Archive for May, 2012

Gluten-Free Party Etiquette

[Summer is quickly approaching, and your schedule is probably packed with barbecues, picnics and other social gatherings. We asked NFCA volunteer Annsley Klehr, owner of Gluten Freedoms, a gluten-free consulting company, to share her tips for managing those awkward moments when you’re gluten-free at a gluten-filled party.]

A month or two ago I received an email from a neighbor asking me for a recipe for a gluten-free flourless chocolate cake.  I willingly obliged, noting in my email that I would be happy to advise her on certain brands and kitchen procedures to avoid cross-contamination.  She thanked me and that was that.

Fast forward several weeks, my family and I are invited to this neighbor’s daughter’s birthday party.  I have already briefed my daughter that she will not be able to eat the desserts there, so we brought a piece of chocolate for her.  We walk in the door to the rich aroma of Mediterranean style appetizers such as hummus, baba ganoush, chips, veggies, etc.  I happily allowed my daughter a few corn chips and veggies.

Annsley and Husband

Me and My Decoy

When it came time for dessert, I realized that my neighbor had asked me for the gluten-free flourless chocolate cake recipe so that she could make it for my daughter and myself.  I knew her household wasn’t gluten-free, so I could not be sure how she prepared the cake, what ingredients she used or if there was a risk of cross-contamination.  The host offered the cake (which was touching gluten-containing desserts) to me in front of all the guests, saying, “I made this especially for you.  It’s gluten-free.”  Then came the ice cream cones filled with chocolate mousse – both gluten-containing and gluten-free versions.  My first reaction was an overwhelming appreciation for such thoughtfulness, and then anxiety.

How could I tell her how much I appreciated all of this food and then NOT eat it?  There was nothing I could say to her but “Thank you.”

I felt so embarrassed by the whole situation I wanted to sink through the floor.  I wasn’t even worried about my 3 year-old daughter because no one would be looking at her for social graces.  I was sitting on the couch surrounded by guests, my daughter floating around the room and my husband at my feet.  I was handed a piece of chocolate cake and the gluten-free cone and I found myself profusely thanking my host for all of her efforts as my heart raced.  I knew I couldn’t eat any of it. The risk of cross-contamination and the thought of a gluten attack were too high. All of the sudden, a hand reached out in front of me, freeing my hand of my cone.  I looked up and all I could see was a mass of curls; it was my husband.  He readily bit into the cone without uttering a word.  I new I’d married him for a reason.  By eating the cake for me, my husband relieved me of a potentially uncomfortable situation!  (The chocolate cake I could conceal in a napkin in my hand).

These situations will always happen, and people living gluten-free have to be prepared.  Here are a few tips to help you navigate awkward social situations:

1.  Call Ahead

Call your host or hostess and let them know that you plan on attending, and that you will either come with your own supply of food or carefully vet all of their ingredients and thoroughly explain cooking procedures to avoid cross-contamination.  If you have a child attending the party, ask the host for the menu in advance so that you can plan to bring gluten-free substitutes.  If the party is being catered, call the catering company and speak with them directly.

2.  Stash a Snack 

Sometimes it may feel awkward to say anything or have a special plate.  In that case, make sure that you grab something to eat before or after the party and always have a snack, like a nut bar or piece of fruit in your bag.

3.  Be Your Gracious Self

As awkward as it may feel, saying “Please” and “Thank you” for foods you can’t eat are still greatly appreciated.  People have gone out of their way to make you feel comfortable, so in return, try to make them feel comfortable, too.  Parties are not the time to educate your hosts, so if you are presented with something that you can’t eat, accept it and express your thanks, then find a time to subtly dispose it or hand off to a friend.

4.  Bring a Decoy

Have someone or something you can swiftly pass your food off to without anyone noticing.  I often alert a friend going to the party with me of situations like these and ask if that friend might kindly take my portion so as not to offend anyone.

5.  Redirect Attention

If you’re looking to avoid drawing attention to what you’re eating or not eating at a party, then always try to have a drink or plate in your hand.  I find that having something on my plate helps to avoid questions and makes it easier to decline other foods.

Don’t let your anxiety prevent you from enjoying a party.  Keep to these few tips and you’ll have a good time no matter what situations you encounter!

– Annsley Klehr


May 30, 2012 at 9:51 am 13 comments

5 Ways to Fundraise for Celiac Awareness

Whether you have plenty of downtime or little time to spare, there are several ways you can fundraise for your favorite celiac organization. Here are 5 ways you can take your support to the next level:

1. Cupcake Party

Gluten-Free Cupcake Party for NFCA

Cupcake Party success!

One of NFCA’s signature fundraisers is a Cupcake Party, which you can sign up for right on As part of the fundraiser, you’ll receive supplies from Pamela’s Products, including gluten-free baking mixes, frosting, recipes and gifts for your guests. It’s a wonderful chance to gather friends, spread awareness and help NFCA continue to offer free resources to the community.

Host a Cupcake Party Fundraiser

2. Birthday Wish

Have you ever checked out NFCA’s Facebook Cause? By clicking “Join,” you can raise awareness, recruit others and gather donations. As your birthday approaches, you can create a Birthday Wish, which sets a fundraising goal and invites family and friends to donate in honor of your big day.

