Monday, May 5, 2014

Interview with 4 Celiacs: Restaurant Owners Listen Up!

I had someone ask me on Twitter the other day if it bothers me that some people follow a gluten free lifestyle because they think it's a trendy new diet. My response? "Actually, it doesn't bother me. The higher the demand for gluten free products, the better for my Celiac child," I said.

It's exciting to see all of the gluten free products available today. I've heard that 10 years ago, 5 years ago, and even 1 year ago shopping for gluten free items often required trips to multiple stores and online shopping.

It also seems like every day another restaurant announces that they have gluten free menus. Also awesome.

Or is it?

When I mention to people that my son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and that he is gluten free, they almost always immediately respond with a comment like "Oh, I saw the other day that Joe Schmo's Pizzeria is offering gluten free pizza. Have you tried it?" Ugh.

Don't get me wrong. I'm excited that many restaurants are trying to offer gluten free menu items. But I know it is my responsibility as Celiac Son's mother and advocate to make sure that not only the food is truly gluten free, but also that it has not been cross contaminated, and that the kitchen and wait staff at a restaurant have a true appreciation for the fact that his food cannot touch any other food in the restaurant. Period.

There are a few lists that I have found online like this one about the top gluten free chain restaurants, or this one 75 Essential Gluten Free Restaurant Menus You Need to Know. And although it is nice that there are lists like this, for those with Celiac Disease, these lists are just a starting point. The real research is not in these lists, but what comes after. There are some vital questions for Celiacs to ask at restaurants such as:

1. Does the restaurant's kitchen have a dedicated cooking area to cook gluten free foods?
2. Do they use separate cooking utensils, colanders, pans, and grills?
3. Are toppings (think pizza toppings) separate from the non-gluten free toppings?
3. Do they bake any items with flour in the same room as they are cooking gluten free items as flour can stay airborne for up to 24 hours?
4. Has the staff been properly trained on how to handle gluten free items?
5. Does the staff know WHY keeping gluten free foods separate from the rest of the food is important?

This is serious stuff. Sometimes even I can be completely overwhelmed by it in my own kitchen! I find myself putting my son's life in the hands of strangers each time we eat out at a restaurant. Is it worth it?

Well, I need to consider that question from my son's perspective. Eating out is a very social event. It's something we've enjoyed doing both together as a family and socially with friends his whole life. Celiac son loves that he is feeling better now that we've figured out what was making his tummy hurt. But he is a social animal. He wants to get out of the house and be around other people. And sometimes that means going out to eat at a restaurant. Lucky for us, restaurants are becoming more and more aware of gluten free lifestyles and Celiac Disease. I am hoping that this post will help those in the restaurant business to understand what going out to eat as a Celiac truly means and the measures that must be taken to keep my Celiac son and all Celiacs safe while they are in the hands of others.

Since I've been blogging about our family's journey with Celiac Disease, I've come across a number of other bloggers in the Celiac community that have been sharing interesting and relevant information about Celiac as well as those who are either gluten intolerant or choosing to eat gluten free for other health reasons. I've asked 4 members of that community if they would be willing to let me "interview" them about what it's like eating out at restaurants now that they are gluten free.

First, I will introduce my interviewees. Following the introductions is the interview. You may be surprised to see where answers are similar and where they differ.


Kaila is a 20-something young professional. She was diagnosed with Celiac Disease while in college and credits her mom for helping her navigate her Celiac diagnosis while in college.


Follow Kaila on her Blog: GlutenFreeLife247.com

Twitter: @GFLife247


Chris is the father of a teenage boy who was diagnosed with Celiac Disease 6 months ago. Chris offers a dad's perspective, and is committed to not allowing Celiac Disease define his family.

Follow Chris on his Blog: CeliacTeenDad.com

Twitter: @CeliacTeenDad



Jill: Celiac Disease runs in Jill's family. From her 94 year old grandmother down to her 5 year old daughter (and Jill in between). Jill lives in the UK.


