Posts filed under ‘Alice’
The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour has officially started! The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) kicked off the tour at Chef Jehangir Mehta’s New York City restaurant, Mehtaphor, yesterday afternoon.
Gluten-free bloggers, food bloggers and reporters from the New York area came out to enjoy a 100% gluten-free lunch with us at Mehtaphor. And while I was excited to eat all of Chef Mehta’s gluten-free dishes (which, by the way, were fabulous), I was even more excited to have the opportunity to talk about the need for safe gluten-free food preparation. We even proved one of my favorite points – gluten-free does not mean taste free! There were no gluten-free bread or pasta substitutes on the menu, but rather Chef Mehta focused on serving a Mediterranean-style meal that left everyone completely satisfied (quite to the surprise of some of the attendees!). If ever there was a perfect meal to satisfy gluten-free and non-gluten-free eaters, this meal was it.
While we enjoyed Chef Mehta’s dishes, we all had the chance to chat about celiac disease and the medical aspect behind the gluten-free diet. Most of the attendees had some sort of connection to celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’). Some had a deep understanding of gluten-related disorders while others were still learning, which made for an incredibly diverse conversation. If there’s one thing I love, it’s raising awareness of an autoimmune disease that is still vastly underdiagnosed.
I have to admit, I was truly touched by the interest of the folks who attended yesterday’s luncheon. Sure, there was delicious gluten-free food to enjoy, but everyone was genuinely interested in learning about celiac disease and the GREAT Kitchens program. They wanted to understand why this online gluten-free training program exists and how much of a difference training makes for people living with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders. Everyone was engaged with the program, asked a lot of questions and, to put it simply, they cared.
To all those who attended the luncheon – thank you so much for recognizing the need for people living with gluten-related disorders to have access to not just gluten-free meals, but meals that are safe and free from cross-contamination.
Today, Chef Mehta and I hung out at New York University (NYU) to serve gluten-free dishes to students in the Weinstein Dining Hall. There are some photos from the event on NFCA’s Instagram account you can check out now. Keep an eye on the blog for more updates from today’s stop and the rest of the tour. If you are on Twitter, follow NFCA (@CeliacAwareness) and Chef Mehta (@jehangir_mehta) to get the play-by-play of the tour. You can follow me as well at @abast. We’re using the hashtags #GREATKitchens and #GFChefsTable, so feel free to jump in the conversation!
P.S. You can find more pictures from the tour on NFCA’s Facebook page. We’ll be updating the album at each stop on the tour.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is proud to call Chef Jehangir Mehta, a finalist on the popular Next Iron Chef series, a partner in creating safe gluten-free options in restaurants so people living with gluten-related disorders can eat without fear.
NFCA team members and Chef Mehta will be taking NFCA’s online gluten-free cooking program on the road over the next six months. Introducing the GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour! The tour will cover 10 cities with the goal of educating chefs nationwide on the need for gluten-free menu items that go beyond just using gluten-free ingredients. It is amazing to see gluten-free options popping up on menus across the country, but unless restaurants are educated on the importance of safe gluten-free food preparation, our community cannot dine safely.
Many things have changed in the 20+ years that I have been diagnosed with celiac disease. When I was diagnosed, gluten-free food was not even available in the U.S. Today, we have access to a wide range of gluten-free food, but the next step on our journey is ensuring all gluten-free food is safe for our community. A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for people living with celiac disease; there are currently no pills, vaccines or cures for celiac disease. Research is taking us closer, but for now, we have to ensure the people living with this autoimmune disease can have access to the food that is our only medicine.
It has been 10 years since NFCA first opened its doors and set out on its mission to raise celiac disease awareness and improve the quality of life for those on a lifelong gluten-free diet. In that time, I have met many chefs and foodservice industry professionals eager to understand celiac disease, the gluten-free diet and our need for food to be free from gluten-containing ingredients and the gluten that can enter our food through cross-contact (commonly referred to as cross-contamination by the gluten-free community). These professionals are eager to accommodate their guests, but first they have to know training and resources are available to help.
NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program gives restaurant employees from the wait staff to the chefs the tools they need to serve safe gluten-free food. Our ten city tour will help spread the message that for the 3 million Americans living with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is not a fad, but the only way to restore their health and reclaim their lives. Ranging from cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, we will be working with executive chefs in some of the best restaurants – complete with gluten-free cooking demonstrations, of course!
