Archive for May, 2012

5 Tips to Get Out of a Food Rut

[Diane Eblin is a Certified Health Coach who helps her clients achieve easy, healthy gluten-free living. She is also a professional recipe developer, author of The Gluten-Free Diner e-cookbook and founder of The WHOLE Gang. Diane and her entire family, including her dog, all live gluten-free, so we asked her for tips on keeping meals fresh and fun.]

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “I’m in a food rut.”  What does that really mean?  Well, the definition of a rut is a settled or established pattern, habit or course of action, especially a boring one. You know  – the daily grind, same old stuff, the same meals over and over, yada yada yada.

So, if you’re in a food rut, how do you get out of it?  Well, the simplest answer is to eat something different.

Before you punch me for such a lame suggestion, I’m going to give you 5 tips on exactly how to do just that.

Diane Eblin - The WHOLE Gang

Diane Eblin of The WHOLE Gang

1. Use Real Food Ingredients

This is the No. 1 most important tip for staying out of a food rut.  Use single ingredient foods, whole foods or real foods.  They are naturally gluten-free, have no labels, and are in the produce, meat and seafood sections of the grocery store.  If you keep making meals out of a box, you’ll keep making the same meal.  If you don’t believe me, Google “chicken recipes” and you’ll get back 77,000,000 results.  They call for chicken, not chicken in a box.

Using real food ingredients will save you lots of money.  You can purchase those organic meats on sale, in bulk and, for beef, choose those less expensive cuts that take longer to cook. Pull out that crockpot and let it cook while you sleep.  Then portion out the meats, freeze what you’re not eating now, and you’re ready to make a few of those millions of recipe results you just Googled.

2. Be Inspired

There are so many inspirational resources for recipes and ideas for your meals.  The list includes wonderful cookbooks, both gluten-free and not, along with websites, magazines and cooking shows. You can even work with a health coach to both inspire and inform you.  Not a food magazine junkie? Then just take a look at the covers to see what the latest and greatest food trends are out there. If you like what you see, get the magazine and the recipe. Learn how to substitute non-gluten-free ingredients with ones that fit your diet. This way, you can grab any recipe and start cooking!


3. Menu Planning

Get out of your rut by planning a weekly menu so you’ll have the ingredients on hand to make unique meals and know what you’re doing with them.  Without a plan, you’ll end up grabbing the same old thing, which you’re already bored with and tired of making.  It only takes 15 to 20 minutes to plan out your week and another 15 to 20 minutes to plan out the whole month. Use the resources mentioned above for creative ideas and recipes. I like to start with an inventory of what I have on hand so I can build that into the menu and save money. I often end up with more than a week’s worth of ideas.  Make a multi-week menu to keep those good ideas from going to waste.

4. Variety is the Spice of Life

If you’ve never compared ethnic recipes side by side, you might be surprised to learn that there are common ingredients that span the world.  What changes are the spices and herbs used, which change the flavor profile of each dish. For instance, let’s take a simple chicken stew. You can make it Italian with tomatoes, Mexican with cilantro and green chilies, French with white wine, Indian with cardamom, turmeric and coconut milk, Moroccan with raisins, cinnamon and ginger, Greek with olives, and so on. So gather up your spices and travel the world on your dinner plate.  My two favorite sources for spices are Penzeys and The Spice House. As with any spice, you must make sure they are gluten-free.  These two companies will tell you which ones are not and which ones are gluten-free, as are most.

5.  Pre-made Menu Plans

If you have just plain run out of ideas and nothing is inspiring you, then you can use a menu planning service or you can visit the many blogs that post weekly menu plans and use theirs.  For instance, on my website you can search on Menu Plan Monday and find many weekly menus or Monthly Menu Plan and have your whole month planned out.  A few of my favorite sites sharing menus include Celiacs in the House, Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom, and Celiac Family.  If you use a menu planning service, you can have the menu plan, recipes and shopping list all created for you on a weekly basis.

So, if you are in a food rut, grab some new sources of inspiration, plan out your menu, shop for real food ingredients and spices and get cooking.  You can have a different meal every day of the year!

– Diane Eblin, CHC, AADP

May 14, 2012 at 8:15 am 5 comments

5 NFCA Webinars to Watch Right Now (Plus 1 on the Way)

You’ve learned the basics of gluten-free, and now you’re ready to learn more information. Well, you can read until you’re blue in the face, but there’s another, more engaging way to get those facts and tidbits you’re looking for: Webinars.

In case you didn’t know, NFCA hosts a monthly webinar series, with topics ranging from everyday food choices to gluten-free holiday prep. The webinars are free, and we always post the recording and slides in our archive, so you can go back and listen again and again. Here are 5 webinars you can find in our archive right now.

NFCA Webinars

1. Food as Medicine for Celiac Disease: Nutrition Beyond the Gluten-Free Diet

In this webinar, NFCA Scientific/Medical Advisory Board Member Rachel Begun, MS, RD, offers practical advice on how to incorporate foods into our diet that heal the body and can even prevent disease. Pay close attention to her tips on combining different foods, like leafy greens and citrus, to improve absorption of nutrients.

