Archive for July, 2011

The ‘Double Whammy’ of Celiac and Type 1

[When we read NFCA volunteer Ellen G’s blog post about a gluten-free feature for her insulin pump, it got us wondering about the daily management of celiac and type 1. Luckily, NFCA intern Jordan was here to give her firsthand account.]

You can easily spot my hot pink Animas insulin pump clipped to my side wherever I go. However, if you are not familiar with what an insulin pump is, you might ask me “Is that your cell phone?” and you wouldn’t be the first. In high school, teachers would constantly accuse me of listening to my iPod or playing with my phone in class when all I was really doing was using my insulin pump.

I am a type 1 diabetic. I have been for over 15 years. The conversations that begin over my insulin pump eventually lead to discussions on not only my diabetes, but also being celiac. The most common response when people discover I have both celiac and diabetes? “Well, that’s a double whammy!”

I am 21 years old, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 6 and celiac disease at age 15. Treating both autoimmune diseases can be difficult at times, but I am grateful every day that it is manageable. When asked which disease is harder to control, I have to say diabetes. Celiac disease certainly gives me an added diet challenge, but with so many options nowadays for gluten-free foods, restaurants, and especially my mom’s cooking, it is considerably easier to manage.

A few weeks ago, I was at the doctor’s for an advanced pumping class and reviewed some of my blood sugars with a certified diabetes educator (CDE). The CDE asked, “Do you think some of your numbers may be affected by the celiac disease?”

I stopped at stared at her for a minute before I answered, “No. Why would they?”

She explained that if I wasn’t following the gluten-free diet, my absorption of foods wouldn’t be right and could affect my blood sugars. “I’m following the diet to a T,” I responded, harsher than needed, but true.

I am aware of the effects non gluten-free foods can have on my blood sugars as well as the plethora of other side effects that can occur. I did not want her or anyone else to think I wasn’t committed to the diet.

As many people know, eating a diet high in simple-carbohydrate foods can increase your blood glucose levels and cause spikes. Fortunately, the gluten-free diet can eliminate most of these foods from your meal plan, leaving you with more complex carbohydrates that are better for blood glucose control. Diabetics are encouraged stay away from substituted products like gluten-free cookies and pastries. However, even as a nutrition major, I can’t stop the occasional gluten-free cookie or sweets craving.

As a diabetic, it is important to take note that these substituted foods usually have more carbohydrates than their original counterparts. When carbohydrate counting, you need to give yourself enough insulin to cover the foods. While I cannot tell you from recent experience what a non gluten-free food does to my glucose levels, I can tell you that my A1C levels have improved since my commitment to the gluten-free diet.

Staying gluten-free can affect social situations at times, too. My friends know how much I prefer going to a restaurant with a gluten-free menu than one without. However, that doesn’t stop them from wanting to go to ones that do not have knowledge of gluten-free food handling or special allergy menus. My anxiety level can go through the roof when we plan dinners like these, but I am not afraid to go. I often call ahead, ask about any knowledge they have about the condition and pick out something from the menu ahead of time that I am certain will be safe. My family is great about cooking for me, especially my mom. When my dad was diagnosed with celiac about 3 years after me, she dedicated our entire house to being gluten-free and hasn’t turned back.

So, while most people would call my autoimmune diseases a “double whammy,” I wouldn’t disagree. But it does get easier as you go.

– Jordan

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July 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm Leave a comment

Gluten-Free? Fancy That!

Last week, I rose at 5:30 a.m. and headed to Washington, DC, for The Fancy Food Show. The event gathers manufacturers, retailers and food-lovers alike, and with only 7 hours to consume as much information (and samples) as possible, there wasn’t a minute to spare.

Two swollen feet and a shopping bag full of info sheets later, I’m still recovering from the whirlwind. In addition to my favorites like Crunchmaster and Lucy’s Cookies, there were a number of new finds. Here’s the rundown on gluten-free surprises and stand-outs. Stay tuned to our Gluten-Free Hot Products blog next week for part 2: a round-up of what’s new from your favorite gluten-free companies.

