Tag Archives: gluten free

5 Great Things To Do With KIND Bars

26 Jun

Gluten free, great-tasting yet filling snacks can be hard to come by. Luckily, KIND Healthy Snacks offers fruit and nut bars that hit the spot every time.  When you are living gluten free, being hungry is a common and frequent concern.  If you miss lunch at the office, you can’t exactly ask around to see if anyone has anything in the office for you to snack on because chances are it wont be gluten free! There are a thousand other scenarios where being hungry yet out of reach of anything GF can come up; KIND Bars may be your answer!

Here are 5 great things to do with KIND Bars:

1. Put a few bars in your desk drawer

There is nothing worse than that creeping feeling of hunger that sometimes strikes at around 4:00pm. You have to stay at the office for at least two more hours but your stomach just isn’t having it. If you have a store of KIND Bars you can easily snack on one of these nutritious and filing bars while you finish out the day.

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Bar suggestion: Almond Cashew + Flax (Omega-3). This bar has a lot of nutritional value and is very filling. It is lower in sugar so it won’t leave you craving more. The flax seeds in the bar give you a nice dose of omega-3s that you might not otherwise fit into your diet during the day.

2. Keep them in your car

Keeping a few KIND bars in the car can be a real life saver. Whether you have a gluten free kid and always need to be able to send him off with a snack or you just get hungry while stuck in traffic, having healthy and filling GF snacks available is always a plus.  Winner’s tip: don’t keep the bars with chocolate in them in your because they will melt and be very messy!

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Bar suggestion: Blueberry vanilla cashew bars are great for the car because they are not very messy and, when heated by the sun, are actually pretty delicious and reminiscent of blueberry pie.

3. Emergency Kits

In my emergency kit at home I have gluten free emergency food.  I have a mix of protein bars and KIND Bars. In DC, roads were blocked and my neighborhood lost power a few times this year due to inclement weather. It was comforting knowing I had a store of pretty yummy emergency food in my closet!

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Bar suggestion: Almond Walnut Macadamia with Peanuts + Protein. This bar has 10 grams of protein (the highest protein count for a KIND Bar) which will keep you full and give you some energy back to weather out a storm.

4. Substitute for a candy bar to curb a craving

Ever crave a candy bar but dread the nutritionally challenged calories? KIND Bars offer several varieties of fruit and nut bars that incorporate chocolate. They are great because they taste like candy but have nutritional value!  You get to curb your craving while eating a nourishing snack.  Better yet, while some candy bars can leave you craving more food, KIND Bars have protein and fiber (among other nutrients) in them which will help you feel full and energized.

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Bar suggestion: Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew bars are insanely delicious and chewy. In addition to actually tasting like a candy bar they are high in potassium, fiber and protein!

5. Store them at your relatives’ homes

Are you the only GF person in your family? Ever get hungry at family dinners or events?  Next time you head to the in-laws bring a box of KIND bars to keep in their pantry. It will be a relief during future visits knowing that you don’t have to worry about bringing snacks to the house. If you have a gluten free kid it is really important to make sure that family members’ houses are stocked with gluten free options because we don’t want the child to feel left out or hungry.  The last thing grandpa and grandma need when they offer to babysit for you is a hungry kid on their hands without any GF food to fix it so just make it a point to drop off GF snacks the next time you go over.

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Bar suggestion: Apple Cinnamon and Pecan. This bar is great at any time of day. It kind of has a breakfast vibe going on but really can be enjoyed any time.  Whether you are visiting family for Sunday brunch of Christmas dinner, having some bars on hand can never hurt!

Science For Celiacs

22 Jun

For many people living with Celiac Disease, having Celiacs and being an advocate for awareness often times are synonymous. We are a demographic of people who cannot eat one of the most commonly consumed foods: bread. So, naturally, when people come across a Celiac for the first time they have a lot of questions.  Wheat has played an incredibly large role in our political, religious and culinary histories. As a result, it may seem pretty odd or even unbelievable when you encounter a person biologically designed to reject it.  Whenever I meet someone who has not heard of Celiac Disease or the gluten free diet I am unfailingly asked one of three questions:

  1. What is gluten???
  2. So…what happens to you if you eat bread?
  3. Celi-what disease?

It is important to be able to answer these questions coherently and knowledgeably. Why? Because otherwise the gluten free diet gets a bad rap! If people living with Celiacs or gluten intolerance do not speak up, the media and fad-dieting celebrities control the narrative about what it means to be “gluten free”.   That being said, if you have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, what should you know??

A Celiac in the know should have a basic and celiac-specific understanding of Physiology, Plant Biology, Biochemistry, Immunology and Genetics. As a Science teacher and GF blogger it is about time I merged my two favorite things into a blog post!  I won’t be offended if you simply skim the rest of this post because things are about to get a bit nerdy 🙂

Physiology
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Physiology is the study of biological functions eg how the digestive system functions. Given that Celiac Disease is a digestive disease it is important for us to know how the digestive system works! The  purpose of the digestive system is to digest and absorb.  There is a common misconception that people with Celiac Disease struggle with digestion but this isn’t really true: we struggle with absorption.

For example, someone who is lactose intolerant cannot digest dairy products, their body cannot break it down. Celiacs are great at breaking things down, in fact, we have a whole class of biological soldiers (antibodies) that attack gluten. If this were merely a matter of digestion, the symptoms of Celiac Disease would not be so varied and at times debilitating.

Digestion is the process of breaking down food into biologically usable parts. Your cells don’t need pepperoni pizza, they need glucose, amino acids, vitamins and minerals etc. The digestive process transforms food into these usable components.  Once the food is broken down (aka digested) it will reach your small intestine, which is where the absorption takes place.
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Your small intestine is lined with villi, finger-like projections that absorb those usable components from the food into the body/blood stream.  When the villi are damaged they look stub-like and can longer efficiently absorb nutrients.  Someone with Celiac Disease may eat an incredibly healthful diet and yet not receive the benefits of those foods because their villi are damaged!  Luckily, the villi can repair themselves overtime which is why living gluten free can often reverse almost all of the pre-diagnosis symptoms. For example, I went from being severely anemic to having normal iron levels about five months into being gluten free.

Plant Biology

How many times have you answered the “what is gluten” question with “You know…bread, pasta, cookies, anything with flour…basically.” Although that simplification may be best in some contexts, it is still nice to know what it really is! Gluten is a group of proteins that is responsible for the elasticity of dough aka the chewy goodness that I sometimes miss so much.  Gluten is made up of two proteins: gliadin and gluteninin (gluten = gliadin + glutenin). Interestingly, Celiacs are only sensitive to “gliadin” but for whatever reason we use the term “gluten-free” to describe a diet that is not harmful to people with Celiac Disease.   pro-43

Did you know that wheatgrass is gluten free? The wheatgrass is immature wheat. Though the same origin, Triticum aestivum L., the grass forms before the grain and does not contain the harmful proteins we discussed above. NOTE: if you buy wheatgrass make sure it is labelled  gluten free because otherwise there is a risk that the grass has been contaminated with the mature grain.

Biochemistry

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The very first day of my Biochemistry class in college my professor warned me that I would have to memorize the structure and names for all 20 amino acids used in the body to form proteins.  Don’t worry, these structures didn’t make my list of things Celiacs should know but the basic concept that proteins are made up of a string of amino acids definitely made the list.