Watch this Webinar

2. Maintaining a Healthy Weight While Eating Gluten-Free: The Importance of Mindful Eating and Physical Activity

How often do you eat because you’re stressed? Or tired? Or bored? Dietitian and local celiac support group founder Amy Jones, MS, RD, LD, reveals some of the habits that contribute to weight gain, especially when following a gluten-free lifestyle. (Did you really eat that many cookies before you went gluten-free?) We bet you’ll have an “A-ha!” moment listening to this.

Watch this Webinar

3. Top 10 Ways to Get Gluten-Free Kids to Eat Healthy

This webinar is designed for dietitians who counsel families affected by gluten-related disorders, but there are plenty of tips anyone can use. EA Stewart, BS, MBA, RD, walks you through the best ways to set up a gluten-free kitchen, plan meals with your kids and foster good eating habits by putting healthy options within reach.

Watch this Webinar

4. Nutrition and Training for the Gluten-Free Athlete

NFCA Athlete for Awareness Peter Bronski leads this webinar about the best ways to fuel your body with a well-balanced gluten-free diet. Pete explains what to eat before, during and after an athletic activity, then answers actual training questions from the audience.

Watch this Webinar

5. The Importance of School Nurse Education and How-To Strategies for Parents of Gluten-Free Kids

Summer vacation is just starting, but now is a great time to brush up on what you’ll need to review with school nurses, administrators and teachers in the fall. Nina Spitzer, President of CDF’s Greater Phoenix Chapter, outlines the 504 plan and who you’ll need on your child’s School Team. Bonus! Get a list of recipes for yummy gluten-free lunches.

Watch this Webinar

Coming Up…

Our next live webinar will take place on June 20, 2012 at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT. The topic will be “Yes, You Can Eat! When Gluten Isn’t the Only Ingredient You Avoid.” The webinar will feature NFCA’s Answers from a Dietitian blogger Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN. Sponsored by Lucy’s.

Register for this Webinar

May 11, 2012 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

Dining Out Gluten-Free? 5 Ways to Try Something New

[It’s easy to get stuck in a dining rut. Chandice Probst of Gluten-Free Frenzy and CDF Arizona East Valley has some tips to help you get out there and find a new favorite place to eat gluten-free!]

For those of us living with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, dining out can become run of the mill with the same few places and the same dishes every time. It is time we look at dining out as an exciting adventure and something that will be satisfying and, more importantly, safe.

Dining out gluten-free

1. Try a new dish at your favorite restaurant.

Remember that episode of Seinfeld when George does everything opposite of what he would normally do and it works out in his favor? Now I am not telling you to eat gluten, NEVER. What I am saying is that if you are usually a chicken dish kind of person, go for the beef. Not a vegetarian? Try a vegetarian dish! You will be surprised by what you like that you didn’t even know you did.

2. Go Ethnic!

Some of the greatest restaurant reviews and eating experiences I have had were in other countries or in ethnic restaurants. Peruvian, Cuban, Ukrainian and Brazilian foods (I lived on Brazil’s manioc starch, gluten-free bread, Pao de Queijo, while visiting this country!). Indian cuisine is especially enjoyable for those living gluten-free. Most Indian cuisine is prepared without gluten (Naan is off limits). Those dishes that do require flour are often made with garbanzo bean flour. Make sure to always check first!

3. Find those diamond in the rough gluten-free dining establishments.

You can do that by trying new places and actively seeking out the reviews of others. Always make sure the chef is following proper practices required for those living gluten-free, then enjoy amazing gluten-free food you otherwise might not have.

Dining out gluten-free with friends

4. Make gluten-free eating fun within your own community!

Local support groups, expos and awareness events often introduce you to some of the greatest gluten-free foods and products you will ever eat! Make a day out of trying lots of new products in one place. It’s a great way to try before you buy as well.

5. There’s an app for that!

There are so many amazing resources out there that can provide you with great gluten-free reviews and advice on new, safe places to dine. One of the best I’ve found is Find Me Gluten Free. With this free app you can find gluten-free friendly restaurants based on your location. This is the app I use when traveling for awareness events and more! Knowing that the CEO has celiac disease himself gives me great confidence in knowing that I will find a safe and delicious restaurant, no matter where I am.

– Chandice Probst

May 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

How to Talk to Friends and Family About Your Child’s Dietary Needs without Scaring Them Off

[There’s an important step that everyone faces in their gluten-free lifestyle: Talking to family and friends about your dietary needs – or those of your child. For parents of gluten-free kids, it can be a particularly stressful time. We went straight to the source and asked Heidi Kelly of Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom for tips on starting those conversations.]

It seems like yesterday when my now 8-year-old son was diagnosed with celiac disease and within a split second, he went from being a carefree and “normal” 5-year-old Goldfish cracker and Happy Meal loving child to one who had to become concerned with a life-long condition that would end up affecting so much more of our life than we could ever possibly imagine.

A celiac diagnosis is a hard pill to swallow at any age, but it is not the end of the world. Once you get past the initial shock (and the first few weeks of trying to figure out exactly what you CAN eat), you will begin to realize that you can in fact navigate this beautiful, brave new world with your child. Looking back, I wish at the time that someone had pulled me aside and provided me with a few tips and tricks to make the transition easier. I hope to be that person for you now.

