October 9, 2012

Gluten-Free Product Consumer Survey

In September 2012 I reached out to the gluten-free community for feedback about the taste, texture and nutritional quality of gluten-free products. I also asked about the type of products that people felt were missing in the marketplace. Gluten-free consumers (148) quickly replied to my requests on Facebook and the celiac listserve. Respondents provided a wide variety of comments, with many giving very detailed answers. A big thank you to all for taking time to share your thoughts! Here’s a summary of what people had to say…

The overall quality of gluten-free breads and baked products has really improved over the years but most people agreed that manufacturers still have lots of work to do, especially when it comes to breads. The following are some comments about gluten-free baked products:

  • Been GF for over 30 years and back then products were terrible quality, have improved over the years but still bake my own for better taste
  • Many agree that breads need to be toasted to improve texture and flavor
  • Please make bread slices bigger than a playing card
  • Given up on bread because poor taste/texture and not nutritional
  • 90% of GF products made by very large manufacturers not good taste, quality & texture
  • After taste from many products
  • Too much sugar used to mask the off taste of gluten-free flours in baked products
  • Bland taste
  • Cottony texture
  • Most GF frozen baked goods almost always dry, stale or moldy if put out on store shelf
  • Still lots of unpalatable products that are costly
  • Once the quality and cost of GF products are the same as wheat products I’ll be satisfied!
  • Very costly
  • Please try to make GF products more affordable
  • No need to settle for inferior GF products-instead eat a variety of naturally GF foods
  • Many bake their own GF products
  • Bake my own GF products, vacuum seal in single serve and keep in freezer
  • Smaller bakeries make good and tasty GF products
  • Cross contamination in smaller mixed bakeries is a problem
  • Concerned about safety of products due to cross contamination, especially in facilities that manufacture both gluten-free and gluten-containing items
  • One person gave a healthy whole grain bread machine recipe using sorghum quinoa and amaranth flour, cornmeal, quinoa flakes, rice bran and chia seeds
The following companies and products were mentioned, including some comments about specific items:
Udi’s
Bread
  • Good taste, texture and overall quality
  • Pretty good; close to the “real thing”
  • Enjoyable
  • Wonderful; my favorite
  • Best GF bread on market (person has been GF for 13 years)
  • Like it but wish it would keep softer longer
  • Best GF bread but still room for improvement
  • Good taste but too dense
  • Dry
  • Slices too small. Would like the bread that is sold to foodservice because it is larger slice
  • Millet and Chia Bread is the only bread that meets my expectations
  • Multigrain- good taste and consistency
  • Caraway bread is the closest to rye bread
Rolls
  • French Dinner Rolls- love them
  • Whole Grain Rolls- not great
  • Buns are hard, grainy, crumble and fall apart
Pizza Crust
  • Tolerable but too tough and thin
Bagels
  • Good taste and texture; love them
Muffins
  • Good taste and texture
Rudi’s
Bread
  • Sandwich and Cinnamon Raisin is ok if toasted
  • High quality and good taste; close to the “real thing”
Pizza
  • Like it
Wraps
  • Soft and do not crack when trying to roll; really like them
Glutino
Sandwich cookies and waffle wafer cookies are great
Genius Bread
  • Good texture (soft and pliable; fine grain) and doesn’t need to be toasted
  • Greatly improved quality
Bagels
Schar
Breads
  • OK, but are not very good. Too much refined starch.
Whole Foods Bakehouse
Breads, Hamburger Rolls and Pies
  • Outstanding
  • High quality and good taste
  • Sandwich bread and almond scones
Canyon Bakehouse
Whole Grain Bread
  • OK, closest to whole grain
  • Quite good
Kinnikinnick
Pizza
  • Good texture but do not like the flavor
Rolls
Cake Mix
  • The best
New Soft Breads
  • Very good
Celiac Specialties
Croissants
Gillians
Sandwich Bread, Rye No Rye, French Loaf
  • Tastes good
Enjoy Life Foods
Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
O’Dough’s
Chocolate Cake
  • Excellent
Bread
  • Good taste and quality
Katz’s
Breads
  • Good
  • Don’t toast well
  • Very good especially Challah (like it untoasted); Rugalah
  • Wholesome bread – Good
Kaiser Rolls
  • Wonderful when toasted
Oat Challah Buns
Bob’s Red Mill
Chocolate Cake Mix
  • Good
King Arthur
Muffin Mix is good
Betty Crocker
Cake mixes needs some tweaking
Pamela’s Products
Shortbread cookies
  • OK
Silver Hills Bakery
Breads
  • Chia; Flax