Join NFCA’s Facebook Cause


FirstGiving logo

Take your fundraising to the next level by creating your own fundraising page on You can create a special page in honor of your birthday, gluten-free anniversary or another special event. NFCA Athlete for Awareness Peter Bronski is dedicating his 3rd Annual Ultramarathon to celiac awareness, and he’s using FirstGiving to collect donations. Personal fundraising pages are also popular among kids, like NFCA fans Jack Simpson and Noa Spanier, who each raised more than $3,000 in last year’s Awareness All-Stars fundraiser.

Create a Fundraising Page

4. Gluten-Free Restaurant Night

Do you have a favorite restaurant? Consider asking them to host a fundraiser for NFCA. Michael Savett, founder of Gluten Free Philly, has organized Gluten-Free Dinners to raise money for celiac awareness. He offered these tips:

  • Get to know the person in charge of your favorite gluten-free restaurant. Restaurant owners and managers want to keep their customers happy, so introduce yourself and let him or her know that you are a loyal customer. That often makes a restaurant more receptive to hosting a fundraising event that will bring in many patrons, particularly if the event will be on a slower night like Monday or Tuesday.
  • Run a Google search for restaurants that regularly sponsor community events and fundraisers in your area. You can do this by using search terms like “restaurant fundraising night” and your town or city. Many larger chains also participate in these kinds of events, including gluten-free-friendly ones like Uno Chicago Grill’s Dough Raisers and Outback Gives Back.

5. Coupon Campaigns and Special Promotions

GFB Sweater Project - Kids Photo

GFB’s Gluten-Free Sweater Project

Like many companies, gluten-free manufacturers are looking to give back, and they’re doing so by donating funds to organizations like NFCA. This month, take advantage of these charitable promotions – and don’t forget to tell family and friends!

  • GoMacro Bars
    GoMacro is offering this Celiac Awareness Month special: Order 1 case of any flavor of MacroBars and their stainless steel water bottle for $49.95 ($55.30 value) and 10% will be donated to NFCA. Enter NFCA10 as the coupon code.
  • Cecelia’s Marketplace Gluten-Free Grocery Shopping Guide
    Purchase the new 2012/2013 edition of this guide, and Cecelia’s Marketplace will donate a percentage of proceeds to non-profits and celiac disease centers.
    Visit Cecilia’s Marketplace
  • The GFB Celiac Sweater Project
    The folks at The Gluten-Free Bar (GFB) have sent a sweater on a long cross-country journey to raise awareness for celiac disease. For anyone who dons the sweater and submits a photo to, The GFB will donate $1 to NFCA. Keep an eye out – the sweater could be in your local area!
    Visit The GFB Sweater Project

May 25, 2012 at 9:09 am 1 comment

5 Tips for Starting a Gluten-Free Dining Group

[You’ve found some fabulous restaurants that serve gluten-free in your area, and now you’re ready to spread the news. We asked Carrie Forbes, author of and The Everything GlutenFree Slow Cooker Cookbook and leader of the Wilson/Eastern NC Gluten Free ROCK Support Group, to share how she gathered the troops and started a local gluten-free group.]

I started my local glutenfree support group in January 2010. It took six months for me to have the courage and enough people to put together a meeting (and the push to do it by my friend Jaime), but we did it! We had 6 people at our first meeting and that included myself, my husband, and my fearless mother-in-law! Our first meeting focused on local gluten-free resources and restaurants who could cater to a gluten-free diet.

Once the school year started again we began having regular monthly meetings and eventually added what we call “coffee breaks” several times a month. The coffee breaks were more informal times just to get together and chat, have coffee, and talk about all things gluten-free in our area.

As the group has morphed and changed over the past two years, we now have bi-monthly meetings and once-a-month coffee breaks. We now have about 25 active members who come to our meetings and over 45 members we connect with locally through email and Facebook, and the group is continuing to grow.

However gluten-free groups come in ALL different shapes and sizes. In addition to my thoughts on the best tips to share with others, I asked my friend Sarah Neilson, author of Celiac in the City and leader of her local gluten-free dining group Gluten-Free Milwaukee, to share some advice.

1. Determine the Primary Needs of your Local Group.

We have many different singles, couples, and families in our group, but the more we’ve grown, the more I realized that in our particular area we had lots of kids who needed support. They needed to know they weren’t the only kids. So we decided to link up with Danna Korn’s R.O.C.K. organization. We share her philosophy that life is good, and even though gluten-free can be a challenge, it doesn’t have to be a sad or negative experience!

How Sarah decided to form her group:  “For me, I wanted to get people together and do what we would normally do, but with other people, just like us. A group that comes together for good food, friends and fun. I wanted to focus on what we CAN have and where we CAN eat, so I highlight local Milwaukee (in and around MKE) restaurants that are willing to cater to us. I’m proud to say that we have only double up on restaurant options a couple of times, and that was only because people enjoyed them so much that we had to go back.”

2. Be Flexible!NFCA_Celiac Awareness Month 2012_Blogger Badge

Find times that work best for the members in your group. For some, gathering bi-monthly on a Satuday afternoon is best. Others prefer an informal coffee break once a month on a weekday evening. Make sure to build an open network for communication with your group. This can be through Facebook, through an email listserv, or even by using a Yahoo group to share information.

Sarah’s thoughts on being flexible: “During one of our first dinners, I polled everyone to see what they wanted to see from our group, wasn’t sure if I should go a more traditional route with a more support-group-like feel, but most folks felt they would like to just meet out for gluten-free pizza and a gluten-free beer and talk about how we make things work every day in our gluten-free lives. So we’ve stuck with that, and it works well for us.

