Monthly Archives: May 2009

The G-Free Diet

The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s book The G-Free Diet purports to be about her experiences living gluten-free, but by the storm of controversy it’s generated, you might think it’s a dangerously flawed medical manual. The Executive Director of the Celiac Disease Foundation, Elaine Monarch, went so far as to warn:

…the inaccuracies in this book are potentially dangerous and detrimental to celiacs and to those yet to be diagnosed if people self diagnose and start eating GF.

Alison St. Sure of the GF blog Sure Foods Living wrote a very comprehensive review of the book that’s worth reading if you might want to purchase the book. Here’s a taste:

I really liked…

The chapter called “Throw Me a Bagel!” about living with someone who is gluten-free. Rarely have I seen tips for the person who lives with a gluten-free person (”GFG” she calls it, for Gluten-Free Gal or Guy). There is some great advice addressing such things as compassion, adaptability, preparedness, cleanliness and selflessness.

The section “Translating Ingredients” for understanding how to read cosmetics and personal care product labels. This is something that often gets overlooked by people on a gluten-free diet.

I really didn’t like…

The fact that there is a chapter named “G-Free and Slim As Can Be!” which sounds like the whole chapter is promoting the use of the gluten-free diet for weight loss. The chapter is actually not about that at all and points out that once people are on a gluten-free diet and are forced to read labels, they become aware of what they are putting into their bodies and generally become healthier eaters overall.

St. Sure also commented on the CDF letter:

I am well aware of the CDF’s warning about the book. I wrote my review before they made a statement. There is a chapter in the book about getting the proper diagnosis for celiac, including the exact blood tests. Many doctors do not even know what the blood tests are for celiac, and Elisabeth has armed the reader with this knowledge. Nowhere in the book did I feel that Elisabeth trivialized celiac or the gluten-free diet. I do feel that the media and talk show hosts like Rachael Ray are the ones trivializing the diet. The book has succeeded in raising awareness about celiac disease and I feel confident that more people are going to get tested for celiac. How is this detrimental to mission of the Celiac Disease Foundation?

Another person commented on how this book had helped his/her teen daughter:

My daughter found comfort in this book, she read a young woman also an athlete put in writing the pain and embarrassment she has had to deal with. She feels “hope” knowing that Elizabeth has gone on to have children, keep a job, get her education and move on in life without the pain keeping her down. She was happy to read about her lethargy and pain and the constant trips to the bathroom, she related to having to take different paths to the bathroom just so her classmates wouldn’t notice and make fun of her.

Three Other comments:

I love this book! I’ve had Celiac for 2 years and this is the first book I’ve read that talks about it in everyday language.

…where I really examined the G-Free Diet was in the library, along side of several other resources on celiac. For solid information – the other books were so far superior. Easier to figure out, easier to trust.

At the beginning it seemed daunting but Elisabeth had been in the same situation as many of her readers. It is most helpful to read a book by someone who has gone through it themselves.

I haven’t read the book yet myself, but it seems from preliminary reports that it’s better as a friendly, anxiety-lessening introduction than as a reference. I’m sure some of you have opinions. Please share them with the community!

Babycakes Cookbook

I just read a disturbing post at Celiac Squirrel, asking celiacs to boycott Babycakes’ much feted cookbook. Kay and I visited Babycakes in NYC and tried their chocolate cupcake, which Kay declared delicious. Now according to Celiac Squirrel, many of the Babycakes recipes use spelt flour. Spelt is a kind of wheat and therefore is poison to people with celiac disease.

I went to the Babycakes website to see if they label products with spelt as gluten-free. They don’t.  On a page about their ingredients, they write:

What other flours do you use?
We use spelt flour for our non-gluten free products.

Do you know there is gluten in spelt?
Spelt contains gluten, so it is NOT recommended for those following a gluten/wheat free diet. Also, an individual with a wheat related condition (i.e. celiac sprue, gluten sensitive enteropathies, etc…) should not consume spelt flour.

What is spelt and why does BabyCakes NYC use it?
Spelt is an ancient grain. People prefer it to its distant cousin, wheat, because it has 15-20% more proteins, is higher in complex carbohydrates, is rich in magnesium, is lower in overall carbohydrates, has not been genetically altered and contains enzymes that assist in glucose and insulin secretion.

Many people with delayed hypersensitivities and allergies to regular wheat feel spelt protein is much easier to digest than wheat protein. We, however, do not encourage those with wheat sensitivities to consume this grain.