Heidi’s tips for talking to friends and loved ones about celiac disease:

1. Keep it Simple.

Celiac disease is a very serious and complex autoimmune disease, and it can be difficult for even physicians to fully comprehend the full nature of the beast. Resist the urge to conduct a mini medical seminar for each of your child’s friends’ parents, lest they send both you and child right back out the door! Keep it on a need-to-know-basis. After all, the intent is that your child will be invited back again, right?

How I go about explaining Sam’s medical condition and dietary needs to new parents, teachers, baseball coaches, etc., is to tell them he has celiac disease and must adhere to a strict gluten-free diet in order to maintain his good health. For simplicity’s sake, I compare it to a severe food allergy, only without the EpiPen. I do this because, in general, everyone understands the classic food allergy, and celiac disease is just as serious – albeit in a different manner – and the immune response is triggered by food. If Sam accidentally ingests gluten, there is no fear of anaphylaxis or a trip to the emergency room for the adult to worry about.

This is a very important balancing act! You want to convey the “strict” aspect of your child’s diet, but you also don’t want to scare parents/teachers/coaches away from wanting to include your child in the everyday fun activities of childhood. Remember, your celiac child is most likely just as healthy (if not healthier) as every other child,as long as he/she is eating the correct diet!

2. Educate Your Child

No one will be a greater advocate and watchdog for your child than him/herself. Depending on their age, you want to explain as much about their condition as they can possibly understand. There are a few really good books to help with this, and my absolute favorite is Mommy, What is Celiac Disease, by Katie Chalmers. Once your child can learn to confidently say “I’m sorry, gluten makes me sick,” half the battle is won. Or, as my 4-year-old so eloquently states, “No thanks, gluten makes my butt hurt.”

3. Everybody Knows Someone

With the prevalence and acceptance of food allergies today, almost everybody in your sphere will know of a child with a food allergy or intolerance, especially at school. You have to remember that your child’s teacher sees dozens of kids each year, has cafeteria duty for many dozens more, and has probably been to a continuing education seminar on the matter. Most of the parents you encounter at school will have known of a child in class from years prior who had a food allergy or intolerance.

Most will be sympathetic. In my opinion, it is important to let them be sympathetic. Everyone will react in their own way. The key is for you to keep a level head and not let it dominate every conversation you are involved in. And on that last point, I know…easier said than done.

Chocolate Gluten-Free Goldfish

Chocolate Gluten-Free ‘Goldfish’

4. Positives Are Better Than Negatives

Of course it is important to let people be aware of what your child cannot eat, but it is equally important to let people (and your child) know what they CAN eat. Your child can have a piece of fresh fruit. Your child can have baby carrots. Stay away from saying “no” as often as possible, and try to focus more on the “yes.”

For those special moments when a Happy Meal is in order, make a Mommy McMeal! Goldfish Crackers on the docket for snack day? Yep, you can make those gluten-free, too! Need a gluten-free Lunchable for that first day of Kindergarten? Easy peasy, my friend.

Don’t resign yourself to living without…instead, get your inner glutadoodle on and say to yourself, “Two can play at that game!”

5. There is No Substitution for Preparation

School snack, birthday parties, baseball games, etc. If people continue to see that you are prepared to deal with the food issues involved with these activities, they will be more at ease and more accommodating. They have to know that you are prepared to deal with it so that they don’t have to. Think about it, who would want to plan a gluten-free birthday party for their darling six-year-old just so your kid can attend? You have to embrace the fact that you are now the parent of “that” kid and let others know that it is a beautiful burden you are willing to bear.

The bonus? Before you know it, other parents will be asking “Just how how does she get her kids to ask for fruits and veggies instead of the [insert popular sugar-laden, gluten-filled kid fare here] for snack time?”

When all Else Fails…Laugh

Sometimes, you just need a good chuckle. I like watching this YouTube video from Better Batter: Stuff People Say to Celiacs.

– Heidi Kelly

May 9, 2012 at 11:01 am 8 comments

5 Tips to Avoid the Pitfalls of Processed Gluten-Free Food and Weight Gain

[If you’ve gained unwanted weight on the gluten-free diet, you’re not alone. Sometimes, it’s because your body is finally absorbing nutrients. Sometimes, it’s because you’re eating too much gluten-free junk. We asked Erin Elberson Lyon of Gluten-Free Fitness to share her tips on keeping your weight in check while maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle.]

Ah, the siren song of the gluten-free label.

After being newly diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there’s nothing quite so comforting as walking down the aisle of your favorite grocery or health food store and seeing “gluten-free” on a package of crackers.

Or a package of cookies.

Or a cake.

Or a loaf of bread.

Learning you have to follow a gluten-free diet for the rest of your life can be an overwhelming moment.  You start thinking of what you can’t eat, of all the things you’ll miss, and then you walk into the store and see all this wonderful food labeled gluten-free!  Maybe it will be OK.