Stay tuned as we start the journey at Chef Mehta’s Tribeca restaurant, Mehtaphor on Tuesday, October 22. Follow the tour by liking NFCA’s Facebook page and following NFCA on Twitter (@CeliacAwareness) and Instagram (@CeliacCentral). Chef Mehta will also be live tweeting from the road. Follow him at @jehangir_mehta.
To our GREAT health,
I’m convinced that time speeds up between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Before you know it, summer is over and you’re not quite sure what you did all those months.
This year, kick off the summer with a gluten-free bucket list. Set a few goals, plan a trip or two, and see how many things you can check off your list before the season ends. Here are 8 activities to get you started:
- Host a backyard barbecue. Invite friends or family members over for a gluten-free cookout. Instead of the standard hot dogs and hamburgers, try grilling a whole chicken or making kebabs. Looking for inspiration? Check out the 4th of July Fun Guide our staff put together for party tips and a dip recipe.
- Visit a ballpark. What better way to enjoy a warm summer night than watching the game with a gluten-free hot dog? Gluten-Free Philly has a list of ballparks that now serve gluten-free concessions. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, grab a ticket to Celiac Awareness Night at the Phillies on July 20 and spend the night with gluten-free fans.
- Make your own ice cream sandwich. Grab two gluten-free cookies and a tub of your favorite flavor of ice cream. Drop a scoop of ice cream onto one cookie and place the other cookie on top. Best enjoyed surrounded by family and friends.
- Go camping. Surprising as it sounds, camping may be one of the most gluten-free friendly ways to travel. And it’s one of my favorites! Bring your own food and cook it in tin foil packets over a campfire. No concerns about cross-contamination here!
- Go for a walk. Take a stroll for a good cause by joining one of the many celiac walks this summer. If there are no awareness events in your area, consider launching your own like Athlete for Awareness Peter Bronski(50-mile run not required).
- Take a class. The kids may be out of school, but the summer is a wonderful time for your own enrichment. Treat yourself to a wellness retreat or a gluten-free cooking class. No time? Carve out 1 hour to watch one of NFCA’s webinars.
- Try a new recipe. You know all those gluten-free recipes you’ve pinned on Pinterest? Now’s the time to make them. Make it a goal to cook one new recipe per week, or host a cooking party with gluten-free friends so you can test several recipes in a single afternoon.
- Root for gluten-free Olympians. A number of gluten-free athletes are vying for the gold this year. The U.S. Olympic teams are still being decided, but we’re keeping an eye returning Olympians Dana Vollmer and Jenn Suhr.
Last month, I saw food activist and writer Michael Pollan speak at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. As a fan of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Michael’s prescriptive to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
During his talk, Michael noted some astounding facts that, despite all my work with the food industry, I was surprised to hear. Here are my top takeaways:
- 40 new products are launched in supermarkets every day. That means we have a lot of choices, but also a lot of confusion about what’s best for our bodies.
- Americans eat 20% of meals in our cars. We are all in a rush, and our on-the-go consumption is far from the mindful eating dietitians recommend.
- There’s a new term, “nutritionalism,” that refers to our tendency to overhype “good” foods and villainize “bad” ones. We’re better off keeping things simple: more fiber, less sugar and plenty of exercise.
It’s time we all found more balance in our lives – physically, emotionally and socially. Inspired by Michael’s 7 Rules for Eating, I’ve developed 7 New Habits for Body and Mind. I encourage you to try these and to make your own list!
1) I read labels. When I shop, I not only check for gluten-free ingredients, but also read the label for sugar and carb content.
2) I have switched from olive oil to coconut oil in much of my baking.
3) I drink a green drink in the morning made with vegetables.
4) I set aside Sunday afternoons to cook a casserole and wash and cut veggies so I have wholesome weeknight meals and ready-to-grab nutritious snack foods.
5) I stick mostly to the perimeter of the supermarket. That means fruits, veggies, lean meats and dairy.
6) I will not be orthorexic (having an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating). With so many “health” messages out there, it’s easy to go overboard. It is much better to enjoy life and savor each meal – and that includes the social aspects!
7) I have added yoga back into my life. I get stressed just like everyone else, and feeling frazzled all the time just isn’t fun. Yoga is a great workout and helps me wring out all that tension.