What do you do to prevent cross-contamination?
We realize many people are concerned about the potential for cross-contamination between spelt and gluten free flours. We take every precaution to ensure that gluten free items are not corrupted by spelt flour. We use separate pans, sinks, spatulas, measuring cups, cleaning utensils and bowls. Ultimately, however, up to the consumer to decide her comfort level with our use of spelt.

The Babycakes cookbook is titled:

Babycakes: Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About Bakery

So Celiac Squirrel is correct. The title of the cookbook is misleading. If Babycakes  had titled it Mostly Gluten-Free it wouldn’t have been a problem. But they didn’t. Celiac Squirrel argues:

Inside the book it is explained that spelt is not gluten-free. Are we supposed to be comforted that a book that says the recipes are gluten-free then tells us that not all the recipes are gluten-free? This is just an example of people willing to lie to take advantage of the gluten-free mainstreaming trend.

Which is why I think BabyCakes needs to pay a price for selling a cookbook of gluten-free recipes that are not all gluten-free. This, quite frankly, should turn into a public relations nightmare for the company, and it should be used to underscore that a gluten-free diet is not a trend, it is the only option for people with celiac disease.

We would love to hear people’s opinions about this matter!

Personal Chefs

While I was in Durham, North Carolina the other day, I noticed an advertisement for a personal chef that specializes in, among other things, gluten-free cooking. If this were a trend, what a wonderful gift for your GF friends! Or a special treat for yourself on a holiday or anniversary or if you’re sick in bed for a while. So I researched personal chefs in the U.S., and this is what I found:

  • Four Corners Cuisine, in Durham, NC: “You call and/or email to set up the initial consultation, where we discover your culinary needs, dietary restrictions, allergies, etc…then we set a date. A menu is created and discussed with you. On the set day, Four Corners does the grocery shopping to ensure that everything is fresh. We come to your home and prepare all the wonderful dishes that you’ve selected in 2 – 4 hours, depending on the quantity. We then package and label each meal and leave your kitchen exactly as we found it. You come home and in a matter of minutes are sitting down to enjoy a delicious home cooked meal. It’s that simple.”
  • The Chef’s Table, in  Dallas, TX: “Most of the package meals that I offer can be gluten free. With this option you can come home from your busy day and know you have a meal at home ready to heat and eat.”
  • Dining Details in San Diego, CA : “Enjoy delicious seasonal, farm
    fresh produce, organics, and top quality, fresh meats and seafood. Home Gourmet is a
    convenient, healthy way of feeding yourself and your family.
    We specialize in “special
    needs” diets, including celiac, low fat, anti-cancer, and more.”
  • T.O.P. Chef in Westbury, NY: “Chef Vanda has clients that require a gluten-free, low carb diet. She has compiled a large collection of gluten-free recipes that are great tasting and a culinary delight.”
  • Come Home to Dinner in Chicago, IL: “Chose from my extensive menu, which includes gluten-free and vegetarian selections, or allow me to custom design a menu specifically for you.”

Your Dentist and Celiac Disease

Did you know that Celiac Disease can manifest itself in your teeth? According to a dental website:

“Patients with Celiac Disease will often show a symmetrical pattern of developmental enamel defects.… About 80% of patients with CD have enamel defects as compared with the non Celiac population which has a frequency of about 4%. ”

According to the National Institutes of Health,

“Not all dental enamel defects are caused by celiac disease, although the problem is fairly common among people with the condition, particularly children, according to Alessio Fasano, M.D., medical director at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research. And dental enamel defects might be the only presenting manifestations of celiac disease, Fasano said.

Dental enamel problems stemming from celiac disease involve permanent dentition and include tooth discoloration—white, yellow, or brown spots on the teeth—poor enamel formation, pitting or banding of teeth, and mottled or translucent-looking teeth. The imperfections are symmetrical and often appear on the incisors and molars.”

In the future, dentists might have a much more central role to play in the diagnosis of celiac disease, especially in children.

Celiacs Helping Celiacs

The Palm Beach County Celiac Support Group of South Florida (pictured above) has established an assistance program “to help those individuals with Celiac Disease and/or Dermatitis Herpetiformis who are living at or below the poverty level.” Sponsored by the Celiac Disease Foundation of South Florida, this program has raised $9000 and gives $25 per month in food credits to people who qualify. The credits can be used to purchase food in four different stores in Florida. Proof of income or participation in other public assistance programs is required. Visit the link above for contact information and to download an application.

A study from one of the leading research centers for the disease, the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, figures that gluten-free groceries cost about 79 percent more than their off-the-shelf counterparts.”

Food stamps aren’t enough for impoverished people with celiac disease. To help support this group, please consider buying one of their $10 GF cookbooks at the link above.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

I only eat gluten free peanut butter cookies with brownies. Yeah, you read that right. With brownies. And a vanilla milkshake. That’s why I almost never eat peanut butter cookies.