Erin Elberson Lyon

Erin Elberson Lyon

So, you walk through the aisles and fill your cart up with boxes and bags of all shapes, sizes and varieties. You never really ate crackers before, but these say gluten-free, so better buy them!  And look – cupcakes! Better buy those, too. You know, just in case Armageddon comes to fruition and access to gluten-free food is eliminated. And, well, you deserve it. Because you are “suffering” with celiac disease.


Nope. Sorry.

Many of us with a medical diagnosis that limits our food choices have been in that thought pattern. I know I have. The joy of seeing things that are safe to eat overcomes all rational thought of if this item would be something you would have eaten before. Or, if the item is a nutritionally sound choice at all.  I have bought mixes of things I would never have dreamed of eating prior to being diagnosed with celiac.

But I bought them. Because I could. And they were safe.

As time went on, I learned to look beyond the gluten-free label and look at actual nutritional value.  To examine if the food I was putting into my mouth was taking me toward or further away from my health and athletic goals.  Many times packaged and processed gluten-free food is rich in simple carbohydrate and starches.  It also may have a higher fat content than its “gluten-y” counterpart.  These are not necessarily bad things all the time, but certainly something to take into consideration.  If you would not ordinarily have cookies after every meal, having them now because they are gluten-free is not something I can recommend. Having this abundance of packaged and minimally nutritious food can contribute to the weight gain that some people experience, gluten-free or not.

Happily, there has been an increased movement toward higher nutrition in pre-packaged foods over the past few years, and now there are some quite good choices out there.

There’s the key.  Make an educated, informed choice.  Don’t just grab because it says gluten-free.

Here are 5 quick tips to help you avoid the pitfalls of processed gluten-free food and potentially associated weight gain:

1. Learn how to read nutritional facts and ingredient labels.

Ideally, we’d all eat whole foods and fruits for snacks all the time, but let’s be real.  Sometimes you’re going to have gluten-free pasta, and you want to make an informed choice.

2. Make the majority of your diet whole, unprocessed (without a label) foods.

Many foods are naturally gluten-free (YAY!) and so need no gluten-free label.  Think fresh meats, eggs, dairy, poultry, fish, veggies, fruits, potatoes, nuts, seeds, and oils. There is a bounty of delicious, nutritious naturally gluten-free food out there, and these foods give you a lot of nutritional bang for your caloric buck. There are naturally gluten-free grains such as quinoa and rice as well, just be aware of potential cross-contamination in processing.  If in doubt, don’t eat it until you do some research.

3. Learn how to cook.

I’m not saying you need to be Betty Crocker over here.  But learning how to make a few simple dishes and feed yourself (and your family, if appropriate) can go a long way to increasing your ability to use those whole, naturally gluten-free foods in tasty ways.  Preparing food at home lets you control the quality of your ingredients, as well as how those ingredients are prepared.  And as a bonus, you can reduce your chances of getting cross-contaminated when you prepare your own food and eat at home.  Plus, it’s cheaper. Here’s my suggestion of dishes to learn:

  • Roast or crock pot cook a whole chicken. The possibilities are endless for what you can use that meat and bones for.
  • Meatloaf/meatballs. Seriously. It’s still good.  Just use almond meal instead of breadcrumbs.
  • Grill steaks, chicken, tofu, etc.
  • A good marinara sauce. You can add protein of your choice like meat or chicken sausage and serve over spaghetti squash. Delish.
  • Chili (check your seasonings for hidden gluten)
  • Tacos with corn tortillas, lettuce cups, or as a salad.

Those dishes can easily take you through quite a few meals, and are easy to learn.  Cooking can actually be fun once you give it a shot.

4. Move your body. 

Most people do not get enough activity, and it has nothing to do with having celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Exercise/physical activity is important.  Period. You don’t have to run a marathon, but you do have to move.

5. When you pick up a package of gluten-free food, ask yourself if it is something you truly, genuinely want to eat.

That you want to eat it for the food that it is, and not just because it is “safe” or you are “entitled.”  If so, then eat it and enjoy.  If not…reconsider that choice.  Perhaps an apple?

While this is far from an all inclusive list, I hope this helps get you started on the path to making choices that go beyond just a gluten-free label.

Eat well and be well!

– Erin Elberson Lyon

May 8, 2012 at 1:37 pm 13 comments

5 Tips for Baking Gluten-Free From Scratch

[You’re ready to bake from scratch, but don’t know where to start. Fear not! Shauna James Ahern, better known as Gluten-Free Girl, is here to share her tips and tricks for baking delicious gluten-free goods.]

1. Let go of your expectations.

You’ve probably been baking one way your entire life: by scooping out a cup of flour from the 5-pound bag of all-purpose bleached white. It was simple to bake this way. Even mindless. However, that bag of flour is now like a bag full of poison for you. Don’t go near it.
When people begin to bake gluten-free, they expect that the process will be exactly the same, but with different flours. (And more expensive flours, too.) Guess what? As is true of everything in life, those expectations are going to hurt you.
As soon as you can clean the gluten out of your kitchen, sweep away the notion that anything will be like it was. And why would you want it to be, when the old way made you sick?

