You might be surprised to learn that about 350,000 Canadians have Celiac disease, and more than two million have a gluten sensitivity. In fact, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada states that nearly one-third of Canadians seek out gluten-free products.
So, what exactly is gluten? It’s a protein found in wheat (including triticale, kamut and spelt), barley, rye and oats. It’s also added to processed foods and found in unlikely places, such as soy sauce, sauces and seasonings, candy, medications, beer and processed meats.
In 2012, new labeling came into effect in Canada that applies to all packaged food and requires manufacturers to identify ingredients containing gluten. Unlike the U.S., where food labeling laws do not require explicit disclosure of gluten ingredients, Canada considers gluten to be an allergen.
If a packaged food product says ‘contains’ or ‘may contain’ wheat, rye, barley, oats or gluten, it’s not safe for someone following a gluten-free diet. The exception would be gluten-free certified oats. Gluten-free foods may also be labeled with a Health Canada approved ‘Gluten-Free’ claim or a gluten-free certified logo from the Canadian Celiac Association.
Many foods may not be labeled as gluten-free even though they are safe to eat for those on a gluten-free diet, and many foods do not carry an ingredient list or warnings – such as spices, alcohol, natural health products and foods sold at farmers’ markets. Also, foods that aren’t pre-packaged – such as fruits, vegetables and unprocessed meats and legumes – are naturally gluten-free, as are grains such as quinoa and rice.
To support Celiac Awareness month and those living gluten-free, here is a recipe for scrumptious and easy-to-prepare meatballs.
Apricot Curry Turkey Meatballs
Lean turkey combined with gluten free breadcrumbs, dried apricots, curry, and toasted pine nuts then baked to perfection.
· 4 slices gluten-free bread such as Udi’s White Sandwich Bread
· 1 pound (450g) lean ground turkey
· 1 large egg
· 1/3 cup (80 ml) dried apricots, sliced
· ¼ cup (60 ml) toasted pine nuts
· ¼ cup (60 ml) fresh parsley, chopped
· 1 tablespoon (15 ml) curry powder
· ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) kosher salt
· ¼ teaspoon (1.8 ml) ground black pepper
1. Toast bread in a 400°F (200°C) preheated oven, flipping once, until thoroughly toasted, about 15 minutes.
2. Place in a food processor to crumble into crumbs or do it by hand by placing toast in a food-grade plastic bag and smashing the toast into crumbs with a rolling pin.
3. In a large bowl, combine turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, pine nuts, parsley, curry powder, salt, and pepper. Mix with your hands and form into small quarter-sized balls.
4. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through.
5. Serve with plain yogurt sweetened with honey if desired.
Tristaca Curley is a registered dietitian in Kelowna.