We know if you are Celiac you need to be gluten free. We know that gluten is made up of two proteins and Celiacs are mostly sensitive to gliadin.  So what is it about the protein called gliadin that is harmful?

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A protein is made up of a string of amino acids. The sequence, or order, of these amino acids is what determines what type of protein it is.  There is a specific part of gliadin, a sequence of 19 amino acids, that trigger the autoimmune response in Celiac patients.  Proteins with similar sequences, even if not exact, can cause reactions as well. This is why people with Celiac Disease typically cannot eat rye, barley, malt and sometimes even oats because the amino acid sequences can cause a reaction!

Immunology

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The immune system has two parts: innate immunity, the body’s first and more generic line of defense, and adaptive immunity, our specific response. When it comes to Celiac Disease we are mostly interested in adaptive immunity because it is this part of the immune system that is triggered by gluten.

In someone with Celiac Disease, the body perceives gluten as a threat and produces antibodies to attack and eliminate it called Anti-gliadin antibodies (also called AGA). You probably recognize that word from the tests you were given for your diagnosis. Some doctors will test the blood for the presence of AGA in order to determine if someone has Celiac Disease.

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Why does it matter if the body creates an antibody specific for gluten? Doesn’t that just mean that the gluten is attacked? The immune system is very complex and yet imperfect.  Autoimmune diseases are conditions where the body’s defense systems begin to attack healthy cells. In Celiac Disease, the Anti-gliadin antibodies end up attacking the lining of the small intestine (among other areas in the body), damaging the ability of the villi to absorb nutrients.

In short, the immune system creates specific proteins that target foreign and unwanted invaders in the body. People with Celiac Disease develop antibodies in response to consuming gluten that attack and destroy healthy cells in the body causing damage, inflammation and symptoms of Celiacs.

Genetics

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The reason it is important to understand the genetic aspect of Celiac Disease is all about getting people tested.  If you or a family-member are diagnosed with Celiac Disease it is really important that the rest of the family get tested as well.  If a family-member has Celiac Disease, your chances of having it are much higher than the average person in the general population. Family-members may be asymptomatic or may have symptoms that have been misdiagnosed (I used to have a juvenile arthritis diagnosis on file before going gluten free).

I can’t tell you how many of my readers have told me that they found out they needed to be gluten free because a family-member was diagnosed first. My grandmother found out she had Celiac Disease after I was diagnosed and has experience improved health since going gluten free! There is no way to get around the fact that Celiacs is genetic. I know many families that are resistant to getting tested because they do not realize that they have a risk of having or developing Celiac Disease.

Being in the know is not just important for spreading accurate awareness, it can actually help you stay motivated. When you understand what happens to the body on a molecular level in response to even trace amounts of gluten you may find yourself even more committed to taking those extra steps like avoiding cross contamination to be completely gluten free.

Have a great rest of the weekend, readers!

-CC

Celiac Catalyst — Disney Bullies Gluten Free Child

18 May

What a day for Celiac Awareness!  The web is all a buzz with Gluten Dude’s latest post about a Disney television show plot line where a gluten free character is bullied, mocked and, in my opinion, assaulted.   The Disney Channel show “Jessie,” aired an episode guest starring JJ Totah who plays Stuart. Described as a”9-year-old smart wiz boy” by Wikipedia, Stuart encounters some rough moments in the episode because he is gluten free.

In the episode with the controversial scenes about gluten, Stuart is attending a sleepover at his friend’s house only to find that his dietary needs are mocked and undermined.  Here is the clip posted by Gluten Dude:

 

 

I think it should go without saying that these scenes are abhorrent; however, if things simply go without saying, then I am out of a job!  I cannot believe that Disney would target such an incredible community: the Celiac Kid community.

Anyone who has met a Celiac kid will surely have left with a strong and lasting impression.  When I led the Celiac Disease Foundation’s youth events at last year’s conference I was blown away by the maturity of these kids.  Celiac kids are articulate. They are persistent. They advocate for themselves. They read labels that took me years to master how to decipher.  They explain complicated things to grown ups on a regular basis!

Imagine being the one kid at the birthday party who can’t eat the cake. The one kid who is left out of the pizza party that his class won for selling the most magazine subscriptions. The one kid who reads labels on Halloween candy before trading with friends.  The one kid who had to ask the waitress questions about an order.  Celiac kids are constantly singled out and must learn adapt to complex social situations at a very early age.  We are talking about children who may have spent years sick, weak and tired who have finally discovered what it feels like to be strong and healthy but, the cost to their new found health is a brand new life that seems counter to what all their friends at school experience.

We know the Celiac Kid community is fantastic and it isn’t fair of Disney to target such an inspiring group; however, my criticism of Disney goes much further than simply targeting a great group of kids.

Disney is incredibly litigious. They do not care how big or how small you are, if you infringe upon their copyright they will get you.  Why? Because they care about what products, what people and what words have the Disney name. They care deeply about the quality of products that say “Disney.”  Given this fact, I take extra offense to the absurd display of ignorance and bigotry in their episode of Jessie. Someone at Disney brainstormed the concept, someone wrote the script, someone read the script, edited the script, practiced the script, recited the script, filmed the scripted being read and then edited the film and not once in this process did they stop to think that maybe there was something wrong with the idea of bullying a child with a gluten-related disorder.

A friend, playing devil’s advocate, asked me “Well, CC isn’t the allergy/nerd schtick pretty common for comedy?”

A) No. No it is not.

B) Find an episode of child’s television show post-1995 that has a plot-line where a child with a food allergy is attacked by bullies using the allergen.  I promise you, you will not find a show where some low-life bully spreads peanut butter on the peanut-allergy kid’s desk without his knowing. You know why? Because it isn’t funny. There is nothing funny about children being in pain.

The thing that gets to me the most is the part of the episode where a child throws glutinous pancakes at the gluten free character.  If someone threw anything glutinous at me on purpose, I would lose it.  Honestly, I think that should be considered assault.  Kids cannot think it is ok to play with allergens or bully kids using allergens when Celiac Disease or anaphylactic allergies are involved. If it seemed funny on the show, it will not seem funny once it happens at a real school, with real students and real health issues.  It is so incredibly irresponsible of Disney to treat food allergies and the like so flippantly.

Disney is a huge huge company. It is going to take more than Gluten Dude’s blog post and CC Gluten Freed’s post to make them truly listen.  There is a lot of buzz on Facebook and Twitter and there is an electronic petition going around to get the episode removed from the air but in order to get a reaction we need to make some more noise.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION by clicking on this link! If you are willing to put in the time, please contact the company directly by clicking this link. After all, it is Celiac Awareness Month and if none of the things on my list of how to best celebrate the month appealed to you, then this may be your way of contributing to the cause!

The Celiac/gluten free community is so connected and passionate. We need to act together to get a sort of Celiac catalyst effect going. May is Celiac Awareness Month and it is time we start spreading some especially given the nature of this issue. This episode is out there and our kids are watching it and forming opinions about the gluten free community and how they should relate to people who are gluten free (or have any other food-restriction, for that matter).

