Posts tagged ‘spreading awareness’

Traveling Gluten-Free: What I’ve Learned in 3 Years

I’ve become quite an expert at traveling. As Director of Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), I’ve visited over 25 cities and worked in a dozen or more states within three years (my latest NFCA trip was to Atlanta, Georgia two weeks ago for the KeHE Summer Selling Show).  I can maneuver through airport security with ease and efficiency, flipping off shoes and jackets and pulling out bags of liquids and my laptop in seconds. And since I have celiac disease, traveling means “always being prepared and aware” so I’ve created a list of “must-haves” snacks, which airports have safe choices and how to find gluten-free friendly and not so friendly restaurants anywhere in the country. (I use the Find Me Gluten-Free app to sort out potential eateries. This is a dining locator not an endorsement of gluten-free options. You still need to investigate by reading the reviews, making a call and asking questions.) I’ve also had to be proactive and advocate for myself and others with gluten-related disorders when it comes to attending business dinners, conferences and events by identifying my dietary needs on conference registration forms, plus notifying event coordinators, hotel hospitality and general managers.

Gluten-Free Travel: Udi's Gluten-Free Products at the KeHE Show

Udi’s Gluten-Free had lots of products on display at the KeHE Show.

This is all part of trip preparation. It takes a bit more time but I always feel it’s important to be an advocate for not only myself but for all people with gluten-related disorders. And while I’m traveling around the country, I feel it is my job and honor to be the voice for people with celiac disease everywhere by spreading education, awareness and understanding. (You may not want to sit next to me on a plane…you’ll get an earful.) I have learned that if we don’t politely ask, people may not think our dietary needs are necessary. If we don’t carefully express our needs, many may not think there are any. If we don’t calmly mention the mistake, serves and restaurants will never know there is a problem. If we don’t ask if they have completed NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens gluten-free training program, restaurant operators, chefs and servers may not think they need it. But, if we remain patient and plant the seed, the growth will come.

Gluten-Free Travel: Enjoy Life Staff

Enjoy Life staff were at the KeHE Show too.

Here is my list of must-have gluten-free snacks to take with me on the go:

  • KIND bars
  • Gluten-free crackers (If you keep these in a tin, they’re perfect for packing in a suitcase)
  • Individual servings of hummus and nut butter
  • Fruit
  • Jerky sticks
  • Cheese sticks
  • Mix nuts, dried fruit, gluten-free pretzels or chocolate chips
  • Go Picnic boxes (Not everything by Go Picnic is gluten-free, so be sure to check before purchasing)
Gluten-Free Travel: Poster Cut Out with Park Jae-sang

Did I mention I “meet” some interesting characters on my gluten-free travels?

I’m always looking for new travel-friendly gluten-free foods. Comment below with your go-to travel snack to give me some fresh ideas!

– Beckee

February 25, 2013 at 4:55 pm 2 comments

3 Tips for Coping with a Celiac Disease Diagnosis

Recently, I posted this question on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) Facebook page: Do you agree that people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) can feel excluded from social life?  I posted the question after seeing an article on Celiac.com from a gluten-free college student who feels like celiac disease can isolate her from social activities.

I was blown away by the response on Facebook.  Obviously, this is a hot topic.  As of now, there are 81 comments in a thread that’s still active.  It’s so interesting to see all of these comments.  Some people adamantly disagree that celiac disease impacts their social life while others struggle to stay included in activities and events.  There were lots of parents concerned for their young children with celiac disease and the implications it has on them socially, both now and in the future.  It appears that many people believe the impact of a celiac disease diagnosis directly correlates with your attitude about the diagnosis.  Positive attitude, positive life with celiac disease.

No matter which side of the fence you fall on, there’s no denying that celiac disease changes your life once you receive the diagnosis.  Here are my top 3 tips for coping with a diagnosis of celiac disease or NCGS:

Read. Then read more.

There is no better way to navigate the gluten-free diet than to learn and understand all the ins and outs of the lifestyle.  The more you know, the more you can keep yourself in good health.  Learn what gluten is, how it affects the body in people with a gluten-related disorder, where gluten can hide and how to prevent cross-contamination.  It might sound intimidating at first, but NFCA is here to help.  Browse www.CeliacCentral.org to get started.

Get support.

Do you know one of the great things about being gluten-free?  The online community is amazing!  There are so many advocates on the internet who can help with everything from delicious gluten-free recipes to lifestyle tips.  NFCA is always around to answer questions and provide resources on Facebook, Twitter and the new Celiac Central community on Inspire.com.  Check them out to connect with other people who are living gluten-free.

