Posts tagged ‘take action’
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is proud to call Chef Jehangir Mehta, a finalist on the popular Next Iron Chef series, a partner in creating safe gluten-free options in restaurants so people living with gluten-related disorders can eat without fear.
NFCA team members and Chef Mehta will be taking NFCA’s online gluten-free cooking program on the road over the next six months. Introducing the GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour! The tour will cover 10 cities with the goal of educating chefs nationwide on the need for gluten-free menu items that go beyond just using gluten-free ingredients. It is amazing to see gluten-free options popping up on menus across the country, but unless restaurants are educated on the importance of safe gluten-free food preparation, our community cannot dine safely.
Many things have changed in the 20+ years that I have been diagnosed with celiac disease. When I was diagnosed, gluten-free food was not even available in the U.S. Today, we have access to a wide range of gluten-free food, but the next step on our journey is ensuring all gluten-free food is safe for our community. A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for people living with celiac disease; there are currently no pills, vaccines or cures for celiac disease. Research is taking us closer, but for now, we have to ensure the people living with this autoimmune disease can have access to the food that is our only medicine.
It has been 10 years since NFCA first opened its doors and set out on its mission to raise celiac disease awareness and improve the quality of life for those on a lifelong gluten-free diet. In that time, I have met many chefs and foodservice industry professionals eager to understand celiac disease, the gluten-free diet and our need for food to be free from gluten-containing ingredients and the gluten that can enter our food through cross-contact (commonly referred to as cross-contamination by the gluten-free community). These professionals are eager to accommodate their guests, but first they have to know training and resources are available to help.
NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program gives restaurant employees from the wait staff to the chefs the tools they need to serve safe gluten-free food. Our ten city tour will help spread the message that for the 3 million Americans living with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is not a fad, but the only way to restore their health and reclaim their lives. Ranging from cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, we will be working with executive chefs in some of the best restaurants – complete with gluten-free cooking demonstrations, of course!
Stay tuned as we start the journey at Chef Mehta’s Tribeca restaurant, Mehtaphor on Tuesday, October 22. Follow the tour by liking NFCA’s Facebook page and following NFCA on Twitter (@CeliacAwareness) and Instagram (@CeliacCentral). Chef Mehta will also be live tweeting from the road. Follow him at @jehangir_mehta.
To our GREAT health,
The following guest post is from National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) volunteer, Candice Clifford of Embrace G-Free.
What does, “expect the unexpected,” mean to you? This was an exact interview question, which was given to me during my international service trip (ISP) interview. As I heard these words I felt both fear and a thrill of excitement. However, as I thought more about this central ISP theme, I began to realize this phrase could describe my life for the past eight years.
I don’t understand why certain events have happened in my life, but I certainly know that each hardship has taught me valuable life lessons. While dwelling on the “why question” was a part of my grief process when I was first diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’), I quickly realized this was not going to help me live my best life.
As Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” says, “make your mess your message.” Whether big or small, we all have our own challenges. In the end I truly feel that you will not be defined by your “something,” rather people will remember you for what you did with your life after you faced adversity.
After I was diagnosed, I was full of fear. Food, going out to eat and getting sick again were fears hat controlled my life. However, in 2011 I made a choice to make a change by starting my blog, Embrace G-Free. Not only did this help get me back cooking in the kitchen, but it also empowered me.
Empowerment is one of the words which is continually tossed around in my counseling classes. However, I truly believe empowerment is a concept that you can’t fully understand until you personally experience it. As a future counselor I feel blessed that I will have the opportunity to help my clients become empowered. However, it is possible to discover self-empowerment without the guidance of a professional.
One of the best things you can do to achieve self-empowerment is set a goal; big or small, size doesn’t matter. What makes the difference is your attitude. Throw the self-doubt out the door. “I can’t” isn’t an option. By no means am I saying you will achieve all your goals. I for sure haven’t; failing is part of life. It is possible you may discover a barrier which prevents you from achieving your goal. However if you take all the proper steps and know you did everything in your power to try and achieve your goal, consider it a success. In taking action rather than letting your dreams pass you by, you will begin to feel more empowered.
If you haven’t picked up on it by now, self-empowerment is something I am so passionate about because becoming empowered has moved my life in such a positive direction and has provided me with experiences which I am forever grateful for. Finding empowerment through my diagnosis was one of life’s “unexpected” moments, eventually leading me to achieving a goal which I was ready to give up on. However, a long-term college dream was achieved this past May when I was blessed to go on an international service trip to El Salvador.
It was a long process to see if this goal could even be achieved. I started back in April 2012 and continued when I returned to school in September to make sure the sites could accommodate my needs. It was one thing to want to go on an ISP trip, but I needed to ensure I could do it safely. Patience, diligence, determination and an incredible program director helped me get through step one. Once I got the green light, it was onto getting over the hurdles of application selections and an interview process.
I will never forget the day I received the e-mail notifying me that I was selected to travel to El Salvador. I cried and would have screamed if I wasn’t at work. The planning process was incredible and in May 2013, my group and I were ready to head off to El Salvador.
While many people see a service trip as a way to serve others, I can honestly say that the people and experiences I had taught me more than I could ever give to the people I served. Although I felt empowered prior to ISP, this experience truly allowed me to take my feeling of empowerment to a new level. Not only was I faced with the challenge of new food allergy diagnoses a month before the trip, but while in El Salvador all my fears that I had prior to leaving happened. Despite this, I was OK.
I truly believe it was my individual choices, which helped me overcome the challenges I faced. For example, rather then crying when I walked in the first night and realized I couldn’t eat the main meal, I took a deep breath to calm myself down, told myself it was going to be OK, and made an almond butter sandwich. Overall that was one of the only meals I couldn’t eat and when I was unsure, I did without and turned to a safe option I brought with me.
