that he has celiac disease. They actually do offer gluten free kids cooking classes but not yet for the youngest age group. The cooking class instructor contacted me ahead of time. She had adapted the recipes to have gluten free options available and we happily cooked and ate along with all of the other parents and children. If you are the mom or dad of a kid with celiac disease, you probably have a good sense of what a big deal that is!

Gluten-free information is also offered in PCC stores and online. Gluten-free products are marked with orange shelf tags in PCC’s nine stores and easily found through a searchable gluten free database on PCC’s website.

Of course, PCC recommends that customers review product ingredient lists themselves as an additional safeguard. If you have celiac disease, that’s second nature. You just automatically check out the ingredients even if gluten free is emblazoned on the front of the package.

Not having to spend hours in the grocery store wading through products you can’t eat is an absolute gift. Thank you to PCC Natural Markets for being one of the stores that makes my life easier!

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