Posts tagged ‘health risks’

Teaching Student Chefs the Importance of Gluten-Free Training

Twice a year, I have the fortunate honor to be invited to a ‘Gluten-Free Baking Lab’ held at the Lincoln Southeast Community College Food Service/Hospitality program in Lincoln, NE. The students bake items from CIA instructor Chef Richard Coppedge’s cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking, and learn about the needs of those on a gluten-free diet.  The process starts by thoroughly cleaning the kitchen, equipment, and utensils; blending the flours (Chef Coppedge provides five different blends); pairing up; and selecting recipes from the cookbook. The baking begins. Then I arrive for the tasting and a Q & A with the students.

Gluten-free buffet

Check out the spread!

You might think it is pretty bold of me to assume that what’s being served on the plates is really safe and totally gluten-free. Well, you’d be right – if I didn’t know the lead instructor, Certified Executive Chef Brandon Harpster, is GREAT trained. In fact, six of the instructors on the foodservice staff at LSCC completed GREAT Kitchens training back in 2008.  So, I feel pretty confident in the guidance and instruction received by these young chefs.

As I arrive for the tasting, the proud students parade into the classroom with their masterpieces. I snap their pictures, and they gently place them on the table. I get a bit choked up every time I attend these labs. When I was diagnosed almost 20 years ago, I could never have imagined culinary students being exposed to gluten-free baking and embracing the challenge and opportunity. I really believe that 5-10 years from now, all culinary students will have a standard class on allergen-free baking and cooking. It will be commonplace. This generation has grown up with allergies or celiac disease; they have friends or family members who have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or allergies. Yes, there really is hope and promise in the foodservice industry. We are seeing big strides every day. It was thrilling to hear the students talk about working in restaurants that have gluten-free options, such as a successful local pizza chain and others in well-respected establishments with skilled chefs who “get gluten-free.”

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

The sampling included Strawberry Bread, Chocolate (Red) Velvet Cake minus the red food coloring, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies, Cinnabon-ish Cinnamon Rolls, Angel Food Cake, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Zucchini Pumpkin Bread. While they munched, I shared a brief description of my NFCA position, celiac disease history, and current marketplace trends. I really wanted to make sure we had time for questions because I was curious about aspiring culinary students want to know. They had some GREAT questions. Here are a few with my responses.

Student Question: Besides the obvious sources of gluten, what else do chefs need to be concerned about when preparing gluten-free meals?

Beckee’s Answer: Gluten can be hidden in unlikely places. I once learned the hard way that flour can be added to refried beans to thicken them. Gluten can be hidden in sauces, marinades, flavorings and many processed foods. Reading labels is very important, but so is knowing that gluten can be found in soup bases, soy sauce, stabilizers and thickeners.

If you work in a scratch kitchen and know your ingredients and sources, that’s only part of the answer to knowing safe gluten-free preparation. The most important skill to learn is how to prepare gluten-free foods safely because cross contamination is a huge concern to your customers. Picking up a bread knife and cutting a baked potato can turn a perfectly gluten-free option into something that can harm someone on a medically restricted gluten-free diet.  Your customers must feel confident in your expertise to serve safe options. Educating yourselves by taking GREAT Kitchens training will provide that trust and give you another tool in your culinary skills when you start hunting for jobs.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Pumpkin Bread

Gluten-Free Zucchini Pumpkin Bread - Delicious!

Student Question: What is the potential for increased sales for restaurants that “go gluten-free”?

Beckee’s Answer: One in 133 people has celiac disease, and 1 in 18 has gluten intolerance. They are the members of the party that will be making the reservations. Most diners don’t dine alone; they bring friends and family with them. If they order dishes to share, they’ll make them gluten-free. They’re loyal to those restaurants that can safely serve gluten-free and will look for the GREAT seal of approval like the GREAT Kitchens decal, logo, or a reference on their menu telling guests that training is in place. People needing gluten-free options will only increase over the next 5 years due to more awareness and diagnoses.  Advertising gluten-free options can be a differentiator in the restaurant business.

Gluten-Free Strawberry Cake

What's a celebration without some gluten-free cake?

Student Question: If you have a reaction or get sick, do you call the restaurant and let them know?

