Archive for January, 2011
The weather outside’s delightful!
That didn’t deter a band of stalwart volunteers from representing the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) at the first Wheat-Free & Gluten-Fee Day at Weavers Way Co-op on Saturday, January 29th.
Joanne Gallagher, Annsley Klehr and Nicole Seitz slogged their way through snow and slush to arrive at the Weavers Way location in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. Loaded down with information about celiac disease and gluten intolerance, these three knowledgeable gals set up camp from noon until 4 PM in this lovely new store.
What a day!
Well over 1,000 Weavers Way members and shoppers swarmed the store in spite of the weather and the related parking chaos on Germantown Avenue. As it turns out, a large number of co-op members visiting that day are on special needs diets. NFCA’s information about the gluten-free diet fit the bill perfectly. Joanne reported to the store manager, “We met so many of your members who live with restrictive diets and were interested in the resources NFCA has to offer.” Truly gratifying!
Joanne, Annsley and Nicole are all personally familiar with living a gluten-free lifestyle and were able to discuss the “ins and outs” of shopping for gluten-free food in today’s marketplace. The Weavers Way staff was very accommodating and friendly, making it a pleasure to be there.
Store visitors had lots of gluten-free treats to try, with free samples from a variety of suppliers including local Amaranth Bakery from Lancaster, PA, as well as national manufacturers like Glutino, Nature’s Path, Mary’s Gone Crackers and Blue Diamond Crackers. They also offered a selection of wheat-free and gluten-free dips and spreads from Weavers Way’s acclaimed Prepared Foods Department.
Weavers Way topped off the Wheat-Free & Gluten-Free Day celebration with a fabulous raffle basket full of gluten-free delights from the store. The proceeds went to NFCA to help us meet our mission of gaining a diagnosis for 1 million Americans by 2015. We are most grateful!
The event was so successful that Kim Spelman-Hall, Weavers Way Chestnut Hill Store Manager, plans to hold another event like this in the future. “Our celiac shoppers were very pleased.” NFCA will be there!
It was a GREAT day!
Weavers Way Co-Op has three locations:
- 8424 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118
- 559 Carpenter Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19119
- 2129 72nd Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19138
If you’re planning a gluten-free event, submit the details to NFCA for a free event listing on CeliacCentral.org.
There are a variety of ways to help the celiac cause. Submit NFCA’s Volunteer form today to find out more.
A major milestone in US gluten-free food industry was made this week as Schar USA, the American based division of leading gluten-free manufacturer, Dr. Schar Srl., broke ground on their first stateside gluten-free manufacturing facility.
I had the privilege of representing NFCA at the groundbreaking event, and was thrilled to attend in support of one of our organization’s dedicated sponsors!
Schar has been a huge part of NFCA’s efforts to raise gluten-free awareness in the food industry, participating in our NRA Showcase Pavilion, Northwest Arkansas Education Day, and Appetite for Awareness events.
Personally, I’ve had the honor of developing a close relationship with Schar USA RD, NFCA Medical Advisory Board Member, and celiac rock star, Ann Lee. Recently, Ann and I worked together on NFCA’s Getting Started Guide , making needed updates and revisions to this critical patient resource.
While I was able to Tweet many of the exciting details in real time (@whitneyE1216), here’s a recap and some fast facts about Schar USA’s new facility:
- Dr. Schar opened its US commercial office back in 2007 and currently distributes 32 gluten-free products nationwide (compared to the 200+ they distribute in Europe).
- Only 2 Schar products distributed in the US are manufactured stateside (since 2009), at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton, NJ, The rest are shipped from Germany.
- Schar USA plans to open their first US based manufacturing plant in March 2012 – that’s about 1 year from now!
- The 15+ million dollar facility will be 50,000 square feet and bring 51 new jobs to the Gloucester Country economy in the next 2-3 years, with the potential for 500 more jobs in the years following.
You can read more about the Schar USA manufacturing plant groundbreaking on NJ.com. There were many Gloucester County officials in attendance, even the Mayor of Logan, praising Schar for bringing a boost to the local economy and a story to Jersey that doesn’t involve…‘Those kids from the Shore’.