Dear Friends of NFCA,
I get asked a lot, How do you do it all? How do you run an organization, take care of your family, cook, and live a balanced life without pulling out your hair? The answer is that I don’t do it all. I make mistakes, but I try to learn from my mistakes. And there are times when the ball does get dropped.
Our family recently moved. And, let me tell you, our holiday was a bit chaotic. I didn’t get any exercise for weeks on end. But my wonderful staff picked up the pieces in the office. Thank you Cheryl, Jennifer, Nancy, Kristin, Whitney, Sue and Beckee.
I wanted to write a holiday blog post, but I honestly could not get my act together. On the bright side, I knew that it wasn’t the end of the world and that you would all understand. No one is perfect. We all do the best that we can, and my family needed my time and attention. And I needed to unpack and organize my belongings. Thank you, team NFCA!
I will never forget the day my husband, youngest daughter and I drove to Boston to drop my eldest daughter off at college 7 years ago; the day we sat with hundreds of parents at her graduation 3 years ago; or the day we put her on a plane as she headed off to Indonesia to work in Borneo 2 years ago.
Now, I’ll never forget driving to West Philadelphia for her medical school orientation. After all these adventures, I thought I was prepared for this event. It was only around the corner, right?
Yes, around the corner physically, but emotionally it was a monumental occasion. I knew that attending her White Coat Ceremony (a tradition in medical school orientation) would be memorable, but I had no idea how much it would mean to hear my child recite the Hippocratic Oath with her peers. Every day, I work hard to educate physicians around the country about the signs and symptoms of celiac disease and ask them to be our partners in diagnosis and treatment. Now, my own daughter is now going to be one of them. Wow!
What was this day like? It started off with a session that explained how grueling the first year of medical school can be, yet reassured parents that all of our kids will strike a balance.
I also got a chance to speak with the dean of the medical school (any chance to hand out my card and spread the word). She turned her head toward me and simply said, “Celiac disease; this disease certainly is receiving a lot of attention lately.”
We were then invited to spend some time as a medical school student. This was fun! We watched standardized patient actors simulate different patient/physician scenarios, which was fascinating. In one situation, the actor kept insisting that the physician give her a prescription. ”I want medicine,” she pleaded, even though she only had a virus! It truly hit home. In our case, there is no pill…at least not yet. So, we make ourselves better through diet and dedication.
After that, we checked out the robotic patient. They asked for a couple of volunteers to assist with “surgery.” Of course, I jumped right up (I am a learner at heart). My patient had a heart attack and I had to use the defibrillator. No worries, he made it through.
Next, we headed to a room where we worked with partners on a project. It was truly interesting because it taught us all about teamwork. Statistically, patients fare better in medical situations if they have a communicative team caring for them. Lunch was next (gluten-free for me, of course).
Finally, after a number of speeches, we all had the chance to watch our sons and daughters receive their white coat and stethoscope. (Did you know that the length of the coat depicts your level of schooling?) I must say that watching my “baby” up on stage was a bit overwhelming. My mother died of pancreatic cancer before I graduated from college. It changed my life. I too was headed to medical school, but changed my mind as I couldn’t bare the pain of spending time in the hospital. Looking back, I was always passionate about medicine, and now I’ve turned that passion into preventive medicine and raising awareness for celiac disease.
I can’t express how proud I was when Elizabeth took her oath. And, thanks to getting properly diagnosed, I was there watching her.
Want your doctor to be more informed about celiac disease? Learn how you can talk to them about NFCA’s free online course for physicians.
When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease 17 years ago (by my dog’s vet, mind you), I had to order my food from Canada or purchase products at our support group meetings. Gluten-free foods were hard to come by, unless they were naturally gluten-free (eggs, milk, meat, veggies and the like). It took me hours to shop; I wandered up and down the supermarket aisles, only to end up purchasing a few items.
Over the past several years, we at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and others have had the opportunity to work with Walmart, Wegmans, Wholefoods, Stop and Shop, ShopRite and Giant. Now, I walk up and down the aisles and just stare in amazement at the shelf tags calling out “Gluten-free!” What a hoot…so life-altering.
The same was the case at restaurants. When I was first diagnosed, you’d think I was speaking another language when I asked the waiter if he or she knew what gluten-free was. The blank stare spoke volumes.
Even 5 or 6 years ago, if a fortune teller said that I would be speaking about Gluten-Free Foodservice Opportunities at the International Pizza Show, I would have thought she had a defective crystal ball. Yet there I was, just last week.