 

Nutritional Quality of Gluten-Free Products

Comments mentioned in the survey:
  • Not enriched
  • Lack of fiber and whole grains
  • Need more protein, fiber and B vitamins in breads
  • Lack of fiber influences my decision to buy gluten-free products
  • Need more “real food” in products with more fiber, protein and diverse grains
  • Empty calories
  • Too high in calories and carbohydrates (especially sugars and starches)
  • Too much fat
  • Poor nutritional quality of GF products
  • Too many preservatives
  • Less corn or no corn in products
  • Don’t depend on GF products for nutrition- eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds
  • Eat more naturally GF foods that are more nutritious and do not settle for nutritionally inferior GF products

 

Gluten-Free Product “Wish List”

Breads
  • Larger, more normal size; Softer, not like cardboard
  • Fresh, not frozen breads
  • A truly whole grain, high fiber bread; High Fiber Oat Bread
  • Ancient Grains Breads
  • Multigrain crusty fresh bread
  • Multigrain, par-baked that can be finished baking at home
  • French Bread, French Bread (dairy-free)
  • Sourdough Bread, Dark Pumpernickel Bread, Black Russian Rye Bread, Potato Bread
  • Focaccia Bread, Raisin Cinnamon Bread, Naan Bread, Pita Bread
Other Bread products
  • Baguettes, Croissants, Crumpets, Soft Hot Dog Buns, Breadsticks, English Muffins
  • Hoagie Rolls, Crescent Rolls, Healthy Muffins
Pizza Crust
  • Softer Crust; thicker crust
Tortillas
  • Softer ones that do not crack and can wrap properly; decent tasting
Pastries
  • Éclairs, Danish Pastry, Cream Puffs, Glazed doughnuts that are not so heavy
  • Phyllo Dough, Puff Pastry
  • Cinnamon Rolls, Pop Tarts
Miscellaneous
  • Large Soft Pretzels (frozen); Egg Rolls in Rice Wrapper, Sweet Rolls and Biscuits in a can
General Comments
  • More economical priced GF products
  • More products with gluten-free oats
  • Travel size and single serve items individually wrapped (e.g., bread, hamburger and hot dog buns, muffins)
  • Less sweet items and more healthy bread and cereal options
  • Be able to get a GF sandwich or bagel in a regular sandwich shop

Conclusion

Gluten-free consumers have a wide variety of opinions about the products that are currently available in their area and what they would like to see in the marketplace. As a registered dietitian specializing in the gluten-free diet, I frequently consult with the food industry. I continue to encourage companies to improve the taste, texture and overall quality, but especially to enhance the nutritional composition of products. See my recent column in Snack Food and Wholesale Bakery entitled “Gluten-Free Products: Delicious and Nutritious” on page 88 of this link. Last and most importantly, I emphasize how critical it is for manufacturers to ensure they have strict gluten-free quality control procedures. This begins with safe ingredient selection all the way through the production process and distribution. Stay tuned for more information about gluten-free manufacturing and certification programs in future blogs and newsletters.

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March 2, 2012

Free Webinar on Celiac, Gluten Sensitivity, Gluten-Free Diet & Pulses

Join Shelley Case, RD in a 1 hour webinar that includes:

·   Overview of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity
·   Connection between Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease
·   Gluten-free dietary guidelines
·   Safe food/ingredients and those to avoid
·   Gluten-free alternatives including pulses (aka legumes)
·   Nutritional advantages of pulses
·   Gluten-free labeling regulations in the USA, Canada and Europe
·   Gluten threshold levels
·   Cross contamination
·   Resources

Sponsored by Pulse Canada. Click here for more information.