Beckee’s Answer: Excellent question. Honestly, in the past, I wasn’t consistent about doing so. I’d just take it off my list of dining options and tell my gluten-free pals to beware. However, when I started working with chefs and training restaurants, I asked if they wanted to know. Unanimously, the answer was “Yes.” How can you fix the problem if you’re not aware of it? Now, I always contact the establishment, and I encourage others to do so. I can remember talking with a general manager for a restaurant who had a gluten-free menu but no staff training. He told me they “just didn’t get many people asking for gluten-free.” Hmmm, wonder why?

The last thought that I left the class with was this: When you go out to eat or dine, what are you thinking about after you’ve order your meal? Are you thinking about your gorgeous date? The hilarious joke someone told at the table? Maybe you’re anticipating the fabulous food that will be served soon. Sometimes, people with celiac disease are solely focused on what’s happening in the kitchen. Will they make a fresh salad instead of just picking off the croutons? Will the cooks clean the grill before charring the steak? Does the restaurant really have a dedicated fryer? Through GREAT gluten-free education, all the guests at the table can enjoy the ambience, company, and great food you set before them.

Bon Appetite!

– Beckee

Learn more about gluten-free training through GREAT Kitchens at

December 5, 2011 at 11:36 am 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know.”

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

“Probably not.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Action Today!

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

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

September 23, 2011 at 11:33 am 1 comment

Tips for a Gluten-Free Preschool Day

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

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

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

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

Annsley and Layla

Me and my daughter

Preschool Day 1

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

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

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

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

Preschool Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preschool Day 3

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

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

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

Happy Back-to-School!

– Annsley Klehr
Gluten Freedoms, LLC

Related Content:

September 9, 2011 at 9:33 am 3 comments

Off to Medical School: A Mom’s Day Out

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!

Alice and Elizabeth at White Coat Ceremony

Me and my daughter at her White Coat Ceremony

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.

– Alice

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.

August 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm Leave a comment

Celiac Expert Q&A: Dr. Edward Hoffenberg

[Join NFCA for a FREE Back-to-School Webinar on August 25. Register now.]

While at Digestive Disease Week in Chicago this past May, NFCA Healthcare Relations Manager Kristin Voorhees met Edward J. Hoffenberg, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist specializing in celiac disease. As Professor of Pediatrics at University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine and Director of the Center for Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Diseases at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Dr. Hoffenberg has plenty of experience working with gluten-free kids. So, we picked his brain for a few tips and insights:

NFCA: How long have you been specializing in pediatric celiac disease?

Dr. Hoffenberg: Since 1995, so 16 years.

What’s the biggest challenge in working with kids? 

Helping kids learn for themselves. Allow them to try and fail, but still be safe.

When teaching celiac children about gluten, how do you make the danger clear without scaring them? 

I talk about things you can feel and experience, like abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, growing taller [vs. lack of growth due to undiagnosed celiac]. Then I talk about things you cannot feel or experience, like thin bones and fracture risk.

You use role playing as a therapy in your clinic. How does it work, and what’s the benefit? 

Role playing helps the kids identify potential trouble areas, and helps them develop some skills for coping with these areas. For example, what words to use when you want to say “I can’t have gluten.”

How do you handle kids who cheat on their gluten-free diet? Does the child’s age have any effect on how you address it? 

Kids experience the same issues differently at different ages. It is certainly easier for the preschool age group and early elementary school. Middle and high school ages can be more difficult.

The first strategy is to develop an alliance with the older child. If they feel better gluten-free, then we talk about how to stay feeling good [and the risks of] testing boundaries and peer pressure.

If they do not have a lot of symptoms to begin with, it is harder. I try not to judge, but guide them if there starts to be clear health consequences of continued gluten exposure.

What particular strategies do you find to be successful in the asymptomatic pediatric population that patients or their parents can use?   

For the asymptomatic teen, I will do blood tests for anemia, iron deficiency, Vitamin D, and so on, as well as bone density assessment. I review these with them. I often encourage a trial of the gluten-free diet and see if they feel any different. I review that low gluten is not good enough, and so will follow more closely if they are on gluten, and provide support until they are ready to go gluten-free. [For more, see these tips from an asymptomatic celiac college student.]

