Archive for September, 2011

Eagles Fly and Phillies Phight

[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.]

Eagles Fly and Phillies Phight

A Phightin’ to Be Gluten-Free Blog

Congratulations to the Phillies for clinching the National League East Division with an outstanding regular season record, including Cliff Lee’s nine straight victory starts.  The post clinched games for the Phillies have been quite challenging. With injuries, changes in the line-up and lack of offensive support, the Phillies have lost eight games in a row.

For Philadelphia sports fans, we Be-LEE-ve Eagles will never stop flying and Phillies will never stop Phighting.  With effervescent talent, heart and resilience, the Phightin’ Phillies will start fresh and land on top in the playoffs.  If Lee has taught us Phillies fans anything, it’s about throwing curveballs right back at the curveballs life throws at us.

Below is a new restaurant dish review on the following baseball-inspired scale:

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

Grilled Mediterranean Herb Sea Bass with roasted potatoes at Melograno- Grand Slam

Overview: A sublime dish of perfectly cooked fish in traditional Mediterranean flavors.

The Scene: Saturday date night at Melograno. As the Phillies were losing their eighth game in a row, we were enjoying the lively and cozy BYOB on 20th and Samson Street in Philadelphia.

Safe Dining: Melograno has completed gluten-free training through NFCA’s Gluten Free Resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) Kitchen program. [See more GREAT Kitchens.]

Presentation: Simple, but refined, with roughly two ¼ pound fillets served skin side up with roasted potatoes.  The plated sea bass showcased technique with a clean, crisp skin with flavors from the grill and a glistening top fillet of Mediterranean herbs and oil. The lightly golden brown color of the grilled skin with specks of dark green herbs nicely complemented the golden yellow of the roasted potatoes.

Taste:  Cooked to perfection, a Grand Slam balance from both the initial crisp of the fish and potato to the soft, savory eruption of Mediterranean seasoning and oil.  The thin layers of the fillet peeled away from each other and slid off the skin with the soft touch of a fork.  For an extra burst of flavor, try grilled sea bass with the skin.

Result: Reminiscent of comfort food with a Melograno twist.  The grilled sea bass is the All-Star on the plate; however, the roasted potatoes are “out of the ballpark” delicious.

Gluten-Free Sea Bass at Melograno

A Grand Slam: Grilled Mediterranean Herb Sea Bass with roasted potatoes at Melograno

Tune in tonight and cheer for Cliff Lee and the Phillies at 7:10 p.m. as they play the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

– 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.


September 26, 2011 at 12:44 pm Leave a comment

The Good Fight: Convincing a Family Member to Get Tested for Celiac

As anyone affected by celiac disease or gluten sensitivity knows, there are a lot of battles to wage for wellness. From securing a diagnosis to ensuring gluten-free foods are at your disposal, every stage requires some level of strategy and resolve. So, I’m starting a series about the trials this community faces and some of ways we can stand our ground. I’m calling it “The Good Fight,” because these battles can make a real difference in someone’s well-being.

The Good Fight: Convincing a Family Member to Get Tested for Celiac

In health, there’s an epic battle between the “what-if’s” and the “I don’t know’s.” I’m a “what-if.” I read up on health issues, consider my risks, and at the very least, get my annual check-up. I thrive on prevention. My boyfriend, however, has a textbook case of the “I don’t know’s,” and it drives me batty.

“When’s the last time you went to the doctor?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you going to get a physical this year?”

“Probably not.”

But smack dab in the middle of that spectrum, there’s a whole other category: the “I don’t want to know’s.” These are the people who know their risks, but would rather stay in the dark than find out more.

No one in my family has been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity (yet), but I have a sneaking suspicion about one in particular. She has a number of symptoms – most recently, she’s developed a severe case of arthritis in her hands, and her vitamin D level has been consistently low despite taking supplements.

I told her about celiac disease and suggested that she get tested. Here’s how it went down:

Phase 1: Awareness: I explained the basics of celiac disease, its symptoms, and the long-term effects of going undiagnosed. She said she’d “look into it.”

Phase 2: Consideration: After reviewing the symptoms listed on, she admitted that gluten could be her problem. “I guess I need some gluten-free cereal,” she said. No, I explained. It’s not as simple as that. You need to get tested first. Then, if you go gluten-free, it has to be 100% – that includes soy sauce and gravy, too.

Phase 3: Anxiety/Denial: After realizing the lifelong changes a celiac disease diagnosis would require, my family member failed to mention her concerns to a doctor. “I’m probably overreacting. I don’t have all those symptoms,” she said.

“Some people don’t have any symptoms,” I clarified. Now it was time for some tough love. It’s very possible that the test will come back negative, but I couldn’t deal with the guilt if she put it off and got sicker.