“It’s important to remember that you can’t always please everyone — I do the best I can to accommodate our crowd and make the majority happy, and for the most part, they are so grateful. Some of my dearest friends are in the group now and I’m thankful that I decided to start this group and have kept it going each month for this long.”

3. Spread the Word.

As a blogger, I knew when I started our support group that I wanted to have a website to promote our group. We started using a “MeetUp” group, but that system was rather restrictive and outdated. Our group now primarily keeps in touch through a group email listserv and a very active Facebook page. We also have an improved website and blog to share documents, keep a group calendar, and to have a searchable web presence.

Sarah shares how she uses social media and her blog to spread the word: “I use Facebook as an easy way to communicate with our group, on my Celiac in the City page. Like I said, I like to focus on the positives — getting together and sharing in our daily adventures, what works for us, which products are on the “must try” list, etc.

“I contact companies each month to get samples of goodies for our group — or sometimes they contact me to review items and I ask for enough to give out to the group, the more “reviews” the better right?”

4. Allow the Group to Change and Grow.

When I first began our group, I was really concerned about making sure we met often to provide a lot of support for our community. However, after many months of lots of both formal and informal meetings, attendance started declining and I was becoming burned out. After talking with our group members and with leaders of other groups, I decided we didn’t need to meet nearly as often. Quality was more important than quantity!

Sarah shares different activities her group has enjoyed: “Some of the other things we’ve done: Field trip to the GF Expo, holiday cookie exchange (2 years of success!), several food drives to get more gluten-free options in our local food banks, a trip to Madison to try a new restaurant and the Silly Yak bakery. Big fun!”

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help.

Learn the gifts that your other members have. I love to host baking classes with new members of our group along with coordinating the group blog and Facebook pages. Another member of our group Nancy, is a gifted hostess and shopper. Nancy hosts many of our group potlucks and also likes to take new members on shopping trips to teach them the best places to find gluten-free groceries in our area.  My husband is great at making posters and being the technical support for our meetings. Using the strengths of your members will help the “work” of the group to be evenly shared, as well as empower the people in your group to help others.

Lastly, no matter what you do with your dining group, no matter how big or small that it is, remember you will be providing a huge service to your community! Your time and energy will be an immeasurable blessing to local gluten-free population. You don’t have to be a perfect planner or leader, all you need is a deep passion to help the gluten-free people where you live.

If you have additional questions or need help starting a gluten-free group, please feel free to email me, Carrie Forbes: gingerlemongirl at gmail dot com.

– Carrie Forbes

*For an extended version of this post, including tips from Shirley of gluten-free easily and Nikki of Charlotte R.O.C.K. and organizer of many Gluten-Free Expos, visit: Ginger Lemon Girl.

May 24, 2012 at 8:28 am 2 comments

5 Tips to Empower Gluten-Free Kids

[Your kids have learned the basics of gluten-free, so what’s next? Katie Chalmers, author of Mommy, What is Celiac Disease? and founder of G-Free Kid, has ideas for helping your little ones become proud and confident gluten-free champions.]

As parents, the best thing we can equip our gluten-free kids with is a positive attitude when it comes to being gluten-free — right from the start.  As soon as that optimistic attitude is in place, the next thing to help them cultivate is a budding sense of independence. As our children grow, we can help empower them to start taking the lead. Here are 5 tips that have helped my twin daughters (one with celiac and one with non-celiac gluten sensitivity) start to be ‘g-free’ advocates:

1.  Help them champion their own cause.

Show them some ways in which they can help spread the word and raise money for celiac disease awareness. Help them start a team for an upcoming celiac walk and let them help keep track of donations flowing in and asking friends and family to physically be there to walk together as a team. We have been doing two Celiac walks (“Making Tracks for Celiacs”) a year for the past 4 years — one with friends and extended family, and another one further away from home by ourselves. We take group photos, wear team tags and hang out before and after the walk. We usually win a gift basket for the amount of money we raised, and the girls help pick it out. Going home feeling supported by loved ones, with a prize and tons of free gluten-free samples in tow — plus a sense of pride in knowing we helped raise money for a good cause — is always a great boost for self-esteem.

Team G-Free at Celiac Walk

If you don’t have one of these annual walks in your area, learn how you can raise money through Team Gluten Free or NFCA instead.

2.  Nurture their creativity.

Make your gluten-free kid feel like a champ by helping them design a “Super Celiac” or “Gluten-Free Girl” costume. If your child is still young enough to enjoy dressing up and playing pretend, letting him or her play make-believe Superheroes with a cape and power bracelets is a fun way to “zap gluten” or whatever they want to play.

G-Free Superhero Costumes

If your child is old enough, let them have their own cooking show. Have them don an apron and chef’s hat and talk through a cooking demonstration while you videotape them. This will be good public speaking practice, and it will help them organize their thoughts, follow recipes, read aloud and use good eye contact. Have them practice what they plan to say and do on the video until they are comfortable enough for you to start taping. Post it on YouTube to get them excited that they made a “real” video, which the whole world can watch and learn from.

Do your kids enjoy music more than cooking? Together, come up with some new lyrics to go with a familiar tune — all about being gluten-free. Put it to music, videotape it and send it to friends and family.