 

Readers, please don’t feel discouraged or blood-boilingly angry about this! We are so lucky to be a part of such a great community that advocates for itself.  We can support each other and, probably most importantly, support and protect our Celiac kids! I know a lot of gluten free moms, dads, aunts and uncles (mine included) that want awareness efforts that specifically  help the younger Celiacs live healthy and happy lives!

 

Please contact Disney about this issue! If you don’t have time to write a full comment then  just quote via copy and paste parts of this post or Gluten Dude’s post.

 

-CC

Gluten Free Tiramisu Cupcakes

7 Apr


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The national cupcake craze has not excluded those living gluten free.  In fact, as far as a flour-based food fad goes, the cupcake industry has been pretty inclusive.  Shows like Cupcake Wars have highlighted several gluten free bakers in the past few years. How many of you have grabbed a cupcake from Crave Bakeshop in Lake Oswego, Oregon?  If you have, then you have probably met Ms. Kyra Bussanich, the proud winner of Cupcake Wars and promoter of gluten free awareness!  For my neighbors in the DC Metro Region we can always stop by Sticky Fingers Bakery in Columbia Heights, another winner of cupcake wars, for a vegan gluten-free cupcake!  The big kahuna cupcakeries are also jumping on the gluten free bandwagon.  Bakeries like Sprinkles Cupcakes provide customers with a red velvet gluten free cupcake. You can tell it is gluten free because it is marked with a big red “G” on top!

From coast to coast you can find bakeries offering gluten free cupcakes but what about baking them yourself??  Cupcakes are a great home-made good to bring to a friend’s dinner party, they are simple to transport, easy to eat (don’t require utensils) and are sweetly delectable.  Baking gluten free though, is no walk in the park…or is it?

The days of trying to find the perfect ratio of garbanzo bean flour:qiunoa flour:amaranth flour are over!  You also don’t need to search to the ends of the cyber world for a “gluten free” recipe that is more interesting you’re your traditional vanilla or chocolate cupcakes.  I’ll be real; you will have a hard time finding a gluten free recipe for the “raspberry cream cheese chocolate swirl cupcake” that your friend posted on Pinterest but with products like Glutino’s Gluten Free Pantry’s All Purpose GF Flour and King Arthur Flour’s Multi Purpose GF Flour the days of questing for specific gluten free recipes are over. Whenever you find a recipe that calls for 1 cup of all-purpose flour, you simply grab your box of all-purpose gluten free flour and get started! You can check out my review of gluten free all purpose flour here!

I recently made gluten free tiramisu cupcakes that completely exceeded my expectations! I am not a baker and always thought that baking gluten free and from scratch was simply off limits given my lack of experience.  It turns out, anyone can be a gluten free baker if they want to be. Now, if you hate hearing things like “I can’t believe this is gluten free!!” then don’t make these cupcakes because I guarantee you that people who eat them will shout this while devouring your glorious gluten free goodies.  The trick to baking, especially baking gluten free, is following the recipe exactly. Minor deviations can really mess with the texture and denseness of the cake.

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For this recipe, and others like it, I suggest investing in 1-2 mini cupcake pans. They are great for desserts, snacks and are just a bit cuter than your average cupcake.  The cupcake recipe is for a basic (and delicious) vanilla cupcake based on the recipe by Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.  You can use this recipe for making a ton of different cupcake varieties. This post gives instructions for turning a simple vanilla cake into a tiramisu delight!

Step One: Bake Your Mini Cupcakes

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Before you get started, make sure you have mixing bowls, an electric mixer or hand mixer, cupcake liners and the like! You do not need a Kitchen Aid Mixer in order to bake this recipe; however, it is my absolute favorite tool in the kitchen! It makes baking so much easier!  If you have one stashed in a cupboard somewhere now is the time to use it!

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Ingredients: 1 cup soy milk

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup canola oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all purpose gluten-free flour

2 tbsp cornstarch

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

  1. Combine soy milk and apple cider vinegar in a bowl and let sit for around 10 minutes (this allows the soy milk to curdle)
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix together using a fork
  3. Put all wet ingredients into a mixer and mix on low for a few minutes
  4. Add dry ingredients to the mixing bowl a little bit at a time until all ingredients are combined
  5. Pour batter into lined mini cupcake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes

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Step Two: Make Your Tiramisu Frosting

Ingredients:

8 ounces mascarpone

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup powdered sugar (confectioner sugar)

cocoa powder and cinnamon (for dusting)

  1. Use electric mixer to whip the heavy cream. Set mixer on medium speed until you see stiff peaks form in the cream
  2. Combine the powdered sugar and mascarpone in a separate bowl
  3. Gently mix whipped cream and mascarpone mixture together until smooth
  4. Put frosting into plastic baggie and save in fridge until cupcakes are ready

**If you would like a vegan frosting combine ¼ cup margarine ¼ cup vegan cream cheese and 3 cups of powdered sugar in an electric mixer (I add cinnamon and nutmeg for an extra kick).

You will want to use a Ziploc bag so that you can cut the tip off, forming a makeshift pipette tool for frosting the cupcakes!

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Step Three: Assemble Your Cupcakes

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If you want to give your cupcakes that irresistible coffee flavor that people associate with tiramisu then you need to brew yourself a cup of Joe!  I use my Keurig to make a small cup of hazelnut coffee for my cupcakes, there is no need to brew a whole pot of coffee for this.  Once your cupcakes are finished baking you will need to cut out a small cone-shaped chunk from the center of each cake. You will drizzle a few drops of coffee into each cupcake. Be careful not to saturate the cake with coffee. You don’t want the cake to be mushy in the center.

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Once you have drizzled the coffee over the cakes it is time to get out your frosting. Cut the tip off of your Ziploc bag, forming a pipette and get to work! Once the cupcakes are frosted dust them with cocoa powder and/or cinnamon (I use both!).

Voila! You have now made interesting, delicious, gluten free cupcakes!

The next time you are invited to a dinner party and feel stressed about the dessert option just bring a batch of mini cupcakes! They are the perfect gift to a host because they are small enough that they don’t have to be the main or only dessert but substantial enough that you can feel included in the dessert course even if you can only have the cupcakes.  Mini cupcakes are simply a great addition to any event or meal.

Happy baking!

-CC

This Week On The Hill: Celiac Disease and Politics

4 Mar




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When I moved to Washington DC to teach 7th grade Science I never thought that I would end up in the offices of Senators and members of the House promoting legislation that will benefit the gluten free community. Advocating for the gluten free community is one of my greatest passions, it is why I started this blog, go to events and volunteer for many of the gluten free and/or Celiac nonprofits in the United States, but I never thought I would have the ear of the US government.

The Digestive Disease National Coalition held its annual public forum, uniting people from across the digestive disease spectrum for one cause: get our needs on Congress’s radar. DDNC held multiple informational lectures on Sunday preparing the volunteer advocates for our day on the Hill. Sunday night ended in an amazing Welcome Reception. I never expected to worry about over eating at a Digestive Disease event but the food was incredible and 100% gluten free despite the fact that Celiac Disease is only a small subset of the overall coalition. Katz provided the gluten free desserts as well as toast and muffins for breakfast the next day.

