Archive for category Celiac “101”

Gluten-Free Back to School Survival Guide for Parents

back to school

When my 11-year-old daughter Emma was diagnosed with celiac disease almost two years ago, I initially went into a pretty major panic. How would I ensure she was safely eating at school? Would she feel excluded from class parties because she no longer could eat the gluten-filled cupcakes? I’m a “fixer” by nature and this was a situation that was out of my control. I couldn’t take her celiac disease away. I’m sure any parent whose child has been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can relate on some level. In anticipation of back to school, I wanted to share what I’ve learned along the way with you.

First of All, Take a Deep Breath…
Your child is resilient, smart, and strong! You can empower them to make the right choices and learn how living gluten-free isn’t really that different at all. Know that it’s okay to feel helpless as a parent in the beginning. It’s okay to go through an “I blame myself” phase. But then you dust off your boots and realize that you and your child can totally do this. And the most wonderful part of it all is that your child is healthy and thriving!

Reach Out to the School
There’s a saying that “it takes a village to raise a child.” This is so true! There are several people to contact at your child’s school:
School Nurse – Set up a meeting with the school nurse. Alert him or her to the fact that your child needs to be 100% gluten-free. Find out what protocol is in place for children with food allergies or intolerances. Ask if there is a gluten-free or food allergy support group within the school.

Classroom Teacher – Your child’s teacher is a key component to keeping the school year running smoothly. If birthdays are celebrated in the classroom, request a class listing of all birthdays to make sure you have a gluten-free treat sent in on that day. I was able to keep gluten-free snacks and desserts in the nurse’s office so that Emma could pick one up anytime there was a gluten-filled celebration.
Room Parents – If your school has “Room Parents” who oversee special activities and holiday celebrations, contact them. Explain about your child’s need to be gluten-free. Ask them for details on all planned activities that will involve food. When a class party was scheduled, I would volunteer to make cupcakes (gluten-free of course). The gluten-eating kids were none the wiser and Emma was able to have the exact same treat that everyone else enjoyed.

Cafeteria Staff – Many schools offer gluten-free lunch menus. Emma’s included gluten-free pizza, pasta, and grilled chicken. This was fantastic news; however, it’s very important to make sure the cafeteria staff are knowledgeable of the risk of cross contamination. Set up a time to visit with the cafeteria supervisor and tour the kitchen. See how the gluten-free food is handled and prepared. If your school doesn’t have a specific gluten-free menu, ask if you can review the food labels with the cafeteria staff to see if there is anything gluten-free available. Be sure to check the snack and ice cream options as well. Prepping your child on what they can safely buy in the cafeteria is an excellent way to empower them.

Art Teacher – Who knew that some art supplies contain gluten? In addition to play doh, several items used in art class contain gluten. For example, I recently found out that paper mache is traditionally made using flour. I needed to work with Emma’s art teacher to find out how the paper mache was made and if it was made in the classroom (imagine a classroom filled with airborne gluten!).

Follow Up
Keeping in touch with the school and any staff who are in contact with your child is key. Build a good rapport with them. An important part of that relationship is giving credit where credit is due. Emma’s teacher and her school nurse were absolutely amazing with her transition to gluten-free in school. At the end of the school year I wrote a letter to the Principal letting him know how much I appreciated this assistance and their extensive knowledge of the needs for gluten-free.


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Your Family Can Have a Spooktacular Gluten-Free Halloween!

I remember “Trick or Treating” as a child.  We ran house to house visiting neighbors who filled our pillowcases with Halloween treats.  When our pillowcases were too heavy to carry, we knew it was time to head back home and assess our loot.  Truth be told, I usually snuck a candy bar (or several) along the way.  

Since my daughter Emma’s diagnosis with Celiac Disease this year, we’ve worked to keep special events and holidays as “normal” as possible.  A little pre-All Hollows’ Eve planning and communication with your child is all you need!

I Want Candy!