Back-to-school is in swing: What are 3 things parents should do to ensure a safe and healthy school year?

  1. Help the child know what to say, what words to use: I have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, etc.
  2. Empower the child to say: “No, I cannot have any. Not even a little bit. If it is unclear if it is gluten-free, then I will not eat it.”
  3. For elementary school kids:  Have a gluten-free snack always available in the classroom, for birthday parties and other special times.

Watch for more tips from celiac disease specialists on Kids Central, NFCA’s new online hub for gluten-free kids and parents. Expanded content coming soon!

August 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm 2 comments

5 Rules for Healthy Gluten-Free Living

[Annsley Klehr has been a dynamo on our volunteer force. She’s embraced the gluten-free lifestyle after being diagnosed with celiac disease, and now she wants to help others get diagnosed and get healthy, too. Here, she shares some tips from her own experience. To read more from Annsley, see her article “My Gluten-Free, Soy-Free World.“]

If you’d like to volunteer for NFCA, visit]

Learning I had celiac disease was a bittersweet moment – one of relief, and one of great anxiety.  I was happy to know I wasn’t crazy and that there was a very clear way to feel better. Yet, I was confused with how to begin my new adventure in life.

Annsley Klehr

That's me!

Being gluten-free is a life-long journey filled with lots of trial and error moments. However, I have learned from them, and I now share with you the top 5 things I wished I had known as I was starting my gluten-free diet.

1.  Keep it simple: The healthiest and easiest gluten-free diet is one of fresh fruits, vegetables, gluten-free whole grains, and meats.  Steer clear of processed foods until you’re sure your gut is healing.

2. When in doubt, call them out: As of now, there are no laws regulating gluten-free products.  A label that says “gluten-free” means the actual ingredients should contain no gluten. However, if the product is processed in a plant or on a conveyer belt that also processes gluten, it could be contaminated.  When in doubt, call the manufacturer.

3. You are what you eat: Medication, supplements, and beauty products may contain gluten ingredients.  While gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin, make up and lotions can pose a risk if you apply them with your hands and then touch your food or mouth. [See more in NFCA’s Ask the Dietitian.] Read the labels carefully and check with your doctor as well.

4. Cleanliness is in the eye of the beholder: Be extra wary of other people’s counter tops, because they aren’t yours.  You don’t know what’s been on them, so be sure to ask for a plate before putting your food down.

5.  ALWAYS carry a dining card: You are the only person who can advocate for you.  Those with celiac disease are living experts, and in some ways, have more expertise than chefs in a restaurant.  Don’t expect the chef and/or wait staff to always know what gluten-free means and how to keep your food uncontaminated.  Carry a dining card with you that specifies what you need. [Note: NFCA trains restaurants in gluten-free food safety through the GREAT Kitchens program. See a list of current GREAT Kitchens.]

gluten-free grilled pizza

Gluten-free pesto pizza, made with basil and tomatoes from my garden!

These five tips have helped me survive and live anxiety free inside and outside of the home.  By educating others, I have been able to ensure a safer eating environment where I can enjoy any setting without worry or compromising my health.  Though it is often a battle of will to not just shovel heavenly food into my mouth, I know that at the end of the day, I will feel better if I follow my motto: Think Before You Eat!

-Annsley Klehr, NFCA Volunteer

August 10, 2011 at 11:47 am 8 comments

The ‘Double Whammy’ of Celiac and Type 1

[When we read NFCA volunteer Ellen G’s blog post about a gluten-free feature for her insulin pump, it got us wondering about the daily management of celiac and type 1. Luckily, NFCA intern Jordan was here to give her firsthand account.]

You can easily spot my hot pink Animas insulin pump clipped to my side wherever I go. However, if you are not familiar with what an insulin pump is, you might ask me “Is that your cell phone?” and you wouldn’t be the first. In high school, teachers would constantly accuse me of listening to my iPod or playing with my phone in class when all I was really doing was using my insulin pump.

I am a type 1 diabetic. I have been for over 15 years. The conversations that begin over my insulin pump eventually lead to discussions on not only my diabetes, but also being celiac. The most common response when people discover I have both celiac and diabetes? “Well, that’s a double whammy!”