The Digestive Disease National Coalition unites people advocating for the treatment and prevention of conditions ranging from colorectal cancer to pancreatisis to gastro paresis to Celiac Disease to Chrons and much much more. The showing of volunteers was truly inspiring because we had policy makers, presidents of nonprofit organizations, patients and the families of patients all working together to promote legislation that will help cure, treat and prevent digestive diseases. I met cancer survivors who showed up to support people still fighting for their lives. I worked with people who were physically exhausted by the end of the day because they are living with serious chronic illnesses. The solidarity demonstrated by the digestive disease community is something to be revered.

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Although I am from California, I was representing the state of Maryland today, my current residence. I was happy to be with Team Maryland because Marilyn Geller, Chief Operating Officer of the Celiac Disease Foundation, was here representing the political needs of Californians living with Celiac Disease. Alice Bast, president of National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, was here representing Pennsylvania along with a small cohort of other members of NFCA. I was very proud to be a part of the Celiac cohort present at DDNC.

DDNC divided our coalition by state, forming teams of around six people. The teams were responsible for planning what would be pushed for during our meetings with Senators and Representatives and had to elect a team leader to facilitate the discussions. I was elected leader for Team Maryland which was both humbling, terrifying and exhilarating.

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I met with the offices of Senator Mikulsi, Senator Cardin, Representative Ruppersberger and Representative Van Hollen. The main goal of our visit was to push for an increase in National Institute of Health funding from $31 billion to $32 billion. Honestly, it was an easy sell given the fact that the people I met with were democrats, on various health committees and the NIH is located in Maryland so its funding directly impacts the state by increasing jobs in the health field.

You may be wondering what can Congress do for someone living with Celiac Disease. That is a fair question, unlike many diseases and conditions out there, Celiacs doesn’t have a very long or involved legislative agenda, something the gluten free community hopes to change in the next few years. However, there are a few issues that are pretty significant: 1. Gluten Free Labeling Laws 2. National Celiac Awareness Month (May)

Currently, the gluten free labeling bill is being reviewed in the Office of Management and Budget which is great. It should get sent back to the FDA soon for approval. The main issue I focused on in my Congressional visits was the declaration of May as Celiac Awareness Month.

In a time when budgets are tight and sequestration has broken the hearts of many members of Congress, pushing for meaningful legislation that doesn’t cost Congress a dime is pretty heart warming business. There is no reason for Congress not to proclaim May as National Celiac Awareness Month; however, there is a risk that this issue gets overlooked given the complicated political climate. My goal was to get this House and Senate Resolution on their radar.

I explained to the members of Congress that Celiac Awareness Month is incredibly important to our community. For one thing, the biggest challenge with living gluten free is the overall lack of awareness in the general population about the condition. Celiac Awareness Month helps get the word out because not only does the government get involved but it gives nonprofits like Celiac Disease Foundation, National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and the Gluten Intolerance Group a wonderful platform for awareness campaigns during the month of May. For example, last year GIG was able to reach over eight million people through their Chef to Plate program that has restaurants that currently offer gluten free menus promote Celiac and GF awareness for the month of May.

In addition to helping people currently diagnosed with Celiacs or gluten intolerance, declaring May as an official Celiac Awareness Month can help us increase the number of accurate diagnoses. This is where I got the attention of Congress: misdiagnosed Celiac patients are a drain on the economy. Before diagnosis, many Celiacs see close to ten physicians, racking up medical bills. Additionally, they are usually prescribed medications to treat symptoms that could be completely eradicated by following a gluten free diet. They undergo expensive procedures like endoscopies, blood tests, colonoscopies etc racking up more and more medical bills, potentially going into debt. Furthermore, undiagnosed people tend to be very sick, they may have to leave the workforce, start getting disability checks from the government or declare themselves as unemployed.

Personally, I feel like the quality of life arguments should be enough to tug at the heart strings of members of Congress but if not I am happy to make arguments that tug on the purse strings, and those arguments happen to quite plentiful.

I found overwhelming support for the Celiac Awareness Month Resolution. The staff aides asked me several follow up questions and even asked me for my contact information so they could get more information for their Senator on this issue.

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The Kennedy Caucus Room

I had such a wonderful time. Not only did I meet great people, true champions for their causes, but I got to spend time with NFCA and CDF as well as eat amazing food. I know the food is the least important part of the day but I have to admit it really was amazing to see gluten free accommodations made so efficiently and without error. The luncheon held in the Kennedy Caucus Room was a sandwich buffet that had gluten free and gluten-containing options but avoided cross contamination by separating and labeling the types of bread and providing condiments in packets instead of a common serving bowl and a knife to spread onto the bread.

The people I met today were so inspiring because many of them are patients who came out to represent the needs of people living with their conditions. These are people who took off work in order to promote a good cause, people who were willing to put themselves on the spot and speak to members of Congress about very personal matters. I have always said how much I love the gluten free community because it is such a supportive, connected and united group of people but what I didn’t know is that we have a host of brothers and sisters out there living with digestive diseases who are fighting the same battles for quality of life. I’m proud to be gluten free and proud to be a part of DDNC!

Consider signing up for the Digestive Disease National Coalition next year! It is an experience worth having!!

-CC

Flying Gluten Free: an experience of note

14 Feb

With the recent announcement of the merger between American Airlines and US Airways, it seemed a good time to discuss how to be gluten free while traveling.  Based on my customer service experience, it honestly might be preferable if US Airways didn’t save American from their financial crisis.  Being gluten free is challenging even with the many dining options we have on land. If one restaurant doesn’t work, you can always hop in your car and try another. Take us up 30,000 feet into the air and we may be in for what will feel like a very long trip with very few options, if any at all.


Does being gluten free change the way I travel? Absolutely.  There are some things you should take into consideration before hopping on your next 757 to make sure you are prepared. The lesson I learned from traveling with American Airlines? Pack some snacks or starve.

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I found that the flight attendants were inequpped to deal with gluten free needs.  Here was my experience with American Airlines on a flight from LAX to DCA on December 29, 2012:

I arrived at the airport at 6:30am. In an attempt to sleep as much as possible the day of the flight, I decided to forgo eating breakfast and sleep for an extra ten minutes instead.  I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I was on the plane and my stomach started to growl angrily at me.  When the flight attendant came around with the drink cart I knew this was my chance: “Excuse me, do you sell food on this flight?” The attendant responded by handing me a menu of overpriced items I could purchase. Over priced or not, it was still food and I was hungry. Every option had gluten. The one thing I saw that could potentially work was a bag of potato chips. All I needed was to read the ingredients and I might be in the clear. I asked if I could read the ingredients on the bag because I have food allergies (a colloquialism I adopt to avoid lengthy conversations about the immune system and molecular biology when trying to place a simple order). The attendant told me she was all out of chips. Plan B: ask if the fruit and cheese plate came with crackers wrapped separately or touching the food already.  When I asked the attendant about the crackers she starting laughing and rolling her eyes at me and said “Why would I know if the crackers are wrapped up?” I asked her if I could see the cheese plate and she said “Well, are you going to buy it?” while begrudgingly taking out the cheese plate from the cart drawers. The crackers were in separate packaging from the fruit and cheese (yay!).  I handed her my Visa card feeling torn about whether or not I should say something about her chair-side manner.

The last time I didn’t speak up for myself I ended up eating a bowl of spaghetti (gluten spaghetti). As someone who proudly wears a CC Gluten Freed bracelet stating “OWN IT” on the back, I reminded myself who I am and what my charge is: make this world more gluten free friendly. I knew I needed to say something. Not wanting to be overly confrontational (a common problem for an advocate) I added in a “ma’am” to show respect.