Who doesn’t want candy?  If I could eat candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – I certainly would!  Halloween is a free for all of sugary goodness; some safe, some off-limits.  Most importantly, you need to sit down with your child a few days before Halloween to talk about your Halloween game plan:

  • Arm yourself with a 2012 Gluten-Free Halloween Candy list.  This can be found online as is an immense resource.
  • Reinforce the fact that absolutely no candy can be eaten until an adults checks the ingredients to make sure they are safe.  This means no sneaking treats like I did in the “old days”.
  • Talk with your child about how they will get some unsafe treats while Trick or Treating.
  • Get your kids involved in baking Halloween treats – do they want cupcakes with icing spiderwebs or spooky brownies for their class party?

Trick or Trade:  Out with the Gluten – In with the Fun!

It’s inevitable that your child is going to get treats that are not gluten-free in their bag and you’ll need to remove them.   One way to help kids from feeling upset or deprived is what we like to call “Trick or Trade”.   Prior to Halloween night, buy a bag of gluten-free candy that your child likes.  Keep it on hand to trade out the gluten-filled candy.  Another option that your dentist will surely love is to have inexpensive items to trade (think of things that you would put into a birthday “goodie bag”).

Halloween Class Parties – Gluten-Free Style

Schools LOVE to have Halloween parties – especially in elementary and middle school.  Baking up some ghoulishly delicious treats for the entire class is oh-so-easy!  GlutenFreely’s Recipe Section is full of  fun Halloween-themed treats including Creepy Mini Eyeballs cupcakes,  Halloween Buddies aka Halloween Chex mix,  Marshmallow Mummies  made from Fruit Roll-ups and marshmallows.  Other kid-approved options are Meringue GhostsPeanut Butter Pumpkins (adorable pumpkin shaped candies made using peanut butter chips, pretzel twists and vanilla frosting),  Scary Spiderweb  Cupcakes or Spooky Brownies!  Check out the Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo’s Halloween Pinterest page for more ideas – totally inspiring!

One word of advice, be sure to check with the teachers and room parents on the party activities and if the day will contain any gluten-filled games.  One popular class activity is a “No Hands Donut Eating Contest”.  Picture glutinous donuts tied to strings and the student attempting to eat said donuts with their arms behind their backs.  Yes, gluten will be flying everywhere….  So stay in touch with the school so that you (or your child) don’t encounter a unpleasant party surprise.

Halloween is a fun, creative, and tasty time of the year!  Equipped with these gluten-free tips, you can make this Halloween memorable!

Happy Gluten-Free Halloween from my family to yours!

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Help With Celiac Disease Research – Hold The Gluten Podcast Episode 50

The latest episode of Hold The Gluten Podcast is now live!

Episode 50 “Help With Celiac Disease Research” Features:hold the gluten podcast

  • Dr. Daniel Leffler of Beth Israel Medical Center speaks about a study that will help researchers better understand a new test for celiac disease.
  • Learn how to participate from the comfort of your home!
  • What do YOU think of the HTG Podcast? Leave your feedback wherever you download this podcast!

Read the blog. Listen to the podcast. Educate yourself.

Rock on Celiacs!

Subscribe to the podcast using iTunes (or whatever media player you use) at

Click the player below to listen to the show now!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

And here is the direct download

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Gluten-Free Road Trip – Hold The Gluten Podcast Episode 48

The latest episode of Hold The Gluten Podcast is now live!

Episode 48 “Gluten-Free Road Trip” Features:hold the gluten podcast

  • Making Tracks for Celiacs 5k run, 1 mile walk & vendor fair
  • Maureen’s wine allergy panic and allergy testing
  • Listener question from Sally on celiac disease vs gluten intolerance
  • Delight Gluten-Free Magazine & Gluten Freely Recipe Contest for Pastariso Mac & Cheese Contest
  • Sneak Peek of our gluten-free road trip – Sherry Lynn’s and The Italian Chef
  • Vanessa makes the donuts!
  • What do YOU think of the HTG Podcast? Leave your feedback wherever you download this podcast!