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February 7, 2012

The Best of Gluten-Free Awards–vote today!

Vote for the Best of Gluten-Free 2012 “Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide” has been nominated in The “Best of Gluten-Free Awards”! The Best of Gluten-Free Awards are designed to select the best gluten-free products available and to give recognition and thanks to the companies that provide them. They are giving you the opportunity to reward the brands and products you love, acknowledging how much easier they have made your life. Do you think your favorite gluten-free brands and products deserve some recognition? Give them a high-five at bestofglutenfreeawards.com.

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June 14, 2011

Quinoa- My Favorite Gluten Free Grain

Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) has been consumed for thousands of years in South America and was a staple of the Incas, who called it “the mother grain.” It is not actually a grain but the seed of a broad-leafed plant from the Chenopodiaceae family which is a close relative of the weed, lamb’s quarters. There are hundreds of varieties of quinoa, ranging in color from white to red and purple to black. Many varieties are now grown in North America. The plant stalks grow three to six feet high, containing clusters of seeds near the top of the stalk. The seed looks like a cross between sesame seed and millet. Quinoa seeds are naturally covered with saponin, an extremely bitter resin-like substance which protects it from birds and insects. To be edible the saponin must be removed. Some companies specially process the quinoa to remove this bitter coating, making it pan-ready and fast cooking. Quinoa is sold in several forms. Listed below are some of these forms, and ways to enjoy them!

Quinoa Seed:

gluten free diet quinoa colors• Can be used as a side dish instead of potatoes or rice or in salads, pilafs, stuffings, casseroles and puddings, as well as a thickener for soups, chili and stews.

• Rinse the quinoa in cold water and drain. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, bring 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of liquid to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Makes about 3 cups.

• Can also be cooked in the microwave using a round 2-quart microwave-safe casserole or bowl. Combine 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water, cover loosely with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about 10-12 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed. Remove from microwave, stir once and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.

Quinoa Flakes:

gluten free diet quinoa flakes• Can be eaten as an instant hot breakfast cereal. Add 1/3 cup of flakes to 1 cup of boiling water and boil for 1½ -2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add chopped nuts and dried fruits and sprinkle with brown sugar. Can also be cooked in the microwave. Combine flakes and water in a medium-to-large microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 2 -2 1/2 minutes. Stir before serving.

• Quinoa flakes are available in plain and various flavors (contains flaked quinoa, dried fruits, nuts or seeds, sugar and spices).
• Substitute quinoa flakes for up to 1/3 of the gluten-free flour in a cookie, muffin or bread recipe.
• Can also be added to pancakes and waffles.

Quinoa Flour:

Quinoa pasta•  A tan-colored flour with a slightly nutty, strong flavor so best combined with other gluten-free flours.
• Can be used in a variety of baked items, especially in highly spiced or flavored products.

Quinoa Pasta:

• Quinoa is combined with corn or rice and is available in a variety of shapes.
• Cooks in 5-9 minutes.

 

Nutritional Information on Quinoa:

• Quinoa contains more high-quality protein than any other grain or cereal. The quality of this protein compares very closely to that of dried skimmed milk. Quinoa is high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. It is also a source of calcium, B vitamins and dietary fiber.

Try this delicious recipe for Quinoa Tabbouleh from gluten-free culinary expert Carol Fenster. It is found on page 4 of this link http://www.glutenfreediet.ca/img/WholeGrains.pdf

The above post originally appeared in “Ask Shelley Case” at http://www.befreeforme.com/blog/?p=3975

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June 7, 2011

Quick and Nutritious Gluten-Free Snack Ideas

When eating on the run it’s not always easy to find safe and healthy gluten-free options. But if you follow the Girl Scout motto – “Be Prepared” and plan ahead, healthy snacking is possible. Make sure your kitchen, car, workplace, briefcase, gym bag or back pack is always stocked with a variety of gluten-free items. With the growing number of gluten-free products on the market today, as well as many naturally gluten-free foods, snacking on the go can be both healthy and enjoyable. Remember to choose snacks from the different food groups- fruits and vegetables; grain products; meat and alternatives; and milk and milk products. Also many snacks can be a combination of several food groups. Here are some ideas…
 