The absolute best part of the day was meeting Schar CEO Hannes Berger, who traveled all the way from Italy to attend the event!
During his presentation, Mr. Berger talked extensively (and accurately!) about the rapidly growing gluten-free market and expanding celiac and gluten intolerant population in the US. He spoke with incredible sincerity and conviction as he discussed Schar’s passion and commitment for serving our gluten-free community by producing safe and delicious products.
“Our aim with this facility is to bring innovative, tailor-made products for the U.S. celiac population to market,” he said during his speech.
Speaking with him 1 on 1 following event was fantastic. He was incredibly interested in NFCA’s work, and appreciative of our organization’s role in helping to make Schar products available in Wal-Mart Stores across the country!
He also expressed his overwhelming gratitude for the support of the entire US gluten-free community, and confessed that our demand and passion for Schar products was the sole reason for the company’s decision to build a dedicated US facility. He plans to returns to New Jersey in a few months to check on the construction progress, and then a year from now to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Finally, Mr. Berger was excited to report that a variety of NEW Schar products will be available in the US this year, including cheese nips, hot dog buns and BAGELS, which will be fortified just like popular wheat based breads!
In all, I was delighted to be standing on a cold, muddy patch of land for such a lively celebration. While it may not have looked like much to outsiders, that vacant lot represented the future that Schar, NFCA, and celiacs everywhere envision: one of unlimited possibility and safe, widely available gluten-free food.
New Year’s resolutions have never really been my thing. I believe that the common resolves of exercising and eating healthy should serve as the foundation of a balanced lifestyle which is why I actively maintain such behaviors. Sure, I indulge in a gluten-free treat when the craving arises (a thumbprint cookie from Sweet Freedom Bakery anyone?) and skip the gym in favor of the latest Women’s Health and my couch when an afternoon meeting runs well past 5 o’clock. But when it comes down to it, I make a nutritious meal and a sweat session on the treadmill a priority.
So I surprised myself this January when I vowed to make a commitment of change like so many other Americans do. As someone whose family has always joked has “ants in her pants,” you can imagine that I have a hard time doing nothing, letting my mind rest and just being. To be honest, I feel guilty if I’m not busy. Whether it is for work or pleasure, I enjoy always having something to do or something to think about. But lately I was letting my thoughts run wild more than usual and I decided enough was enough. I resolved that 2011 would be my year of mindfulness. I would learn how to observe my thoughts and control the process rather than letting my thoughts control me. I would become more aware of the present moment and actively participate in the dynamic between my emotions, thoughts and actions.
Of course, this all sounds very nice but the million-dollar question was: “How am I going to do this?” A week after dusting off my yoga mat and buying a new journal, I found myself frustrated and, if anything, less mindful than when I started.
When I shared my sense of defeat with a friend, she replied, “Well, it sounds like you’re trying to learn something all over again. These types of things never happen overnight.” Her perspective piqued my interest. I jogged my memory to think back to the last time I had “started from scratch.” Aha! How had I not thought of the obvious before?
Going gluten-free involves deciphering every food label and becoming more aware of every morsel ingested and every beverage sipped. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I felt as if I spent the first several months after being diagnosed with celiac wearing a magnifying glass around my neck. Adjusting to a gluten-free lifestyle required acceptance (is this really happening to me?), patience (what happened to a quick trip to the grocery store?) and mindfulness (what are the ingredients?).
I smiled and let out a small sigh. I had been forced to alter my entire relationship with food within minutes of my doctor telling me to “go gluten-free.” Surely I could learn how to quiet my mind and regain control of my thoughts over the course of a year.
When I learned that Washington DC and surrounding suburbs had been named the “World’s Most Celiac-Friendly Destination” by GlutenFreeTravelSite.com, I can’t say I was surprised. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) hosted DC Gluten-Free Cooking Sprees in 2007 and 2009, so we knew the area’s chefs had taken an interest in celiac needs. Combine that with the gluten-free offerings at Washington Nationals games, the call for healthier food from the White House and the recent nod to Firefly’s gluten-free prowess on CNN.com, and it’s pretty clear they’re on the right track.