Get more support.

The gluten-free diet can be confusing at first.  There are a lot of gluten-containing products out there that you might be surprised to find out actually have gluten in them.  (I was probably most surprised to find out soy sauce and some chicken broths have gluten.)  With so many things to look for on a product’s ingredient label, it can be really frustrating at first.  I highly recommend seeking support from a registered dietitian that fully understands the gluten-free diet.  They’ll help set you up with the tools and knowledge you need to get started.

If you don’t have access to a dietitian (or even if you do), check out the book Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide by Shelley Case, RD.  It’s one of the most helpful gluten-free resources available.

Feel free to comment with some of the difficulties you’ve faced after the diagnosis and how you’ve learned to overcome them.  You’ll certainly be helping out the newly diagnosed reading this post!

– Alicia

February 5, 2013 at 2:03 pm 4 comments

A Great Gluten-Free Day!

Two northwestern sections of Philadelphia were jumpin’ on Saturday, January 26th.  Weavers Way, the fabulous community owned co-op that has made a name for itself in the Philadelphia region, held its annual Gluten-Free Day from 12 until 4 p.m.

This year, the savvy folks at Weavers Way expanded the event to include both their Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy stores.  Bettina de Caumette, Outreach Coordinator at Weavers Way, put the day together to everyone’s delight.  Frigid weather aside, the day seemed just right to explore the wonderful world of gluten-free goodies.

A Great Gluten-Free Day: Bettine de Caumette, Weavers Way Outreach Coordinator

Thank you Bettina for putting together such an amazing day!

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) was on hand in both locations to discuss the gluten-free diet and to go beyond that to the underlying need for this special approach to the menu: celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders.

The NFCA team was pleased and proud to have two long-time, stalwart and extremely knowledgeable volunteers distribute literature and answer shoppers’ questions. Becky Lownes Urbano  returned to the post she manned last year in Chestnut Hill.  Annsley Klehr took a brisk walk from home to spread the word in Mt. Airy.  Tema Esberg, a new member of the NFCA volunteer team, joined Becky in Chestnut Hill.

A Great Gluten-Free Day: Becky Urbano, NFCA Volunteer

Big thanks to Becky and all of NFCA’s volunteers for supporting us in raising celiac disease awareness!

Chestnut Hill store manager Dean Stefano and Mt. Airy store manager Rick Spalek each donated an enormous basket of gluten-free products for a raffle benefiting NFCA. One lucky winner from each store went home with a bounty of delicious treats that will have them trying out new items and enjoying old favorites. For our part, NFCA is grateful for the donation that will go toward our educational programs.

On a normal Saturday, about 1,100 people pass through the doors of Weavers Way in Chestnut Hill. That number swells significantly on Gluten-Free Day and this year was no exception. I don’t know how many came to the Mt. Airy store but it certainly was a steady stream of eager shoppers, many with questions about gluten-free food and celiac disease.

In short, it was great!  The NFCA team is looking forward to Gluten-Free Day 2014 at Weavers Way!

– Nancy

February 4, 2013 at 4:55 pm Leave a comment

When Life Hands You Lemons…

The following is a guest post by Dhanu Thiyagarajan, a student at University of Pittsburgh and founder of Gluten Free My Campus, the university’s gluten-free student group.  Dhanu is also a Campus Ambassador for Udi’s Gluten Free Foods. 

Being gluten-free is difficult, but being a gluten-free college student is even harder. I found this out the hard way – from experience. I came to University of Pittsburgh unaware of the city, college-life and, worst of all, where to get safe gluten-free food.

I did come under one assumption that turned out to be very wrong; I believed that there would be a gluten-free club. So many people are gluten-free and especially on a college campus in the city, how could there not be a gathered group of people who know the best gluten-free restaurants and the inside secrets? Once I got there, I realized this club didn’t exist and that scared me a lot.  I wasn’t sure why there wouldn’t be a group on campus.  Was I the only gluten-free student?  Was finding gluten-free food so easy that there was no need for a special group or club?

I gave the situation some time, but finding gluten-free options was terribly difficult. This led me to think there couldn’t be any other gluten-free students, but statistically that made no sense. So, I decided to form the club myself.  It didn’t exist, but it needed to. The university needed improvements and I needed help finding gluten-free options. I talked to the nutritionist and the chef at the dining hall (among other people) and found ways that I could connect with other gluten-free people on campus. I was able to engage roughly 10 people and set up a casual meeting.