Follow Jill's blog: GlutenFreeLivingOurStory.blogspot.co.uk

Twitter: @jill_evepryor






Kathleen is the mother of a gluten free child who was diagnosed as a Celiac as a baby. She writes about her experiences at Celiac Baby, and also offers consultations to help others make gluten free living their new normal. Kathleen lives outside of Toronto, Canada.

Follow Kathleen's Blog: CeliacBaby!

Twitter: @CeliacBaby




CELIAC'S EATING OUT AT RESTAURANTS: TO DO OR NOT TO DO?

Do you (or does someone in your family) have Celiac Disease? Are you gluten sensitive? Other?

20-something: I'm a celiac with seven allergies, so eating out is always an adventure! Since I'm the only celiac in my group of friends and family, it's important to me to feel "included" on outings (even though I'm 22!). Plus, I've lived in four states in the last year. While I've set up five kitchens during that time, it's nice to be able to eat out during the transitions.

Celiac Teen Dad: My son, Cam, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in September of 2013. He is the only person in each of our extended families to be “officially” diagnosed with the disease, which we find odd since it is so closely tied with genetics. Before Cam’s diagnosis, I, honestly, could have cared less about “gluten-free”. I thought that it was just another fad diet being pushed into the consumer’s face. It was when I witnessed the pain that Cam was going through that I knew my new role was to become an advocate for him and for other people with Celiac. I needed to teach those who had the same ignorance to the cause that I used to have.
UK Celiac Mom: My brother was diagnosed about 10 years ago after being very ill for a while. I was diagnosed around 4 years ago after nearly 20 years of symptoms, my youngest daughter when she was just 5 in 2012. My 94 year old Grandma self diagnosed recently after years of suffering and felt much better. Our family life is ruled by gluten free living!
Celiac Baby: I am the mother of a gluten free 5 year old. My son was put on a gluten free diet at just under 2 years old by his physician. Our family has been eating gluten free for over 3 years, and we all follow the diet to support him.


Do you eat out at restaurants?

20-something: I do! But, I'm very selective about where I'll eat, and I'm comfortable bringing my own meals to restaurants.

Celiac Teen Dad: Yes, we continue to eat out at restaurants. Our daughter is 10 years old and still enjoys eating out and trying new foods. We are not going to deprive her of this experience and let this disease control what our entire family does. We just make sure to be more careful now when doing so.
UK Celiac Mom: Yes, not often though, around once a month.
Celiac Baby: Yes, we eat out at restaurants. I think it’s important that my son learn how to navigate restaurants from a young age. I don’t think people with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should be deprived of enjoying a meal out.

How do you let the wait staff know that you are gluten free? What terminology do you use? Do you ask to speak to the chef? Do you call ahead?

20-something: Lots and lots! Most people remember me, so I'll only call ahead (or email) the first time I dine at a restaurant. There are a few places that request I pre-order, especially if I'm going out for NYE or a big celebration. My go-to tool besides talking to a chef and/or manager are my allergy business cards. I never leave home without them, and I give one to everyone from my waitress to the chef!

Celiac Teen Dad: Prior to us even ordering our drinks, we let the wait staff know that Cam has Celiac Disease. We want the staff to realize that this is a disease and that it is a very dangerous situation. We’ve found that using the word “disease” gets the staff’s attention a little more than saying that we are gluten free. My wife has even said to the staff, “if our son eats gluten, he dies.” That drives the point home pretty well. If we still get a dumbfounded look from the staff member (and we’ve all seen this look), we’ll take the time to explain to them what Celiac is and ask also to speak with the manager. I have never called ahead to specifically ask about a gluten free menu. If I am on the phone with the restaurant and making a reservation, I will make it a point to ask about their gluten free offerings but I mostly use the technology of my smart phone rather than calling.
UK Celiac Mom: We often call ahead, especially if we are trying somewhere new. I often speak to the head of staff to discuss options to double check whether a listed item is gluten free. Checking what their fryers are used for often helps define whether chips for example are gluten free or not. Staff seem to be getting much better at understanding what gluten is.
Celiac Baby: Even if I’ve called ahead, I still speak with the waiter and sometimes ask to speak to the chef. I explain that my son can’t eat gluten, meaning nothing that contains wheat, barley, rye, etc. I explain that he will get very sick if he eats any gluten. If I don’t think my concerns are being taken seriously, we’ll leave. That’s only happened 2 or 3 times over the past 3 years.