Or let them start a pretend bakery where everything is gluten-free. Help them set up a place to play with pretend food, aprons, toy cash register, fake money, paper plates, etc.  Let them make their own signs, menu and decorations. Be their best customer and encourage the rest of the family to stop by with a smile and place an order.

Kids Gluten-Free Bakery

Being gluten-free becomes natural and fun when you bring all of these types of creative play into your kids’ lives.

3.  Teach them to read labels.

For very young kids who don’t know how to read, send along a list of offending ingredients for caregivers, along with a list of naturally gluten-free items, such as fruit and raisins. Help little ones learn how to spot the words “gluten-free,” the certified gluten-free logo or other prominent labels. When looking at packages, the terms “multigrain” and “whole grains” can often be confusing for little kids (and even for adults!), so be sure to explain to them that just reading those words on a package doesn’t mean it is automatically ruled out. Corn and rice can still be considered multigrain or whole grain, too. Teach them that oats need to be certified gluten-free to be considered safe, and other similar tips.

Reading Labels on Gluten-Free Food

Start label-reading lessons small, by going to Grandma’s house and showing them offending ingredients on labels. Then go home and have them read labels on their gluten-free products so they can see what is okay. If your child is old enough and has a long attention span, spend some time together in a grocery store (at a slow time of the week) and go through it aisle by aisle, explaining which kinds of food are gluten-free or not. Show them how many yogurts and ice creams are gluten-free, except those with cookies, brownies, sugar cone pieces, etc. Show them all the naturally gluten-free foods and the special area where the gluten-free products are. I do this with my daughters every now and then to test them on what they know, and they, in turn, always love to demonstrate their growing knowledge.  If this sounds too overwhelming for a younger child, then just do it in small doses on a regular basis as you do your weekly shopping together.

4.  Let them speak up for themselves.

Kids of all ages can learn to speak up for themselves to varying degrees. Young kids can learn how to ask, “Is this gluten-free?” or “Is this safe for me to eat?”  Let your child order for themselves in a restaurant and have them inform the wait staff that their food needs to be gluten-free. Even if you plan on discussing details with the waitress, manager or chef yourself (which I would advise in order to avoid cross-contamination), it is important for your child to get in the habit of always making sure people know that he or she needs to eat gluten-free.

Looking for gluten-free food on a menu

If your child is old enough, test them to see if they can correctly name the gluten-free options on menus at restaurants by themselves. Teach them why they can’t eat certain things like french fries, which are deep fried in shared fryers with gluten-containing foods like breaded chicken fingers. Let them ask if there is a dedicated fryer or not. The older a child gets, the more they need to have these habits set in place. The more they practice, the more comfortable they will get with the necessary dialogue. Your child will be filled with pride as he learns these lifelong social lessons.

5.  Let it become their “normal.”

Find other gluten-free families that live near you. Get together. Let the kids get to know each other and play together on a regular basis, which might also mean snacking together — gluten-free. Get involved in a kids’ support group and the activities that go along with it. If you can’t find one, be your kid’s hero by starting one and making it happen.

If your child is old enough, let him attend a gluten-free summer camp. There are nearly 20 options in the U.S. alone!  How cool would it be for a gluten-free kid to be able to do all the regular camp activities with other children on the same diet, without anyone needing to ask if the food is safe or not?

Lastly, fill his or her bookcase with children’s books about being gluten-free. If your child loves dinosaurs or princesses, count how many books he or she has about them. On the other hand, how many books does your child have about being gluten-free — something your child is going to be for life? There are a bunch of great books out there now about celiac disease and being gluten-free. You can never have too many!  As they read the books, they will take pride in knowing that they are “just like” the main characters, which will help them feel understood and cherished. And consider all the people your child can share their books with — teachers, classmates, friends, relatives, etc.  What better way to help spread awareness than lending books? For kids, it doesn’t get any easier…

These empowering tips will take our children far by teaching them knowledge and positive social skills that will benefit them for a lifetime. The wonderful thing is that awareness of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity is growing rapidly, which in itself is pretty empowering for all of us!

– Katie Chalmers

May 23, 2012 at 8:55 am 2 comments

5 Healthy Gluten-Free Foods You’ve Never Heard Of

[Rice. Quinoa. Potatoes. Been there, ate that. Ready for something new? We asked EA Stewart, also known as The Spicy RD and one of NFCA’s experts for Answers from a Dietitian, to share 5 up-and-coming foods that are naturally gluten-free.]

Confession time.

Given the task of blogging about healthy gluten-free foods no one’s ever heard of proved to be a bit of a challenge for me.  But read on because, although I can’t guarantee all these foods are new to you, they are new to me, and they all deliver a healthy dose of nutrients in a tasty little package.

1. Kaniwa

This “new to me” gluten-free seed is actually an ancient “grain-like food” from the Andes Mountains in Peru.  Nutty in taste and texture, like its now famous cousin, quinoa, one advantage of kaniwa is that is doesn’t contain bitter saponins that must be rinsed off before cooking.  In terms of nutrition, this petite seed packs a powerful punch providing even more protein and fiber than quinoa, plus a hearty dose of calcium, zinc, and iron.


Warm Lentil Salad with Grilled Portabella

2. Sprouted Green Lentils

While lentils aren’t new to me, my recent love affair with them is, and with the recent rise in popularity of sprouted foods, I was delighted to discover pre-sprouted green lentils at my local grocery store the other day.  Proponents of sprouting grains and legumes claim that sprouted foods offer greater nutrient bioavailability, easier digestion, and greater enzyme activity than their non-sprouted counterparts.  Currently, there is little research to support these claims, although Professor Terry Graham, a nutrition scientist, says that, in theory, sprouting should increase the amount of healthy antioxidants in a grain, since it undergoes changes to prepare for growth.