Phase 4: Victory! She spoke with her rheumatologist, who agreed that her concerns were warranted and wrote an order for the celiac blood panel.

The next phase, of course, is getting tested. Whether the results or positive or negative, I’m glad she is finally taking action. For me, and for NFCA’s mission, it means one less stone will go unturned.

Take Action Today!

In honor of my victory, I’m sharing a link to NFCA’s Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist. Please join me by sharing it with a family member or friend (or 10 of them!). Check out our whole Celiac Disease section, including some eye-opening information about thyroid and skin issues related to celiac.

I know many of you have fought or are fighting to get your family members tested for celiac. Let’s use this as an opportunity to share our stories, what worked and what hasn’t. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

September 23, 2011 at 11:33 am 1 comment

Tips for a Gluten-Free Preschool Day

[The response to Annsley’s first guest post, 5 Rules for Healthy Gluten-Free Living, was so positive that I invited her back to share more of her gluten-free experiences. Here, she explains how to help your child stay gluten-free at preschool.]

As the school year rolls around, kids’ lunches are being made, and lunchboxes are being packed.  It can be a stressful time for a parent of a child who is gluten-free and for the child.  Here is how I decided to keep my child gluten-free and how that played out in school:

Having celiac myself and then having a child gave me one more person to worry about.  Before I put a drop of food in her mouth, I sought genetic testing.  If she didn’t have HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 (the main genes associated with celiac disease) then I wasn’t going to worry. . . But wait!

She came up negative for the celiac genes, but the tests also indicated she was prone to gluten sensitivity.  That got a bit confusing.  I decided that in my house (and in her lunchbox, too, for that matter), we were going to have a gluten-free household.  I felt reassured by my decision and decided that when she got older, and if she wanted to experiment, she could try eating gluten and see what her body told her.  That seemed simple enough, until I sent her to school for the first time, and I wasn’t there to monitor what went in her mouth.

Annsley and Layla

Me and my daughter

Preschool Day 1

In my head: I’m so excited to be dropping off my 1 ½-year-old daughter. I’ll get a whole morning to myself – Yippee! I have nothing to worry about.  I have packed her own snack and lunch.

Reality: I bring her to the table to sit down and have a snack with her friend.  The snack gets put in front of them on the table.  There are gluten crumbs everywhere.  She just reached her hand out to grab someone else’s food. (Can you sense my panic?) My day and life just got very difficult.  I will make sure her snack comes from her lunchbox, I vowed.

I quickly learned that in a typical day in preschool, the kids eat their lunches on a shared table. Then the teachers collect the lunches when the kids are done and puts leftovers back in their appropriate containers.  It seems organized, but for someone with celiac disease, it would be quite a challenge to get through one day of preschool feeling good or even functioning.

In addition, the lunch containers are now contaminated, and so is everything else my daughter eats.  This was a good experience for me, as it alerted me to cross-contamination risks and helped me educate the school. (Mostly, I have to worry about me. Gluten may be on my daughter’s hands and in her food containers. I have learned never to eat her leftovers!)

Preschool Day 2

In my head: Day 1 was a test, so Day 2 will have to be better since I have informed the teachers that she must eat her own snack, from her own lunchbox, on her own plate.  All problems solved.

Reality: I come to pick her up and the teacher informs me that she was handed her own snack and plate.  It was all going swimmingly until . . .  “Your daughter is a food poacher,” the teacher said.  I asked if the other kids minded that she grabbed their snack.  “Well, when the kids began to leave the table, your daughter would go over to their spot without them seeing.”  Oh great, my daughter is smart, conniving AND patient; she must get that from her dad.  I asked the teacher if we could figure out a better solution.  She was very agreeable.  At least communication seemed to be going well.

To ease other parents/caretakers into the gluten-free rhythms of preschool, I have listed a few life-saving tips:

Tip #1: Come Lunchbox Prepared – Make sure you pack your child his/her own plate, utensils, drink, and napkin.  Make sure these are labeled with your child’s name on them.  If you need to, ask the teacher to set aside a special table so your child can have plenty of room between his/her plate and the next child’s.

Tip #2: Don’t Forget to Educate – Make sure you explain (a handwritten note is best) that your child cannot eat gluten, what that means, and specifically that NO other food can touch your child’s food.  If the teachers are helping to serve the food, make sure they either wash their hands or put on new gloves when handling your child’s food. [See NFCA’s Gluten-Free School Resources and 504 Roadmap]

Tip #3: Inform Your Child – No matter how young your child is, he/she is never too young to learn about gluten-free safety.  I explain to my daughter that when she eats bread, it can make her sick.  (I even go as far as to show her what normal and abnormal bowel movements look like after she has eaten.  At 2 she will now tell me what she can and can’t eat.)