Biggest Trend: Popcorn

Gourmet Gluten-Free Popcorn

Popcorn gets an upgrade.

Good old gluten-free kernels are moving up the ranks. Gourmet flavors, from hand-made caramel corn to organic Black Truffle and White Cheddar, have lifted popcorn out of its butter-slathered, overcooked slump. A word of caution, though: While popcorn is naturally gluten-free, the ingredients some companies mix it with (i.e. chocolate-covered pretzels) may not be.

Best Form of Hydration: MetroMint Water

MetroMint Water

MetroMint water - My hydration savior!

With 2 floors of exhibition space, my tour up and down the aisles was more like a marathon than a stroll. Fortunately, there were plenty of drink samples to keep me hydrated. While I loved the new sodas that ditched caffeine and syrupy sweeteners for a lighter, more natural flavor, my favorite drink was MetroMint. The product is simply water infused with mint and fruit essences. I had the orange mint flavor, which was incredibly cooling and a welcome relief to my parched tongue. Plus, it’s naturally gluten-free.

Best New Flavor: Pink Grapefruit

Gelato Case

Ah, gelato. Ice cream's Italian cousin.

My nose has fallen in love with the scent of pink grapefruit (it all started with hand soap), so I was curious whether my tongue would share the same affection. Ciao Bella makes a gelato flavor called Grapefruit Campari Sorbet, and it was delicious. Creamy yet light, and the perfect tartness for a summer treat. Unfortunately, it looks like the flavor is only available at gelato bars, not in store-bought pints. Here’s hoping it becomes more widely available soon. Note: Many flavors of gelato and sorbet are gluten-free, but there are risks of cross-contamination in facilities and shops that also handle gluten-containing foods.

Biggest Surprise: Bissinger’s Blueberry Acai Gummy Pandas

Gluten-free gummy pandas

Yummy gummies in my tummy.

When I reached for a package of the Gummy Pandas, I half expected them to contain gluten. Fortunately, they said ‘gluten-free’ right on the label, and despite listing an allergen warning, the product has won rave reviews among gluten-free parents, according to the staff. Back at the office, I tore into the complimentary pack. Instantly, the room was filled with the smell of blueberries. The flavor was equally intense, like taking a big swig of blueberry acai juice. They’re the sophisticated gummy, fit for a kids party or society soiree.

Favorite Non-Food: Lunch Skins

Lunch Skins reusable bags

I loved the patterns available in Lunch Skins.

Snack baggies – So convenient, but so not environmentally-friendly. According to the ladies at Lunch Skins, more than 20 million plastic baggies are dumped in landfills each day. These adorable snack bags are a way to reduce that imprint and look entirely stylish and sophisticated while doing so. The reusable bags are also a great way to distinguish your child’s gluten-free snacks from the rest.

Most Sinful Indulgence: Hot & Spicy Chocolates

Spicy chocolate fudge

Talk about hot chocolate.

Chocolate is seemingly innocuous, but add in some gourmet ingredients and suddenly gluten may be an issue. Fortunately, several vendors at Fancy Food reported their chocolates to be gluten-free. John Kelly Chocolates had a gorgeous display, including a line of spicy fudge made even more tempting when the booth attendant said it didn’t contain gluten. Being a fan of some kick, I opted for the hottest flavor they had: Dark Chocolate with Habanero & Jalapeno Chile. It was rich and delicious, with a delayed punch of heat. The tingle lingered long after I left the booth. Note: Ingredients may change, so call to ensure gluten-free status.

Most Creative T-Shirt: The Mediterranean Snack Food Company

Oh My Gluten-Free Shirt

Mediterranean Snacks shows their gluten-free pride.

