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Category Archives: Living Gluten Free

Valentine’s Day – Love or Hate it?

I’m not a mushy, lovey-dovey type person, so to see all the hearts, candy, flowers, cards and jewelry for this particular day can turn me off a bit.  It feels like once again the meaning is lost in this commercialized holiday.

However, given my pessimistic view that I’ve expressed thus far, the meaning I attribute to Valentines Day is something I should carry forward everyday.  There are far too many important people in my life to list, and all too often I get caught up in work, daily life chores etc., and I know I don’t express my gratitude to those that deserve it.  I don’t care if you have 1 person or 10, or even a pet, make time at least for today to spend it with that person.  No need to spend tons of money on fancy things, putting in the time effort and being sincere in your gesture has a greater impact.

So tonight, I’m lucky enough to be spending time with someone who is important in my life, and of course I’m cooking a simple but delicious gluten-free meal.  I’ll be posting it later on, but just note dessert is included 🙂

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Monday, Blah

“The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security & calm that is not easily disturbed.”

-Carl Jung (1875-1961), Swiss psychotherapist and psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology. I Read this today and thought I’d share.  Doesn’t matter if you’re newly diagnosed, in maintenance mode or just trying to stick to that New Year’s resolution, some tasks can be hard.  If it matters, don’t give up!

Wawa for Gluten-Free Finds

Wawa has everything!  Gas, quick snacks, coffee, hot meals.  If you’re from the area you probably share my affinity for Wawa.  Best of all, for the gluten-free eater, you can go beyond the bag of chips for a quick snack.  They offer hot foods like gluten-free chili, deli meats, and tasty drinks.

Below is what the response I received from a Wawa representative regarding gluten-free food in their stores or go to the Quick Gluten Free References page:

Wawa – Gluten Free

Thank you for asking after gluten free products at Wawa. Ingredients and allergen statements for most of our foodservice products can be found on http://www.wawa.com/WawaWeb/Nutrition/Default.aspx. Please click on the Nutrition link on the left, then choose the category in which you are interested. Following is a short list of products you may find at your favorite Wawa that are gluten free…(received on 01/28/12)

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Gluten-Free at Chick-fil-A

I find myself constantly checking websites to search products that are safe.  Instead of having to search, I thought it would be easier to compile all the responses I’ve received from companies plus information I found on websites in one convenient place.

Below you will find a the response I from Chick-fil-A regarding their gluten-free products.  Also check out my new page Quick Gluten Free References.  Please note the dates each company was researched on, policies can change frequently so I still urge you to ask when in doubt.

Chick-fil-A – Gluten Free

The following information is provided for those customers who have intolerance to gluten (wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats and spelt).
Below is a list of our menu items that may fit your gluten-free diet…(received 02/24/12)

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Take The Gluten-Free Quiz!

Previously I did a ‘Back to Basics’ post to help those learn how to get started on a gluten-free diet.  Now is your chance to see how much you remembered!

1.  Which of the following is considered a ‘safe’ grain?

A.  Buckwheat

B.  Malt

C.  Rye

2.  Which of the following is not considered a ‘safe’ grain?

A.  Quinoa

B.  Corn

C.  Barley

3.  Do all gluten-free products state ‘gluten-free’ on the package?

A.  Yes

B.  No

4.  Are Oats safe to eat?

A.  Yes

B.  No

C.  Maybe

5.  You read the list of ingredients on a product but don’t know if it is safe.  You should:

A.  Call the company

B.  Go on the company website

C.  Go to a trusted 3rd party website

D.  All of the above

If you would like to read up on the above topics go here to my previous post regarding this information.

Answers:

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Back to the Basics

I sometimes forget the initial feeling I had when I was first diagnosed as being celiac and having to start my new life on a gluten-free diet.  The beginning is not easy by any means.  You go through many different emotions, and for me my first one was happiness.  Yes, HAPPINESS!  I was so happy to finally know what was wrong, that the way I felt was not normal, and there was a solution.  Immediately after my realization that there was an issue, I did go through the emotions of ‘How is my life going to change?’ and “Can I live like this?’, and many others that posed concern for daily living. 