2. You have to combine flours.

Here’s where people also get stuck. Because AP gluten flour works for a multitude of baked goods — and it’s the only flour most people in this culture know — it’s easy to long for that one magic flour when baking gluten-free.
There are a few places where you can use a single flour. I adore these brownies made with teff flour, much more than gluten brownies. And you can make great buckwheat crêpes, with only buckwheat flour. There are a few other examples. (Make socca your friend.)
Gluten-Free Brownies from Gluten-Free Girl
However, for the most part, you have to combine 2 or 3 flours together to make a flour mix that will work for gluten-free baking.
It’s not hard. Take a bag of sorghum flour, a bag of millet, a bag of sweet rice flour, and a bag of potato starch. (We use Bob’s Red Mill flours and all their bags contain about the same amount of flour.) Pour them in a big container. Put on the lid and shake. Shake that flour until it is all one color.
What do you have? Flour. Use that flour for baking cookies, muffins, quick breads, pancakes, waffles, and biscuits. You’re done.

3. Learn to bake by weight.

Americans are VERY tied to their cups. We believe that all baking has to happen in 1/2 cup measurements. Ounces? Grams? That seems like math.
Believe me, if you want to become a confident gluten-free baker, able to make adaptations to all your favorite recipes, substituting one flour for another when you’ve run out of your favorites?
Buy a kitchen scale.
This will tell you why.

4. Play.

You’re going to make mistakes. This is a funny business. Eventually, it will feel like rote, and you’ll wonder why you ever worried.
But this space? This place of jarring differences and new experiences? This is where we learn.
Open yourself to it.
What’s the worst that could happen? A few bad baked goods? Eh, there are worse fates.

5. Psst! Here’s a secret. Most baked goods are actually better without gluten.

You read that right. Better without gluten.
Think about your favorite cake recipe. What’s the last instruction before you put that cake in the oven? “Mix until just combined. Don’t over-stir.”
You know why? Because that lovely recipe writer was trying to protect you from activating the gluten. Gluten in a cake can make your birthday celebration treat tough.
But without any gluten? You don’t have to worry. Let that stand mixer spin. Leave the room and play with your kids. You’re not going to hurt anything.
Gluten-free cakes can be far fluffier and more wonderful than the gluten ones.
Trust me. It’s worth the initial, shocking investment in flours to learn how to do this.
You don’t want to go the rest of your life without making chocolate chip cookies.
– Shauna James Ahern

May 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm 5 comments

5 Things I Learned from NFCA’s Getting Started Guide

One of NFCA’s most valuable resources is our Getting Started Guide – a 24-page booklet filled with information for those newly diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It lists gluten-free alternatives, sources of hidden gluten, tips for cooking and dining out, and contact information for support groups and celiac disease centers.

When I started at NFCA, I didn’t know much about celiac disease. Here are 5 things I learned thanks to the Getting Started Guide.

1. Take baby steps.

The gluten-free diet can seem overwhelming, especially when you try to jump in with an overly complex recipe. Instead, start with a few basics. As the Guide says:

“A first and simple step is to look for dishes that need very little customization, perhaps just the substitution of one gluten-free ingredient for one that is not gluten-free. For example, make macaroni and cheese or baked ziti with rice, corn, or lentil pasta, or prepare enchiladas with corn tortillas instead of the wheat flour variety.”

NFCA Getting Started Guide

NFCA’s Getting Started Guide

2. Don’t skip out on your doctor.

Follow-up visits are critical to ensure you are healing and not accidentally ingesting gluten.

“To make sure your gluten-free diet is successful, schedule annual exams and take the celiac antibody test when directed by your doctor. If your blood test comes back normal, it will confirm that you are maintaining a completely gluten-free diet,” the Guide says.

3. Cup for Cup conversions.

Baking with gluten-free flours isn’t as easy as using a box mix (which, thankfully, include gluten-free versions). Fortunately, the Getting Started Guide has a cheat sheet. Page 12 lists conversions for replacing wheat flour with a gluten-free alternative. For example, use ½ cup of almond flour for every 1 cup of wheat flour. Sorghum flour, on the other hand, swaps 1-for-1.

4. Those “weird” health issues could be related to celiac.

Dental enamel defects. Pale mouth sores. Fatigue. They don’t always get the spotlight, but they are signs of celiac disease. The Guide has an abbreviated list of symptoms (there are more than 300, after all). You may find yourself having an “A-ha” moment after reading them over.

5. Generic and brand name drugs can differ.

Yes, but how is this relevant. Well, there are things called excipients (binders) used in medications that can sometimes contain gluten. In some cases, a brand-name drug may be gluten-free, but its generic counterpart may not be. So, it’s important to always check with the manufacturer to ensure a medication is gluten-free. Find more details in the Getting Started Guide.

Where can you find this Getting Started Guide? It’s available for download 24/7 on NFCA’s Printable Guides page. Just scroll to the section called Restoring Health. In fact, all of the Printable Guides you find on that page can be helpful in your gluten-free lifestyle – and they’re all free!

Is there a topic you’d like us to cover in a Printable Guide? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

– Cheryl

May 4, 2012 at 10:51 am Leave a comment

5 Beginner Tips for Dining Out Gluten-Free

[Lisa Garza blogs at Gluten Free Foodies, where she shares gluten-free recipes and restaurant reviews. She’s even hosting an event on May 12 in Seattle for Celiac Awareness Month! We asked her to share some tips for first-time gluten-free diners.]