The day of the meeting came, and I was so excited to meet these other people and talk about the struggles of being gluten-free on campus.  To my dismay, nobody came.  Not a single person.  I figured they didn’t have any problems being gluten-free, and that this didn’t matter to them.

Thankfully, my parents and friends convinced me to try again, so I did. This time, fellow gluten-free students came to the meeting!  I am so glad they convinced me to give it a second try, because now Pitt has a fantastic gluten-free club: Gluten Free My Campus!

Gluten Free My Campus Officers

It all worked out in the end; meet the officers of Gluten Free My Campus!

Have you had a similar experience, or do you know a gluten-free student who did?  I’d love to know what their experiences are like on other campuses!

– Dhanu

January 3, 2013 at 9:59 am 2 comments

I’m a Food Stylist for the Food Network, and I Have Celiac Disease

The following is a guest post by Jaqueline Yngvason, a freelance food stylist, culinary producer and host of an online cooking show. Jaquy has celiac disease and multiple food allergies and is determined to bring awareness to these special dietary needs.

Since I can remember, growing up meant weekly visits to the emergency room, handfuls of pain medications and strong shots. In my half Icelandic, half Ecuadorean world, this seemed normal, but I would grow up to find out otherwise. While my brother and sister were outside playing with their friends, I was forced to hide from the sun, spending a large portion of my time sick in bed with excruciating migraines.

At the age of 16, after years of going to countless doctors who couldn’t seem to figure out what was wrong with me, I finally found out that I was sensitive to gluten. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I was fully diagnosed as having celiac disease. After that, my relationship with food was forever changed. I had to turn away from all of the foods that I loved and savored; wheat, eggs and dairy had to go, or I would continue to feel sick all of the time.

When I was first diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, there wasn’t much information on the subject and I was pushed to experiment and learn how to cook for myself to avoid eating out and getting sick. It was then that cooking went from a hobby to a healthy obsession, finding inspiration in recreating dishes that I once loved and transforming them in to something I could safely eat.

Shortly after college, not being satisfied with the current state of gluten-free awareness, I started my own health company to teach others in need.  Feeling that I still had a lot to learn about proper handling of food and technique, I enrolled in culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Oregon. Looking back, for someone like me, going to a French culinary school may not have been the most logical choice. But, I was a newly diagnosed celiac, and I wanted to learn the only way that any chef does from cooking… by tasting.

If you don’t know much about French culinary schooling, let’s just say they didn’t understand how to deal with my multiple food allergies. I ostracized by my teachers and peers, and encouraged to drop out because I did not belong. But like all hurdles in my life, I pushed on and became stronger. Going into baking and patisserie classes wearing a breathing mask, goggles and latex gloves to protect myself and further my culinary knowledge was necessary. I would find a way to flourish no matter what they threw at me, all in the name of furthering my awareness of food. Living with severe food allergies is strangely similar to boxing; no one gets to the top without taking a beating.

After culinary school, I headed to another place that left me feeling isolated: the Food Network. Again, I pushed through and went from being an intern to producing some of the Food Network’s top shows and food styling major commercials all in under one year.

Currently I live in New York City, working as a freelance food stylist, culinary producer and allergy friendly cooking show host (see one of my videos above!), always working to share my knowledge and learn from others along the way. Looking back at all of the pain and suffering I subjected myself to, I now know that it wasn’t all for nothing. Being gluten-free and having celiac disease isn’t a curse or a fad; it’s a blessing, and with the proper knowledge and understanding, you can live an extremely fulfilling life using food in a positive way.

My goal in life is to spread celiac and food allergy awareness to those similar to me who feel isolated and alone. The world can be changed through food, making it a better place not just for those with celiac disease, but for everyone.

– Jaquy

November 20, 2012 at 9:07 am 9 comments

Gluten-Free Campus Carnival: A Success Story

The following is a guest post by Dhanu Thiyagarajan, a sophomore at University of Pittsburgh and founder of Gluten Free My Campus, the university’s gluten-free student group.

October 16, 2012 was a great day for Gluten Free My Campus, University of Pittsburgh’s Gluten Free club. With tons of planning since the month of May, the club was able to host a wonderful Gluten-Free Awareness Carnival for the entire UPitt campus. The carnival consisted of more than 20 gluten-free related companies/organizations either in attendance or providing materials, and several gluten-free related carnival games for the students to enjoy while learning what gluten-free means! Between learning about various gluten-free companies, gaining gluten-free knowledge from the games, enjoying the free food and earning raffle tickets for our wonderful raffle prizes, the carnival was a great success with more than 500 Pitt students and faculty in attendance.