What could restaurants do to make things easier for gluten free patrons?

20-something: I think restaurants should have a binder that lists all the ingredients in a dish that is open to patrons upon arrival. In my dreams, everyone would have a dedicated gluten free section of their kitchen to help prevent cross-contact/contamination, but that's not a reasonable request.

Celiac Teen Dad: I defer my answer to Cam on this one since he is the gluten free patron in our house – “It would be nice if all the restaurants had a gluten free menu that was easy to find. Now, I have to either ask for a separate menu or I have to look to find the little “GF” symbols next to the foods to see if they are safe. If they listed all the gluten free foods together on the regular menu, not the one we have to ask for, that would make it easier for me to look at. I also would like to know if the restaurant has a dedicated gluten free cooking area. That is almost never listed and would make me feel safer if I knew that they had this."
UK Celiac Mom: Offering more choice. I get so frustrated as when I cook at home, you can make so many mainstream meals gluten free just by switching to a gluten free flour/stock cube with little or no extra cost. If restaurants did this as standard, it would open up the menu for coeliacs. Also, I find it really difficult eating out with my daughter - I have yet to find a UK restaurant which offers a gluten free child menu other than pizza hut. It is so hard for her to eat differently to her sister.
Celiac Baby: Overall, I think restaurants who choose to offer gluten free items should be committed to ensuring they are truly safe for those who suffer from Celiac or gluten sensitivity and not just choosing to cut gluten from their diet for non-health reasons. I think they need to take gluten free patrons as seriously as they take those with severe allergies.

Do you think all restaurants should try to offer gluten free menu options? Why or why not?

20-something: It would be nice, but it's not where I would aim my efforts. I would prefer to have a few restaurants in each city that are careful about cross-contact/contamination. And, the new trend of 100% gluten and peanut free caf├ęs is one of my favorite!

Celiac Teen Dad: My opinion on this is going to differ from many but I don’t think that all restaurants need to have these gluten free menu items. Some of the responsibility of eating gluten free and making the right choices needs to land on the person with the special diet, or in our case, that person’s parents. If you or your child has a gluten free condition, don’t go to a restaurant that has the word “Bread Company” in their name. You know that the chances are few and far between that this company would have a dedicated area for gluten free so why risk getting sick by going there? You don’t go to a Chinese restaurant and order spaghetti. Why would you go to a bread company and order gluten-free? Choose from the numerous other restaurants where you know the food is going to be safe for you.
UK Celiac Mom: Yes, even if it is limited, there should be something on offer.
Celiac Baby: The truth is, almost all restaurants offer gluten free menu options, or at least have the potential to offer them. Meat and vegetables, soups & salads can also easily be modified to be gluten free. The bigger issue is around how these items are prepared and whether the appropriate measures are being taken to avoid cross-contamination. I don’t expect restaurants to offer special gluten free options, because each restaurant should be free to choose their own menu. However, I do think that if a restaurant is going to label menu items as being gluten free, they should be committed to doing it right.

Have you had any bad experiences eating out at restaurants?

20-something: Yes, but not too many. While I avoid these restaurants in the future, I try not to be too harsh because I'm never 100% positive it wasn't my belly acting up for other reasons. One of the difficulties eating out is finding an option that is both GF and free of my allergens. So if anyone in Boston wants to open up a bakery that makes gluten, dairy, and egg free treats without tapioca flour (my pesky allergy), I'll come all the time!