Ultimately, whether or not more research shows health benefits to sprouted foods, it is safe to say that any type of lentil deserves an A+ for nutrition.  Rich in fiber (~16 grams per cup), both soluble and insoluble, lentils are protective against both cardiovascular disease and certain digestive disorders, and help maintain stable blood sugar levels. Lentils are also a good source of vegetarian iron and protein, and are rich in tryptophan, manganese, and folic acid.  Bonus: They are inexpensive and taste great, too – especially as a meat alternative in tacos or spaghetti sauce!


3. Seedy Milks (Flax and Sunflower)

Flax and sunflower seeds have been around for a long time, but I only recently found them in liquid form.  This was a nice discovery, as I work with many clients who not only can’t eat gluten due to celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but also can’t tolerate cow’s milk (at least initially) due to lactose intolerance from damaged intestinal villi or due to a cow’s milk sensitivity. Fortunately, there are many dairy-free options on the market these days (almond, coconut, soy, hazelnut, rice, and hemp), but it’s always nice to have other alternatives, especially for those people who might also have allergies or sensitivities to nuts and soy.

Flax milk packs a nice dose of omega-3 essential fatty acids (12oo mg per serving), along with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12 from fortification. Sunflower milk has a nice creamy taste and is rich in vitamin E plus added calcium, Vitamin D and folic acid.  For those who are sensitive to, or choose not to use gums such as xanthan or guar, you may want to have a go at making your own seedy milk!


4. Sacha Inchi Seeds

Native to the Amazon rainforest, sacha inchi seeds, aka Incan peanuts, are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein (8 grams per serving) and fiber.  In addition, these nut-like seeds are rich in the mood-boosting amino acid tryptophan.  I recently had the chance to try the SaviSeed brand of Sacha Inchi at the Natural Products Expo West, and found them to have a pleasant nutty taste and texture. Be forewarned though – they are costly. So, as with all “super foods,” I recommend enjoying them as special treats, while making sure to eat a wide variety of naturally gluten-free veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, which are all superstars in my nutrition book!


5. Black Sesame Seeds

In my pre-gluten-free eating days, one of my favorite weekend treats was a chewy bagel smothered with sesame seeds.  For the most part, my bagel eating days are few and far between now (please let me know if you have a good recipe for homemade gluten-free bagels!), but I still enjoy the health benefits of sesame seeds on top of sautéed ginger orange kale, in hummus made with tahini, and sprinkled in to smoothies. Both black and white sesame seeds are rich in copper and manganese and are good sources of calcium, magnesium, iron and fiber. Sesame seeds also contain phytosterols, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and may decrease the risk of certain cancers.  The black sesame seeds I tried had their hulls intact, making them slightly higher in calcium than white (hulled) sesame seeds.  In addition, some sesame experts find them tastier than white seeds, but overall, you can’t go wrong, nutrition-wise, with black or white!


I hope at least some of these foods are new to you, and that you are inspired to try them out, but if I missed any of your new healthy favorites, I’d love to hear from you!

– EA Stewart, MBA, RD

May 22, 2012 at 8:33 am 10 comments

5 Ways to Take Your Gluten-Free Recipes to the Next Level

[You’ve mastered gluten-free cooking, and you’ve even started to create your own recipes. What’s next? Many individuals are turning  their passion into a career by launching blogs and getting published. It’s easier said than done, but Manhattan based Culinary Nutritionist, Personal Chef, Professional Recipe Developer and Food Writer Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple has advice to give you a leg up.]

Being a food writer, recipe developer or even just a passionate food blogger is quite a lot of work when you think about it- the work goes beyond your typical 9-5 job and into your daily life- sparking and inspiring your future career. Writing about what inspires you is in some ways a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you enjoy your work and get satisfaction from it, you’re showing your community your true passion and message. Surely, as a food writer and recipe developer with a loyal following, you aspire to create more community or eventually have your writing brought from the virtual screen to the print world. Perhaps the end goal for you is to make blogging your full-time job, and in this day and age, it takes patience and determination. Many bloggers are shifting from office jobs to being their own boss – where all of their creative sparks manifest and the light at the end of the tunnel is straight ahead.

Amie Valpone

Amie Valpone

1. Cookbook Author

Fulfilling a lifelong dream to have your own cookbooks on the shelves of bookstores and libraries comes with time and patience.  Unlike the organic nature of blogs, cookbooks remain the same from the moment they are published, and require as much attention to detail as a good blog entry does. There are series of pages that require as much attention as the one before, and all of the details need to be attended to as the design comes together.

Before you can get to the design aspect, you’ll first need to narrow down the topic before pitching it to the list of publishers you’d ideally want to work with. It helps to know your target audience and develop ideas about the reality beyond this project as well as setting a schedule for yourself, such as taking a day each week to work on your book.

Next, you will need to create your pitch, which will include your idea, target audience, marketing ideas, etc.  Here is some more homework for you; in your favorite cookbooks, search for their publishing agents and get in contact with them! Their previous successes can lead you to feel more confident throughout the process and ultimately make the workload pay off seamlessly.