“Ma’am, in the future, please don’t make it hard for customers to ask questions about allergens because our interaction made me feel very uncomfortable about making sure the food was safe for me. It would be awful if someone stopped asking questions because of the way you react to them and wound up gttting sick or going into anaphylactic shock on your flight.”

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 The attendant seemed very offended by what I said and started arguing.“I didn’t say anything. There is nothing I can do about the fact that you have your allergies. You asked me a question and I didn’t know. I have people always tell me they are allergic to peanuts and try to get me to tell the person next to them not to eat peanuts and I always tell them there is nothing I can do about that. I can’t do anything about food allergies and you asked me something I couldn’t answer.”

Not to beat a dead horse because I know all of my readers would be appalled by this reaction, but I just want to point out a few things:

  1. Who said anything about asking other customers not to eat peanuts? More importantly, who said anything about peanuts??
  2. There IS something you can do if someone with a peanut allergy asks for assistance. Talk to the customer with the peanut product, protect the people on your flight and advocate for your customers (that is your job b.t.w.)!  How hard is it to say “Ma’am (or sir), I am sorry but is it possible to eat a different snack because we have a peanut allergy on board.”
  3. I did not ask her a question she couldn’t answer. In fact I didn’t even need an answer from her. I just wanted to see the cheese plate before purchasing it.

 

Anyways, back to the story: I told the flight attendant that I wasn’t accusing her of anything, I just wanted to help avoid a problem with future customers. By the end of the peanut-rant her voice was raised and I wanted to end the conversation with dignity. I said “I appreciate your work here and am glad we could spread awareness about this issue today. Good day!” For the record, “Good day!” sounded cooler and more dismissive in my head than it did when it awkwardly came out of my mouth, but what can you do?! 

Advocating for yourself is not easy.  I have never shied away from a good debate but, advocating for yourself can be so challenging. After that flight attendant walked away I felt all shaky and uncomfortable.  It didn’t help that planes are so confined that I had a built in audience for this encounter.   I think the uncomfortable feeling I was left with is much preferable to the gnawing sense of guilt I would have felt had I not spoken up about the issue. I think bloggers should absolutely practice what they preach!  I take promoting gluten free awareness so personally. This blog is a testament to my passion for helping us, all of us, be safe, healthy and as stress free as possible. 

Moral of the story? Always speak up for yourself because it isn’t just about you, it is about all people with food allergies (dairy, peanut, wheat, whatever), or intolerances or Celiac Disease.  At the very least, I hope my confrontation was uncomfortable enough for the attendant that she thinks twice about scoffing at people with food allergies, if not for the right reasons, then at least to avoid an uncomfortable conversation.   Other moral? If you pack snacks you won’t have to give the gluten speech, plus, your snacks are probably much tastier than what the airline carrier can offer.

And, of course, I will be sending a letter to American Airlines as I always encourage my readers to whenever they have a negative gluten free customer service experience.

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Let’s hope the merger with US Airways brings about financial success for both airlines, more flights for customers and much better customer service!

-CC

 

Gluten Free New Year’s Resolution 2013

30 Dec

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This is my second, and now annual, Celiac/gluten-free New Year’s Resolution post on CC Gluten Freed. The gluten free diet is so much more than a diet. In fact, I usually describe myself as “being gluten free” as opposed to following a gluten free diet. Semantics, yes, but an important point none-the-less. Being gluten free means adapting a whole new relationship to food, something that shapes our every day lives, holidays and traditions. Considering how complicated and challenging being gluten free can be, it seems appropriate to make our New Year’s Resolutions at least related to improving our health and gluten free lifestyle.

Last year I had a slue of NYRs all about improving my gluten free lifestyle. You can check out last year’s list here but in summary, I decided to:

1. Be (even more) gluten free – this means making smart, safe choices at restaurants like getting a salad instead of french fries due to risk of cross contamination.

2. Become informed — I vowed to start following GF blogs so that I can stay current on what other GF advocates are up to.

3. Get techy — there are many phone apps out there that make being gluten free much simpler. I decided to start using those applications including, my favorite, Find Me Gluten Free, an app that takes your GPS location and gives you a list of GFF (gluten free friendly) places nearby.

I wrote a follow-up last June about how I was doing with my NYRs and, I swear this to be true, I was pretty good about staying committed. In years past my new year convictions have always been more like token resolutions. “I will go to the gym every day!” or “I will eat salad at every single meal!” Though enthused, I never seemed to follow through with my generic resolutions. The problem? Conviction. I did not take the time to hash out the reasons why the resolutions were meaningful to me and, not surprisingly, they fell to the way side as the year started getting busy and hectic. I am proud to announce that for 2012 I successfully adopted all of my GF-NYRs and improved my gluten free life as a result.

My resolution this year is much simpler than my complex list of 2012 gluten free NYRs. This year has to do with defense and preparedness. The ability to absorb nutrients is often more limited in someone with Celiac Disease compared to the average Joe. Here’s why: the gluten free diet only works by completly eliminating gluten, not by merely limiting it. Many newly diagnosed believe that a low gluten diet will have close to the same benefits as being exclusively gluten free and that, my friends, is a misconception. When people think of a “diet’ they typically think of weight loss and we all know that if we limit our caloric intake we will lose weight. The more calories we restrict, the more weight that will be lost. Disclaimer: this is an over simplification of metabolism and weight loss but, in simplest terms, the relationship between caloric intake and weight loss is directly proportional whereas the relationship between nutrient absorption and gluten intake is more complicated and convoluted. Even trace amounts of gluten can trigger the production of counterproductive antibodies that will damage your small intestine. My point is that if you kind of diet, you will kind of lose weight whereas if you are kind of gluten free you will not be kind of symptom free, you will remain in the pain and state of malnutrition that originally provided hints for your diagnosis.

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Even compulsive Celiacs like myself (I say that in the most endearing way possible) cannot completely avoid gluten due to cross-contamination and accidents that will inevitably occur despite your best efforts. How can we prepare our bodies for such encounters? What can we do to compensate for the fact that we may not be absorbing nutrients as efficiently as a none Celiac?

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My NYR for 2013 is to take a daily vitamin, religiously, strictly and obligatorily. We have all heard doctors, moms and the like push us to take a daily vitamin but how many of you actually do it every day? I am super health conscious and still happily skip swallowing the disgusting smelling pellet of nutrients frequently. As a Celiac, I need all the nutrition I can get. If I don’t pay close attention to my diet, I cannot guarantee that I am getting all of the vitamins and minerals I need on a daily basis, deplting my body’s supplies and holding myself back from better health.

This year, starting January 1,2013 I will be taking my daily vitamin every morning, even if it is an unpleasant way to start the day. I have decided on taking Multi Vites Gummies. The benefit is that it is labeled as gluten free and the taste and texture of the vitamin but it does not have iron which means I will need to go the extra mile and buy an iron supplement as well. I advise not skipping out on the iron. Iron is essential to your body running properly, it is found in every cell of your body, helps with oxygenation and, if you don’t have enough iron in your body, you may experience fatigue.