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Fresh or canned fruit (packed in water or fruit juice)
    Dried fruits (apricots, blueberries, cranberries, figs, raisins)
    Fruit or vegetable juices
    Frozen fruit juice bars (store-bought or homemade)
    Veggies and dip (made with yogurt/herbs or low fat GF salad dressing)
    Edamame beans (microwavable single serve)

Grain Products

GF cereal (e.g., GF Chex, Enjoy Life Perky O’s, Glutino Cereal O’s) in zip lock bags
GF muffin (use a GF mix or make from scratch made with a combination of nutritious flours such as almond, bean, brown rice, Montina ™, mesquite, quinoa, sorghum, teff. Include banana, pumpkin, pineapple, carrot, dried fruits and/or nuts)
Air popped or low fat microwave popcorn
GF granola (homemade or store bought – e.g., Bakery On Main, Enjoy Life)

Meat and Alternatives

Nuts
Cheese string
Hard boiled egg
Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
GF deli meat

 

Milk and Milk Products

Yogurt (plain or fruit flavored)
Low fat milk
Chocolate milk or hot chocolate (check to make sure there is no wheat starch or barley malt flavoring)
Yogurt drinks
String cheese or hard cheese
GF puddings
 

 

Food Group Combinations

Fruit smoothie (fresh, frozen or canned fruit; yogurt, milk or dried milk powder; crushed ice; optional – honey, sugar, or sugar substitute)
Chex Almond Apple Bars
Hummus and GF crackers (e.g., Blue Diamond Nut Thins, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Edward and Son’s Exotic Rice Toast, Glutino Crackers, Ener-G Crackers)
Low fat cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit
GF trail mix (e.g., GF Chex cereal, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, GF pretzels)
GF crackers and nut/seed butters (e.g., almond, cashew, peanut butter, sesame seed, sunflower)
GF corn tortilla chips, grated low fat cheddar cheese and salsa
Ants on a log (nut or seed butter on celery with raisins)
GF snack bars (dried fruits, nuts, seeds, GF cereals) e.g.,  Bumble Bar, Enjoy Life, EnviroKidz Crispy Rice Bars, Glutino, Kind Bars, Larabar, Orgran, PurFit.
Avocado and Bean Dip with veggies or GF crackers
GF soups (e.g.,Amy’s Kitchen, Health Valley, Imagine, Kettle Cuisine[frozen, microwavable single serve], Orgran soup for cups, Pacific Foods, Taste Adventure)
GoPicnic shelf stable snack boxes (contain a variety of single serve snacks)

The above post originally appeared in “Ask Shelley Case” at http://www.befreeforme.com/blog/?p=1045

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May 31, 2011

My Child Was Diagnosed with Celiac Disease…Now What?

Learning about celiac disease and how to eliminate gluten can be very challenging for both the child and family, especially in the beginning. Start slow and take it one day at a time! “One of the most important and effective steps you can take to equip your child to live gluten-free is to empower them with good self-esteem and the skills needed to make independent gluten-free food choices in and out of the home” says dietitian Nancy Patin Falini. “Instill in your child the appeal of being unique while dispelling the myth of needing to be like everybody else.” Fortunately there are many resources and groups that can help you on this new gluten-free journey…

See a Registered Dietitian
The first essential step is to consult a registered dietitian with expertise in celiac disease. The dietitian will do a complete nutritional assessment, provide detailed information about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, as well as develop an individualized meal plan. Practical information about label reading, shopping, recipes, substitutions, preventing cross contamination, eating away from home and traveling will also be covered in the initial and follow-up visits.  Locate American dietitians specializing in celiac disease.