Read the blog. Listen to the podcast. Educate yourself.

Rock on Celiacs!

Subscribe to the podcast using iTunes (or whatever media player you use) at

Click the player below to listen to the show now!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

And here is the direct download

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Gluten Free Family – Hold The Gluten Podcast Episode 46

The latest episode of Hold The Gluten Podcast is now live!

Episode 46 “Gluten Free Family” Features:hold the gluten podcast

  • Maureen’s 10 year old daughter just diagnosed with celiac.
  • Vanessa’s chocolate mission
  • New classification system for gluten-related disorders.
  • Gluten-free camps for kids. Sign up now across the country.
  • Gluten-free bagels are possible!
  • What do YOU think of the HTG Podcast? Leave your feedback wherever you download this podcast!

Read the blog. Listen to the podcast. Educate yourself.

Rock on Celiacs!

Subscribe to the podcast using iTunes (or whatever media player you use) at

Click the player below to listen to the show now!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

And here is the direct download

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Give Your Heart a Gluten Free Hug!

February is American Heart Month.  There’s no time like the present to take care of yourself and your body!

Kick Start Your Day and Heart
General Mills shares with us that “Cereal eaters  consume less fat, less cholesterol and more fiber than noncereal eaters.”

Start your day with a bowl of cereal with sliced fruit.  My favorite cereal topper is a handful of nutrient-rich frozen blueberries. There are SO many amazing wholesome gluten-free cereal options. Serve up a bowl of Orgran’s  Multi-grain O’s with Quinoa or Honey Nut Chex.  Looking for a warm and hearty breakfast?  Glutenfreeda’s Banana Maple with Flax Instant Oatmeal is a perfect choice.

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

According to the Mayo Clinic, “The healthiest kinds of grains are whole grains. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that at least half of all the grains you eat are whole grains.”

Change out your gluten-free white sandwich bread with these whole grain and multi-grain options.  Your heart will thank you!  Gluten Freely’s Sandwich Bread recipe uses sorghum and garbanzo bean flour.  No time to bake homemade bread?  No worries, there are plenty of whole grain bread options including Udi’s Whole Grain Bread, Glutino Multi-Grain Bagels, and Schar Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread.

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies!

This Homemade Guacamole is not only delicious but avocados can help you meet the American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines because they have both monosaturated and polyunsaturated fat and contain potassium.  Your body will thank you for eating the “rainbow”… Mix up your servings of all types of fruits & vegetables throughout the day.

Lean Protein

Halibut is truly a nutrient-dense food.  Get your fill of omega-3 essential fatty acids with this fabulous recipe for Mediterranean Halibut.

Changing your eating habits can be daunting.  Take baby steps and continue making those important changes!  Your heart will thank you!

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Jazz Up Your Gluten Free Breakfast!

Breakfast:  noun \ˈbrek-fəst\  the first meal of the day especially when taken in the morning

Want to have an awesome and tasty gluten free breakfast?  Included are some recipe ideas as well as cool suggestions for jazzing up your morning meal!

gluten free breakfastFun with Food

Egg in a Hole – I learned this simple yet fun recipe in 8th grade Home Economics class.  The teacher also tried to teach me how to sew a pair of shorts.  That lesson did not go as well as the cooking portion of the class, but I digress…  Here’s how to make this dish:  using the mouth of a glass, press down to cut a circle into a piece of gluten free bread.  Remove the circle.  Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Place the bread along with the circle in the skillet and toast on both sides.  Once toasted, crack one egg into the hole of the bread and season with salt & pepper.  Cook about two minutes.  Flip the egg and toast and the circle of bread.  Add more butter if needed.  Cook another 2 to 3 minutes depending on if you like your egg runny or more firm.  Transfer to a plate and enjoy your Egg in a Hole!  You can use the circle part of the bread to dip or just enjoy it with a little jelly.