2. Publishing Articles in Magazines

As with publishing a book, you will need to know the audience to whom your articles are directed. Your recipes and blog posts deal with your interests, but it is important to evaluate the style in which the magazine articles are typically written so you have a clear idea of how to write for its specific audience.

It is also important to discuss the article idea with the editor of your chosen publication, and then to submit a proposal and timeline with your ideas. Your article, in addition to being informative, should also grab the reader, which is another reason being familiar with the publication is of utmost importance.

Including good pictures that are relevant to your topic or pictures of your recipes will greatly impact your chances of getting your article published and will help to entice the reader. After you’ve submitted your work, be sure to follow up with the editor and the odds may be in your favor.

3. Cooking Shows

To get to the level of having your own cooking show, there are a few things to keep in mind. Many people choose to go the route of YouTube recipe vlogs (video blogs) such as Jamie Karpovich of the positive lifestyle and vegan cooking blog Save the Kales! As a result of her blog’s success, Karpovich’s diligence with communicating the idea to the directors and producers of local television shows, and her strong presence in her community brought her an opportunity to be the star of a cooking show.

It is important to demonstrate your ability to be entertaining while being informative; submitting a cooking demo of your own cooking show to the directors is a must. Another important aspect of the pitch is to demonstrate how you can market the show and benefit the network that will be taking your show live.

4. Blog Ads and Sponsorships

In recent years, bloggers have been able to reconnect their passions with their wallets and make money from their blog content. A service provided by Google can help bloggers make money per click; this revenue is generated as each reader comes to visit the blog. Many bloggers generate income through blogs by getting sponsored ads from companies that enables a broad reach to their target audience with information about products or services relevant to their readers.

5. Becoming a Spokesperson

In becoming a spokesperson for a product or company, you must first be true to yourself and ask yourself if you believe in the product and the company’s message.  This isn’t all about the paycheck – it’s about your reputation, and you are better off working with a brand whose products you actually enjoy. It’s important to embody the brand’s standards and ideals, and have ample enthusiasm for their products.

Present yourself in a way that suits both the company and its customers. Communicate your desire for this role and demonstrate the ways in which you have used their products.  For instance, if you are a fan of a particular brand of gluten-free bread and want to work with the company – start by showing them the ways in which their bread is important and exciting to your daily life.

It is crucial not to underestimate the importance of connecting with professionals who have been in the same position before. They can be a great resource to you in your journey and provide you with experience and wisdom. Fortunately, there are many ways to use the web and social media to accelerate your career and ultimately your life.

– Amie Valpone (@TheHealthyApple)

May 21, 2012 at 10:15 am 2 comments

5 Resources to Tackle Gluten-Free Roadblocks

The gluten-free diet requires lifelong commitment, which means you’ll likely face a number of curveballs. Fortunately, with the right resources and plenty of support from family and friends, you can take on anything that life throws.

Here are 5 scenarios you may encounter while living gluten-free, and 5 resources from NFCA to help you through:

1. When You Have a Question About Nutrition…

Answers from a Dietitian image

Get Answers from a Dietitian. NFCA’s popular Q&A blog invites you to submit your general questions about nutrition and the gluten-free diet. Not sure which foods to eat when you want more Vitamin D, or how you can gain weight without loading up on sugary gluten-free junk? Ask away!

2. When You’re Struggling in the Kitchen…

Alterantive Appetites

Watch Alternative Appetites. Chef Dan Kohler takes you step-by-step through gluten-free recipes. And these aren’t just stir-fries. You’ll learn how to make things like Amaranth and Black Bean Salad or Roasted Garlic White Bean dip from scratch.

3. When Your Grocery List is Getting Dull…

Gluten-Free Hot Products

Browse Gluten-Free Hot Products. Our team of staff and volunteers test the latest gluten-free products to hit shelves, including some gems you can only find online. Take a look and find a new favorite to perk up your pantry.

4. When You’re Heading to College…

GREAT U cover

Read GREAT U. You grew up with a supportive family and rarely had to worry about what to eat. Now, you’ll be on your own and on the hunt for gluten-free options. Flip through this digital magazine for quick gluten-free recipes, tips from real gluten-free college students, and advice on navigating the dining hall.

5. When Your Non-Gluten-Free Friend Wants to Cook You a Meal…

Entertaining Gluten-Free Guests

Download Entertaining Gluten-Free Guests. If your friend is new to gluten-free, this guide can get him or her started in the right direction. Offer to help your friend prepare each dish. That way, you can ensure that the food is safe while giving your friend a 1-on-1 course in gluten-free.

May 18, 2012 at 10:47 am 1 comment

5 Tips for Traveling Gluten-Free

[You learned how to cook gluten-free. You found local restaurants that serve gluten-free. Now, you have to travel gluten-free. Heading to an unfamiliar area can be intimidating, but fear not! Frequent flier Gluten-Free Mike has 5 tips to prepare you for any upcoming trip.]

Let’s face it, we’ve all had that moment of initial panic when we first received our celiac diagnosis. Speaking from personal experience, I know I was completely caught off guard and quite honestly had not even heard of celiac disease before I actually found out I had it. Sounds familiar, right?

Well, that was more than 10 years ago when the gluten-free landscape and celiac awareness were indeed at a very different place than they are today. Fast forward to today and awareness of and catering to celiacs has come a very long way, and perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the travel and hospitality industry.