1. Do your homework before exploring a new restaurant.

Luckily, so many restaurants are providing menu information on their websites. If you do not see any mention of offering gluten-free on their menu, pick up the phone and call them. Make your voice heard by making the call. When you ask a restaurant if they offer gluten-free menu options, it creates awareness and drives them to learn more about celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and the needs this growing customer base has for good, healthy and safe gluten-free food.

French Fries

2. Ask to speak to the manager or chef.

Ask specific questions about ingredients.

  • Do they know what gluten-free food is?
  • Do they use a dedicated gluten-free fryer for their gluten-free French fries or corn tortillas and chips?
  • Do they use soy sauce? Soy sauce is used in all types of restaurants, not just Asian restaurants, so ask if they use it because it contains wheat gluten.

3. Be extra careful with certain menu items.

These dishes may contain hidden gluten:

  • Cheese and frozen foods like hash browns and french fries – these foods can contain gluten as an additive, or they may be cooked in the same fryer as gluten-containing foods.
  • Meats – Deli meats and pizza toppings like pepperoni can contain additives, including gluten. Ask if the brands they use are gluten-free.
  • Breads – Unless the restaurant specifically states that they are gluten-free, avoid any crusts, rolls, croutons or baked goods
  • Desserts – In addition to cake, pie and baked goods, gluten can also be in certain types of ice cream (either as an additive or a mix-in, i.e. cookie dough).
  • Sauces and salad dressings – It’s best to ask for oil and vinegar on the side of the salad.

Plate of Fresh Sushi

4. If you have a special event, always call ahead.

Make a reservation and let the staff know that you are gluten-free, along with any other dietary needs. Let them know it is a special celebration – birthday, anniversary, etc. and ask them ahead of time what you can expect to find on the menu.

Some restaurants will let you bring in a cake or dessert from an outside bakery if they do not offer gluten-free desserts. Make sure it is clearly marked with a sign “GLUTEN-FREE,” your name and contact information. Make sure the dessert is well wrapped or contained so they can store it in the cooler safely.

The staff at the restaurant will appreciate you taking the time to contact them prior to your special occasion so they can provide the best customer service possible. Developing a favorite chef relationship at your local restaurants will go a long way for future dining and celebrations.

5. Share your gluten-free experience with others.

Post a review on your favorite social media sites. This will help other gluten-free people find GREAT dining experiences and will also encourage more restaurants to create a safe gluten-free menu.

– Lisa Garza

May 3, 2012 at 9:56 am 1 comment

5 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Celiac Disease & the Gluten-Free Diet

[Kathleen Reale runs, a website that offers coupons, samples and information for those with celiac disease and food allergies. In addition to having celiac disease, Kathleen also has family members with food allergies. We asked her for advice on breaking it down for the little ones.]

When you first discover your child has celiac disease, it can seem overwhelming. What foods to buy? How to cook? How to correspond with schools, camps and other social situations? But most importantly, how do you communicate with your child on what celiac disease is and how to navigate the gluten-free diet.

Following are a few tips and tricks to make gluten-free journey easier to navigate…and will help you and your child find a positive, optimistic way to better health and wellness.

1. Help Your Child Understand the Gluten-Free Diet

Depending on your child’s age, it is important that they understand the gluten-free diet and why they need to be on it. For younger children, start with the basics of the diet and expand upon the information depending on the child’s age. Encourage your child to ask questions. Need a springboard to get the conversation started? Check out some of the fantastic books in the resource section below!

Young Boy with Mother and Sister

2. Keep a Positive Attitude

Being on a gluten-free diet is not the end of the world. But for a child, it can seem devastating. Help your child stay focused on what the diet allows, rather than what it does not. Bring your child grocery shopping and allow them to select gluten-free foods they will enjoy. Encourage them to explore new foods, help with cooking, and even start their own garden. Getting children involved in growing, selecting and preparing their foods creates a sense of ownership and pride in the foods they can eat.

Remember also to keep a positive attitude yourself. Kids will pick up on your cues and the approaches you take. Start by being “positively prepared.” Some examples are researching gluten-free options before dining out or keeping frozen gluten-free pizzas and cupcakes on hand at all times. This shows your child that eating out, pizza with friends, and birthday parties are easy and simple.

3. Empower your Child

Your first instinct is to protect your child at all times. But depending on your child’s age, they may be in social situations that require them to take responsibility for the food they eat and their own health. Make sure that your child understands what “safe foods” are, how to read labels, and know that they can always call you for help in navigating their diet.

4. Role-Play Potential Situations

Talk to your child about potential situations that may arise that require them to address being on a gluten-free diet. Talking to your child about these situations, and problem solve them together.  How should your child respond to a grandparent that says “just one” non gluten-free cookie is fine to eat, or what tactics will be used when your child is invited to a pizza party? This will equip your child to deal with some circumstances they may encounter. Most importantly, make sure your child understands that it is OK to persistently, but politely, say NO to gluten.

