Posts tagged ‘cheryl’

Mrs. Alaska International 2012 Wants YOU to Attend NFCA’s Webinar

[Recently, I’ve been chatting with Brandy Wendler – a.k.a. Mrs. Alaska International 2012 – on Twitter. I knew she is a celiac advocate, but it wasn’t until she sent us a nice note that I learned she has a passion for heart health, too. I invited her to share her story and explain why she’s excited for next Tuesday’s FREE webinar on Gluten-Free and Heart Health.]

I was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was working as a nurse in Atlanta. I worked in a cardiovascular ICU where we did everything, including heart transplants. I love the sound of a heartbeat. It has always been soothing to me. I feel the heart symbolizes the core of who a person is and represents their life. I like to think it is the most important (and beautiful) organ in the body. So, when I found out I had an autoimmune disease, I found myself wondering: How does this affect my heart?

Brandy Wendler

Brandy Wendler

Before my diagnosis of celiac disease, I had been sick and having symptoms for almost 10 years – which is an average time from onset to diagnosis. Being a medical professional did not increase my chances of diagnosis. In some cases, it hampered it. I had a colleague tell me my symptoms were all in my head. After all, I had been treated for anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue and restless leg syndrome. I could sleep for days and not feel rested.  However, my illness wasn’t imagined. It was real.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis shortly before my celiac diagnosis, I suffered from chronic anemia and frequently had low levels of B vitamins and Vitamin D on my blood tests. Many celiacs have similar stories. All of these issues, though, led to a huge lack of motivation for exercise that would be beneficial to my heart. I was also malnourished and ate anything high in calories – another choice that was not good for my heart.

After I was diagnosed with celiac disease, my depression and chronic fatigue went away. I have normal iron, Vitamin B, and Vitamin D levels now. My thyroid disorder is under control, and I have a lot more energy! I have also changed the way I eat. Not just removing gluten, but also focusing more on eating my servings of vegetables, fruits and lean meats. The carbohydrates that I choose to eat are typically complex carbs like sweet potato, brown rice, and certified gluten-free oats. All of these are high in fiber and good for your heart.

With the training of a master’s in nursing, these choices come pretty easily for me. Being in the medical field is definitely an advantage when you have two autoimmune diseases. What about my celiac friends with no medical background, though? I sometimes worry if they are making the most informed choices. Most of the pre-packed gluten-free foods are high in saturated fats, sugar, salt and calories, which is not good for your body, much less your heart.

At the end of the day, it can be overwhelming. Having celiac disease is a huge adjustment, but it is possible to live with celiac disease and be kind to your heart. The first step is starting and maintaining a gluten-free diet. Sneaking a piece of gluten here or there is simply not going to help you in any way – no matter how good it may taste. The diet is essential to keeping all associated disorders in check.

NFCA webinars

The next step would be to educate yourself and make the right choices. I was thrilled to see that NFCA is offering a webinar on Gluten-Free and Heart Health. It makes it easier for my extended celiac friends to be informed and take care of themselves. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the U.S.. Early action to prevent heart disease is the key. So please sign up for the webinar with me and take your heart health seriously. Your heart has been with you from day 1, and it truly beats only for you!

About Brandy

Brandy Wendler just completed her year as Mrs. Alaska United States 2011 and now holds the title of Mrs. Alaska International 2012. She is currently working on Alaska state legislation SCR 16, which aims to recognize May as National Celiac Awareness Month. Last month, the legislation was read on the floor and was referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee. Read more on Brandy’s blog.

February 2, 2012 at 11:02 am Leave a comment

NFCA Staff: Our Biggest Accomplishments of 2011

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has accomplished a lot in 2011, but I wanted to know what my fellow co-workers thought was their biggest breakthrough of the year.

GREAT Kitchens logo

GREAT Kitchens - training restaurants across the U.S.!

For Beckee and Jennifer, our gluten-free industry team, the top highlight was adding NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens training to US Foods Resource Advantage Program. The program offers discounts and deals on various resources for the foodservice industry. Thanks to Beckee and Jennifer’s hard work, more foodservice operators, including restaurants and dining halls, can now have access to gluten-free training through GREAT Kitchens at a discount.

Beckee also is proud of the increased availability of safe, gluten-free options for students from K-12 all the way through college. NFCA’s GREAT Schools program is aiding that cause by teaching dining hall and cafeteria staff how to properly prepare gluten-free meals.

For Nancy, helping NFCA secure the landmark FDA grant for our upcoming Gluten in Medications study was her biggest accomplishment. The $50,000 grant provides much-needed funding to pioneer this new area of celiac disease research, and NFCA is thrilled to be leading the charge!