Make sure the vitamin you pick is labeled gluten free!! I read through the ingredients on a gummy vitamin made by One-A-Day and concluded it was GF only to find that the allergen label said Contains Wheat! There are so many odd ingredients in vitamins that we may not recognize a potentially gluten containing ingredient so go for something with a GF label!

You may think I am being too picky, I mean come on, it is just a vitamin! Keep in mind that this is something that will start off my day for the next 365 days. The decision is not a small one! What I decide to take will impact my year and potentially my health. I want to make sure I make an informed decision.

If you are really interested in supplements and daily vitamins, another great choice for a Celiac is Fish Oil/omega 3s. The fish oil supplements work to combat inflammation in the body. Celiacs is an inflammatory condition: the antibodies we generate in response to consuming gluten cause a lot of inflammation in the body (thus the arthritis many experience prior to diagnose).

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I know it may not be enjoyable to have a regime of pills every morning but think of it this way: we have a disease where the treatment is not a pill cocktail but rather a diet. Even though being gluten free is challenging we are very lucky not to have to deal with side effects and financial expenses associated with prescription medications like the price of seeing the doctor to get your prescription followed by the actual price of the medication. As far as excuses go, we don’t have many with merit to not take a daily vitamin especially considering the nature of Celiac Disease in relation to absorption and nutrition.
Like last year, you can expect a follow up from me in June 2013! In the spirit of no-secrets-blogging, I will even post a copy of my blood work from 2012 compared to 2013 to see if the daily vitamin is making a difference!

Cheers to a new year and to preventative care and newly improved health!

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-CC

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Tweaking Tradition: Holidays

19 Dec


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It is that time of year again! We have shining lights on all the streets, the fire light of Menorahs shimmering through windows and stars twinkling atop 6-foot tall trees.  The winter holidays are by far my favorite despite the accompanied stress they tend to bring.  Personally, I love when the whole family gets together for the holidays. We don’t have any of the often satirized family drama you see on TV and in the movies about family gatherings during the holidays.  The holidays usually bring around a different type of stress for me: how to avoid gluten during all of the holiday dinner parties.  This year, however, this won’t be an issue because my family has figured out how we can tweak our Italian traditions to be totally gluten free.

If you have followed CC Gluten Freed since the beginning then you already know that my big Italian family has a big Italian Christmas Eve feast every year.  A couple days before the big dinner party a few of us would get together to make ravioli.  This isn’t any old ravioli either.  This is our family recipe that has been made for Christmas Eve dinner more Christmas Eves than I can count.  Growing up, it was fun. We would make the dough and fold each little bundle of goodness by hand, spilling flour all over the kitchen in the process (this was before my diagnosis with Celiac Disease).  After being diagnosed, we weren’t really sure what to do with our ravioli tradition. The first year we made our ravioli as usual but also tried making GF gnocchi which really did not work out. Our gnocchi tasted like mashed potatoes and egg!  My second Christmas as a Celiac we discovered the wonder of GF lasagna made with De Boles GF lasagna sheets. We could use the same meat mixture and sauce that we use for the ravioli just with a different starch-medium for it!  Instead of pining for the ravioli on everyone else’s plates, I was perfectly content with my personal lasagna. Year three and year four worked out the same way: ravioli for the gluten-eaters and lasagna for the gluten free guests.

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Close to five years after my diagnosis one very important thing in my family has changed: a good portion of us are now gluten free. My dad, brother, uncle, aunt and grandma. In fact, the only people who would be eating the ravioli would be our family friends at our Christmas Eve dinner party! So what do to? It seemed odd to spend 12 hours cooking a meal that not a single Bonaduce would eat.  How can we tweak this tradition to be gluten free but still please out guests who wait all year for Bonaduce ravioli?

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My Aunt came up with the answer: a modified ravioli-lasagna. Traditionally, lasagna is made with sheet-noodles, tomato sauce, ground beef, ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese (people add all sorts of other ingredients though to keep things interesting).  Also, traditionally, our ravioli is our secret-meat-mixture wrapped in dough. My Aunt realized that we could break down our lasagna until it is basically the exact same ingredients as the ravioli: noodles and meat mixture. We will serve it with the same sauce we serve with the ravioli.

This year we will have (1) GF traditional lasagna, (1) GF vegan lasagna, (1) ravioli-lasagna and a host of side dishes ranging from caprese salad to Italian brijole (all GF).

It is sometimes hard not to feel like the Gluten Free Grinch who stole christmas.  I mean, this was a family tradition for years and years and, I will be honest, I do feel like I ruined it (just a bit). But let me remind you of something very important: the Grinch ultimately saved Christmas and was invited by the Whos the dig in for the holiday festivities.  So yes, maybe I stole this tradition from my family but now we have an even more meaningful tradition. We came up with our own recipe for a hybrid ravioli-lasagna. We have all heard the saying “change for the sake of change is no good.” Well, along those lines tradition for the sake of tradition is also no good.

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I’m very lucky to have a family that is so supportive but I know there are a lot of people out there with Celiac Disease whose families have not yet realized what a fundamental life change the diagnosis represents.  All I can tell you is to hold on, advocate for yourself relentlessly and it will get better.  My first christmas after my diagnosis I didn’t even know how big of a deal being diagnosed with Celiacs was. I even helped my the ravioli that year and wound up feeling ill from all the air-borne gluten.  It takes time for people, yourself included, to get a hold of what it means to be truly gluten free.

My advice? Start the conversation about tweaking traditions now.  Maybe you can’t change things for this christmas but at least you can dialogue with your holiday guests about what to expect next year!

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-CC

Should being gluten free impact your politics?

24 Oct

The election is right around the corner! Make sure your vote is an informed one!

Although the issue of food policy was under highlighted in the Presidential debates, it is nonetheless of political importance. From the farm bill, which impacts the cost and availability of food, to USDA public health promotional campaigns, to FDA food regulations, there are many avenues US leadership can take to change the way we access food in this country.

So what are the issues that a savvy Celiac should consider before casting their vote? The farm bill, food safety programs and access to and promotion of nutritional foods are the key issues that I want to explore so that I can make an informed decision at the polls.

This post is not an endorsement of either candidate.

FARM BILL

The farm bill impacts a population much broader than US farmers. When (or should I say if?) the farm bill is passed it will impact the cost of food as well as our access to certain foods. The next President will not only have to deal with getting the farm bill passed but will also play a role in shaping it.

As someone who is gluten free, the availability of gluten free food is a very important issue. Since gluten free foods tend to be more expensive than products made with wheat flour it would be in our best interest to support policies that make farming more economical, especially for small farmers. Here is the catch: the farm bill attempts to support all farmers, making all food more accessible and affordable. Cheaper brown rice would be great but if wheat flour is also made more accessible and even more affordable than it already is we are likely to see some unintended consequences.

If wheat flour is made more expensive don’t you think that restaurants might think twice about dredging their meats in flour? They might consider using an alternative like cornmeal or rice flour. Cost and accessibility shape our food options both at the market and when dining out.

The President has repeatedly articulated the importance of passing a farm bill this year. He calls for adequate protection of American farmers from draught and natural disasters and promotes diverse, specialty crops like fruits, nuts and veggies (which is great for us!).

