SCOTTISH restaurants are increasingly becoming havens for “bare food” fanatics who scour menus for dishes which cater to their “extreme” healthy eating tastes.
An increasing number of eateries are offering meals which are gluten free, dairy free or sugar free as people become more focused on healthy eating, even when dining out.
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While some people have an intolerance or allergy to gluten such as coeliac disease and are medically unable to eat foods containing wheat such as bread or pastry, a growing number of people are choosing to eat gluten free as a healthy choice.
Others are opting to cut out dairy products and eschew sugar in favour of more natural sweet alternatives, such as stevia, which is extracted from plants.
Visit Scotland said a global trend for food provenance and specific dietary requirements, especially in places such as the US, was fuelling demand on this side of the Atlantic.
Lisa Murphy, who runs healthy eating website Raw Food Scotland, said more people were considering what effect food has on their health.
“It is definitely on the rise,” she said. “More and more people are becoming aware that gluten allergies and intolerance is far more widespread than we once thought and are just generally more interested in what they put into their bodies. Restaurants are having to adapt.
“Going back a few years, it used to be quite difficult in Scottish restaurants to get even vegetarian food - now more restaurants are offering some vegan options, or have a gluten free or dairy free menu.”
Restaurant Cafe St Honore in Edinburgh has a dairy free menu, as well as a gluten free menu - both of which change daily, alongside its standard a la carte option. The menus were launched a year ago - in response to growing demand from customers and members of staff working in the kitchen who were coeliac or allergic to dairy.
“I realised there were so many people who had problems like this and were scared to eat out because they couldn’t rely on things being gluten or dairy free,” said chef Neil Forbes. “So I wanted to let people know that they could guarantee to get specific dishes for them at Cafe.
“At the beginning we had a couple of people a week who had specific dietary requirements, but it has grown and grown.”
He added: “From a business point of view, there is billions of pounds of untapped revenue in the UK of people who avoid eating out for those reasons - whether they have a medical condition or just want to avoid glutenor dairy for whatever reason - so we decided to launch dedicated menus.”
James Withers, chief executive at Scotland Food and Drink, said Scottish food manufacturers were also tapping into the “free from” trend.
“We are seeing a whole generation of manufacturing around this,” he said.
“And what is more, they are winning awards for taste. Whereas previously, it was often seen that gluten free or dairy free products sacrificed taste for something else, now that is not the case.”
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “The success of Scotland’s tourism industry is largely down to visitor satisfaction, ensuring services meet the needs, requirements and most importantly the expectations of those experiencing them.
“We know that sampling traditional dishes and local produce is one of the most popular activities undertaken by visitors and as our recent Provenouncement trend indicates, there is an increased desire for authentic dining experiences and information about where food has come from.”
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