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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Gluten-Free Abundance: The Staff of Life Offers Tasty Variety

Sep 01, 2011 05:43PM ● By Erin Eagen

Belinda McMillan, owner of the health and nutrition store, Staff of Life, in Niceville, has personal insight into what it takes to successfully follow a gluten-free diet. Her mother, father and son have been eating gluten-free for years, enjoying improved health as a result. McMillan says that, not surprisingly, the quest for flavor plays the biggest role in choosing gluten-free foods. “Most people are looking for taste,” she explains. “They want something that tastes close to the original, where they can’t tell the difference.” Having access to taste-tested, easy-to-prepare gluten-free goods helps ensure a successful transition from glutenous grains, which is critically important to the ever-growing gluten-sensitive population.


Consequently, taste is what drives the stock selection at Staff of Life. Before offering anything for sale, McMillan and her staff sample it all: breads, muffins, buns, bagels, wraps, pastas and frozen dinners. “We give an honest opinion of what it tastes like,” says McMillan, adding that customer recommendations also help determine which products are most likely to sell well. “The customers travel and try other products and then bring us the packaging,” she says. “I trust my customers and what they tell me is good.”


Young customers are not forgotten at Staff of Life, which is located across from Niceville High School and Ruckel Middle School. In addition to providing suggestions for birthday party and special event menus, McMillan stocks snacks, pizzas and even dessert items to make life easier on kids and teens who cannot always find acceptable options in cafeterias or vending machines.


Some people explore Staff of Life after receiving a diagnosis of celiac disease or a positive gluten-allergy test result. Others are simply trying to make sense of troubling symptoms, such as abdominal pain, difficulty gaining weight, digestive problems or failure to thrive. McMillan’s personal experiences, as well as those of the people she has helped through the years, have led her to believe that, while medical testing can provide important insights and information, it is essential to listen to one’s body. “If you feel better and your body functions optimally on a gluten-free diet, then don’t eat gluten,” she advises. “Some may say it’s a just a placebo effect, but I say, ‘Who cares?’ If your test results are better or if you feel better, then who cares how you come about it?”


Location: 119 Partin Dr., Niceville. For more information, call 850-678-8411 or visit See ad on page XX.

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