Romney has taken jabs at Obama during the campaign about his failure to get the House the pass the bill. Romney thinks that Obama does not have the leadership skills necessary to get a bill passed. He argued that “[P]eople have been waiting a long time for a farm bill. And the president has to exert the kind of presidential leadership it takes to get the House and the Senate together and actually pass a farm bill.”

Romney supports disaster relief as well but also indirectly supports subsidizing American farmers. Romney says that other nations subsidize their farmers and if the US is to compete we will need to do the same.

When you get down into the nitty-gritty of both candidates’ farm bill positions there are more similarities than differences. Both candidates will cut about $30 billion out of agricultural spending by eliminating many of the subsidies that currently go to crop insurance companies. Much of the farm bill is allocated towards food stamps. Here lies the biggest difference between an Obama supported farm bill and a Romney supported bill: Romney/Ryan support decreasing the amount of people using food stamps. They said that they don’t need to cut the program to reach their goal. Romney said, “I want to make sure we get people off food stamps, not by cutting the program but by getting them good jobs.”

FOOD SAFETY

President Obama created several programs that promote food safety. He established the Food Safety Working Group, which is a group that focuses on updating and improving US food safety systems. Obama also increased the authority of the FDA so they can more effectively enforce food safety regulations.

Although Romney believes in the importance of access to safe foods his approach to securing such food is very different from Obama’s approach.

Romney supports a more hands off approach to preventing food-borne illnesses. He argues that “preventative practices” are the best way to prevent outbreaks. These practices/protocol would be developed by the private sector because Romney believes that the people in the fields are the best equipped to handle this issue. Romney’s campaign states that it is most cost efficient and effective to allow food growers, handlers and processors to create food safety protocol. As for the role of the FDA, Romney’s campaign said that the Romney Administration would prioritize collaboration between the FDA and the private farm sector on this issue.

NUTRITION

The Obama family is very committed to promoting healthful food choices in schools and encouraging people of all ages to lead active lifestyles. Michelle Obama worked to get more salad bars into schools, President Obama supported the USDA’s new food pyramid, MyPlate as well as their Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Snack Program and both of the Obamas encourage cities to get involved with the Let’s Move! program which provides local towns and cities with tools to get community members exercising. President Obama believes that partnering with the private sector and supporting federal programs to promote healthful lifestyles is the best way to improve the health of the public.

Romney does not support nanny-laws and is committed to making sure the federal government does not overstep its role in American lives. These beliefs about the role of the government shape Romney’s strategies for tackling public health.

In response to questions about promoting nutrition the Romney campaign gave a quick and short response:

“The federal government should not dictate what every American eats… An emphasis on a balanced diet will be crucial to addressing this crisis and public health programs in a Romney Administration will highlight the importance of healthy eating.”

Romney and his campaign have not articulated a plan nor a specific commitment to promoting nutrition and healthful lifestyle choices.

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Now that we know where each candidate stands on these issues the next question is “Does it matter?” As someone who studied Public Health it greatly matters to me but this post isn’t about public health (in general) it is about whether or not being gluten free should impact the way you vote.

The answer is: probably not. The gluten free diet, though more popular and well-known than ever before, is far from the norm. A farm bill that cuts the profitability of wheat farmers is not going to change the fact that people love their gluten. It is an ingredient that has dominated palates across continents. Although I do believe it is important for voters to take the issues I described above into consideration when casting their vote, I do not think that our gluten free fate is in the hands of the future President.

Ultimately, it comes down to constant vigilance, commitment and willingness to speak up for your needs. There is no quick-fix solution to the lack of awareness about gluten intolerance, Celiacs and food allergies in this country but every time you explain it to a waiter at a local restaurant or to a new acquaintance you are making a difference. It isn’t just about being gluten free! I am talking about spreading awareness about restricted diets and cross contamination, issues that make the lives of millions so challenging in the US. Not many people can say that when they dine out they help change the world but we can.

-CC

Sources

http://www.unitedfresh.org/programs/wppc/presidential_nominees_responses

http://articles.aberdeennews.com/2012-08-24/farmforum/33373582_1_farm-bill-programs-that-benefit-farmers-farm-safety

http://cornandsoybeandigest.com/issues/obama-romney-weigh-more-agriculture-priorities

http://insidetrade.com/Inside-Trade-General/Public-Content-World-Trade-Online/romney-hits-obama-on-farm-bill-gridlock-reiterates-trade-policy-plans/menu-id-896.html?S=SM

The Unsuspecting Celiac: Five Things That May Be Getting You

17 Sep

Being gluten free is a like being a full time student while having a full time job.  It requires understanding what is and where it can be found which means you must learn about the basics of cooking, how to read labels, and common restaurant preparation practices.  In terms of quantity of information, it is a lot. Not to mention, the labels on today’s foods are so complicated you feel like you need a BA in chemistry to decipher their code, but we Celiacs manage.  Once you get down the basics of being gluten free the real work starts. Every meal tests your knowledge and the consequence of ill-preparation or even a simple mistake is much graver than a bad grade.  The good news is that it does become easier with time. That being said, even the most seasoned Celiacs run into gluten now and then.

What are those common pitfalls that get even the most diligent gluten free devotees?  Here are 5 things that tend to sneak under the GF radar:

1. Pet Food – who would have though that man’s best friend could be your biggest gluten free enemy?  If you aren’t seeking out gluten free food for your pet I suggest you start right away.  Cats and dogs (at least mine and I’m sure there must be others) tend to wolf down their food. Seriously, when little Cannoli eats it is like something out of a cartoon with food flying in all directions.

In college my roommate had a Chihuahua who, like most small dogs and cats, would pick up a mouthful of food from their bowl and eat in all the way across the room on the floor.  If your pet food is full of gluten (like most are) you may be putting yourself at serious risk for cross-contamination in your house.

If you think labeling laws are lackluster in the human world, wait until you start looking for gluten free pet food. “Grain free” does NOT usually mean gluten free in the pet world. In fact, “grain free” varieties tend to have both oatmeal and barley in their recipes. You want to find brands that say “gluten free” or “no glutens” on them or you can take the time to read the labels on the “grain free” foods because some are gluten free.

Treats should also be gluten free because you typically handle them with your bare hands.  Blue has a bunch of gluten free treats that you can use to train puppies and to simply treat your pet.

Here are some very affordable brands that have gluten free food for both cats and dogs. I have used both Instinct and Blue for my pets with great results.

2. Wine – Many people believe that all wine is gluten free. While most wines are gluten free there are some exceptions that you should be aware of and on the lookout for.  For example, the process of fining the wine can result in gluten contamination if the company uses wheat protein as their fining agent. Fining is a process where the wine is stabilized and clarified by adding a protein (usually a clay called bentonite or animal protein). The proteins drift through the wine picking up solids and then sink to the bottom of the barrel leaving the wine at the top clear and stable.

Wines that don’t undergo fining usually need to be decanted before drinking. Furthermore, the proteins attract and eventually precipitate out phenols which contribute to the bitter taste of the wine. Fining can be used to augment the taste or astringency of the wine.