And this time, what happened in Vegas didn’t stay there.
Our gluten-free presentation was noted in an industry article following the Pizza Expo. The article explained how offering gluten-free options can help a restaurant gain loyal customers from the celiac community. It was more proof that gluten-free has not only become mainstream, but is also here to stay.
Now, the message I really hoped to drive home during my presentation was how important it is to know what you’re doing when it comes to gluten-free preparation and serving. To all the pizza professionals and restaurateurs out there: Please do not advertise that you serve “gluten-free” unless you really practice proper protocols. Gluten-free food can be delicious, tempting, safe, and a good business opportunity – as long as it’s done right.
If that wasn’t enough action in a week, I attended the Digestive Disease National Coalition (DDNC) Policy Forum in Washington DC over the weekend. Three years ago, when I first landed in front of our nation’s representatives, their legislative assistant’s eyes glazed over at the words “celiac” and “gluten-free.” Even more upsetting, the physician on my committee didn’t even know that celiac was so prevalent!
Last year, I was grouped with the same physician, and his entire attitude had changed. At the time, he was diagnosing two patients per week and was excited to tell the celiac story.
Today – get ready for this – that same physician has his daughter on a gluten-free diet, one of the legislative assistants has celiac, and another is getting her boyfriend tested. They were interested and hungry to help. That’s progress!
What changes have you noticed that show progress in celiac and gluten-free awareness? I always love hearing success stories!
When I think back over the past 6 years in the celiac community, there are highs and lows.
The highs: We have seen great improvement in the variety and availability of gluten-free foods. We can walk into our local supermarket and readily purchase gluten-free foods. Gluten-free has been named the 8th largest food trend for 2011, an increase from its No. 9 position in 2010.
Now for the lows: The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has not established a standard to define the term “gluten-free,” so there’s always that bit of doubt about the safety of our food. But, let’s not get discouraged.
Let’s review a little history of allergy and food labeling. In 2002, the Food Standards Australia/New Zealand announced that “all food labels will show the declarations of the presence of potential allergens in foods, such as gluten, peanuts and other nuts, seafood, milk, wheat, eggs and soybeans. In addition, all foods containing genetically modified materials must be labeled as such.”
In 2005, the European Union required manufacturers to identify 12 common food allergens including: celery, dairy, eggs, fish, gluten, mustard, peanuts, sesame seeds, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat, and their derivatives.
On Jan. 1, 2006, the U.S. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) went into effect. As a result, the presence of eight allergens including dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat are now declared on ingredient lists.
Since the inception of FALCPA, the FDA has been developing a definition for the term “gluten-free,” as there is currently no approved legislation for U.S. food manufacturers or consumers. Once approved, labeling regulations will help U.S. consumers maintain a gluten-free diet by clearly designating which items are safe to eat, without confusion over potential cross-contamination. “As ordered by the FALCPA, a final rule on this definition was to be enacted by August 2008.”
So how’s the progress going?
On Jan. 23, 2007, the FDA published a proposed rule about defining the term “gluten-free.” The proposed rule included a 90-day public comment period, which ended on April 23, 2007. In addition to public comments, the proposed rule called for a safety assessment related to gluten exposure in individuals with celiac disease, which would help guide the development of a definition for “gluten-free.”
Fast forward to today. It’s more than 4 years later and here we sit, still waiting for the final word. The celiac and gluten-free community is frustrated, and rightly so. What is the hold up? By establishing a U.S. definition for “gluten-free” and uniform conditions for the labeling of foods, the FDA will help ensure that persons purchasing U.S. products have accurate information. Shouldn’t this be a priority?
Bingo. In the midst of the blizzard that struck Philly a few weeks ago, I received a phone call from Rhonda Kane, MS, RD, Consumer Safety Officer at the FDA. I asked her for the scoop. Rhonda assured me that the FDA has been working diligently on a safety assessment related to gluten exposure and celiac disease. Once the report is finalized, FDA plans to share the safety assessment with the public and reopen a comment period so individuals can help decide how this assessment will be used in defining “gluten-free.”
So, that’s where we stand.
The public comment period has yet to be reopened, but I’d like to hear some opinions now. Keeping our families safe is top of mind for all celiac sufferers nationwide and worldwide, so let’s make this an ongoing discussion. What do you think should be included in the definition of “gluten-free”?