Still, I can’t help but feel hurt for my fellow Philadelphians. While NFCA is a national organization, the staff has helped turn Philly into a celiac-friendly community, and we’d like the area’s gluten-free gourmets to get some recognition. We’re sure you feel the same way about your favorite eateries.
Fortunately, that hint of jealousy is a good sign. It means more restaurants are recognizing special dietary needs, both in metropolitan areas and beyond. With just a quick Google search, we can read about restaurants in Franklin, TN, going gluten-free or how Subway is testing gluten-free rolls in Texas. Who knows? Maybe next year, the “World’s Most Celiac-Friendly Destination” will be aboard cruise ships.
As for the NFCA crew, we get to celebrate the gluten-free lifestyle both in Philly and across the country at Appetite for Awareness, thanks to participation from area restaurants and nationwide vendors. And the contest? Well, GlutenFreeTravelSite.com bases its decision on user reviews, so the power is in your hands.
Which city do you consider the “World’s Most Celiac-Friendly Destination”? What makes it so accommodating?
One of the most wonderful aspects of my job is having an opportunity to follow all the fantastic celiac disease and gluten-free bloggers out there. I so enjoy this incredible online community and always look forward to reading their personal stories, tips, recipes, and so much more!
This week, About.com celiac disease editor Jane Anderson wrote a particularly poignant piece about the lack of awareness and education within the physician community. As we here at NFCA are in the midst of launching a campaign to promote our Continuing Medical Education (CME) program for primary care physicians – the topic couldn’t have been more relevant, and Jane’s message couldn’t have been more compelling:
“How many people with celiac disease have been incorrectly diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome instead of celiac, or — worse yet! — been sent on their way with a pat on the head and a prescription for an antidepressant?
There are still plenty of doctors out there who don’t know anything about celiac, and who don’t seem to want to learn. And their colleagues cover for them, offering no solace to patients who suffered for years with an easily treatable condition due to physician incompetence and ignorance.”
Now, I do not have celiac disease. I have never known the struggle that so many in this community have faced in attempting to gain a proper diagnosis. However, the need for more knowledgeable, understanding and compassionate physicians transcends any one illness or disease. The idea of anyone suffering for 1 year, let alone 6-10, is absurd. This is 2011, and this is a COMMON disease.
When you’re done, learn more about the fantastic campaign NFCA and Rudi’s Gluten-free Bakery recently launched to benefit our CME program – and how you can help!
While most of our friends had a relaxing week off between Christmas and New Year’s, Whitney, Kristin and I were trucking away at projects planned for 2011. Don’t get us wrong; we love what we do. It’s just that the office, well, it gets stuffy.
Fortunately, we learned a few weeks back that Sweet Freedom Bakery, one of Philly’s top gluten-free locales and an Appetite for Awareness participant, would appear in an episode of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” on Dec. 28. Surely, we should swing by to wish them luck, we figured. So, when the big day arrived, off to South Street we went.
Friends, if you ever need a midday pick-me-up, swing by a gluten-free bakery. Don’t do it every day, but give yourself a treat. The air is sweet, the colors are bright and the displays are fabulous.
But what to get? A thumbprint cookie for Kristin and cake balls for Whitney and me, plus a chocolate chip cookie cupcake with chocolate frosting to enjoy during the 9 p.m. show.
We sat down; we ate; and we gushed. The thumbprint cookie tasted just like the traditional ones she used to love. The cake balls? Oh. my. word. Rich chocolate ganache mixed with crumbles of cake, all in the shape of a donut hole. You could pop the whole thing in one bite, but I chose to savor mine. Chocolate therapy, indeed.
Back at my house, I kicked up my footrest and set my cupcake out as a token of luck for the Food Network battle. (Truth be told, I held off on eating it until the following day. Better to space out the treats than overindulge in one swoop.)
Sweet Freedom duo Allison and Heather had a good showing, making it to the second round of the competition. The judges, in fact, were quite impressed with the flavor and texture of the cupcakes. Gluten-free misnomers, be gone!
Now, just a few weeks later, I’ve come to learn more exciting news from the Sweet Freedom crew. The bakery is celebrating its first birthday this Saturday. And for any Philadelphians reading, they’re giving away free mini cupcakes to the first 100 customers to pop by the shop, starting at noon. A sweet way to say “Thank You!” for the support they’ve received.