Celiac Teen Dad: We’ve actually had a harder time at our school cafeteria than we have had eating out at restaurants. Cam’s only complaint when eating out is the quality of the food. When we first started his gluten free diet, some of the food that we had was terrible. We went to a pizza place once where the pizza crust was the consistency of wet cardboard. We’ve also discovered the hard way the problems with “same line contamination." Good examples of this are with soft-serve frozen yogurt locations or restaurants that have the 140 choice, pick your own flavor, drink stations. The yogurt may be listed as gluten free and the drink that you pick may not have any malt flavoring but since the dispensing line used is the same as the other “unsafe” options, it can be problematic.
UK Celiac Mom: Ordering a roast dinner in a pub which advertised gluten free roasts only to be told the gravy wasn't gluten free - my daughter was not happy. Ordering a gluten free pizza at pizza hut only to be told after a half hour wait they had none in stock and could only offer me salad - I had just eaten salad as my starter!
Celiac Baby: Fortunately, we’ve only had a few bad experiences, and they were caught before my son ate anything because of the questions I asked the staff. For example, one restaurant claimed the fries were gluten free, but then a staff member admitted that they were prepared in a fryer used to cook items that were not gluten free. The worst experience we had was at a chain restaurant with a separate gluten free menu, except that none of the staff was aware of it (although it was in the menu book) and no one could answer any of my questions.

Have you had any good experiences eating out at restaurants?

20-something: Yes, plenty! I've had many chefs come out and explain the exact procedure they were going to use to prepare my meal. As long as your patient, I've never had a restaurant be rude when I ask 10,000 questions. And, while I've heard a few horror stories, I've had very good experiences at both Disney World (FL) and Vail Resorts (CO). But you still need to read blogs to determine the most allergy-friendly restaurants, make phone calls, and advocate for yourself in each restaurant.

Celiac Teen Dad: We’ve had several great experiences. These range from gluten free items being provided on dedicated serving plates so that the kitchen avoids cross-contamination to going to a restaurant and being handed a gluten free menu that has as many offerings as the “normal” menu. Many places are very understanding of Celiac Disease and often go above and beyond to make sure that Cam is safe when eating there. These are the places that get my return business.
UK Celiac Mom: The last 5 years have seen an increase in places offering gluten free options on their menu. We even have one place locally who even have gluten free profiteroles (cream puffs) available! It is expensive to eat there but worth it when we do.
Celiac Baby: I’ve had so many great experiences. Most restaurant staff have gone out of their way to take care of my son. There are a few places we return to again and again because the service is great and the food is safe. We’ve even had cooks prepare something not on the menu just for my son.

Anything else you’d like to say about eating out at restaurants?

20-something: The key is to be confident (but not rude), and do your research ahead of time! Also, if you're single like me, there are plenty of date ideas that avoid restaurants (and beer). Since everything seems to come back to food, pick an outing/activity that is near a smoothie shop or popcorn stand where you know you can grab something small if you want. Or if you are choosing to eat out, suggest a restaurant where you feel comfortable eating. But don't hide your celiac disease for too long because it's part of what makes you awesome too!

Celiac Teen Dad: One of our family mottos, as I stated before, is that we are not going to let Celiac control what our entire family does. Yes, we have had to make huge changes in our lifestyle and, yes, Cam’s health is of the utmost importance to us. But before his diagnosis, we enjoyed eating out at restaurants. It was a family treat going out once or twice a week. We are not going to let Celiac Disease scare us away from something that we enjoy. Does it require more work? Absolutely. Is it worth it to have him gain confidence eating out while continuing to make life memories? You bet.
Celiac Baby: While the potential for disaster is certainly there, I think that most restaurants want to keep their patrons happy and safe. Be polite, explain the food restrictions in simple language, ask questions, and treat the restaurant staff as though they are partners in keeping you or your loved one safe. However, if it doesn’t feel right or you’re not convinced they get it, don’t be afraid to leave without ordering. Better safe than sorry!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Infographic: What is Celiac Disease?