The Canadian Celiac Association has a list of celiac chapters that have dietitian advisors. Contact the local celiac group at http://www.celiac.ca/chapters.php

Join a Celiac Support Group
A number of national celiac support groups and their local chapters offer information and have regular meetings to help individuals and family members. For links to the American and Canadian groups see www.glutenfreediet.ca/groups.php
There is a special support group for parents, families and friends of kids with celiac disease or gluten intolerance called R.O.C.K. (Raising our celiac kids). It was founded by Danna Korn after her son was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1991. For more information or to locate a R.O.C.K. group near you, contact Rock@celiackids.com
 

Seek out Practical Resources

Gluten-Free Diet by Shelley CaseThe Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide by dietitian Shelley Case is a 368 page book filled with detailed information about the gluten-free diet. It includes a listing of foods and ingredients allowed, to avoid and question; gluten-free labeling regulations; as well as meal plans, recipes, cooking hints, substitutions, nutrition information, cross contamination, eating out, over 3100 gluten-free specialty products, a directory of more than 270 companies, listing of cookbooks, books, websites and other helpful resources. See www.glutenfreediet.ca/overview.php

Kids with Celiac Disease: A Family Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy, Gluten-Free Children by Danna Korn provides parents with advice and specific strategies on how to deal with the diagnosis, cope with emotional challenges, and help their child develop a positive attitude. Includes practical information on menu planning, shopping, food preparation, recipes and eating outside the home (e.g., birthdays, restaurants, camps, vacations). Available from www.amazon.com

Dietitian Nancy Patin Falini’s Gluten-Free Friends: An Activity Book for Kids is an illustrated book for children ages 4-11 years. The book features two friendly kids who explain what gluten is, describe how gluten makes them sick and which foods to avoid, and how to make healthy food choices. Easy-to-follow instructions for parents and caregivers help guide children through learning activities and explore their thoughts and feelings about gluten-free living.  Available from www.savorypalate.com

Children’s Hospital Boston has developed a 2 hour DVD entitled Raising Your Celiac Child: Guidelines for a Gluten-Free Life. It includes 12 interactive modules with practical advice on celiac disease, lifestyle management and emotional support. See www.childrenshospital.org/celiac

Three other wonderful illustrated story books for children are:
• No More Cupcakes & Tummy Aches: A Story for Parents and Their Celiac Children to Share by Jax Peters Lowell
• Eating Gluten-Free with Emily: A Story for Children with Celiac Disease by Bonne Kruszka
• How I Eat Without Wheat by Karen Fine

Sheri Sanderson has written a cookbook for kids called Incredible Edible Gluten-Free Foods for Kids. Features 150 family-tested recipes, general food preparation tips, baking substitutes, as well as an overview of celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, tips for dealing with daycare and schools, and resources.

Wheat-free Gluten-Free Cookbook for Kids and Busy Adults by Connie Sarros has 198 easy recipes along with a chapter devoted to safe kitchen craft projects for kids of all ages. See http://gfbooks.homestead.com/kids.html

The American Celiac Disease Alliance has practical guidelines and resources to help families navigate the school lunch program.   

Food allergies, sensitivities and celiac disease can be tough on a kid. Childhood traditions like trading sandwiches in the lunchroom, celebrating classroom holidays with cookies and treats, and sharing birthday cake with friends are often off-limits or require diligent oversight in order to be safe. Whether managing their unique needs leaves kids feeling isolated or helps them build self-confidence has a lot to do with how they are taught to view their situation.

The above post originally appeared in “Ask Shelley Case” at  http://www.befreeforme.com/blog/?p=1542

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May 25, 2011

Incorporating Flax into the Gluten-Free Diet

Flax is a flat, oval seed with a pointed tip – about the size of a sesame seed. It is widely grown across the Canadian prairies and northern USA.  Some varieties of flax are grown for human food consumption while other varieties are used to produce fiber for industrial purposes (e.g., linoleum flooring, linen clothing). The brown and yellow flax seeds grown for human consumption are both very similar in their nutritional composition. Flax is available as an oil, whole seed or ground flax seed (also known as milled flax seed). Grinding ensures that all seeds are broken up, enabling the nutrients present to be absorbed by the body. Ground flax seed can be purchased in vacuum-sealed packages on store shelves or in plastic bags found in the refrigeration section. Whole flax seed can also be ground in a coffee grinder, food processor or blender to the consistency of finely ground coffee.