I am 21 years old, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 6 and celiac disease at age 15. Treating both autoimmune diseases can be difficult at times, but I am grateful every day that it is manageable. When asked which disease is harder to control, I have to say diabetes. Celiac disease certainly gives me an added diet challenge, but with so many options nowadays for gluten-free foods, restaurants, and especially my mom’s cooking, it is considerably easier to manage.

A few weeks ago, I was at the doctor’s for an advanced pumping class and reviewed some of my blood sugars with a certified diabetes educator (CDE). The CDE asked, “Do you think some of your numbers may be affected by the celiac disease?”

I stopped at stared at her for a minute before I answered, “No. Why would they?”

She explained that if I wasn’t following the gluten-free diet, my absorption of foods wouldn’t be right and could affect my blood sugars. “I’m following the diet to a T,” I responded, harsher than needed, but true.

I am aware of the effects non gluten-free foods can have on my blood sugars as well as the plethora of other side effects that can occur. I did not want her or anyone else to think I wasn’t committed to the diet.

As many people know, eating a diet high in simple-carbohydrate foods can increase your blood glucose levels and cause spikes. Fortunately, the gluten-free diet can eliminate most of these foods from your meal plan, leaving you with more complex carbohydrates that are better for blood glucose control. Diabetics are encouraged stay away from substituted products like gluten-free cookies and pastries. However, even as a nutrition major, I can’t stop the occasional gluten-free cookie or sweets craving.

As a diabetic, it is important to take note that these substituted foods usually have more carbohydrates than their original counterparts. When carbohydrate counting, you need to give yourself enough insulin to cover the foods. While I cannot tell you from recent experience what a non gluten-free food does to my glucose levels, I can tell you that my A1C levels have improved since my commitment to the gluten-free diet.

Staying gluten-free can affect social situations at times, too. My friends know how much I prefer going to a restaurant with a gluten-free menu than one without. However, that doesn’t stop them from wanting to go to ones that do not have knowledge of gluten-free food handling or special allergy menus. My anxiety level can go through the roof when we plan dinners like these, but I am not afraid to go. I often call ahead, ask about any knowledge they have about the condition and pick out something from the menu ahead of time that I am certain will be safe. My family is great about cooking for me, especially my mom. When my dad was diagnosed with celiac about 3 years after me, she dedicated our entire house to being gluten-free and hasn’t turned back.

So, while most people would call my autoimmune diseases a “double whammy,” I wouldn’t disagree. But it does get easier as you go.

– Jordan

Related Content:

July 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm Leave a comment

Chip, Chip Hooray for Gluten-Free (Plus, a Giveaway!)

One of the best things about holidays is having an excuse to celebrate at the office. From my first day in the workforce, I always looked forward to ‘food days,’ when everyone brought in snacks and swapped recipes for their famous cakes, casseroles, and crumbles.

When I started at NFCA, I quickly realized that ‘food days’ aren’t so easy among the gluten-free.  At the NFCA office, we default to gluten-free so everyone can participate in celebrations.  But at other offices, and parties in general, gluten eaters may be less welcoming to the idea.

Fortunately, one thing I’ve found to be universally pleasing among celiac and non-celiac crowds are gluten-free chips. Here’s why:

  • They’re portable. For party purposes, there’s nothing better than tossing a bag in your tote. If you’ve ever tried to stack cupcakes without messing up the icing, you know how valuable that can be.
  • They’re versatile. Depending on whether they’re packed with flavor or just dusted with salt, you can eat them right out of the bag, dunk them in a gluten-free dip, or crumble them on top of a salad.
  • They’re gluten-free, but not obviously so. They look like chips, they taste like chips, and they often are chips that just happen to be gluten-free. I’ve never heard someone say “This chip tastes gluten-free,” and few will be able to pass up a taste.

Now, when you bring a crowd-pleasing food, there is the risk of cross-contamination. People who can eat gluten may be happy to try your gluten-free chips and dip, but their hands also may be rife with gluten-y crumbs.

Gluten-Free 4th of July Guide

Gluten-free tips for your 4th of July celebration!