Tip #4: Always Pack a Small Treat – Always come with some small treat for your child, so when the other kids are munching away on some mouth-watering gluten-containing treat, you have a perfect substitute.  A treat can be anything from raisins to pretzels to homemade breads/muffins.  I often have my daughter choose what she wants her special treat to be, that way she doesn’t go grabbing from other children.  (I often brief her on any gluten risks that I know of ahead of time.)

Tip #5: Mastering Snack Time – A few options: 1) Work with the teacher to plan a gluten-free alternative for every snack.  So, if the school gives out Cheerios, you give a box of gluten-free O’s to the teachers to hand out at snack so your child doesn’t know the difference. 2) Request that snacks come from the kids’ lunches instead of from the school.

Preschool Day 3

In my head: Oh, good.  This is going to have to be a better day, because we have come up with a better solution.  Every child will get snacks from his/her own lunchbox so my child does not stand out.

Reality: What a great day!  My child ate her own snack and her own food on her own plate.  She did not feel the need to take from others, because all the snacks were different and didn’t come from the teacher. No cross-contamination today!  I feel lucky to have such wonderful teachers who will work with me.

Just remember, communication is the key to being gluten-free.

Happy Back-to-School!

– Annsley Klehr
Gluten Freedoms, LLC

Related Content:

September 9, 2011 at 9:33 am 3 comments

Gluten-Free Dining Tips (It’s Not Just About Calling Ahead)

[NFCA’s September newsletter (released this morning!) is filled with tons of great articles and information. In fact, we had so many articles, I couldn’t fit them all in. When I read these tips from Jennifer Fugo, I couldn’t wait another month to share them. So, I’m posting them here. For more tips from Jennifer, see her newsletter articles on Gluten-Free Smoothies and Choosing Healthier Gluten-Free Products. – Cheryl]

As if eating gluten-free on a daily basis isn’t stressful enough, dining out can easily push anyone over the edge.  I totally get why – you feel like you can’t trust what people say, you feel singled out and thus, playing the role of the ‘difficult one’ at the table.  Try as you might, the baggage of stress that you carry around with you isn’t going to make your dining experience any easier.  That’s why I share with my clients these four simple tricks that will help you develop the calm mindset of a savvy gluten-free diner.

Dining out won’t just decrease in stress simply because you’re armed with a list of ‘safe’ spots and you call ahead to speak with the manager.  Sure, it’s helpful to do these things – and you should do them – but the fact that you always need to be ‘on guard’ can ruin your ability to be fully present and sociable. Plain and simple, the true key to savvy dining comes down to your mindset.  Here’s what to do:

1)  Get a grip.  That’s right, you’ve got to rein in what we call the ‘monkey mind’ in yoga.  As your thoughts run wild increasing the sense of impending doom, there’s no way you’ll be able to be your wonderful self that friends, family or colleagues expect.  Your level of anxiety and fear will be mirrored back in chaotic and maddening ways.  No level of assurance will calm you down, thus making your entire time unpleasant.

Whether you want to spend a few minutes meditating or simply envisioning a peaceful and successful meal filled with pleasant conversation, you’ll be better off walking in with a calm mind than one that’s already annoyed.

2)  Breathe.  Simple, but effective.  Notice how you breathe when you experience stress – shallow and rushed.  Give yourself a few minutes before entering the restaurant or excuse yourself to the restroom to breathe deeply into your lungs.  Focus on the breath moving in and out of your nostrils.  Finally, smile with the intention of enjoying time with friends and family, or being professional and on point with colleagues.

Gluten-Free Guru Jennifer Fugo

Jennifer Fugo

3)  Get off on the right foot.  When interacting with the restaurant staff, remember that people are generally more likely to be helpful and go out of their way for you if you’re friendly, pleasant and polite.  For example, ask the server how they are today and tell them you appreciate their help.

4)  Share an appetizer.  If you know there’s a great gluten-free appetizer that’s safe for you, order it.  Don’t wait for everyone else to suggest options you can’t eat.  Having a shared plate of food, even if it’s just in the beginning, helps people bond and feel an authentic sense of community. Gracefully take your portion first to avoid any possible contamination as the plate passes around the table.

– Jennifer

Want your favorite restaurant to go gluten-free (and do it safely)? Tell them to get gluten-free training through NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program.

About Jennifer Fugo

Jennifer Fugo is a certified Health Coach working with busy individuals seeking balanced dietary changes.  Named by Philadelphia magazine as a “Gluten-Free Guru”, Jennifer knows firsthand the challenges of overcoming food sensitivities as she is intolerant of gluten, casein and eggs. For more articles, recipes & upcoming events, visit Jennifer at

September 1, 2011 at 10:12 am 6 comments

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