Pancakes – take your ho hum pancakes and make them extra special by adding berries (frozen or fresh) or white/chocolate chips.  Check out the gadgets section of my article for more pancake fun.

French toast sticks – french toast just seems more fun when you can pick it up and dip it into maple syrup!  Make your french toast using gluten free bread and then cut into three sections.  Dip into warmed maple syrup.

Bacon Egg & Cheese Sandwich – Nothing says breakfast like bacon!  Well, for me, any meal with bacon is a wondrous meal.  Why not put your bacon, egg & cheese on a gluten free bagel or even between two waffles?

Groovy Granola Bars – use gluten free oatmeal mix as a base to make homemade granola bars.  Add in your favorite nuts, dried fruit, and spices.

Gadgets for Gluten Free Tastiness

Waffle maker – I LOVE my waffle maker!   You can make up a batch of waffles for breakfast and freeze the rest for later.

Pancake molds – who wouldn’t want to eat pancakes shaped like star wars figures (or hearts, trucks, flowers and dinosaurs?  Pick up some pancake molds at your local superstore or online.  They are so easy to use.

Toaster art – get creative with your toast!  Toasters now have “stencils” that toast an impression (a sun, princess, words, etc) onto your bread.  Just remember to keep this toaster designated “gluten free” to avoid cross contamination.

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How to be a Happy Gluten Free Camper!

gluten free smore

Ahhhh, the great outdoors.  There’s nothing quite like enjoying the company of family and friends while kicking back in nature.  If you are planning on getting your recreation on, here are some tips and advice to a fun and successful camping trip!

Breakfast Menu

Just because you are away from home (and your kitchen), doesn’t mean that you can’t have a tasty and filling breakfast.  How about toasting a delicious Udi’s bagel and topping it with cream cheese or even making it into a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich?  Break out the cast iron pan and whip up some chocolate chip pancakes using Gluten Free Bisquick.  Gluten Free Chex Cereal with fresh fruit is a great start to the day as well.  Don’t forget your percolator for freshly brewed coffee!


Lunch is time to recharge and refuel.  What’s more filling than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Udi’s Whole Grain Bread?  You could get really adventurous and try my favorite sandwich – peanut butter and bacon!  It sounds a bit vile, but I promise you’ll be hooked once you taste it.  Homemade or store bought soup warmed over the campfire is another great choice.  You could always keep it light with yogurt topped with gluten free granola and mixed berries.

Mid-Day Snacks

I am obsessed with making my own gluten free Chex Mix!  It’s so easy to make and very portable.  The Chili and Garlic Chex Mix is my favorite, but the possibilities are endless.  Another great snack option is fruits and veggies.  Crunchy apples or carrot sticks will tide you over till the dinner bell sounds.  Some grab and go ideas are Larabars, Nature Valley Nut Crunch bars, or Glutino Pretzels.


Pack some gluten free hamburger or hot dog buns so you can grill up a gluten free sausage with peppers and onions or a double decker hamburger.  Roasted potatoes and veggies cooked in a tin foil pouch are an easy side.  Premix all of the dry ingredients at home for skillet cornbread and add the wet ingredients at the campsite for traditional camping fare.  Get shucking and serve up grilled corn with chili-lime spread.  Grilled corn on the cob has such awesome flavor!


What’s a camping trip without s’mores?  I’ve taste tested the Kinnikinnick GF Graham Crackers and they are awesome for s’more making?  Or be creative by using two Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cookies to sandwich your chocolate and roasted marshmallow.  Just bake the cookies ahead of time and store them in an airtight container in your cooler.  Premade Gluten Free Brownies or Gooey Rice Krispie Treats are also a well-deserved treat after a day of exploring.