To help you keep gluten-free items untainted and make your party an overall blast, we created 4th of July Fun, a new Printable Guide sponsored by Blue Diamond. Available on NFCA’s website, this tip sheet covers all of your party-planning quandaries, from invitations to cross-contamination.

Download 4th of July Fun at

Win Blue Diamond Baked Nut Chips!

To get your party started, Blue Diamond is giving away NEW! Baked Nut Chips to 5 lucky winners. These new gluten-free chips are made with whole-grain brown rice and almonds, and they meet all the requirements for a party-appropriate snack. Plus, they’re delicious.

Blue Diamond Baked Nut Chips

Get these for free!

Winners will receive a bag of each Baked Nut Chips flavor: Sour Cream & Chive, Sea Salt, and Nacho (that’s 3 bags total!).

To enter, simply leave a comment below telling us your 4th of July plans and why free Blue Diamond Baked Nut Chips would pump up the party. Winners will be selected randomly and announced on Friday, June 24.

(Visit our Gluten-Free Hot Products blog next week for another chance to win!)


June 22, 2011 at 10:49 am 36 comments

Disaster Preparedness: Gluten-Free Needs

If you’ve noticed that natural disasters seem to be more common and more devastating in recent years, you’re not alone. A recent cover story in Newsweek addressed the wild weather that has wreaked havoc across the U.S. in 2011 alone. Floods, tornados, wild fires – they all beg the question: Are you prepared?

When residents are displaced, safe zones and shelters become a vital source for food and health needs. Gluten-free families, however, face the added challenge of maintaining their dietary needs while away from home. Fresh produce and other gluten-free options are typically limited, especially since donated items are often non-perishable foods that contain gluten.

After the recent tornados, individuals called for donations of gluten-free products to feed victims who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. It got us thinking about ways to arm yourself before disaster strikes.

Natural disasters may be unpredictable, but you can still make every effort to be prepared. Consider these tips to ensure your family’s needs are met:

  • Pack an emergency kit. We asked our Facebook fans for suggestions of what they’d include in a gluten-free emergency kit. While many admitted they had never thought of it, we all agreed it’s a good thing to keep on hand.

Suggestions include:

  • Bottled water
  • Gluten-free energy bars
  • Small packs of nuts or dried fruit (watch those seasonings!)
  • A few cans of gluten-free soup
  • Canned tuna
  • Shelf stable gluten-free bread or crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned fruit
  • Gluten-free jerky
  • Powdered milk or non-dairy substitute
  • Celiac-safe freeze-dried meals (StoreHouse Foods has a bunch of yummy options – and they’re a member of NFCA’s GREAT Business Association)
  • Important medications
  • Bowl(s) and set of utensils
  • Can opener
  • Aluminum foil (for cooking packets)

If you need to evacuate, bring the emergency kit. You never know how long it will be before you reach a destination that offers gluten-free options. And as our Facebook fan Colleen Cook recommended, check the expiration dates on your stock every few months and replace anything that has gone bad.

  • Find out which locations in your town are designated as emergency shelters (i.e. hospitals, firehouses) and who is in charge of disaster response.  Speak to that person (or department) about gluten-free needs, or invite them to a support group meeting so they can anticipate any supply challenges. (While you’re at it, encourage hospitals to get gluten-free foodservice training through NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program.)
  • Talk to your kids’ teachers to find out if their school has a disaster plan. Facebook fan Amy Young noted that her kids’ schools request a 3-day supply of gluten-free food to keep on hand in case of emergency.
  • If a disaster strikes and you find yourself at a shelter, do what you can to avoid gluten exposure. Ask volunteers about the food they are distributing, and read the labels on any cans or packages of food. Request that volunteers change gloves before they serve your meal.
  • If no gluten-free options are available, make your needs known. The disaster response team may be able to secure a safe stock of food or, if possible, request gluten-free items.
  • Remember to thank anyone who helps you out. It’s a hectic time, so they’ll appreciate knowing the difference they made.

– Cheryl

June 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm 3 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts

Recent Posts

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

Join 175 other followers

Gluten in Medications Survey
Nourished Blogger Conference