Something you need to learn right from the start is that ingredients will constantly be changing.  Manufacturing processes can change at anytime due to meeting new customer demands or handling price increases in their ingredients.  I still find myself using the Internet to search products or brands, because even though I ate a specific brand last year doesn’t mean I can this year.  Some trustworthy sites to read up on are:

  • Celiac.com – I particularly like the open forum where people just like you and me ask questions about products and live a gluten-free lifestyle
  • The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness
  • Celiac Disease Foundation
  • The company website (most websites are user-friendly and will have gluten related information posted.  If not feel free to use the contact page to submit your questions.  I rarely come across a company that doesn’t respond)

As a back-up procedure don’t be afraid to call the company directly.  When shopping you can call the customer service number listed on the package to discuss with the company any gluten concerns you may have.

I do have a few more suggestions I would like to share upon first being diagnosed.  I want to keep these simple so you can remember them, and hopefully incorporate at least one new idea into your lifestyle: 

  1. Focus on what you CAN eat, not what you can’t eat
  2. Learn the grains you CAN eat:  corn, rice, potato, tapioca, quinoa etc.  You can find a full list of gluten-free grains here
  3. Learn that ‘gluten’ isn’t a grain itself, but encompasses multiple grains such as:  rye, barley, malt, graham flour etc.  You can find a full list gluten grains here 

 Sauces and dressings are main areas for hidden gluten.  For example, soy sauce has wheat in it, but there are non-wheat variations like San-J.  Given that salad dressings and seasonings harbor hidden gluten, grocery shopping is being made easier by the day, thanks to stores like Giant & Wegmans, who utilize a “G” or some other gluten free symbol. 

In addition, as celiac disease and the gluten-free diet increase in popularity and gain publicity, gluten-free products are continually expanding both in terms of product and shelf space.  Some products can be found in the ‘organic’ section (don’t confuse gluten-free with organic, they are different), whereas others are on the same shelf as their wheat version (think Betty Crocker and their cake mixes). 

Always Read Labels.  You must still read labels and I say this for two reasons.  First, a product may be gluten-free but does not have a symbol.  Second, a product may not be gluten free but the ingredient list doesn’t highlight gluten in the ingredients.  ExamplesBubba burgers are gluten free but their packaging does not have a gluten-free symbol.  Rice Krispies are not gluten free but the ingredient list doesn’t highlight the use of malt (unless you purchase the gluten-free Rice Krispies). 

For more ways to handle the gluten-free diet click here

Coping with the Gluten Free Diet

It’s not easy when you first learn you have to go gluten free. It doesn’t compare to being sick for  week, taking an antibiotic, and then going back to your lifestyle.  Nope, this diet is for life.  What you have to remember when you are diagnosed as being celiac, or gluten intolerant, is to focus on what you can eat and not what you can’t eat. Perspective is key to jump starting your new lifestyle.  Finally you know what makes you ill and you can prevent it.

In the beginning start small.  Stick with simple foods that are easily definable and easy to say.  A rule I learned to live by as I overcame the label reading hurdle (hydrolyzed wheat protein and/or hydrolyzed soy protein – really I need to learn this stuff)?, I started with the least processed foods.  This meant food shopping along the perimeter of the super market and down the organic isles, even though gluten free does not mean organic.  Reading labels became easier over time.  You get familiar with the term gluten, and understand that it encompasses multiple grains such as rye, spelt, barely, and durum.  Also, when the FDA passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA), consumers were able to see in bold if the product contained one of the top eight food allergens.  The caveat?  Gluten is not part of the top eight food allergens, only wheat.  This means products such as Rice Krispies contain gluten because malt flavoring is listed in the ingredients, but the allergen warning does not disclose it.

Over the past few years gluten free products have been hitting the shelves.  You can find breads, cake mixes, pizza crusts, pasta that doesn’t turn to mush if it overcooked by 30 seconds, and a wide array of sauces.  Stores are making it easier to find their gluten free products too.  Wegmans has a “G” marking a product as Gluten Free, and recently Giant has instituted a program where they disclose gluten free products throughout the store.  Though these seem like small steps they are a huge help in daily living.  It’s nice to be able to go in a store, like Wegmans, and just shop from their gluten free section.  It decreases the time needed to read labels, and more manufacturers are promoting that their products are produced in a dedicated gluten free facility.

Lastly, as you continue to develop a routine to manage your gluten free lifestyle, be adventurous in the kitchen.  Try out new recipes and dishes whenever possible.  Test out quick meals that can be thrown together in 30 minutes, to meals that recreate what you used to eat when wheat was in.  Being gluten free doesn’t mean sacrificing taste or eating the same five foods daily.  View dinner as a veggie, meat, and starch and go from there.  Or base it on being Italian, Mexican, or Asian.  No time to cook?  There are great frozen meals out there too.  Really you can have all that.