Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gluten-free Dunkin’ Donuts debate

When Dunkin' Donuts announced it was planning to roll out a gluten-free donut and muffin nationwide, we posted the news on our Facebook page.
Gluten-free consumers started responding immediately. Many rejoiced. Others paused to voice some concern about cross-contamination issues. And some complained that another unhealthy product was making its way into the gluten-free market place.

Here are some examples of what they said:

"Being from the northeast, aka the land of Dunkin, this is excellent news. Now kids and grownups near DD can more easily participate in school and office donut days."

"As the mother of a gluten sensitive child, this is excellent news! We don't often eat donuts but it is great that Eva won't have to feel deprived if we do!"

"Are they going to be kept in the wrappers until the customer consumes them? Cross contamination is a huge issue with places that claim to have gluten free products!"

"Cross contamination?"

"I wish people could understand to truly live a healthy life you need to give up those foods that are in the end going to just make you fat and cause different diseases."

"Sad part is, the media is calling these products "healthy." It may be safe for us celiacs, but it is nowhere near healthy."

The varied reactions don't surprise me. Whenever a mainstream company adds a gluten-free product, the ever-growing gluten-free consumer base demonstrates just how diverse it really is.

I suspect you would put yourself roughly in one of the groups above. I know I do.

Overall I am glad to have mainstream companies provide options for gluten-free customers. Part of the reason is the number of years my family has been contending with the gluten-free diet. Twenty to be exact. For much of that time there seemed no hope you'd ever be debating whether a gluten-free donut at Dunkin' was a good thing or not. You expected that the coffee was all that would ever be safe.

When you live with very few choices for a very long time I think you come to appreciate them more.

Like many in the United States, we have a Dunkin’ Donuts shop right around the corner. We go there every once in awhile, though not enough to pose a health risk to those in the family who are not gluten free. Now my daughter, who has celiac disease, can join us and have something to eat. I don't think she'll overdo it, just as other family members have not.

But she no longer has to eat something before we go or carry along something from home. She can still just have coffee if she'd like. The difference is she gets to choose just like everyone else.

In part that's possible because Dunkin' Donuts has taken steps to prevent the cross contamination that is a legitimate worry for those who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance. The company, which has been test marketing the gluten-free options for a few months, is offering products that are prepared in a dedicated facility and packaged to protect their gluten-free integrity. (We’ll have more details on the gluten-free products in a story in the Sept./Oct. issue of Gluten-Free Living.)

So count me in the column of those doing a little happy dance over the Dunkin' Donut news. I respect anyone who swears they will never eat a gluten-free Dunkin' donut or muffin because it's unhealthy. You have the right to make that choice. And now gluten-free men and women who would occasionally like to enjoy a donut and coffee for a morning meeting or a breakfast date, and the children who’d like to stop for a donut and milk, have a choice too.

Amy Ratner

Monday, June 10, 2013

How do you prefer to shop for gluten-free groceries?

There's no doubt that gluten-free items are getting easier to find in mainstream

Some have created dedicated gluten-free sections or include gluten-free foods in a designated natural or health food department in the store. Others spread the gluten-free products throughout the store, for example putting gluten-free pasta on the shelves where "regular" pasta is stocked.

In some supermarkets, it's a hybrid system, with specialty brands in the reserved gluten-free spot and mainstream brands in the regular aisles. So while you might find Kinnikinnick S'moreables with other gluten-free products, you'll find Chex gluten-free cereals in the same aisle as gluten-containing Cheerios.

I recently listened to a webinar that touched on approaches for retailers interested in stocking gluten-free products. One of the presenters said she thought integration of gluten-free products in the regular aisles is the wave of the future.

And it got me thinking about gluten-free consumers' shopping preferences.

I personally prefer a specialty section, though I have no problem picking up the mainstream items as I go through the rest of the store. The two supermarkets closest to my home, Wegmans and Giant, both do it this way.

I know just where the specialty area is, and I can easily find products I buy all the time. I also quickly notice new products  when they are added to the shelves. In both stores, a freezer section that carries gluten-free foods is included in the specialty area even though it's far from the regular freezer aisles.