Airplane taking off

I have been globe trekking since before I could walk, and when first diagnosed thought that celiac disease would throw a wrench into my love of travel.  To be honest, it did at first. My diagnosis came at a time when there were few good gluten-free products and they were difficult to source. Most restaurants had no clue what I was talking about and going abroad seemed to only magnify the confusion. I slowly but surely got back on the proverbial horse when I realized that celiac need not be limiting and that I needed to take control of the disease and live my life on my terms.

Over the years I have developed a few tips and tricks particularly when it comes to traveling with celiac disease, and I am happy to share some of them with you here:

1. All Airlines Are Not Created Equal.

If you are going to be flying, particularly long-haul international, check out a few carriers’ websites to see whether or not they offer a gluten-free meal option – some even provide samples of what they’ll include.  This will depend on length of flight and class of service, but most airlines will have a gluten-free option if your flight has meal service. Yes, some airlines do gluten-free better than others, and I have had some amazing gluten-free meals over the years – some even included a fresh gluten-free roll – can you imagine?  Will the gluten-free meal knock your socks off?  Likely not, but at least it is safe option to tide you over until you land.

The most important tip I can give when flying is as soon as you board, ask a flight attendant if your meal has been loaded BEFORE departure.  Oftentimes if there is a problem they can deal with it while on the ground vs. not being able to do anything at 35,000 feet. On a recent flight, my gluten-free meal was even noted right on my boarding pass – nice!  Another trick I use is when flying in a premium cabin to check out the airline’s online menus for the route. Most airlines have monthly menus for specific routes and these can be accessed online. I scan the menu to see if any of the “regular” options will work for me and more often than not there is something I can have. I have also seen more and more gluten-free snack item choices making their way on board shorter flights, which is always good to see.

2. Do Your Homework.

This sounds like a given, but just getting a feel for the area you’ll be visiting can help you enjoy your vacation (or business trip) a bit more.  I like to go online and look at the immediate vicinity around where I’ll be staying.  Where is the nearest supermarket?  What dining options are around?  Is there a local celiac group site that gives tips and advice for the area?  If a restaurant piques your interest, check out their menu or give them a ring to discuss whether they will be able to accommodate your needs. There are even an increasing number of hotel chains that now that cater to a host of dietary restrictions and food allergic travelers.  The more leg work you do before departure, the less stress you’ll have at your destination.

3. Speak the Language. 

Okay, this might be easier said than done but there is an easy solution if you find yourself in a country where you do not speak the language. Printable food allergy cards that you can either buy or download for free online.  My recent trip to Peru had me a bit leery as I do not speak Spanish.  Before I left, I printed out and laminated a few double-sided cards that  had both a celiac disease explanation and shellfish allergy notation that called out what I could and could not eat in detail.  Let me tell you that these were a lifesaver because each time I presented them, the server read them and could immediately tell me what would work for me on their menu. If I was in a location where I thought the cross-contamination from shellfish could be an issue, the servers actually brought the cards back to the kitchen for the chef and kitchen staff to read. I had zero issues or reactions on my most recent journey, which was the first time I have brought such cards along with me – and best of all they were available free online.

4. Pack Accordingly. 

No, I am not talking about what clothes to bring – though that is sometimes equally as important.  When I travel, be it by car, train, plane, or horseback (okay, that last one is a bit of poetic license) I always take along what I call my Gluten-Free Contingency Pack.  Depending on the length of my journey, I always carry a bag of nibbles so that I have something to nosh on if I find myself delayed or not having any gluten-free options readily available while en route.

So what’s in my contingency pack?  Well, I am glad you asked.  I typically include a few gluten-free snack items like chips, pretzels, cookies, or snack mix along with a couple meal replacement bars or snack bars.  Okay, and maybe there might be a chocolate bar (or two) in there.  A just-add-water type noodle snack or dry soup is also great to toss in your carry-on and I typically will carry those for ultra long-haul flights of 14 or more hours. I also like to toss a few snack items in my checked bag so I can have a snack at my hotel without having to pop-out to a supermarket right away.

5. Be Flexible.

Flexibility is really key. You might find yourself in a situation with limited knowledge of or availability of a host of gluten-free options. Don’t panic.  Regardless of the situation (and some of mine have been less than ideal) I have never gone hungry while on the road.  Sure, you might not always be able to have exactly what you want, but there will be something – trust me. I have always been amazed at how far people are willing to go to accommodate my dietary needs while on the road.  Also, a little education goes a long way.  I cannot count how many times I had someone on the road say “I had no idea that contained gluten” or “I have heard of celiac, but never knew why you couldn’t eat gluten.”  Just think, the more people become exposed to celiac disease, the less bumpy the road ahead becomes for all of us.

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned since my diagnosis is that I will not let being celiac define who I am or dictate what I can and cannot do, and you shouldn’t either.  Life does in fact continue and it’s for the better because I now know why I would get sick after certain meals and in retrospect, pre-diagnosis was actually more limiting than I have found celiac to be.

It’s a great big gluten-free world out there so please, get out there and enjoy it.  Oh, and there will be hiccups along the way – it’s just inevitable – but when they happen, look at them as learning experiences and not roadblocks.  They happen to all of us, gluten-free or not.

– Michael De Cicco-Butz

May 17, 2012 at 8:27 am 2 comments

5 Tips for the Gluten-Free School Years

[Kids spend hours a day at school – including meal times. College students live and eat on campus. How do you ensure their dietary needs are met? Wendy Gregory Kaho of Celiacs in the House shared her tips for navigating the school years with your gluten-free child.]