After going on this trip I really began to realize even though food is our medicine, it doesn’t have to make or break our experiences. Of course enjoying some of the cultural dishes was wonderful and delicious, however, when I look back 20 years from now, I will not remember the foods I ate. Rather my memories will be of all the wonderful relationships I built during those 7 special days in El Salvador.
Food is our medicine, but don’t let it stop you from achieving your goals. Become Empowered!
About Candice Clifford & Embrace G-Free
Visit Embrace G-Free where you can find empowering tools to live your happiest and healthiest gluten-free life! Browse through great recipes, product reviews and helpful resources. Candice Clifford started Embrace G-free in January 2011, after being diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Follow her journey as she rediscovers her passions for baking and cooking. Candice shares her story with others to spare them from years of misdiagnoses and to inspire hope.
Follow Candice on Twitter (@CandiceRose90) and like Embrace G-Free on Facebook.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. Dhanu is studying bioengineering and hopes to go to medical school to become an OB/GYN doctor. She has been gluten-free since December 2010.
Applying to college is a hard decision on its own, but it’s even harder being a college student on a gluten-free diet. These are five things that I found to be really important regarding the gluten-free diet when applying to colleges.
- On-Campus DiningThe dining halls and areas on campus should have safe gluten-free options available for you. It is very important to know that those who are cooking your food know how important it is to avoid cross-contamination. If the college can’t offer this for you, make sure you can cancel your meal plan.
- Student Health CenterTalking to the dietitian is helpful, so they can help with your diet and can inform you accordingly of any updates regarding the gluten-free options on your campus. Make sure the health center accepts your insurance and can help you in case you get sick from accidental gluten ingestion or in general.
- Living in a DormIt is good to know what appliances are allowed in your dorm room. A fridge with a freezer is your best friend!
- Campus SupportHaving a gluten-free club on campus is wonderful because you know there is support on campus, and people to help you with this adjustment. Also, knowing if there is a decent amount of people on a gluten-free diet will allow you to be more confident that gluten-free living there is possible.
- Off-campus restaurantsSocializing with friends is a huge part of a college lifestyle and a lot of that is done during meals. It is good to make sure that there are restaurants around where you can go, eat and socialize safely.
Different people have different needs for college, so it is important to prioritize your needs and choose your colleges accordingly.
Celebrate Celiac Awareness Day
Today is National Celiac Awareness Day, and I for one am incredibly excited. Our mission at NFCA is to raise awareness of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders, so a day dedicated solely to our mission is pretty exciting.
We are celebrating Celiac Awareness Day by announcing the Grand Prize winner of our first-ever Gluten-Free Pantry Raid. (Meet the winner here.) Our friend Jehangir Mehta who was a finalist on “Next Iron Chef” and will compete again in the upcoming season, is hosting a Celiac Awareness Day dinner at his New York City Restaurant, Mehtaphor. You can join in on the celebration, too! Stuck for an idea? Check out these ways to do your part to raise celiac awareness.
Share the Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist
This one is simple. Head to NFCA’s website and download the Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist. Print it out and give to your friends and family, or share the link through e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or whatever social networking site you prefer. An estimated 3 million Americans are living with celiac disease, but 85% of them remain misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. By sharing the symptoms checklist, you can make a huge difference in the lives of people who may still be undiagnosed!
Bake a Gluten-Free Cake
Or cupcake. Share your gluten-free creation with your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, whoever! Your delicious cake will be a big hit and will open up the door to talking to people about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.
Green is the official color for celiac disease, so sport a green shirt, tie, dress, shoes, or whatever green accessory you can get your hands on. Be sure to tell everyone why you’re rocking your green gear.
Change Your Profile Pictures
Change your Facebook or Twitter photo to the NFCA logo (you can grab it from our Facebook page) or upload a picture of yourself decked out in your green gear. Then…
Update Your Status
Tell all your friends that it’s Celiac Awareness Day by updating your status and telling them so. You can even toss in a few facts to help people understand the autoimmune disease:
- Celiac disease affects 1 in 133 Americans, but 85% of them are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.
- There are no pharmaceutical cures for celiac. The only treatment available is a gluten-free diet.
- On average, it takes 6-10 years for a person with celiac disease to get an accurate diagnosis in the United States.
Get more fast facts here.
Buy a Ticket for Appetite for Awareness
Appetite for Awareness is NFCA’s signature gluten-free event hosted at the Historic Strawbridge Building in Center City, Philadelphia on September 23. The event is packed with gluten-free food, live chef demos, giveaways and free samples from local vendors. If you don’t live in the Philly area, you can still support NFCA with a donation (even a dollar helps!) or sign up for the newsletter so you can stay on top of all the latest celiac and gluten-free news.
Make a Celiac Advocate a Health Hero
Our founder Alice Bast is a semi-finalist in the Be Well Philly Health Hero Challenge. It’s a voting contest from Philadelphia magazine’s health blog that honors people making a contribution to health in the Philly area. Even if you don’t live in Philly, you can still vote. A win for Alice would help launch celiac into the spotlight even more. Voting only takes a minute and you can vote for her once daily until Monday, September 17.
Experiment with New Gluten-Free Ingredients
Think outside the box with your recipes and try using a different ingredient that you’ve never tried before. There are a lot of delicious and nutritious gluten-free recipes out there that go beyond plain ol’ chicken and veggies. NFCA has entire recipe boxes dedicated to giving you some gluten-free cooking inspiration. Invite your friends over to share in the cooking experiment and use it as a chance to talk to them about celiac disease.
So what will you do for Celiac Awareness Day? Leave a comment or tell me on Facebook.
Happy Celiac Awareness Day!