What is the verdict? Your wine is most likely safe, so drink up! According to Geraldine Newcomen of the Food Standards Agency in the UK, any product containing an allergen must be properly labelled eg if a wine fining process contaminates the wine with wheat it must be labeled on the bottle as “containing wheat.”  This is not true, or at least not enforced, in the US but most wines are naturally gluten free. Most wine companies use bentonite clay as their fining agent due the the vegan movement encouraging them to stay away from animal proteins and the food allergy movement pushing them away from using gluten.  When you drink wine, be conscientious. Check for any allergy labels on the bottle, avoid wines from Australia or New Zealand which have a higher likelihood of using wheat products during the wine making process.

3. French Fries – My go-to food at restaurants when I first got my CD diagnosis was French Fries. It wasn’t until a year into my diagnosis that I realized that French Fries are much more enemy than friend.  Though they are made of potato there are so many ways to contaminate French Fries. First and foremost, they are most likely fried in contaminated oil.  If the oil in the deep fryer is used to fry onion rings, fried chicken, wontons and the like than all foods fried in that oil are essentially infused with gluten and should be avoided.  Additionally, a lot of French Fries are dredged in flour to make them crisper when fried. What is worse, a lot of restaurants buy their French Fries frozen and so the waitstaff and potentially the kitchen staff wouldn’t even know that they have been dunked in flour. Along the lines of restaurants buying frozen French Fries, sometimes the staff does not pay attention to what type of fries they buy. For example, I went to a place in Berkeley, California that was selling beer-battered French Fries but didn’t even know it. I discovered this when I asked to see the packaging.

The moral of the story is stay away from French Fries unless you are at a restaurant that you know really, really well or has been trained in cross-contamination and gluten free awareness.

Are there some safe fries out there? Yes! Five Guys and In N Out both have GF fries and oil that is exclusively used for their fries. Stay away from almost all other fast food French Fries and be sure to inquire at sit-down restaurants before ordering their fries.

4. Veggie Burgers – I don’t fully understand why but many, many, many people assume that if something is vegetarian or vegan then it is probably gluten free too. This is absolutely not the case. Although vegans and gluten free people both have highly restricted diets, read labels and ask questions at restaurant it does not mean that our needs are the same. Sometimes, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it simply isn’t a duck. You know?  I have been served veggie patties as the “gluten free option” a number of times, all of which resulted in me being glutened.  I learned my lesson and now avoid veggie burgers unless I can personally read the label or a chef comes out and tells me how he or she made the burger.

One time I was at a catered work event and the caterer said the veggie burger was the GF option. I asked the guy to double check the packaging and I watched as he picked up the box and read.  He came back to report that the patty was gluten free. Literally form 10 feet away and looking over his shoulder I could see a big sticker on the box that said “MADE FROM WHOLE WHEAT!”  Sometimes people can’t get vegans and gluten free people separated in their brains. This is something that gluten free people need to know and counter-act.

Some veggie burgers, like Sunshine burgers, are gluten free. If you are trying to be GF and vegetarian or vegan than be sure to find some reliable brands so you don’t go hungry!  I am actually going vegan until Thanksgiving and I look forward to the challenge.  I’ll be sure to post about my experience once it has been longer than a two-day commitment (I started yesterday).

5. Preschool or Kindergarten – This may not apply to most of my readers; however, many of you either have or at least know a Celiac kid.  Playdough is any Celiac kids worst enemy.  Children play with it all day and then run around touching things with their contaminated, yet adorable, little hands.  If you have a Celiac kid and need to send him or her to preschool or Kindergarten I suggest talking to the head teacher about playdough in the classroom.

Ironically, I discovered how troubling play-dough (brand: Play-Doh) can be through my work.  At a big work conference all of our tables had play-dough at them for people to fiddle with during the long 6 hour lectures.  Unfortunately, we also ate lunch at these tables.  People would rub the play-dough on the table to flatten it out, little bits would stick to the table and dry and my colleagues’ hands were coated with the shiny oil from the play dough, making me feel like I could see the gluten all over them.  As a grown up, I wasn’t too concerned. I made sure my hands and food didn’t touch the table. Kids aren’t this observant. They touch everything around them and are very prone to sticking their hands in their mouths.  The risk of contamination is pretty high!

Solutions? Talk to the teacher about having play-dough removed from the classroom. I am a teacher and I know I would be receptive to a suggestion like this from a parent. If for some reason they believe that play-dough is a quintessential component for their pre-K curriculum than advise they buy a GF brand. If they refuse you may want to consider either going to an administrator at the school or buying the GF play-dough yourself and coercively donate it to the school. If there is one thing I know about parents of Celiac kids, they are persistent and effective advocates for their children.

Alright, I recognize that on top of everything you know about being gluten free, adding even five more things can be pretty frustrating and disheartening.  Let’s end on a positive note. We talked about five surprising things you can’t have but what are some surprising things that you can have???

1. Macaroons and Macarons – Most Macaroons and Macarons are naturally gluten free! Macaroons are the American cookie with coconut in them used by many during Passover. Macarons are typically those colorful French cookies you see in pastry shops. They are also usually gluten free because they are traditionally made with almond flour.

There are always exceptions so always read labels and ask questions but for the most part, you are good to go. Jewish Macarons are used as a dessert on Passover. They are Kosher and gluten free. Additionally, a lot of French Macarons are made with almond flour like this recipe for chocolate Macarons.

Order some now!!

2. Lea and Perrins – We normally avoid Worcester Sauce because it used to always have gluten in it. This also meant we had to avoid Caesar salads and many steak sauces and marinades. Today, Lea and Perrins, probably the biggest Worcester company, has changed their recipe to be gluten free. I still would be cautious about ordering a Caesar salad or ordering something with Worcester without seeing the bottle and making sure it is Lea and Perrins but you can definitely use it at home when you are cooking. In the next few years I think it will be safe to eat Caesar dressing without too much inquiry. Now that Lea and Perrins have set the bar, I expect other companies to follow suit. Until that day, always be cautious but you can start re-including Lea and Perrins into your recipes.

3. Dorritos – These are now gluten free! The original flavor of Dorritos has changed its recipe, which used to include wheat flour, to a recipe that uses corn instead.  As someone in the field of Public Health I can’t really condone eating Dorritos but this will make Superbowl parties and the like much easier considering how popular the Nacho Cheese flavor is!  Yum!

4. Pao de Queijo aka Brazilian Cheese Bread – Ever been to Fogo De Chao? This is a very popular Brazilian restaurant that, like most Brazilian restaurants, serves Pao. This is the most amazing cheese bread on the planet! Seriously, it tastes like a Cheez-It but has the texture of fresh baked, perfectly gooey bread.  It is naturally gluten free.  If you don’t have a Brazilian restaurant in your area than you should order Brazi Bites online (or look for them at your local GF store).

5. Poppadoms aka Indian Lentil Bread – Though the texture resembles that of a chip more than bread, Poppadoms are delicious and available at most Indian restaurants. You should always check to make sure they do not have flour in them because some restaurants do not follow an authentic Poppadom recipe. They have a yummy nutty flavor and are a great GF substitute for Naan. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t taste like Naan, but it is something you can munch on at the table and use to scoop up curry in the bottom of your bowl during dinner.

I hope reading about the five foods that many unsuspecting Celiacs fall victim to will help you avoid gluten contamination this fall and that they five happy gluten free surprises made your day! Go indulge in some Macarons or some cheesy Dorritos. Being gluten free is very challenging. You deserve to indulge every now and then. Enjoy!

-CC

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