Gluten Free My Campus Carnival

The officers of Gluten Free My Campus

Planning started with brainstorming a list of companies and organizations on and off campus that we thought would enjoy being a part of our event and would help our goal to spread awareness – and of course, those companies have great gluten-free options! After contacting all of these companies/organizations, we got many replies and of course some rejections as well. It was a great honor to have all of these companies trusting a club on a college campus to host this kind of event, and we were glad to build contacts with such people, too. Susannah Faulkner from Udi’s Gluten-Free Foods was also a great contact who put us in contact with several other gluten-free companies that helped us out greatly.

Gluten-Free Carnival on UPitt Campus

Our first Gluten-Free Awareness Carnival was a big success!

This event could have not been such a great success without the support of other campus organizations and the members of the club. Getting companies to attend is one very important aspect, but getting people to come and enjoy the carnival is the biggest and most important part of this kind of event. We were able to get many organizations and companies to post our carnival’s flyer on their website along with local companies posting the flyer in their stores. We also posted flyers all over UPitt’s campus and had club members spread the word in person and through texting. We also had a Facebook event inviting much of Pitt’s campus. We had many campus organizations helping us out, specifically Sigma Gamma Gamma, a service sorority that provided us with most of the volunteers needed for the event.

Gluten-Free Carnival Prizes

Thank you to all the companies that donated prizes for our raffle!

For the future, we hope to expand our array of companies/organizations, and of course increase our attendance by spreading the word even more! With the support of these companies, campus organizations and of course all of our attendees, we were able to host our first Gluten-Free Awareness Carnival of hopefully many, and it was a great success. This was a day that Gluten Free My Campus will never forget!

– Dhanu

November 14, 2012 at 8:40 am 1 comment

Why This Gluten-Free Entrepreneur Caught Our Eye

Last week, I received an email from Benny Solomon, the founder of celiac and gluten-free resource website called OnTrackCeliac. The website is still in its infancy, but the goal is to include restaurant listings, product recommendations and other tools for living gluten-free. Nothing out of the ordinary, but here’s what caught my attention: Benny is only 14 years old.

After reading Benny’s email, I just had to find out how a teenager decided to shelve some of his social time and spend it developing a gluten-free resource.

NFCA: What inspired you to start OnTrackCeliac?

Benny Solomon: I was diagnosed with celiac disease in late 2009, and immediately switched to a completely gluten-free diet.  Within days, I noticed that many people knew what eating gluten-free was, but had no knowledge of cross-contamination.  I did not feel comfortable eating out and not knowing what was happening in the restaurant’s kitchen.  I realized that most places did not fully understand celiac disease.

For about a year and a half, I refused to go to more than about four different restaurants that I felt comfortable in, simply because I didn’t know which ones I could trust.  It was at this time that I realized that those with celiac needed a place to go to be sure that there was no need to worry.

Many websites have huge, outdated lists of restaurants with gluten-free menus.  If you were to go to about half of the restaurants on those lists, you would find that most of the staff has no familiarity with celiac.  People with celiac disease needed a place to find gluten-free options that were reliable and where they did not have to worry about cross-contamination.  In February of 2011, I started OnTrackCeliac to satisfy this need.

NFCA: Why did you decide to do a restaurant and food finder?

BS: I wanted to work with restaurants and foods since they are the base of starting a gluten-free diet.  My plan was to develop more resources around these two categories over time.

This was not my first time making a website or app, but it was the first time that I seriously took on a technology-related task.  For a few years I worked on a few iPhone games, and later I ran a small website that featured “the best videos on YouTube.”  OnTrackCeliac truly felt like an idea where I could apply my computer experience to something I am passionate about.

NFCA: How do you choose the restaurants that you feature?

BS: My policy is that any restaurant that is safe for people with celiac disease should be listed on OnTrackCeliac.  I don’t exclude any restaurants for quality of the food, or any other reasons.  I try to provide as many options for restaurants as possible, as there are very few that have a strong knowledge of celiac.  Although the main focus is on gluten-free safety, I will be starting a new star system, so that restaurants that have exceptional food and go above and beyond expectations will be recognized.

NFCA: How do you create your list of gluten-free foods on the website?