 If I only need specific gluten-free items - a gluten-free baguette and pasta for dinner, bagels for the next morning and crackers for a snack, I can go to one place, gather them quickly and make a quick get-away. (I admit the supermarket is not my favorite place to spend a lot of time.)

When I am doing a larger weekly shop and go through all the aisles, I pick up other gluten-free products as I go. But sometimes a new product will be added and get lost in the crowd of gluten-containing items. If I, and other shoppers, can't readily find it, it's usually not long before the store decides it's not really a big seller. Then it's gone for good.

I think it's especially hard to find frozen foods when they are added to the mainstream freezer case. Maybe it's all that door banging and cold air escaping that causes me to rush and miss things. Giant carried gluten-free meatballs for months before I ever found them.

Wegmans has long been known for its attention to gluten-free shoppers and those who have the regional supermarket nearby usually feel lucky. The gluten-free section, located in the store's Nature's Marketplace, is big and well stocked. You can use coupons issued for products from the marketplace for any gluten-free item.

Wegmans also has an extensive line of store brand products that are clearly marked with a "G" for gluten-free which it sells in the regular aisles. Many of these are non-perishable items like Wegmans Asian Classics sauces, but it also includes things like ice cream and potato chips. The symbol makes it easy to identify gluten-free items and reduces the need to rely on very close label reading of ingredients.

Some stories like Giant have shelf tags that alert you to gluten-free products and while these can work well, you have to make sure that the product you pick up is the one really intended to be flagged by the tag. Shoppers have been know to move things around on the shelves.

And you won't find tags for naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables and plain meats, which can lead those new to the gluten-free diet to wonder if that means these items are not gluten free. (They are.)

Some stores purposefully do not have a dedicated gluten-free section and stock all of their gluten-free products throughout the regular aisles. Whole Foods, a  natural and organic food store chain, previously handled gluten-free items this way, but now almost all locations offer both a gluten-free section and gluten-free products spread throughout the store.

I am interested in what readers think. Let me know what system you like best and why. What is the best gluten-free feature of the store where you shop regularly?

Even as I type this I am mindful that in some places, none of these options exist and it's still hard to find gluten-free foods without having to travel far or order them online. I hope that as the gluten-free market grows and more food stores realize gluten-free shoppers are important consumers this will change.

Amy Ratner

Gluten-free 20-somethings hit the blog scene

Through blogs and social media, gluten-free 20-somethings are navigating the complicated world of jobs, school, roommates and dating.

Graduate student Candice of embracegfree.com

Young bloggers bring their fresh perspectives to the lifestyle, providing insight on the trials and triumphs of getting out in the world gluten free. Some bloggers share recipes and restaurant reviews, while others use their blogs as platforms for social change. Still others offer a more artistic, personal account of their experience, like gluten-free travel and dating mishaps. From east coast to west, Milwaukee to San Diego, these young writers are living life to the fullest.

Below, we’ve put together a list of 14 young, gluten-free bloggers you should tweet, follow and friend.

And in the July/August issue of Gluten-Free Living, you’ll find an in-depth look at the way 20-somethings are navigating their young adult lives, including some who use the web to dish about their gluten-free lifestyles.

Embrace G-Free
Graduate student Candice Clifford shares positive energy, empowerment and resources through her posts and poems.

Lindsey Schnitt, whose friends call her “the schnittuation,” blogs about food, restaurants and events.

The Hamroff sisters of celiacsisters.net
Celiac Sisters
Samantha and Brooke Hamroff, sisters diagnosed when they were 16, list their favorite eateries and share other news.

G-Free Laura
Laura Hanley posts advice, product reviews and delicious recipes.

Gluten Freeways
Stephen, a young foodie who’s never let the gluten-free diet stop him from eating out, focuses on restaurants in San Diego, where he lives, and those he visits in his travels. Every blog ends with “Do you love it or do you love it?” That says something about his attitude.

CC Gluten Freed
CC Bonaduce empowers readers with her social and political activism, encouraging gluten-free communities throughout the country.
Sprinkles & Allergies
Bethany Trainor tackles her multiple food allergies with mouth-watering recipes and encouragement for readers.