Should you be less inflexible, you can start crunching on the creations of the gluten-free blogs in under an hour.

  • Ellen Allard invites you to taste her gluten free Peanut Butter Cookies. Peanuts aren’t enough for her, oh no. She also mixes in almond meal, flaxseed meal, GF rolled oats, brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, and a decadent drizzle of maple syrup.
  • Want the brownie inside your peanut butter cookies? Lap up Chocolate Bliss Peanut Butter Cookies by Ruth Parente. Melted semisweet chocolate waltzes with chocolate chips, peanut butter tangoes with dry-roasted peanuts, and the background music is a mélange of GF baking powder and the GF baking flour mix of your choice. Sounds adventurous.
  • Don’t like cow juice? Crystal of Gluten and Dairy Free Living doesn’t either. That’s why she’s serving GFCF Peanut Butter Cookies old school with four classic ingredients: peanut butter, sugar, egg, and baking soda.
  • All these recipes seem sort of tame compared to Book of Yum’s Monster Quinoa Peanut Butter Cookies. With quinoa flakes, brown rice and sorghum flours, cornstarch, gf baking powder and vanilla rice milk, these cookies earn their vegan, soy-free, GFCF badge with a vengeance. Munch on a few of those and you might be ready for a triathalon.

Certain individuals disdain peanut butter for almond (pictured above) or hazelnut butter cookies. I can tell you from my own experience that almond butter cookies can be earth-shakingly divine. I have never had hazelnut butter cookies, but if they are anything like hazelnut gelato, I’m there!

Which gluten free peanut butter cookies are you going to try?

Gluten-Free Oatmeal: All You Need to Know

Oatmeal, so we hear, fights cancer and heart disease, and it makes the gluten free diet a little easier to maintain. Specially grown gluten free oatmeal does not have to be contaminated with gluten. If you have Coeliac disease and you want to know if you can still spoon down hot, steaming oatmeal on cold winter mornings, then you’ve come to the right place. Here you can find all you need to know about GF oatmeal.

Can  I order oatmeal in a restaurant?

No. It is sure to be contaminated with gluten unless the restaurant actually buys gluten-free oatmeal, and that is not likely to happen.

How is gluten-free oatmeal different?

These oats are not grown near crops that contain gluten. The oats are also tested for gluten contamination, supposedly on a regular basis.

Is gluten-free oatmeal safe for me to eat?

According to the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America, 1/2 cup of gluten-free oatmeal a day is safe for most celiacs. They suggest you introduce oats slowly into your diet so that the increased fiber does not upset your digestive system. A few people with celiac disease also have a hypersensitivity to oats. If you plan to introduce gluten-free oats to your diet, the GIG suggests that you should do it with the advice and supervision of your health care team.; make sure to have your antibody levels reviewed regularly.

However, according to a scientific study published by the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in June 2007, only 25 of the 134 “pure, uncontaminated oat varieties” reviewed in Europe, the U.S. and Canada had undetectable levels of gluten. The other 109 varieties were contaminated, especially with barley. It turns out that one of the two commerical gluten tests cannot detect barley contamination. Furthermore, some celiacs’ “hypersensitibity to oats” mentioned by GIG is actually “oat sensitive small intestine T cells,” which means trouble in the same area affected by celiac disease. Complicating matters still further, some varieties of oats are more toxic to celiacs than other varieties, regardless of contamination. That is why the Celiac Sprue Association recommends not eating oats.

All you need to know? Eating oats is currently a risky endeavor for a people with celiac disease, and GF children should absolutely not be allowed to eat any oats. If an adult is confident that the oats s/he is buying are uncontaminated, up to 50 grams a day might be introduced gradually under medical supervision.

Where to buy gluten free oatmeal?

Without being able to guarantee that these oats are in fact the gluten-free kind, here are some links to gluten-free oats. They all boast the use of the latest commercial test that scientists think can accurately detect barley contamination.

Bob’s Red Mill, a gigantic U.S. company

Chateau Cream Hill Estates, a Canadian company

Gluten Free Oats

Gifts of Nature

Only Oats, a Canadian company

What do I do with oatmeal?

Let me recommend a site (pictured above) created by an oatmeal zealot, Kath’s Tribute to Oatmeal.

Gluten Free School Lunch

The American Celiac Disease Alliance has an interesting web page up about a law forbidding discrimination against people with disabilities. They suggest that this law can be used to get federally funded lunch for low income children with celiac disease. The law, 29 USC Sec. 794, states:

No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.