Alice echoed Nancy’s sentiments about the FDA grant, as it was a huge milestone in NFCA history. Alice also named the Philadelphia Award as her top achievement in 2011. “This is one of the most prestigious awards in Philadelphia, and it brought front page coverage to the NFCA and celiac disease,” she noted.

For Alice, the award wasn’t an end result, but a jumping off point to bring even more awareness to celiac disease and gluten-free needs.

pointed to the many collaborations and connections she formed in promoting NFCA’s Primary Care CME:

“In 2011, 306 U.S. primary care providers received training from NFCA’s Primary Care CME. Medical experts indicate that primary care physicians have the opportunity to diagnose 18 new patients per year. Based on this statistic, our records demonstrate that NFCA has had the opportunity to directly impact the lives of 5,508 patients. NFCA looks forward to continuing our professional education efforts in 2012,” she said.

Spreading the word about the CME involved a number of helpers in 2011. Quest Diagnostics disseminated more than 9,000 promotional postcards to primary care providers; individuals and support group leaders distributed 2,800 postcards to local healthcare professionals; and NFCA, along with physician advocates and celiac champions, sent 2,000 postcards to medical conference, clinics and lunch meetings extending as far as Hawaii and Norway!

Whitney cited her work with the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (AIR) as her biggest accomplishment of 2011. She stepped up at a moment’s notice and flew to Asheville, NC, to lead a gluten-free training course for 25 foodservice professionals. More than 20 restaurants in this popular tourist destination are now GREAT-trained and ready to serve gluten-free food.

Kids Central

Kids Central - our new hub for gluten-free kids and parents

For me, Kids Central was my baby, and like a proud mama, I was happy to see it take flight in October. The new microsite accomplished much of what we originally set out to do, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of many, many friends in the celiac and gluten-free community. I’ve met wonderful parents, super kids and amazing teens who were willing to share their stories and gluten-free recipes. We’ll continue to add new articles and advice as we move into 2012. In fact, I’ll be posting our first Ask the Pediatric Gastroenterologist Q&As today!

Wishing a happy and healthy New Year to all of our friends and fans!

– Cheryl

December 30, 2011 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Tailgating (Plus a Giveaway!)

Congratulations Ashley Pelley and Schmidty! You are the winners of our Thai Kitchen gluten-free giveaway. Please email with your mailing address to claim your prize.

When I think of tailgating food, most of it is, well, gluteny. For a morning game, it’s donuts and bagels. In the afternoon, the list consists of burger & buns, hoagies, and soft pretzels. Then there’s the beer, the cups that always seem to get mixed up, and the one friend who insists on touching everything while taking bites of his sandwich. It certainly doesn’t make it easy if you need to be gluten-free.

When Thai Kitchen contacted us about doing a fall campaign, it was the perfect opportunity to create a Gluten-Free Tailgating Guide to help everyone make going to a game less stress and more fun.


Tailgating on a very cold day.

I’ll be honest, Whitney and I racked our brains for a few days while creating this guide. Sure, there were the usual food safety tips, like keeping meats and dairy in a cooler. But avoiding cross-contamination? That required some crafty thinking.

Gluten-Free Tailgating Guide

Our Gluten-Free Tailgating Guide

The guide is now posted in the Thai Kitchen Gluten-Free Recipe Box on our website. It even has a recipe for Curry Turkey Burgers with Pineapple Salsa, because if you volunteer to make the burgers (Warning: some people put breadcrumbs in their burger mix), you might as well impress the crowd.

Gluten-Free Giveaway!

We had such an overwhelming response to last week’s Thai Kitchen Gluten-Free Giveaway that I was thrilled to host another round. This week, we’re giving away the Thai Kitchen products needed to make Curry Turkey Burgers with Pineapple Salsa and Chicken Satay Skewers – another gluten-free recipe that’s great for the game. Here’s what you can win:

  • Coconut Milk (for Chicken Satay Skewers)
  • Fish Sauce (for Chicken Satay Skewers)
  • Red Curry Paste (for Chicken Satay Skewers and Curry Turkey Burgers with Pineapple Salsa)
  • Peanut Satay Sauce (for Chicken Satay Skewers)
  • Sweet Red Chili Sauce (for Curry Turkey Burgers with Pineapple Salsa)
  • 2 Thai Kitchen chip clips
  • 2 Thai Kitchen pot holders
  • Thai Kitchen coupons
  • Tailgating Recipes

To enter, leave a comment sharing your best gluten-free tailgating tip. (We know how resourceful you all are!) We’ll randomly select 2 winners and announce them right here on Friday afternoon.

October 19, 2011 at 2:13 pm 14 comments

Gluten-Free Halloween: Are You Prepared?