How to Incorporate Flax in Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking:

Time for an oil change: Flax oil is versatile and easy to use in gluten-free cooking. It is best used in cold foods such as fruit smoothies and salad dressings. It is not recommended for frying as it breaks down when exposed to high temperatures. The oil can also be drizzled over cooked gluten-free pasta!

Flax is a winner for breakfast, lunch or dinner: Whole flax seed and ground flax seed have a light, nutty flavor which becomes more robust if the flax is roasted. Whole and ground flax seed can be used in a wide variety of foods such as muffins, breads, pancakes, waffles, cookies, fruit cobblers, hot cereals, casseroles, meat loaf, burgers, stew, spaghetti sauce, rice dishes and salads. And don’t forget dessert! Mix ground flax in fruit smoothies, yogurt, pudding, cottage cheese, and even ice cream and frozen yogurt.

Got an Egg allergy? Take note! Flax can be used as an egg replacer. To replace 1 egg, soak 1 tsp. of ground flax in 1/4 cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool before using. Works best in cookie and snack bar recipes.

Cooking Tips When Using Flax:

Add the liquid: When adding ground flax to a recipe extra liquid must be added (e.g., for every 3 tbsp. of flax add 1 tbsp. liquid).

Lower the heat: Baked goods containing ground flax have a chewier texture and tend to brown more rapidly so the temperature may need to be reduced.

How to Store & Handle Flax:

Flax has got a good long life:
Whole flax seed can be stored at room temperature for up to one year.

Chilled & opaque:
Ground flax seed should be stored in a sealed opaque container in the refrigerator or freezer. For optimum freshness, it is best to grind flax seed as you need it, since the natural fats in flax seed go rancid if left exposed to heat or air. Flax oil is very perishable and should be kept refrigerated in an opaque container.

Nutritional Information About Flax:

Take heart – Flax is good for your overall health: Flax has been consumed throughout history for its nutritional and health benefits. It is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (an essential omega-3 fatty acid), fiber (soluble and insoluble) and plant lignans. These components play a role in the maintenance and improvement of general health. Flax helps promote bowel regularity due to its very high fiber content. It may also help protect against coronary heart disease, as well as breast and colon cancer. In addition, autoimmune diseases, like many other chronic diseases, are a disease of inflammation, and flax is being studied for its positive role in immune and inflammatory reactions.

High in fiber:
Whole flax seeds are an excellent source of fiber. In order to gain all the benefits of flax seed, including the omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, protein, vitamins and minerals, it is important to grind the whole flax seed. This improves the bioavailability of these components.

Vitamin and nutrient powerhouse: Flax is very high in iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6 and protein. It is a source of other B vitamins and other nutrients.

I highly suggest that anyone on a gluten-free diet give flax a try and incorporate it into their diets. Check out some of these recipes that include flax in the ingredients list:

Oven-Fried Chicken
High-Fiber Hot Cereal
Crunchy Granola

Check out Flackers®
While speaking on the gluten-free diet at the Natural Products Expo West conference in California in March, I had the chance to visit the exhibit hall and sample many new gluten-free products.  I enjoyed a unique product called Flackers® developed by Dr. Alison Levitt, MD. This large flax seed cracker is made of brown and golden flax seed and tasted great with hummus or peanut butter. Three crackers have 100 calories, 7 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein and are available in three flavors- savory, dill and rosemary.

The above post originally appeared in “Ask Shelley Case” at http://www.befreeforme.com/blog/?p=4770

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May 10, 2011

Take Control of Your Gluten-Free Diet and Weight

The gluten-free market is booming which is good news for those with celiac disease.  A growing number of gluten-free products ranging from breads, cereals, pasta, crackers, cakes, cookies, snack bars, soups, sauces, ready-to-eat entrees, mixes and other items are available in grocery and health food stores, wholesale outlets and even online. But people often gain too much weight because they only focus on the gluten-free status of items and do not pay attention to nutrition and meal planning. Just like gluten-containing products, not all “gluten-free” items are necessarily healthy options. Here are some of suggestions and resources for starting out the New Year on the right gluten-free track!