5. Some Resources to Help You and Your Child

Following are some resources to help you and your child start your gluten-free journey:

Books for younger children

Books for pre-adolescents

Also, make sure you check out Kids Central on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness website for tons of support, information and tools for your gluten-free child. All the subjects are addressed in kid-friendly terminology. Some topics covered are the basics – such as  what is celiac or what is gluten-free, as well some fantastic pointers on living a gluten-free diet from a child’s perspective including explaining celiac disease and the gluten-free diet to friends, or pep-talks from other gluten-free kids. The site is well worth exploring!

– Kathleen Reale

May 2, 2012 at 8:29 am 1 comment

Hidden Gluten: 4 Places and 1 Resource to Watch

[When you first go gluten-free, you typically focus on the obvious foods like bread and pasta. But it’s often hidden sources of gluten like soy sauce that throw you off course. We asked Shirley Braden of gluten free easily to share her tips on avoiding hidden gluten. Here they are, organized in 5 categories to help you stay safe!]

When The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness asked me to participate in this year’s May Celiac Awareness campaign, of course I said yes as I’m a huge fan of the NFCA and all its efforts. I said yes even though initially the subject matter didn’t excite me. Hidden sources of gluten. Yes, it’s a very important topic, but it’s one that’s not very exciting on the surface (no pun intended). However, not knowing where gluten can be hidden can give you major anxiety. There’s nothing as unfortunate as going merrily along and suddenly getting “glutened”!

The following are some frequent sources of hidden gluten … or sometimes not so much sources of hidden gluten as “overlooked”gluten. Note that the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act went into effect on January 2006, which ensured that wheat (as one of the eight major food allergens) must always be shown on applicable food product labels—either in the listing of ingredients themselves or after the ingredients list in a “CONTAINS:” statement. (Read more here.)

1. Grab-and-Go Foods

Candies ~ While there are many candies that are gluten free, many more contain gluten. Most folks are not surprised to learn that candies that contain cookie ingredients contain gluten, but they are surprised to learn that others like licorice (or similar; e.g., Twizzlers) contain wheat. Many other candies contain gluten in the form of barley for flavoring. Read labels and be wary of accepting or taking candy with no packaging.

Chips ~ Flavored potato chips (e.g., barbecued flavor, sour cream and onion) can contain gluten. Some new varieties of “whole grain” or “multi-grain” chips may also contain gluten. Don’t dip the chip without knowing that it’s gluten free!

“Formed” Products~ I asked my son for his input on products that contain hidden gluten and he said, “Anything that is mixed and then molded or shaped probably has gluten in it.” Great point. He talked about specific candies and some brands of beef jerky (for the latter, some brands also contain gluten via soy sauce for flavoring).

2. Cooking

Broth ~ The unsafe gluten ingredient that can be present in commercially prepared chicken broth, beef broth, or stock is usually wheat. Therefore, wheat will be shown on the ingredients label. Similarly, some chicken bouillon can contain gluten. Read the ingredients label.

Gluten-Free Label on Chicken Stock

Condiments~ There are many condiments that are gluten free, but sometimes gluten is used as a stabilizer and thickener, so read labels and do your due diligence. If you share a household with gluten consumers, it is imperative that separate condiments be maintained. It’s unrealistic to think that the members of your household who eat gluten will know or remember not to contaminate the mayo jar when they stick a knife inside the jar, spread mayo on bread, and then realize that they need more mayo. That same knife will go back in the mayo jar and the jar suddenly become cross contaminated and a source of gluten. Similarly, there are many who will touch the ketchup container right to the gluten-containing bun, bread, seasoned fries, etc. and the ketchup container then becomes a source of hidden gluten.

Kitchen Equipment
~ Toasters used for gluten-full bread, old pans and baking sheets, cutting boards, baking stones, and wooden utensils can all be sources of hidden gluten. (A black light that would show gluten would be so very handy, don’t you think?)

3. Eating Out

The opportunities for cross contamination are endless in restaurants, and even a gluten-free menu doesn’t guarantee a gluten-free meal. Every single individual must be fully trained on serving the gluten-free patron and keeping gluten-free ingredients/dishes free of gluten contamination. One poorly trained individual and/or one misstep is all it takes to provide an unsafe meal. But let’s focus instead on foods and dishes that may have hidden gluten in restaurants. The risk can also be greater when eating out because we don’t have ready access to ingredients listings.

Beverages~ This category includes non-alcoholic and alcoholic liquid refreshments. I was with a group of bloggers, most of whom were gluten free, at a food blogger conference a while back. During a break between sessions, we were sampling some of the vendors’ wares. We immediately asked if the beverages were gluten free. The answer was “Yes, these are.” What we didn’t pick up on was that there was an emphasis on the “these” and a specialized sweep of the company reps’ hands, indicating that only particular flavors of the brand were gluten free. We discovered this info after continuing to reading ingredients labels as we sipped.

That gluten can be present in tea also surprises folks. Barley is the usual source. Holiday and specialty teas are more frequent sources of gluten than basic teas. Special scrutiny should be paid to teas with name that include “gingerbread” and “sugar cookie,” as gluten is used to achieve that baked good taste. Similarly, flavored coffees can sometimes contain gluten.