Sadly, I present this news knowing that I will be heading north for the weekend. However, I do plan to hit up a bakery I’ve been hearing lots of buzz about. Gluten-free dessert will be had, one way or another.
Did you catch Sweet Freedom Bakery on “Cupcake Wars”? What other Food Network shows would you like to see go gluten-free?
In NFCA’s January 2011 newsletter, which we just released yesterday, I asked a few of our favorite gluten-free athletes to share their “Tips for a Healthy New Year.” One of my favorite tips was Pete Bronski’s suggestion to work out they way you like. If you’re not a fan of the gym, try tennis or yoga. If you prefer treadmills, then by all means, hit the machines.
For my part, I’ve made it a goal to run more. I’m an avid power-walker, but I needed some extra oomph to break my stride. My new motivation? The Warrior Dash. It’s a 3.5-mile run in the woods, over cars, through a swamp and up a hill. There are even some nets and tunnels involved. I signed up on a whim and now it’s my number one reason to run, run, run whenever I lace up some sneakers.
Of course, being healthy isn’t just about exercise. A balanced diet is also key to achieving your self-improvement goals in this “Year of You.”
To help you along, here are additional “Tips for a Healthy New Year” from Pete and Erin, with an emphasis on balanced eating. Read up, then tell us what your plans are to make 2011 the “Year of You.” (For more inspiration, follow NFCA’s “Athletes for Awareness” blog.)
- If you’re staring into your pantry and refrigerator, wondering what to eat to fuel your body during workouts, stick to the basics. Eat a well-balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats. Your body needs protein to build muscle, and carbs to fuel those muscles with energy. Prior to a workout, try eating some easily digestible carbohydrates for an extra boost. Rice, potatoes, corn and quinoa are all excellent gluten-free sources of carbohydrates.
Not sure where to start in tackling a healthy gluten-free way of eating? Think of it as putting premium fuel in your tank. Focus on whole, naturally gluten-free foods to make up the majority of your meals. You don’t have to replace gluten-filled products with gluten-free ones; instead, try eating a bit differently:
- Fruits and vegetables. In their natural state, fruits and vegetables are gluten-free. Expand your horizons and try something new. Get at least one serving with every meal, hopefully more. Need a snack? Grab an apple and some nuts instead of reaching for a processed cracker. Try drinking a glass of water and eating a small to medium sized apple before each meal, or when you are feeling “snackish.” You’ll be surprised how much this will cut your hunger and allow you to make smart choices for your meal.
- Meats, poultry and fish. These are your primary protein sources. In their natural state, all meats and fish are naturally gluten-free. Don’t be afraid to cook in bulk a couple days a week and have leftovers to last you for a day or two.
- Healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil and nut butters. These are great flavorful additions to any item (and good right out of the jar!), but are very calorie-dense. If you are trying to gain weight, this is a good thing, so use them liberally. If you are trying to slim down, use these in moderation and watch those serving sizes!
- Naturally gluten-free starchy carbohydrates. Consider the many varieties of potatoes, rice, quinoa, amaranth and millet. Eat these in moderation if you are not active, especially if you are attempting to slim down.
Weight Loss vs. Weight Gain:
- If you’re dealing with unexpected weight loss or gain while recovering from celiac disease, don’t fret. A well-balanced diet and regular exercise will help your body find its new, natural equilibrium weight. Help your body find that “new you” by staying away from overly-processed, pre-packaged gluten-free foods, and opt instead for whole gluten-free grains, fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, and whole meats and fish.
- The main key with weight gain or weight loss lies in what and how much you eat. Calorie amount is the first consideration when you are manipulating your body weight and body fat level. Calorie quality is a very close #2. You need to have an appropriate level of calories from quality food, which supply you with nutrients you need. If you are trying to lose weight, it won’t matter how much you exercise if you continue to eat more calories than you are expending. The opposite is true with gaining weight.
- Get acquainted with serving sizes. Purchase a food scale if you wish. You don’t have to weigh and measure your food, but you do have to have an idea of what and how much you are eating. Speak with a dietitian or nutritional consultant if you need help.