Plan Ahead: Planning your menu a week (or even a few days) ahead will help you select the right things to eat, and help control unnecessary or “binge type” eating.

Keep Nutrition on the Front Burner: The USDA MyPyramid and Canada’s Food Guide are practical tools to help you make healthy food choices. I have adapted these guides for the gluten-free diet to get you started. Check out this article for more information.

Watch Your Portions: Make sure that you read the back of all packaging labels so you know what “one portion” size is. Don’t be fooled! One portion could indeed be a ½ of a bagel. Being aware of portion control is a good step to manage your calorie intake.  Here’s a great portion control tool from WebMD. Although not all the items are gluten-free, it visually compares food items to commonly recognized items such as a deck of cards, light bulb, baseball or computer mouse.

Eat Breakfast: Skipping breakfast leads to overeating later in the day – often at dinner and in the evening when you are usually less active which is double trouble!  For gluten-free breakfast ideas see http://www.befreeforme.com/blog/?p=2487

Fill up on Fruits & Veggies: Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Many are low in calories so you can fill up at meals and snacks with these healthy foods. Check out this link for tips on using fruits and vegetables to help manage your weight.

Go for Whole Grains: There are a variety of nutritious gluten-free whole grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, millet, Montina™ (Indian ricegrass), millet, oats (pure, uncontaminated), quinoa, sorghum, rice (black, brown, red) and teff.  These healthy grains contain many nutrients, especially fiber- which is often lacking in the gluten-free diet because many gluten-free products are made from refined starches and flours. For more information about whole grains and how to add them to your gluten-free diet check out http://www.glutenfreediet.ca/img/WholeGrains.pdf

Snack Sensibly: Snacking can be part of a healthy gluten-free diet but you need to choose wisely. Need some nutritious options?  Check out http://www.glutenfreediet.ca/img/snacking.pdf

Short on Time? Nowadays we all seem to be running from here to there. We’re always on the go-go-go! Don’t beat yourself up trying to make all your own gluten-free foods from scratch for every meal.  There are companies who offer a variety of gluten-free mixes and ready-to-eat items that are delicious and nutritious. Check out my book Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide that includes over 3100 gluten-free products from more than 270 companies at www.glutenfreediet.ca

Successful and healthy gluten-free eating takes a little time and planning. But with informed choices, current resources and the motivation to make a new start in the New Year, everyone on a gluten-free diet is able to get back, and stay, on the healthy gluten-free eating track!

The above post originally appeared in “Ask Shelley Case” at http://www.befreeforme.com/blog/?p=4241

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May 3, 2011

Anemia & Celiac Disease – Causes And Treatment

Anemia is a concern for many folks that have been diagnosed with celiac disease. Anemia is a condition that results from a deficiency in the size or number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin in these cells. There are many causes of anemia, however, the most common is due to iron, folate or vitamin B12 deficiency. In celiac disease damage to the intestinal villi in the area where iron and folate are absorbed frequently results in a deficiency of these nutrients. As the disease progresses, villous atrophy in the lower part of the small intestine (terminal ileum), resulting in vitamin B12 malabsorption, can also occur in some individuals. Other reasons for inadequate absorption of B12 may be due to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, low stomach acid levels (caused by the long-term use of gastric acid blocking agents for the treatment of reflux or ulcers) or pernicious anemia (an autoimmune disease that produces antibodies that destroy specific cells in the stomach which contain the Intrinsic Factor (IF) that is necessary for the absorption of B12 from foods).

How Can You Treat Anemia?

Once a diagnosis of celiac disease is confirmed and the gluten-free diet is initiated, the villi begin to heal which allows for the absorption of nutrients. Response to the gluten-free diet varies from one individual to another and may take on average from 2-18 months until the nutritional deficiencies are corrected and symptoms resolve. In addition to a strict gluten-free diet, it is important to include foods high in iron, folate and vitamin B12. Nutrition supplements may be required if the deficiency is severe. In the case of pernicious anemia, life-long vitamin B12 supplementation (shots, intranasal or oral supplements) are necessary. Discuss with your physician and dietitian about supplementation.