OMG. It stands for “Oh My Gluten-Free,” and was emblazoned on a Mediterranean Snacks staff member’s shirt. Quite fittingly, it’s also what I thought when I tried the company’s Cracked Pepper Baked Lentil Chips. A light, crunchy texture, not the least bit mealy, and seasoned just enough to open your nose without hurting your sinuses. My shopping list just got bigger.

Best New Twist: Danielle Snacks

Danielle Gluten-Free Okra Chips

A healthy alternative to fried okra.

I’ve had plenty of dried apricots and banana chips, but Danielle Fruit and Veggie Chips take it to another level. The Divine Okra Chips were what immediately drew me to the booth. They were entire pods of okra, dried to a light crisp. My favorite, however, were Roasted Coconut Chips, which were real strips of coconut flesh, not the small flakes you buy at the grocery store. There were more flavors like Golden Durian and Sweet Jackfruit – I can only imagine the delicious results when blended together.

Best Dual Find: Flamous Falafel Chips

Gluten-Free Falafel Chips

Falafel chips acquired. Get thee to some hummus!

If the lentil chips didn’t tip you off, I’m always on the hunt new gluten-free snacks. The Fancy Food Show had a lot of them – hummus chips, plantain chips – and Flamous Falafel Chips were right up there. The chips are made organic corn and whole beans, then seasoned with everything from lemon grass to marjoram. It really tastes like an entire falafel in compact chip form. A unique taste and one that also caught the attention of NFCA volunteer Nadina. She blogged about it as her most recent gluten-free product find. Four thumbs up!

Most Variety: Seitenbacher Natural Foods

Seitenbacher Gluten-Free Cherry Dolphins

These chewy guys pack a strong fruity flavor.

I had first heard about Seitenbacher when my dad tried some of their gluten-free samples at his local market. I bee-lined for their booth at Fancy Food and got the full rundown of their gluten-free products: soups, sauces, cereals, candies, energy bars – it’s a whole lot to explore. I took home a pack of their gluten-free Cherry Dolphins, which reminded me of Swedish Fish, but without the artificial taste.

Want to see more from the Fancy Food Show? Watch for Part 2 on next week.

July 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm 5 comments

Phightin’ All-Star

[As you know, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness staff members are big Phillies fans. So when one of our newest volunteers, Nadina Fraimow, told us she shared the same passion for sports, wellness and all things Phillies, we had to get her on board. Nadina will be sharing her gluten-free experience throughout the 2011 Phillies season.]

Phightin’ All-Star

A Phightin’ to Be Gluten-Free Blog

Cliff Lee is an All-Star. In an entertaining All-Star Game last Tuesday evening, the National League won 5-1 against the American League and obtained home field advantage in the World Series.  Good news for the Phillies!

Lee followed Halladay on the mound, impressively the sixth time in All-Star Game history that teammates were the first two pitchers in the rotation.  Cliff Lee gave up a homer in the fourth.  All-Stars have errors too, and Lee is no exception.  As an All-Star, Lee Phights for his team, Phights for himself, and even set a personal record in July.

July 3:  Phillies 4-7 loss against the Toronto Blue Jays

Error: Lee gave up a season high of seven runs—three were homers in the 8th inning.  Another Phillies All-Star, Shane Victorino, had a baserunning error during the same inning when his cleat got stuck in the turf.

Highlight: Lee’s overall game performance included 0 walks and 9 strike outs.  Victorino doubled and scored on Ben Francisco’s single in the second inning.

July 9: Phillies 1-4 loss against the Atlanta Braves   

Error: Lack of offensive support

Highlight: Lee hit his first professional career home run and allowed one run in over 8 innings.

I strive to be a Phightin’ Gluten-Free All-Star each time I advocate for healthy, tasty and safe dining options. I Be-LEE-ve the recipe for a Gluten-Free All-Star is to combine the right ingredients of confidence, clear articulation, command and heart when in a dining establishment.

July’s dining experiences and product reviews are quite un-Be-LEE-vable.  Take my lead and try something new with a few tips.