BS: When creating a list of gluten-free foods, I generally start by exploring the company’s website.  I try and ask myself if the company looks reliable, and if they are promoting gluten-free foods.  If they actively publish a list of gluten-free foods, that becomes a strong indicator of the company’s reliability.  If not, I generally call companies to find out if they have a list of gluten-free foods, but do not publish it online.

The company must show significant knowledge to pass the test and make it onto the site, and if they do not have any apparent efforts for showing which products have gluten and which do not, they do not make the cut.

NFCA: How do you juggle this project with school and other activities?

BS: Working OnTrackCeliac development into my schedule is certainly difficult.  I generally don’t work on the site every day (after homework is done); instead, I find that I work best when a large chunk of time is available.  On a break from school, for example, I sometimes sit down and work on the website for 3-4 hours a day.  I do give OnTrackCeliac a quick check every day though, just to make sure nothing has gone wrong, and that everything is working smoothly.

NFCA: Some people get discouraged about having to live gluten-free. You seem to have a passion for it. How do you stay so positive?

BS: I have mixed feelings towards having celiac disease.  At times, I like having it, because it gives me something that I feel is unique to me in the way that I deal with it. At other times, I do experience frustration, such as on trips and when I go to a restaurant at a last minute’s notice.  The way that I stay so positive is by knowing that OnTrackCeliac helps other people.  By encouraging people to stay informed about celiac, we can only encourage progress for the future.

For the first year I worried about having celiac, but realized that worrying wasn’t getting me anywhere.  By educating others, I hope that someday celiac will not be a burden at all on my lifestyle, and I am motivated to teach others to have the same outlook on eating gluten-free.

NFCA: What advice do you have for teens who feel tempted to cheat on their gluten-free diet?

BS: To any teens with celiac that want to cheat, I would say it’s simply not worth it.  After having spent the first part of my life eating gluten without knowledge of celiac, I can assure anyone that the best substitutes for gluten-free are just as good as regular food.  The trick is you have to find the best (I cannot stress that enough) brands. For example, there are hundreds of gluten-free breads out there, but in my opinion, only about two of the brands taste like “normal.”

Cheating might not initially seem like a big deal, but the long-term consequences are extremely serious.  There is nothing to gain from eating gluten.  Set a goal for yourself to not eat gluten, and reward yourself when you reach points along the timeline (but not with eating gluten!).  If you ever need advice on the best foods, check out OnTrackCeliac’s food page!

NFCA: Is OnTrackCeliac something you’d like to turn into a career?

BS: At this point in development, I hope for OnTrackCeliac to become even more of a resource for people with celiac disease.  I would like my career to be somewhere along the lines of what my website strives to accomplish, but I just can’t predict what lies ahead.  I hope that OnTrackCeliac has a long future, and I want people to have the mindset that it encourages:  To embrace celiac, find reliable ways to live your gluten-free life, and educate others.

October 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm 1 comment

FNCE 2012: NFCA’s Gluten-Free Workshop for Dietitians

After pulling long hours leading up to Appetite for Awareness last month, you’d think our staff at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) would take some time to wind down. Not the case.

Mixing Gluten-Free Flours

NFCA Director of Development Kim prepped our gluten-free flour blends.

We immediately went full throttle on our next activity, which was hosting a Gluten-Free Culinary Workshop leading up to the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE), an annual meeting for food and nutrition professionals run by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). Planning had already been underway for months, and all the pieces were in place:

  • A Gluten-Free Baking Workshop with Chef Richard Coppedge, CMB, author of Gluten-Free Baking with The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and a professor at CIA.
  • The Ancient Grains Challenge, featuring a “Chopped” style cook-off between teams of dietitians.
  • Educational sessions, including “Current Understandings of Gluten-Related Disorders” and “Case Studies: Living with Celiac Disease,” led by NFCA’s Alice Bast and Beckee Moreland, respectively.

I eagerly volunteered to help out and take photos and video at the workshop. (A chance to spend some one-on-one time with dietitians and top chefs? Please, I’m there.) So, bright and early last Saturday morning, I pulled up with a car full of goody bags and made my way up to the Academic Bistro at Drexel University.

Gluten-Free Workshop Goody Bags

The dietitians took home these goody bags full of gluten-free treats!

Even with all the details our VP Jennifer had provided, I still wasn’t prepared for how active this day would be. After spending the first few hours mixing huge batches of gluten-free flour blends and setting up our impressive ‘pantry’ of ingredients and fresh produce, it was time to step back and put the dietitians to work.