There are two types of iron in foods, heme iron and non-heme iron:

Heme Iron:
•    Is more readily absorbed by the body (approximately 23% of heme iron consumed is absorbed).
•    Absorption is not changed by other foods in the diet.
•    Is found only in red meat, fish and poultry.

Non-Heme Iron:
•    Is not absorbed as well as heme iron (only 3-8% of non-heme iron consumed is absorbed).
•    Absorption can be increased or decreased by other foods in the diet.
•    Is found in fruits, vegetables, grains and eggs.

How Can You Maximize Iron Absorption?

1.    Choose foods with a higher iron content

2.    Eat a source of heme iron with non-heme iron at the same meal: An example is stir-fried beef, chicken, pork or fish with vegetables (e.g., broccoli) and rice and toasted almonds or sesame seeds; or Chili with meat and beans.

3.    Vitamin C increases absorption of non-heme iron so combine vitamin C-rich foods with non-heme iron foods at the same meal: An example of this includes Poached egg and glass of orange juice; Casserole with rice, beans, canned tomatoes or tomato sauce; or a Spinach salad with strawberries or orange segments.

4.    Avoid coffee or tea with meals rich in iron as these beverages contain tannins which interfere with iron absorption. It is better to drink these beverages between meals.

5.    If taking iron supplements, consume supplement with vitamin C-rich foods.

How Much Iron Do You Need?

For more than 50 years, nutrition experts have produced a set of nutrient and energy standards known as the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA’s). A new set of standards has been developed called the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRl’s) which reflect collaborative efforts of American and Canadian scientists, through a review process overseen by the National Academy of Science’s Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies.
 

The above post originally appeared in “Ask Shelley Case” at http://www.befreeforme.com/blog/?p=3300 

 

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April 26, 2011

Are there any alcoholic beverages that are gluten-free?

There has been a lot of misinformation about the gluten-free status of alcohol. The good news is that many alcoholic beverages are gluten-free. So lift up your glass and let’s toast to this good news! Here is the scoop…

Distilled Alcoholic Beverages:

Rye whiskey, scotch whiskey, gin, vodka and bourbon are distilled from a mash of fermented grains. Even though these alcoholic beverages can be derived from a gluten-containing grain, the distillation process removes the gluten from the purified final product, so they are gluten-free. Rum (distilled from sugar cane) and brandy (distilled from wine) are also gluten-free.

However, be aware that some pre-made Bloody Mary and Caesar beverage mixes may contain barley malt flavoring or hydrolyzed wheat protein and are not gluten-free so check the label on these items.

Liqueurs (also known as cordials):

These are made from an infusion of a distilled alcoholic beverage with added sugar and flavoring agents such as nuts, fruits, seeds, flowers or cream. Liqueurs are gluten-free.

Wine (including vermouth, port and sherry):

Wines are made from fermented grapes or other fruits. There are also fortified wines such as vermouth; port and sherry which include an added brandy or another distilled alcohol. All these wines are gluten-free.

Wine Coolers:

Historically most wine coolers were gluten-free as they were made from wine, fruit juice, a carbonated beverage and sugar.

However in 1991 the US Congress increased the excise tax on wine so many producers substituted malt (from barley) for the wine. Any malt-based coolers are not gluten-free.

Ciders:

Alcoholic and non-alcoholic ciders are made from apple juice. Sparkling cider is made with apple cider and a carbonated beverage. Most ciders are gluten-free but some brands may use barley in its production and are not gluten-free. The best bet is to check with the manufacturer to determine if they are gluten-free.

Beer, Ale and Lager:

The basic ingredients in beer, ale and lager include malted barley, hops (a type of flower), yeast and water. As this mixture is only fermented and not distilled, it contains varying levels of gluten and must be avoided. However, a variety of gluten-free specialty  beers are now on the market made from various gluten-free grains such as buckwheat, sorghum, millet and rice.

Note: Always remember that although certain alcoholic beverages can be included in a gluten-free diet, it must be consumed responsibly and in moderation!

The above post originally appeared in “Ask Shelley Case” at http://www.befreeforme.com/blog/?p=3129

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