  1. Ask for food allergies and/or intolerances to be listed next to your name and reservation at the time you call.
  2. Call the day of your reservation and speak to a chef or manager about food allergies and/or intolerances, accommodations and dining options.
  3. Clearly articulate dietary restrictions and always inquire about dish ingredients.  I never regret asking too many of the right questions.
  4. Thank the waiter and send compliments to the chef in the kitchen for creating a comfortable dining experience and (hopefully) delicious meal.

As a reminder, my dish and product reviews are on the following baseball-inspired scale:

Single– Fair
Double– Good
Triple– Very good
Home Run– Must try
Grand Slam– Sublime

Grilled Wild King Salmon topped with arugula in lemon vinaigrette at Steve and Cookie’s- Home Run  

A must try dish for vacationers and diners at the Margate shore in New Jersey. The fish was fresh and rich in the pigment that distinguishes the premiere wild-caught salmon from farm raised.  Cooked with precision, the layers of salmon peeled away with the soft touch of a fork.  Each layer was just as moist as the next with locked in juices and Omega 3 oils.  In addition, the grilled char added flare and nice texture to the overall dish and was accompanied by fresh arugula. The lemon vinaigrette both on the plate and mixed in with the greens on top of the salmon was too creamy and heavy in flavor for a naturally rich and oily fish.  Note: This was the chef’s gluten-free alternative for the Fish of the Day.  

The result:  The Wild King Salmon is the All-Star on the plate.  The paired lemon dressing did not support the dish; instead, it overpowered the natural juices and zest.

The scene:  A July 4th weekend dinner outing at the Margate shore.  Home to Lucy the Elephant, the Atlantic City Surfs and the boardwalk— I love to return every summer.  After spending my day at the beach reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and watching Lee pitch, I had worked up an appetite.  I was ready for a delicious meal at Steve and Cookie’s, a restaurant that evokes fond childhood memories of dining at with my grandparents and family.

Steve & Cookie's Gluten-Free Wild King Salmon

A Home Run: Wild King Salmon at Steve & Cookie's

Mista verde salad with balsamic vinaigrette and grilled chicken at SeraphinaSingle

A fair dish marked by average grilled chicken and an assortment of greens.  The leafy salad and balsamic vinaigrette (balsamic vinegar, herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper) was fresh and quite enjoyable, especially for a summer lunch.  The grilled chicken that I added to the salad was small in portion, cut in very fine strips and resembled a pre-packaged chicken cutlet from a grocery store.  However, my lunch guest recommended the gluten-free pasta on the menu.

The result:  Disappointing grilled chicken at a restaurant in a prime location, Rittenhouse Square.  The good news—gluten-free pasta options are available.

The scene:  A lunch meeting with a highly respected blogger in the gluten-free community, Michael of Gluten-Free Philly. Of course, we discussed all things gluten-free.  According to a local food blog, Cliff Lee walked into Seraphina (but did not stay to dine) on the same afternoon we were there!

Flamous Falafel Chips (Original)- Grand Slam

A sublime allergy friendly chip free of wheat, dairy, lactose, trans fats, cholesterol, MSG, hydrogenated oil, GMO, preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavors, available for purchase at Whole Foods and ACME.   A simple bite into the crisp falafel chips elicits savory Mediterranean flavors and spices.

The result:  Tastes exactly like a falafel with a chip twist.  A great alternative to the typical party or game day corn tortilla chips.  Spice up a meal and eat plain or pair with dip of your choice.

A special shout out to NFCA’s successful Celiac Awareness Night, with a Phillies 3-2 victory against the Atlanta Braves.  An almost 2-hour rain delay didn’t keep my family and other Phillies fans away from Citizens Bank Park.  The game highlight was a gluten-free Raul Ibanez’s solo homer with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning.  Very timely!

Tune in tonight and cheer for Cliff Lee and the Phillies at 8 p.m., as they play the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.  It’s time to Be-LEE-ve!