The biggest concern for alcoholic beverages typically is beer. Unless it is made from special gluten-free ingredients and/or processed to be gluten free, beer is off limits. I’ve seen this news come as a shock to gluten-free newbies. The health care professional who diagnosed them had warned them about pasta, bread, crackers and baked goods, but had forgotten to mention beer.

Dressings, Marinades, Sauces, and Soups ~ I was very surprised to learn that an area restaurant’s homemade Caesar dressing contained soy sauce (which, of course, contained wheat). If I had not notified my waiter of my dining needs and he had not been well informed on the restaurant menu and ingredients, I might have been “glutened.” Others have found that soy sauce has been used in all types of dishes, and in decidedly non-Asian fare. Soy sauce is often used in marinades, and beer may sometimes be used as well. Sauces and soups are often thickened with wheat-based flour versus naturally gluten-free thickeners such as cornstarch, potato starch, and tapioca starch/flour.

Gluten-Free Label on Allegro Marinade

Egg Dishes ~ Some well-known chain restaurants add flour or pancake batter to scrambled eggs and omelets. One should always ask if either have been added when ordering egg dishes–even in the finest restaurants–just to be safe.

Salad ~ Of course, salad on its own is gluten free … lettuces and other salad greens, carrots, onions, tomatoes and the like are gluten free. However, many restaurants will make salad in a humongous bowl and then the wait staff will serve individual salads from that bowl. If the restaurant uses croutons in that bowl, you must ask for your salad to be made fresh, separately without croutons. (Note: If ever you receive a salad with croutons, or say a bread stick on top, hold on to it until the server replaces it, as restaurant staff have been known to simply pick out croutons or remove the bread stick.)

Water Used in Food Preparation~ Are you ordering steamed seafood? Does the restaurant use beer to steam to add special taste to its seafood offerings? If so, either you must abstain, or you must ask if the chef will steam your seafood in plain water in a separate, clean pot. (Do not assume on the latter.) Are you ordering steamed veggies for healthier fare? Be sure the restaurant doesn’t use the same water that it has used to boil its pasta in to also steam its veggies. This happens more often than you would think and not asking that question has gotten me “glutened” at least once.

Seafood Steamed in Beer on Menu

4. Non-Food Sources

Please don’t stop your vigilance at food sources; consider the following.

Art Supplies~ Numerous art supplies—like mainstream brands of play dough and finger paint—contain gluten. Heidi at Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom has an excellent post on gluten-free art supplies here. As Heidi says, little ones are notorious for putting their hands in their mouths.

Makeup and Lotions ~ Choose lipstick and facial lotions (or any product that could wind up in your mouth) that are gluten free. Deciphering the ingredients on these labels is not easy, so select products that have simple ingredients like coconut oil and shea butter or shop from a product line that is entirely gluten free.

Medications and Supplements~ Gluten is also sometimes present in medications. I’m talking about prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins and supplements. Alice Bast, founder and president of NFCA, states “When you look at the word gluten, think glue. It is often used as a binder.” NFCA is in the midst of a two-part study on Gluten in Medications, which was funded by a $50,000 grant from the FDA.

Pet Food~ Unless you are purchasing grain-free pet food, it most likely does contain gluten. Make sure to wash your hands after handling any pet food. This issue may even be more of a concern for the gluten-free child touching the pet’s food dish and then his/her mouth, kissing the family pet, etc.

5. The Gluten-Free Watchdog

Those are just a few sources for hidden gluten, but I’d like to share another component of the hidden gluten equation. As most of you know, there are no current standards for a “gluten-free” label in place in the U.S. at this time. The Food and Drug Administration’s proposed standard from a few years ago remains at less than 20 parts per million (ppm). Final passage of this amount has not occurred; the latest data from the open comment period held months ago is still being evaluated. We also know that we are seeing more and more products labeled “gluten free.” Does that mean such products really are gluten free?

That’s what the Gluten Free Watchdog program is finding out. Founded and maintained by Tricia Thompson (The Gluten-Free Dietitian), the Gluten Free Watchdog program tests “gluten-free” products weekly.

Gluten-Free Watchdog

The most important thing to know is that while most of the products that the Gluten Free Watchdog has tested are gluten free to less than 5 ppm gluten, a handful of products have tested well above 20 ppm gluten. These findings point to the scariest sources of hidden gluten of all—the ones with “gluten free” labels that you believe are safe. Please take a moment to check out the Gluten Free Watchdog Alerts page to see which products have tested positive for gluten at 20 ppm or above. I have not seen this information shared enough with the gluten-free public and folks are still consuming these products and getting ill. (Note: Only subscribers get the product testing reports immediately with the specific testing results.)

Finally, do your best to “stay safe out there.” For staying safe and living gluten free easily (gfe), I’m a huge proponent of real food that is naturally gluten free. There is no hidden gluten in the products that are ready to eat “as is” (obviously, cooking will be needed in some cases). Think meat, seafood, fruit, vegetables, and dairy. As they come in their natural forms (without processing or “additives”), these foods are gluten free all day long!

– Shirley Braden

May 1, 2012 at 10:03 am 22 comments

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