Our participants were from the Food & Culinary Professionals Dietary Practice Group (FCP DGP), a subgroup of the Academy. They already had a basic understanding of gluten-free food and cooking, but they came eager to learn even more. I think had just as much fun watching them as they did participating.

Gluten-Free Baking Workshop

Our baking workshop started off with an introductory lesson from Chef Coppedge. It was clear that he’s an experienced teacher, as his presentation was brief, yet informative. He brought good energy to the room and gave us a few chuckles as he talked. My favorite tip: Use seltzer water to make your dough lighter and fluffier, but don’t leave it overnight or it will over-ferment and deflate upon cooking.

Chef Coppedge - Gluten-Free Baking

Chef Coppedge helped the dietitians as they baked gluten-free goodies.

Then it was time to hit the kitchen. The dietitians whipped up gluten-free goodies like jalapeno & cheese muffins, spritz cookies and – my favorite – peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes. The hard part was figuring out which of the four gluten-free flour blends to use for each recipe. While the dietitians were mixing and measuring, Chef Coppedge was there offering quick tips. Best of all, they got to bring home a sample of what they baked. And the smells? Heavenly.

Gluten-Free Cookies and Muffins

Yum!

Ancient Grains Challenge

Across the hallway, our participants had to think on their feet as we presented them with pre-cooked gluten-free grains (amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa) and challenged them to make a fresh and healthy meal. For the additional ingredients, we had an impressive display of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, plus sauces, broths, beans and more, to complete their dishes.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

So much fresh produce!

To determine the winner, we recruited a diverse panel of judges:

  • Alice Bast, Founder and President of NFCA.
  • Chef Garrett Berdan, RD, a registered dietitian and chef who is part of the White House’s Chefs Move to Schools program.
  • Chef Charles Ziccardi, Assistant Teaching Professor of Culinary Arts at the Goodwin College of Professional Studies at Drexel University.

NFCA Board Chair Dorothy Binswanger even stopped by to assist with the judging – a deliciously good decision, as it turned out.

Gluten-Free Ancient Grains Challenge - Judges

The judges had some tough decisions to make.

The Ancient Grains Challenge went above and beyond our expectations. The dietitians were incredibly imaginative and resourceful, and their dishes had wonderful flavors. Among the finished plates, there were breakfast/dessert porridge with berries and a touch of orange zest; homemade soup with a side of bean salad; and ‘croutons’ made out of gluten-free grains and flax seed.

Gluten-Free Dish

The dietitians didn’t skimp on presentation.

To make the challenge even more realistic, some of the ingredients on the table were not guaranteed to be gluten-free, such as a broth that wasn’t labeled gluten-free and some premade sauces that required verification with the manufacturer before using. For the most part, the dietitians were cautious about choosing ingredients that were clearly gluten-free. On a few occasions, they asked about questionable ingredients, which became a teaching lesson as our VP Jennifer walked them through the process to verify the ingredient. When in doubt, they left it out.

Gluten-Free Food from Dietz & Watson

Lunchtime! A generous gluten-free spread from our sponsor, Dietz & Watson.

Educational Sessions

While the hands-on activities proved to be learning opportunities, NFCA’s workshop also balanced those active moments with some thoughtful discussions. The morning session on gluten-related disorders prompted good questions from the audience, and the dietitians left with a better understanding of the disease spectrum.

Gluten-related disorders info session

Alice’s morning session focused on gluten-related disorders.

In Beckee’s session, the dietitians discussed a variety of perspectives and scenarios related to gluten-free needs. There was an 8-year-old with celiac disease struggling with her school lunch program; a 19-year-old newly diagnosed and figuring out how to eat gluten-free at college; and a chef who was catering a gluten-free event. The case studies sparked plenty of “A-ha” moments as the dietitians worked through these real-life applications.

Gluten-Free Case Studies Session

Beckee presented three case studies about gluten-free needs.

So, to make a long story short, it was a winning day for all involved. My favorite part was chatting with the chefs and dietitians during and in-between each session. It always amazes me how a group can have similar interests and skills, yet put them to use in such a variety of ways.

Wegmans gluten-free

Thanks to Wegmans for sponsoring our gluten-free workshop!

Bravo to the dietitians for putting in an A+ effort at our Gluten-Free Culinary Workshop. We hope to “see” you again during our upcoming webinar on October 31!