I always start thinking about Halloween in August, then completely forget about it until – “Trick-or-Treat!” – it’s right at my doorstep.  I cobble together a costume from whatever’s in my closet, and grab a quick bag of candy in hopes that kids will come, but not so many that I run out of supplies.

Annsley Klehr

Annsley Klehr

I could take a few pointers from our volunteer, Annsley. In her latest article, she offers some tips for making trick-or-treating a fun, not frustrating, experience:

  • Establish a plan way before heading out to trick-or-treat. This is even more effective when you and your child can establish a plan together.
  • Communicate the plan before trick-or-treating and explain why.  Kids do better when they understand the reason. I always tell my daughter that X will make you very sick, and that seems to work. 

For more of her tips, check out her How to Embrace Gluten-Free Halloween in the new Articles section on Kids Central. While you’re there, download the Gluten-Free Candy List 2011 from the Guides section and browse around to see all that Kids Central has to offer (

Other helpful articles:

October 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know.”

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

“Probably not.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Action Today!

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

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

September 23, 2011 at 11:33 am 1 comment

Gluten-Free? Fancy That!

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

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

Biggest Trend: Popcorn

Gourmet Gluten-Free Popcorn

Popcorn gets an upgrade.

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

Best Form of Hydration: MetroMint Water

MetroMint Water

MetroMint water - My hydration savior!

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

Best New Flavor: Pink Grapefruit

Gelato Case

Ah, gelato. Ice cream's Italian cousin.

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

Biggest Surprise: Bissinger’s Blueberry Acai Gummy Pandas

Gluten-free gummy pandas

Yummy gummies in my tummy.

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

Favorite Non-Food: Lunch Skins

Lunch Skins reusable bags

I loved the patterns available in Lunch Skins.

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

Most Sinful Indulgence: Hot & Spicy Chocolates

Spicy chocolate fudge

Talk about hot chocolate.

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

Most Creative T-Shirt: The Mediterranean Snack Food Company

Oh My Gluten-Free Shirt

Mediterranean Snacks shows their gluten-free pride.

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

Best New Twist: Danielle Snacks

Danielle Gluten-Free Okra Chips

A healthy alternative to fried okra.

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

Best Dual Find: Flamous Falafel Chips

Gluten-Free Falafel Chips

Falafel chips acquired. Get thee to some hummus!

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

Most Variety: Seitenbacher Natural Foods

Seitenbacher Gluten-Free Cherry Dolphins

These chewy guys pack a strong fruity flavor.

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

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

July 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm 5 comments

Five Easy Ways to Promote Celiac and Gluten-Free Awareness Using Social Media

[This blog has been cross-posted on Food Living and Everything Else.]

June 30 has been dubbed Social Media Day, and while some may scoff at celebrating the growth of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like, you can’t deny the power of these sharing platforms. For the celiac and gluten-free community in particular, social media has picked up where doctors left off, providing practical advice and much-needed support for the gluten-free lifestyle.

Social media has also become a platform for change. The New Jersey Devils introduced more gluten-free concessions in response to pleas on Facebook and Twitter, while an online petition for gluten-free Girl Scout cookies has made national news.

So, how can we keep that momentum going? In honor of Social Media Day, here are some ways you can help the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) promote gluten-free initiatives via social media:

  1. Share NFCA’s Facebook page: The more fans we have, the more awareness we can spread and the more people we can help, especially in those first few months of diagnosis. So go ahead, click that Share button again and tell your friends why they should get informed.
  2. Join NFCA’s Cause page: It’s Facebook meets fundraising. NFCA’s Cause page allows you to show your support and gather donations to keep our goals on track. For an easy fundraiser, ask for donations in lieu of birthday gifts, and suggest that friends donate your age (i.e. $42 for your 42nd birthday). Collecting small donations each month can also add up over time.
  3. Forward NFCA’s e-newsletter to a friend: Information can be life-changing (we have the thank yous to prove it). Subscribe to our newsletter, then select “Forward to a friend” when it hits your inbox.
  4. Tweet about NFCA’s programs: Follow @CeliacAwareness and give us a shout out. Tweet about our Webinars, Gluten-Free Hot Products reviews, or why you think a restaurant should get gluten-free training through GREAT. Turn #FF into Funding Friday by tweeting a link to our Donate page, or tweet the Celiac Symptoms Checklist and encourage friends to get tested.
  5. Watch NFCA’s gluten-free cooking videos: Did you know NFCA has an online cooking series? Watch Alternative Appetites to get step-by-step instructions for fantastic gluten-free food. If you like a particular video, click on “YouTube” to visit our channel, then select Share and tell your friends.

What are some other ways you can help the cause through social media? What has been your biggest gluten-free social media success?

– Cheryl

June 30, 2011 at 9:34 am Leave a comment

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