Celiac Teen
Since the age of 15, Lauren McMillan has blogged about how she “let go of the gluten” in her journey with celiac disease.

College Student with Celiac
College undergraduate Chynna Foucek posts friendly anecdotes and recipes. collegestudentwithceliac.wordpress.com

Jenny of creativecookinggf.wordpress.com
Creative Cooking Gluten Free
Culinary student Jenny Manseau posts recipes and reviews products.

Gluten Free? Gimme Three!
Anna Luke catalogs the ups and downs of living gluten free and reports the latest restaurant news in Washington D.C.

Gluten Free Betsy
Chicago’s go-to girl on all things gluten free, Betsy Thompson, provides advice on dining out and products.

Celiac in the City
Milwaukee-based Sarah Nielsen blogs weekly photos of her dining, cooking and travel adventures.

Celiac Scoop
A blogger passionate about nutrition, Christie Bessinger shares easy recipes and health tips based on her experiences.

Hillary Casavant

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A pill to treat celiac disease is no longer a pipe dream

We're moving closer to a pill to treat cd

We all go through stages of transition after a diagnosis of celiac disease.

For most, the first includes lots of confusion, worry and fear that eating will never be the same. Then good health returns and, eventually, we get to the point where we feel we're controlling the disease instead of it controlling us. Mainly that's because we get a handle on the gluten-free diet and once we conquer that we feel like we've largely conquered the disease.

Now, Alice Bast, president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, is pushing us to go one step further. She's urging us to really understand what celiac disease is and how it works.

"For most of us, knowing what to eat, what to avoid and which questions to ask when dining out are enough to get by," Bast says. "Words like "t-cells" and "zonulin" aren't part of our everyday conversation, and they certainly don't help when trying to decode a nutrition label."

The NFCA, a Philadelphia-based patient advocacy group, is hosting a free webinar June 11 to help patients understand how celiac disease works and what role medications to treat it are likely to play in the future.

"It's more critical now than ever to know and understand how celiac disease works," Bast explains. "We are on the cusp of a pharmaceutical revolution in celiac disease treatment. A vaccine or pill is no longer a pipe dream. It's a very real possibility."

The webinar, Celiac Disease: Immunology 101 and the Drug Development Process, will touch on the immunological process of celiac disease as well as the process of drug development and approval.

It will be conducted by Francisco Leon, MD, vice president of immunology translational medicine, and Ken Kilgore, PhD, director of immuno-pharmacology, at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson.

They will review existing research to explain why scientists are looking into the development of a pill or vaccine.*

Bast says it's a chance to learn about things that aren't covered in a typical appointment with your doctor or dietitian.

If you've ever wondered about the role patients play in clinical trials for a drug or the steps needed for Food and Drug Administration approval of one, you should tune in.

You can register here. There's also information on how to listen to the webinar after the fact if you can't do so live.

While not everyone is anxious to take a pill to treat celiac disease, knowledge has always been the most powerful tool in combating its symptoms and long-term consequences.  Expanding your understanding of new issues that will certainly affect how you live your gluten-free life is always a good idea.

So take this opportunity to find out about the science behind celiac disease and the steps that are being take to develop new treatments for it.

Amy Ratner
*This is an update to clarify information previously provided by the NFCA.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Summer Salads…

Deck Garden

Summer has instantly arrived over the past couple of days in the northeast!  The past two days have been a triple H kind of a day, hazy, hot and humid.  Which makes the article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal so perfect, Sarabeth Levine described her ideal summer salads.

I love salads and all the different dressings available to me on a gluten-free diet!  But, what I love most of all is growing my own salad.  The sunniest spot in my yard happens to be my deck and this is where I have all of my containers.  I planted the lettuce and cherry tomatoes last weekend.  These are both low risk, high yielding options for a brown thumb gardener like me.  I even bought a couple of strawberry plants for fun because they grow like absolute weeds and figure I would have a really difficult time killing them.

oregano, tarragon, thyme on 3/30
Last year I bought a bunch of herbs and just kept them in their little starter pots.  I did not know that most herbs were perennials until a summer dinner party when the hostess showed me her herb garden and said she had planted it six years ago.  She advised me to throw the herbs into a real pot with some good soil and then see what happened in the spring.