A little pre-planning will help to make your camping trip an awesome experience.  Remember to pack your own utensils and pans to avoid cross contamination.  Be sure to educate your fellow campers of your gluten intolerance and the need to keep your foods separate from their gluten filled eats.

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It’s Easy Being Green!

There are many ways we can each make a difference in taking care of Mother Earth.  One of which is buying naturally gluten-free fruits and veggies as close to your home as possible.  Shopping for gluten-free produce is easy!

gluten free

Join a CSA.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  In a CSA, people in the community pay a local farmer a set fee for a “share” of their crops during the growing season.  Typically from June until October, members pick up their weekly allotment of freshly picked fruit and vegetables.

Visit your local farm stand or farmer’s market.  I love stopping by the farm stand and picking up ingredients for that evening’s dinner.  During one “veggie run”, I asked the farm stand owner for lettuce.  Much to my amazement, he promptly dug up two heads of lettuce from his crops.  You can’t get any fresher than that!

Grow your own garden.  Whether you try your hand at container gardening or have a patch of land you can cultivate, growing your own can be a fun and satisfying activity!  Crops such as zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, and peppers are a great starting point for beginner gardeners.

What to do with all of this fabulous local gluten-free produce?  Here are a few seasonal recipes to enjoy!

Tomato, Watermelon and Mint Salad

3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I like to use a combination of red and yellow tomatoes)
4 cups of watermelon balls
½ cup chopped fresh mint
4 teaspoons lime juice
Dash of salt

Combine all ingredients and toss gently.

Homemade Basil Pesto

3 packed cups of fresh basil leaves
2 cloves of peeled garlic
1/3 cup of grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons of lightly toasted pine nuts (toast in a small pan over low heat till golden brown in color)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 tablespoons of water

In a food processor, puree all the ingredients listed above until combined. Taste and make adjustments as needed (I sometimes add a bit more basil or cheese).

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 cup sugar (I used demerara raw cane sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup potato starch
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, canola oil, agave nectar, sugar, and vanilla extract. Shred zucchini and place in a clean dishtowel. Use the dishtowel to wring out excess water (this will help prevent your bread from becoming too mushy). Stir in shredded zucchini into mixing bowl. Using a sifter, sift brown rice, millet, sorghum, and potato starch flours as well as baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Add into mixing bowl. Stir until combined and then fold in mini-chocolate chips.

Divide batter into four mini-loaf pans. Bake 25 – 30 minutes (until tester inserted in the center comes out clean).

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Traversing the Grocery Store – Gluten Free

I remember when I first went gluten free; I would spend hours at the grocery store.   Fear not!  You can easily tackle gluten free food shopping with some important tips in mind:

1)      Do your research and create a list before you shop.  Compile a “cheat sheet” of what is gluten free before hitting the supermarket and bring your reference guide with you.

2)      Stop by the customer service desk.  Many grocery stores are now providing a list of gluten free products they carry in store.  Some stores even have a downloadable version you can access online.

3)      Shop the perimeter of the store.  Naturally gluten free fruits and veggies, meats, poultry, fish and dairy products can be found in the outer aisles of most grocery stores.

4)      Explore the inner aisles for gluten free finds such as canned goods, rice, corn tortillas, Frito Lay snacks, Chex gluten free cereal, Betty Crocker Gluten Free cake, cookie and brownie mixes, and Gluten Free Bisquick.  Chain stores as well as food stores such as Target, Trader Joes, Wegmans, and Whole Foods also carry a nice selection of gluten free food products.

5)      Speak to the store manager.  Is there a certain gluten free food that you are wishing your store would carry?  Talk to the manager and ask to fill out a product request form.

6)      Read all labels.  As time consuming as it may be, reading ingredient labels is the one way you can make absolutely certain if a product is gluten free.

7)      Shop during non-peak times.  If at all possible, plan to do your shopping during a time when your grocery store is not busy (early morning, late evening, weekdays).  You’ll feel less pressured when the aisles aren’t jam packed with frenzied shoppers.

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