Awesome infographic that explains Celiac Disease. If you or your child are newly diagnosed and people are asking you what Celiac Disease is, copy the link to this blog post and share this infographic with them.


Celiac Facts - Celiac Disease Awareness
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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Favorite Gluten Free Dinner

Since I've been cooking gluten free dinners for about 6 months now, I've tried a few new recipes. But I have to say, this is not only my all time favorite gluten free recipe, but quite possibly the best dinner I've ever made (aside from Thanksgiving, maybe!).

Gluten Free Chicken Picatta

This recipe comes from realwholefoodhealth.com.



I made it with Arugula Salad and squash. Yummy! Here's my photo. Oh, and don't forget the glass of wine. I recommend Kendall Jackson Chardonnay.






Saturday, April 26, 2014

Top 5 Things I've Learned as a New Celiac Mom

1. Be prepared

Gone are the days of just winging it. I always have to think ahead and have food packed. Whether it's a day at the beach, a hockey tournament weekend, or a drive into the city for the day, I am always prepared.

2. There are more gluten free folks in my circle there than I realized

I was worried that my Celiac Son would have a hard time going to friend's houses and that they wouldn't understand that, even though he was showing up with his own foods, there was still the issue of cross contamination. Luckily, he has many friends who have at least one gluten free member of their family AND they get it.

3. We've had the chance to try so many new yummy recipes

I have really enjoyed researching gluten free recipes. It has given me a chance to find gluten free bloggers like A Girl DeFloured who have the yummiest ideas and recipes to share.


4. We already ate a lot of gluten free foods before the Celiac diagnosis

Most of our dinners were already gluten free. Meat and vegetables are naturally gluten free—it's mostly just the sauces, dressings, and gravies that I have to pay better attention to. But honestly, our dinner menu has not changed drastically.

5. I am still an overprotective 'Mama Bear'

I thought I had outgrown this once my children started getting a little bit older, but you mess with my child, gluten, you're gonna hear me roar!


Image Credit: Creative Commons | babies-dangerous-wild-animals.blogspot.com

Friday, April 25, 2014

Celiacs plan ahead for a day at the Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon has always been a special event. Celiac Son and I decided to spend the day this year cheering on the runners. We were emotionally inspired all day long. It was such a special day. We chose to watch the marathon from Natick Center, at about mile marker 10. We chose this location specifically because we knew we could get some gluten free eats at Lola's Italian Restaurant. Thank you, Lola's! Celiac Son totally enjoyed his gluten free turkey sub and he especially enjoyed not having to pack a lunch box!

Here's a short clip of just some of what we experienced on Marathon Monday..



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to make a gluten free ice cream sundae

Recently, I wrote a post about how to take your Celiac child out for ice cream. It was a big hit!

Sometimes, though, we just want to stay in and made our ice cream sundae just the way we like it...whether that means with a cherry on top or 9 cherries on top! Check out our video about how to make a gluten free ice cream sundae:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Gluten Free & Peanut Free Easter Basket 2014

As this is our first gluten free Easter, I needed some time do some research on what candies are gluten free and acceptable for the Easter Basket.

My added challenge?

I not only have a Celiac child, but I also have a Peanut Allergy child. So many candies that are gluten free and would be great for Celiac child like Snickers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and Reese's Pieces get immediately scratched off the list.

To top that off, we also have braces to deal with, so safe candies for both of them like Starbursts, Sour Patch Kids, Blow Pops, and Hubba Bubba are not an option either.

My mother called me last weekend while she was standing in the Easter candy aisle, rattling off candies to me asking me if they were safe. I had to be honest, I wasn't sure about many of them. It was frustrating for her, and she started looking things up online from her smart phone at the store. "But," I told her, "What websites are you looking at? You can't just Google "Are Hershey's Kisses Gluten Free?" and trust the first response that comes up (Hershey's kisses are gluten free by the way, check out my blog post about Hershey's awesome food allergy practices). You have to find a source that we can trust 100%."