Whether it is preschool or college, planning ahead is the key to gluten-free school success. Here are my best tips for making you child safe and understood at school. Including your child at every step along the way will build confidence and teach important life skills.

1. Know your rights and advocate for your child.

Find a support group with experienced parents who can offer their insight and advice, and use online resources to educate yourself about your rights. Armed with the facts and good support it will be easier to take a calm, yet firm approach with school staff.

A 504 Plan Guide is on the Resources/Printable Guides page at the NFCA site.

2. Educate the staff.

This includes the school nurse, teacher, cafeteria staff, counselor, and principal. Explain what to expect from your child and how to best meet the child’s needs while sharing the facts about celiac disease and its only treatment, which is a gluten-free diet. Inform the staff of possible reactions to gluten that your child might experience and how they can help your child after accidental gluten exposure.

Look at the sample Teacher Letter on the NFCA site.

3. Plan and prepare for parties, field trips and events that involve food.

Whether you keep a supply of gluten-free treats for your child at school in a freezer or special drawer or plan on events as they occur, staying informed and prepared will help your child feel included. Make the process fun and an opportunity to teach nutrition and the cooking skills that will serve your child for a lifetime.

Take a look at the fun gluten-free kid food ideas on Pinterest.

4. Empower your child.

Include them in the process of choosing foods and planning and packing lunches. Role-play and practice how to explain their dietary needs.

Gluten-free school lunch ideas from Heidi at Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom will get you started.

5. Stay positive.

Help your child see the opportunities to advocate for themselves and others with special diets or other needs.

Find more resources at NFCA’s website, including resources for all school levels and webinars in the archives with more school tips.

– Wendy Gregory Kaho

May 16, 2012 at 8:20 am 2 comments

5 Tips to Becoming a Dairy-Free Diva

[Alisa Fleming is the founder of and author of the best-selling book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. We asked her for advice on how to manage when you’re gluten-free and need to eliminate dairy, too.]

So you’ve spent months, perhaps years, working to cut out gluten. You’ve finally got a host of meals in your arsenal, some food products you can rely on, and a good understanding of reading labels for hidden wheat. But then it hits – the curve ball from left field. Your body’s decided that dairy is an enemy, too.

Lactose intolerance is a very common additional diagnosis when people discover that they have celiac disease, but what many don’t realize is that dairy sensitivity to the proteins in milk also occurs frequently in those with gluten sensitivity.

Your initial reaction to cutting out both gluten AND dairy might be something like this, “What am I going to eat? I can’t live without cheese!” You are not alone. For some, the journey to dairy-free living is actually pretty easy. But for many, dairy addiction presents some struggles.

To help lead you down that easy road, here are 5 Tips to Going Dairy-Free:

1. Identify the Dairy

Just like you may have already done with gluten, you need to learn what the term “dairy” really means, and where it may hide. Most importantly, understand that “lactose-free” does not necessarily equal “dairy-free.” If you are sensitive to dairy, it usually means that you have an issue with the proteins in milk. Lactose is just “milk sugar” and can be removed fairly easily from milk products, while the protein is more vital. I’ve yet to see a dairy product that was “milk protein-free.” Here is my Dairy Ingredient List to help get you started.

2. Break the Spell

If there is a food (like cheese) that you feel you absolutely can’t live without, then you probably have a pretty strong emotional and/or physical addiction. Like people who quit smoking, even a little cheat can send you back to square one. The first few weeks may be hard, but push through – for most people, the cravings do subside and your body thanks you.

3. Stay Whole

It can be tempting to stock up on every alternative that the stores have to offer, but when first starting out, try to avoid the myriad of dairy alternatives. While many are good, most will be “different” from the dairy you are used to, and may make you crave “the real stuff” even more. When you do need to use them, try to avoid making them a focal point of the meal. Use just a sprinkling of vegan Parmesan on a gluten-free pasta rather than going for that vegan cheese-laden, gluten-free lasagna.

Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Sloppy Joe's

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Sloppy Jose’s over Polenta, from Alisa Fleming

4. Stock up on Flavor

It’s easy to forget all of the wonderful foods out there when so many dairy products are used to mask them! For a quick pop of flavor atop your entrée, chop some olives, crumble a slice of cooked bacon, mix up a favorite spice blend, or squeeze a lemon. Using other wholesome ingredients will help to heighten the flavor of food rather than hide it.

5. Take Your Taste Buds to New Places

Go on a culinary tour in your own home! Make a list of all of the amazing dishes that are naturally or easily dairy-free and gluten-free. Think quick Cajun dishes like jambalaya, whip up a Chinese stir-fry with wheat–free, gluten-free Tamari, adventure a creamy coconut Caribbean-style entrée, fire up some Pad Thai with rice noodles, enjoy an Indonesian peanut satay, and even have fun attempting to roll your own sushi (don’t worry, you can use cooked seafood at home!). Most of the world actually lives dairy-free or dairy-low. Think about what they are eating and loving!

For more guidance, see my article, Six Simple Steps to Successfully Going Dairy-Free (and Gluten-Free) for Good.

– Alisa Fleming

May 15, 2012 at 9:11 am 6 comments

Older Posts

Recent Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 174 other subscribers
Gluten in Medications Survey
Nourished Blogger Conference