– Nadina

About Nadina:
Nadina Fraimow began volunteering with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) in April 2011, and will be happy to answer messages sent to the email account. Nadina learned that she has gluten sensitivity in February 2011, and is grateful for having been diagnosed promptly and correctly by a knowledgeable gastroenterologist. She enjoys running, shopping for gluten-free sweets and creating recipes that are both tasty and healthy. Nadina is a Marketing and Communications professional living and working in Philadelphia. Nadina is also a proud Penn State alumna and an avid fan of the Phillies.

July 19, 2011 at 11:16 am Leave a comment

Adventures In Gluten-Free Cooking

Whitney Conquers The Kitchen Thanks To Zatarain’s Gluten-Free Rice Mixes

When I volunteered to create my very own original gluten-free recipe using one of Zatarain’s fabulous gluten-free rice mixes, there were a few raised eyebrows among the NFCA staff.

For one thing, I don’t eat gluten-free – at least not at home (the office is a different story). Secondly, I am not a cook. A great eater? For sure. But completely inept when it comes to anything related to the kitchen!

While I only recently learned that many of their products were gluten-free, I have been using Zatarain’s products for years. So with experience in my back pocket, I confidently accepted the challenge!

Ingredients for Zatarain's gluten-free dinner

Ingredients gathered. I'm ready to cook!

What I’ve always loved about Zatarain’s is that their products are incredibly versatile, and fit seamlessly into a variety of cuisines and dishes. For my foree into gluten-free cooking, I chose to stick to a New Orleans theme because I love spicy food – specifically Cajun chicken.

What’s also great about Zatarain’s is that you can get creative with their products. For instance, I chose Zatarain’s Gluten-Free Dirty Rice Mix, which calls for beef in the preparation instructions. But instead of beef, I added black beans – it worked like a charm and was just as delicious!

Whitney’s Cajun Chicken Tenders with Zatarain’s Dirty Rice

Serves 2-4


  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Tenders (12 tenders in a pack)
  • 1 box Zatarain’s Gluten-Free Dirty Rice Mix
  • Black Beans (1 can, strained)
  • Onion (2, chopped)
  • Green Pepper (2, chopped)
  • Gluten-free Cajun or Creole Seasoning Mix
  • Olive Oil


To make chicken:

1. Empty Gluten-Free Cajun/Creole Seasoning Mix onto a small plate.

2. Brush tenders (both sides) lightly with olive oil, then coat in seasoning mix and place onto non stick or sprayed sauté pan.

3. Cook on medium heat until chicken is cooked all the way through and seasoning appears charred or blackened.

4. Place a paper towel onto a separate ‘finished’ place. Once tenders are cooked, place them onto the ‘finished’ plate and set aside.

Gluten-Free Cajun Blackened Chicken

Gluten-free Cajun chicken

To make rice:

1. Follow Zatarain’s Gluten-Free Dirty Rice Mix instructions for preparation, located on the back of the box. However, neglect instructions that call for ground meat – prepare without.

2. When rice is completely reduced and prepared, add beans.

Gluten-Free Dirty Rice with Black Beans

Black beans - an inexpensive way to jazz up gluten-free Dirty Rice.

Bringing it all together:

1. After chicken tenders are removed/set aside, add olive oil to the pan and sauté peppers and onions until tender (you can also use a separate, clean pan for this step).

2. Plate rice, chicken and veggies and voila – a healthy, spicy, New Orleans inspired dinner in under 45 minutes!

Gluten-Free Zatarain's meal

The money shot!


*Ready to try your hand at a New Orleans-style meal? Enter NFCA’s “Jazz Up Your Day Gluten-Free Giveaway” by answering the daily question on NFCA’s Facebook page. Each day, a winner will be selected to receive a prize pack of Zatarain’s gluten-free rice mixes. Runs through Friday, July 15.

July 14, 2011 at 9:43 am 2 comments

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