– Cheryl

For more photos from the workshop, visit NFCA’s Facebook page.

October 12, 2012 at 10:21 am 1 comment

5 Ways to Get Your Kid Excited About the Gluten-Free Diet

Starting a gluten-free diet can be challenging for anyone, but kids can have an especially tough time when faced with social situations.  It’s hard to tell your little one they can’t have the cake at their friend’s birthday party or that Play-Doh is off limits.  With a little imagination and creativity, though, you can get your child excited about the gluten-free diet.

Set Aside Time to Cook Together

Dedicate a few hours a week to trying new gluten-free recipes with your child.  The recipes don’t have to be complicated or take a long time to make.  Not only will this give you some quality one-on-one time with your little one, but you’ll also teach them how to manage their own gluten-free diet and identify possible gluten sources.

5 Tips for Getting Your Kid Excited About the Gluten-Free Diet: Gluten-Free Recipes

Look for this logo on Kids Central to get started with your gluten-free creations!

Visit NFCA’s Kids Central to get kid-friendly recipe ideas.  Kids Central is also home to the archived webinar, Cooking with Kids, featuring ideas and tips from Jessica Hale of Gluten Freeda.

Get Them Involved

Depending on how old your child is, they might be embarrassed about the gluten-free diet or having special dietary needs.  Get them talking about celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity and help them meet other gluten-free kids.  Social networking sites can help them connect with their peers, and you might even get a few new gluten-free recipe ideas from other parents.  Miranda Jade Turbin shared tips for social networking in NFCA’s September e-newsletter.

5 Tips to Get Your Kid Excited About the Gluten-Free Diet: Social Media

Social media offers lots of opportunities for your child to connect with other gluten-free kids.

In-person meet-ups can be beneficial for kids because they give them a chance to meet others on a lifelong gluten-free diet.  Groups like Raising Our Celiac Kids (R.O.C.K.) host meetings and activities across the country.  They’re another great place to get activity ideas.

You can get them talking about the gluten-free diet through NFCA’s Awareness All-Stars fundraiser.  Awareness All-Stars gives kids the opportunity to share their experience with celiac and help raise funds to support NFCA’s free programs and services.  Plus, every All-Star earns prizes for participating and the top 3 fundraisers (we call them MVPs) get an extra special gluten-free prize.

Gluten-Free Show and Tell

Many kids have special show-and-tell days at school.  Why not send them to class with delicious gluten-free cookies or cupcakes to share with their classmates?  This will give them a chance to tell all of their classmates about celiac disease and show them how a gluten-free diet can still be tasty.  Plus, this lets kids become more comfortable with talking about celiac disease and their dietary needs.

5 Tips to Get Your Kid Excited About the Gluten-Free Diet: Rachel Begun's ChocoCoconut Cookies

You can get the recipe for these ChocoCoconut Cookies from registered dietitian Rachel Begun on Kids Central.

Arts & Crafts

Traditional Play-Doh contains gluten, but that doesn’t mean your gluten-free kid can’t enjoy the fun.  Spend a Saturday afternoon making gluten-free Play-Doh with them.  You’ll be giving them a safe alternative while showing them trying out new things can be fun!  Check out this recipe for gluten-free Play-Doh from Parents Magazine.

Give Them a “Pep Talk”

5 Tips to Get Your Kid Excited About the Gluten-Free Diet: Pep Talks

Look for this logo on Kids Central to find the Pep Talks section or click on the link below.

Kids Central has a section dedicated to Pep Talks, which features tips from gluten-free kids and NFCA’s staff and Athletes for Awareness.  The Pep Talks cover everything from “Being Gluten-Free and Confident” to “Awesome Things Done by Gluten-Free Kids.”  In short 5-tip segments, your kid is bound to get a major confidence boost from Pep Talks!

So how do you help your child maintain a positive attitude about the gluten-free diet?

– Alicia

September 26, 2012 at 12:39 pm 3 comments

Appetite for Awareness – Truly Philadelphia’s Premier Gluten-Free Food Fest

Appetite for Awareness 2012 is over, but the office is still buzzing with excitement.  When you focus on preparing for an event for months and months, you can’t help but feel a sense of relief and happiness over the success of the event.

I joined the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) team back in May, so this was my first time at Appetite for Awareness.  Leading up to the event, I attended planning and update meetings and absorbed all the fine details that go into coordinating an event of this size.  Last week, NFCA staff and our wonderful event planners, Phyllis and Ed, went over the final plans, and I thought I knew what the event had in store for all its gluten-free guests.  I never could have imagined how big Appetite for Awareness really could be, and how much it could mean to the community.