It took me a couple of days, but then I came across this list on Twitter from Celiac.org.

Reputable? Oh yeah. It's coming directly from the website of the Celiac Disease Foundation.

After I sent the list to Grandma, I printed it off and brought it with me to Target for my Easter shopping. I'm sure the other 20 moms shopping thought I had a little OCD, candy shopping with a 5 page list, oh well.

I found a great variety of candies and am putting together a great Easter Basket for both Celiac child and Peanut Allergy child this year.

Happy Easter too all!!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Celiac Son's List of Questions for Nutritionist at Boston Children's Hospital

My Celiac son had a 6-month check in appointment with a nutritionist today at Boston Children’s Hospital. They have an amazing program which includes an active Celiac support group.

Knowing that today’s appointment was upon us, Celiac Son and I have been keeping notes about random questions we wanted to ask the nutritionist. His list was at the top of the order for the appointment and what I will be sharing in this post.

So the following was Celiac son's list of questions for the nutritionist. Would your Celiac child's list be similar?

Can I eat the following?

-Hot dogs (at hockey rinks)


-Popcorn (at hockey rinks and movie theatres)

-Gum



-McDonald's Milk Shakes (after hockey practice)


-Ice Cream (at ice cream parlors)


Nutritionists’ responses:

Hot dogs

Most of the time, yes. Be sure to ask to read the ingredient list on the package.
Remember, no bun (though you can bring your own. Try Udi’s!)

Popcorn
Yes, just make sure that the person scooping the popcorn is wearing gloves so you don’t have to worry about cross contamination.

Gum

Yes

McDonald’s milk shakes (after hockey practice)
Yes!

Ice cream (at ice cream parlors)
Yes, but follow strict rules. See my previous blog post about Going Out For Ice Cream with a Celiac Child.


Celiac son was thrilled! There are so many things we've had to say "no" to. It was nice for him to have a day where he heard lots of "yes's." Celiac son is thrilled that he can still enjoy some of his favorite “fast foods.”

We are so fortunate to have such an amazing facility in Children's Hospital Boston with professionals who are dedicated to the research and care of children with Celiac Disease.

Image Credits:

McDonald's Milk Shake: www.mcdonalds.com
Popcorn: timelessbeauty.wordpress.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gluten Free Communion Host

If you partake in Communion at Church and have recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, you may be wondering what to do about accepting and sharing in Christ's blessed meal.

We asked about this at our Celiac School session at Children's Hospital in Boston, and another parent recommended that I look online at a company called Ener-G. Ener-G makes a gluten free host that can be ordered and shipped directly to your home.


I spoke with Celiac Son's Religious Education Director, and turns out, he is not the only Celiac Child in our Church. Our Religious Education Director ordered Christian lockets that are to be kept in the sacristy. The Celiac children can keep their lockets there, along with a sealed bag with their gluten free host with their names on them.

Each Sunday, before Mass, the children walk back to the sacristy, put their host in their locket, walk out and over to the alter and leave their locket on the altar for Father to bless when he blesses the bread and wine. When it is time for the Congregation to walk up for Communion, Celiac Son jumps out of line and retrieves his locket, which has his blessed communion.

Now, I will admit, Celiac Son was a little bit nervous about this whole process the first few times. It takes a lot of courage to walk out to the altar in front of the whole congregation before Mass starts. However, after a few weeks, he has become a pro.

I don't know if the logistics of the way we do it will work for you and your Church, but I wanted to share the information about the Gluten Free Communion. I hope that you are able to find a solution that you are comfortable with so that you can continue to share in Christ's meal.

God Bless all during this Easter season!

