May is Celiac Awareness Month

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The Canadian Celiac Association estimates that about one percent of the Canadian population is living with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease in which a protein called gluten damages the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients. The only treatment for this disease is a gluten-free diet for life.

A gluten-free diet means avoiding the protein gluten. Gluten can be found in wheat, rye, barley and related cereal grains, such as triticale, spelt, kamut and regular non-gluten-free oats. Any foods containing these grains, or have been cross-contaminated by these grains, are harmful to a person with celiac disease.

Grains such as quinoa, rice, millet, corn and oats, are naturally gluten-free, and can be used on their own or as ingredients in gluten-free foods. New research has also shown that pure, uncontaminated oats may be used in the gluten-free diet with care. Health Canada has confirmed that eating uncontaminated oats is safe for most people with celiac disease, however, you should check with your healthcare provider to see if gluten-free oats are safe for you.

How to shop gluten-free

Eating a gluten-free diet doesn’t need to be as tough as it may seem, and at Sobeys, our team of dietitians are here to help make things easier. Product labels have recently changed to prioritize allergies and gluten contamination on packaging. Companies are now using simple language to help you better identify if products contain gluten, making it easier to choose the products that are right for you. If you find that you still have a few questions, don’t hesitate to speak to your local Sobeys dietitian. They can help you read product labels, recommend gluten-free products, and even help with meal planning to ensure you’re not sacrificing the meals that you and your family love.

1. Scan product packaging

Check product packaging for wording such as “gluten-free” or look for the gluten-free logo. Gluten-free products are highly regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to ensure products are safe for you and your family.

2. Read the ingredients

The ingredient list must identify if there are any gluten containing ingredients in the product. If you see ingredients such as wheat, rye, barley, oats or any related cereal grain, the product is not gluten-free. If you see oats on an ingredient list, it is safest to assume they are regular, non-gluten-free oats, unless they are specifically labelled gluten-free oats.

3. Look for warnings

Companies may include warning statements on packages. Warnings usually have a “contains” or “may contain” statement found near the ingredient list. If you see wheat, rye, barley, oats or gluten listed in either “contains” or “may contain” statements, the product is not safe to eat. You should also be aware that even if you do not see gluten warning labels, the product could still be cross-contaminated. Be sure to read the label carefully for warnings of possible cross-contamination.

4. Make the call

Still not sure if a product is gluten-free? Call the product manufacturer. They can provide information about their ingredients or potential cross-contamination. You can also consult with a Sobeys dietitian to help find products that are right for you.

5. Do a re-check

A product’s production processes and ingredients can change without notice. The only way to be sure that a product is gluten-free is to follow the above steps every time you purchase packaged food.

In addition to following a gluten-free diet, it is important to eat a balanced diet and make healthy food choices. Eating a balanced, gluten-free diet doesn’t have to be challenging. Consider consulting with a registered dietitian for helpful tips to ensure you are meeting all your nutrient needs.

Think beyond food

Supplements and medications can also contain gluten. Be sure to check with your Sobeys pharmacist about any supplements you are taking, and which ones may be right for you.

Hungry for more? Like @SobeysDietitian on Facebook and Twitter for more tasty tips & recipes or receive our schedule of events and Healthy Bits & Bites Newsletter directly to your inbox! Register at

Your health is our priority! Sobeys dietitians are providing phone consultations to connect you with our services. Do not put your nutrition care on hold! Connect with Teresa for more information or to book a consult: (902)-755-3645 or e-mail:

Enjoy this recipe for blackberry coconut chia parfait…

Blackberry Coconut Chia Parfait
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Serves 4
2 cups 500 ml Blackberries
⅓ cup 75 ml Toasted coconut
2 tbsp 30 ml Honey
1 ½ cups 375 ml Coconut kefir or yogurt
2 Bananas
¼ cup 60 ml Chia seeds

  1. Toss blackberries with honey. Let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, purée kefir or yogurt with bananas and chia seeds in blender until smooth.
  2. Layer blackberries, kefir/yogurt mixture and toasted coconut in four 1 cup (250 ml) glasses or jars. Cover with plastic or seal with a lid. Keep chilled. Serve within 12 hours.
    Dietitian Tip: Have you tried kefir? This fermented milk product has probiotics to support gut health.

    Nutrition Information per Serving (¼ of recipe)
    Calories 270, Fat 9 grams, Saturated fat 5 grams, Carbohydrate 44 grams, Fibre 10 grams,
    Protein 7 grams, Sodium 40 milligrams