Appetite for Awareness: National Foundation for Celiac Awareness Store

The first ever NFCA store premiered at Appetite for Awareness

The venue was the Historic Strawbridge Building in Center City, Philadelphia.  For those of you who have never seen it, the building is unbelievably beautiful.  It used to be the Strawbridge & Clothier building, but was just converted into a venue for special events.  It has that historic look to it, with the grand staircase in the back, low hanging, bright chandeliers, and a working fountain in the walkway that divides the massive floor space.  On Sunday, tables snaked through the main hall, loaded with vendor tables all handing out gluten-free samples to the 1,500 attendees.

Appetite for Awareness:  Gluten-Free Vendor Tables

The restaurants and chefs gearing up for the crowds

So here’s how Appetite for Awareness goes:  You come through the door, grab your NFCA tote bag and start eating!  All of the vendors and restaurants get their own table and they serve only gluten-free food.  Even better, all of the restaurants in attendance are trained by NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program, a training course that teaches chefs all the ins and outs of preparing gluten-free food safely.  This is what makes Appetite for Awareness so special.  From the pasta samples served by the restaurants, to the brews chilling in the beer garden, it’s all gluten-free.   There are no questions to ask your server.  There are no concerns about cross-contamination, because nothing containing gluten comes through the door.  Everyone there knows what the gluten-free diet is and why it’s so important to those living with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  For once, people on the lifelong gluten-free diet can just relax, eat and have a good time without making special preparations, calling ahead or packing their own snacks.

Appetite for Awareness- Line for Registration

The line to get into Appetite for Awareness wrapped all the way around the outside of the building!

I spent most of the day walking through the Strawbridge building, snapping photos, live tweeting from the event, and doing Twitter giveaways. (Shout out to Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple & Crunchmaster, Blue Diamond and PJ’s Beef Steak for providing us with the gluten-free giveaway items.  You guys rock!)

I didn’t get to try all of the dishes, but from the massive lines of people eagerly devouring their samples while reaching for another one, I know the food was delicious.  A returning favorite were the soft pretzels from Tonya’s Gluten-Free Products, which earned rave reviews at Appetite for Awareness 2010, too.  I saw people running to go have a pretzel or two (or three or four).  Kids were covered in pizza sauce, and sticky fingers were everywhere.  It was an awesome sight.

Appetite for Awareness: Tonya's Gluten-Free Products: Soft Pretzels

People were talking about how excited they were to have their first soft pretzel in years.

Personally, I was super excited to meet the people that I talk to on social media all the time.  I met Erin Smith of Gluten-Free Fun, Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple, and the Appetite for Awareness honoree himself, Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly.

Appetite for Awareness: Honoree Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly

Michael accepting his award from NFCA Founder & President Alice Bast. (PS- isn’t that staircase great?)

NFCA honored Michael Savett at the event for his major contributions to the gluten-free community living in the Philadelphia area.  When his son was diagnosed with celiac, Michael started teaching restaurants about the gluten-free diet and kept track of the restaurants that could cater to his son’s special dietary needs.  Instead of keeping the information to himself, Michael started Gluten Free Philly for everyone in the area to benefit from.  A driving force in creating more availability for gluten-free options, NFCA would once again like to thank and congratulate Michael for his efforts.

Check out the tribute video NFCA made (with the help of Michael’s friends and family) to say thank you.

I had a blast at Appetite for Awareness 2012, and based on the tweets and Facebook comments, it seems like everyone who attended agrees.  None of this would have been possible without the generosity of our sponsors, the support of the NFCA board and advisory council members, and of course, our amazing volunteers and staff who put in countless hours to make Appetite for Awareness 2012 a fun and safe event for the gluten-free community.

Visit the NFCA Facebook page to see some of my snapshots from the event and stay tuned for the professional photographer’s pictures to come.  While you’re visiting the Facebook page, tell us your favorite part of Appetite for Awareness!

There are so many people to thank and recognize for their contributions to Appetite for Awareness, especially Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals,  KYW Newsradio 1060, PREIT, Mercedes-Benz of Fort Washington and West Chester.   Click here to see all of our amazing sponsors and participating restaurants and vendors.

Thanks to all who came out to make Appetite for Awareness such a memorable event!

– Alicia

September 25, 2012 at 10:42 am 4 comments

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