Image Credit: http://www.ener-g.com/communion-wafers.html

Monday, April 14, 2014

Shaw's Supermarkets is Taking Gluten Free Seriously



Part of being a "New Celiac Mom" means that I haven't had to have the experiences of some of my predecessors, that is….Celiac Moms and Dads who have been doing this for a while. From what I understand, up until about a year ago, shopping for a child with Celiac sometimes meant shopping at 4 or 5 different supermarketer and speciality shops, sometimes driving miles out of your way to find the one item you were looking for, and/or scouring the web for particular gluten free products.

Fast forward just one short year into this new gluten-sensitive world we are living in the US today...shopping for gluten free items has become a breeze compared to what my peers were accustomed to. To those Celiac Moms and Dads, I salute you. And I hope you are finally finding some relief not that gluten free items are becoming more and more readily available.

Over the last month, I have noticed that my primary grocery store, Shaw's Supermarketers, has stepped their gluten free shopping experience up a notch. They are rolling out Gluten Free tags on their grocery aisles. Every item in the store that is gluten free now has a tag similar to this in front of it.

Wow, does this make things easy!

I still recommend reading labels in case items were moved from one shelf to another or in the case of human error.

I wanted to write this post to give a big, gigantic shout out to Shaw's Supermarkets for making this New Celiac Mom's just a little bit easier.

Thank you, Shaws!




Image Credit Shaw's Logo: www.shaws.com

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Going out for ice cream with your Celiac child

This is our first ice cream season as a Celiac family. Celiac Son was diagnosed in September, so it was easy to avoid during the fall and winter months. But with the warmer weather finally upon us, all of the little ice cream shops in town are starting to open up and Celiac Son wants to "go out for ice cream, already!"



Luckily, we are a food allergy family and this is not our first time around the ice cream rodeo. Remember, Celiac Son has a Peanut Allergy Brother. So, we are familiar with and comfortable requesting some extra TLC at the ice cream counter.

You may feel a little bit reluctant the first few times, but ice cream is something your child should not miss out on. It's worth the embarrassment of holding up the line and asking for help for yummy, yummy ice cream!

So here are my recommendations when going out for ice cream with a Celiac child:

First and foremost, always be sure to tell your server ahead of time that you have a gluten allergy and ask them if they are willing to take the necessary precautions to keep you safe. If your server is not comfortable, ask to please speak to a manager.

Second, you have to find a gluten free ice cream (nothing with cookies or other add-ins that contain gluten). Ask to read ingredient labels. You'd be surprised at what is added into ice cream.

Third, you have to ask the ice cream shop to open up a brand new container of the ice cream that you know is safe. The reason that you want the brand new container is that even though the ice cream may be gluten free, if the person before you (or before them) ordered that same ice cream and the employee scooped the ice cream into a cone, and then dug back into the ice cream carton for a second scoop, that ice cream is now gluten contaminated.

Finally, ask your server to diligently wash the ice cream scoop before preparing your ice cream from the brand new container.

Soft serve: Soft serve ice cream typically doesn’t have cross contamination issues, though you should still ask to see the ingredient list.

Cones: Obviously you want to avoid cones at the ice cream parlor. If your child MUST have a cone, Joy makes a gluten free ice cream cone. I would suggest bringing your own cone and place it on top of your child's ice cream bowl.


Toppings: also largely a no-no. Even if you are asking for a topping that is gluten free, they are typically left in open containers and cross contamination is a big issue. You can, however, ask for whipped cream out of a brand new container. My son gets excited about adding whipped cream to just about anything. Also, consider bringing your own gluten free toppings.



This ice cream process may sound daunting, but we have found over the years that most ice cream parlors that we visit are familiar with food allergies. In fact, it was at an ice cream shop in Bar Harbor, Maine that I was first exposed to the washing of the scoop. The server recommended it to me!

Like most things food related for a Celiac, going out for ice cream will take some careful planning, but for a reaction like this, I think we Celiac parents would all agree it's worth it!