At the end of March, when we started doing some spring cleaning, I grabbed the pots that I had put on the side of the house and lifted the collection of dead leaves that had gathered on top to throw into the green waste bags.   I was so surprised to see all of these little green leaves pushing up through the soil!

Mint 3/30
Mint, tarragon, thyme, oregano and rosemary had all started growing anew!  Two months later, the herbs are absolutely flourishing.   As I wait for my lettuce and tomatoes to grow, the Wall Street Journal Summer Salad article had some great dressing ideas using these herbs.  One was to make a blender dressing using fresh tarragon is you are adding salmon or chicken to the salad.  For a basic oil and vinegar, throw some basil, parsley and oregano into the blender.  I just planted the parsley and basil so I will have to wait a week or two for that dressing.

For bitter greens, like arugula, lemon juice and a lighter oil such as canola oil, whisked together with a little salt and pepper is a nice combination.
My biggest problem with salads is that only one of four of my kids would be happy to see a big chopped salad with some chicken or fish on top.  For that solution, I will turn to other articles on advice for getting picky tweens and teens to eat vegetables.

Kendall Egan

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Shopping at HomeGoods

What do you do when the weather is murky on the weekend? If you can’t hit the beach, you may as well hit the stores. 

I have my “go-to” place when I don’t really want to spend a lot of money, but I want a little pick me up purchase and that place is HomeGoods.  At the very minimum, I am going to come away with a gluten-free mix from a company that I might have seen at a food show or discover something new all together.

But, this weekend, the item that had me swooning with happiness was a lime green ceramic fry pan for $14.99.  Actually, it is more avocado than lime…I swear my parents had a refrigerator the exact same color.  It doesn’t matter, I have used it twice since I purchased it and I love it.
In my line of work, I read many health and wellness or nutrition and cooking publications just to know what people are studying, or curious about, and non-stick Teflon pans seem to come up in a lot of forums.  The ceramic pan is typically offered up as a non-stick alternative so I have wanted to try one!

I made gluten-free pancakes and sautéed mushrooms this weekend, both came out perfectly.  While my bill was slightly larger than the $14.99 due to a selection of really great gluten-free mixes, I am still really pleased with my pick me up purchase.  Nothing chases rain and clouds away, like opening up a cupboard and seeing a pop of green among the jumbled pots and pans.  If I have to cook, I may as well have a pot that makes me smile.

Kendall Egan

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pillsbury introduces gluten-free pizza, pie & cookie dough

If you haven’t been feeling friendly toward the Pillsbury Doughboy since going gluten free, it might be time to re-think your relationship.

Pillsbury, a bastion of gluten-filled refrigerated tubes of bread, biscuits and cookies, has moved into the gluten-free market.

The brand, which is owned by General Mills, recently announced a new line of gluten-free products featuring tubs of pizza, pastry and chocolate chip cookie dough. The products will be available nationwide this summer and in most major supermarkets by August. You’ll be able to find the dough tubs in the refrigerated aisle alongside other Pillsbury products.

“Several members of the General Mills family either have celiac disease themselves or have a close friend or relative who does,” said Rachel Dickens, Pillsbury media relations representative. “Hearing our employees’ and consumers’ stories brought to life an untapped need for delicious gluten-free products and prompted us to find a solution.”

The pie and pastry dough is made with gluten-free starches and rice and sorghum flours and is egg and dairy free. One serving contains 250 calories.

The thin crust pizza dough, made with tapioca starch, whole sorghum, whole millet and rice flours, contains egg but is dairy-free and 170 calories per serving.

The chocolate chip cookie dough is made with a brown sugar and rice flour base and contains eggs, soy and dairy. One cookie is 110 calories.

Get the full ingredient list and nutrition information on the General Mills website.

General Mills uses “stringent” programs to prevent the risk of cross-contamination, and has taken “specific steps to ensure that the process and equipment used does not provide any opportunity for gluten or gluten-containing ingredients to get into its products,” according to a Pillsbury spokesperson.


Hillary Casavant