The ACDA explains that the National School Lunch Program is one of these federally funded programs that cannot discriminate against people with a disability—in this case, celiac disease. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program that provides low-cost or free lunches to those students whose family incomes are at or below 130 percent of the poverty level; reduced-price lunches are offered to those students whose family incomes are between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture document, Accomodating Children with Special Dietary Needs in the School Nutrition Programs:

Substitutions to the regular meal must be made for children who are unable to eat school meals because of their disabilities, when that need is certified by a licensed physician.

To get your child signed up for federally funded gluten-free (or GFCF) lunches, follow these steps:

  1. Contact your school and tell them you are requesting a 504 evaluation for your child.
  2. Give the evaluation team documentation of a) the child’s celiac disease b) why celiac disease restricts your child’s diet c) how your child’s ability to work and learn at school are affected by celiac disease d) which foods must be omitted e) foods that can be substituted for omitted food f) a specific form some states require your child’s doctor to fill out e) providing a model 504 plan might be necessary
  3. Possibly attend the meeting of the school evaluation team.

In some states like New York you do not have to be low income for your child to receive school lunch—you simply pay full price for the school to provide a GF lunch, or in some cases a GF breakfast, to your child. Check on the laws about school lunch in your state.

Food Allergy Awareness Events

The middle of May is Food Allergy Awareness Week, and there are a few events you might like to attend. Thanks to Living Without for the tip-off.

  • Bowie Baysox Food Allergy Awareness Night. May 14th you can go to a baseball game in Maryland and get a hotdog on a gluten free bun, chips, soda, and a gluten-free cookie. And you get reserved seats high up. How nice is that?! Thanks again, University of Maryland School of Medicine Center for Celiac Research!
  • The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center is hosting a Gourmet Gluten Free Benefit on May 6th at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. 20 chefs and restaurants will offer gourmet gluten-free food. There will also be a live and silent auction. Let’s just say you won’t have to BYOB. Or cupcakes.
  • Tuscon, Arizona’s Southern Arizona Celiac Support Group will host a Food Faire May 9th. You can find gluten-free food samples, lots of information, and free screening for celiac disease.
  • Another Food Faire and Education Conference will be held May 2nd in Pasadena, CA by the Celiac Disease Foundation. There will be a GF cooking demonstration, several speeches by doctors involved in celiac research, a gluten-free continental breakfast and lunch, a GF goody bag, a raffle, gluten free pizza and beer tasting, one-on-ones with registered dieticians and gastroenterologists, and much more.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread Recipe

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

I dislike eating zucchini because I find it so watery and bland. But these same qualities turn zucchini—like unsweetened applesauce—into a fantastic ingredient for both sandwich and dessert breads. Your bread will become moister and chewier. When you have too much zucchini (or the zucchini is too large and rubbery), do what my husband does and grate it in the food processor, then freeze it in plastic bags until you’re ready to make Zucchini Bread. A loaf of summery zucchini bread will brighten the drabbest winter.

If you pick up so much zucchini from your local CSA that even zucchini bread is losing its appeal, try these inventive recipes from the leading home chefs of the gluten-free community!

  • Maureen of Hold the Gluten likes it sweet in her original gluten-free Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread which sparkles with both agave nectar and demerara raw cane sugar. She holds it together with brown rice, millet, and sorghum flours plus baking soda, gf baking powder, and xantham gum.
  • Simply…Gluten Free‘s Carol tinkered for two weeks until she developed the ultimate Grain-Free Zucchini Bread. Almonds are the key ingredient here: ground almond meal and raw, creamy almond butter combined with cream of tartar and baking powder. She’s planning to experiment with adding lemon zest and a lemon glaze in the future. You could try it first!
  • An unusual ingredient list happened when a celiac commentator, “Rai,” suggested a GF substitution for Heidi’s (of 101 Cookbooks) zucchini bread: 3 Cups garbanzo bean flour and 1 1/5 tsp. xantham gum. The rest of Heidi’s original recipe contains walnuts, lemon zest, poppy seeds, vanilla extract, and curry powder, among other ingredients. Sounds extraordinary.
  • Erin of My Asperger’s Girl generously donates to us her mom’s gluten-free Zucchini bread recipe. Erin used a flour blend of millet flour, sorghum flour, potato starch flour, and tapioca starch flour. The quick bread also requires baking soda and gf baking powder plus xantham gum.
  • Celiac Teen Lauren created a gluten-free recipe that’s already been picked up by and lauded by other GF bloggers. It includes her flour mix of brown rice flour, sweet rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, xantham gum, and baking soda. The texture is decorated with walnuts, but I have heard people whispering about adding dried cranberries.