P.S. Okay, she's not mine, but I couldn't resist!

Ice cream image credit: http://www.fanpop.com
Nut Free Zone image credit: www.allergylifestyle.com
Joy ice cream cone image credit: www.joycone.com
Super Cute Girl Eating Ice Cream image credit: www.flickr.com

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Podcast: I interviewed my Celiac child and here's what he had to say

If your child has been recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease, my elementary aged son and I know what you are going through. In the following podcast, I asked my Celiac son about his experience with Celiac Disease (so far). Some of his responses may surprise you.




Monday, March 31, 2014

Guide to Gluten Free Flour Blends

Admittedly, I'm a Betty Crocker kinda' mom. Well, since the Celiac diagnosis anyway. I really haven't experimented much with flour blends, and have found it easier to buy pre-made brownie and cookie mixes. But, I thought this infographic was interesting. Lots of cool recipes for yummy gluten free flour blends.

Have you experimented with any flour blends? Would love to hear of your experiences! Leave me a note in the comments below.


Guide to Gluten-Free Flour Blends
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Friday, March 28, 2014

Easy To Understand Gluten Free Infographic

Here's a great infographic to share with kids and other people who maybe don't quite understand where gluten hides, and really what it is.


The Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free Living
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Choose Hershey's For Emergency Gluten Free Candy

In my house, there are 5 "candy holidays" ranked in the following order:


  1. Halloween
  2. Easter
  3. Christmas
  4. Valentine's Day
  5. St. Patrick's Day

Wait.

St. Patrick's Day? Why St. Patrick's Day, you might ask?

Well, I'll tell you why. Somewhere along the line, some super-dee duper parents decided to make up a new tradition. Apparently, they got bored somewhere between Valentine's Day and Easter, and decided their kids needed even more candy. So they created a new "tradition" that goes a little something like this:

Leave your boot by the front door on St. Patrick's Day Eve and leprechauns will fill it with candy while you sleep.

Seriously.

The first time I heard about this was when Celiac son was about five years old. One St. Patrick's Day Eve, I was cleaning up before bed, and I noticed only one of his snow boots in the doorway. Picking it up and putting it away didn't phase me, as cleaning up and putting things away is part of my every day routine. The next morning, he came running down the stairs, and almost immediately began sobbing and crying…..something about….. leprechauns? I had NO IDEA what he was talking about. When he calmed down enough to explain to me "how it works" I quickly realized that I was the leprechaun and it was my responsibility to fill this boot. 

I mumbled and I grumbled and I called all my girlfriends and asked if they had heard about this new "tradition." Some of them had heard about it from other school moms, some were going along with it, and others in my circles were boycotting the leprechaun. I decided right then and there that I was going to boycott it too.

Stupid made up tradition.

I was never going along with it.

But if there's one thing I've learned as a mom, it's never say never. The following St. Patrick's Day Eve, I had forgotten all about the leprechauns, but Celiac son had not. At about 8:00 that night, he not only set up an inflatable mattress so that he could camp out by the front door in hopes that he could catch a glimpse of his leprechaun, but he also set up an elaborate trap to catch his leprechaun.

So now here I was, having to rush out to buy candy on St. Patrick's Day Eve, as well as green feathers, fake gold and other leprechaun paraphernalia to make it look like he almost caught the leprechaun. Fantastic. Now celiac son is going to go to school, tell all his classmates that he almost caught a leprechaun, and that his leprechaun left him candy. And now all the other moms are going to hate ME for introducing this new "tradition" to their already crazy busy lives. 

Well, here we are in 2014, another St. Patrick's Day Eve, but this one our first "Celiac" St. Patrick's Day Eve. It's 8pm -ish, and what do you know? I've forgotten about the damn leprechauns again. Celiac son is placing his boot in front of the door. I call hubby, who is driving peanut allergy son home from hockey, and tell him they need to stop and pick up some candy. He asks a reasonable question "what candy do you want me to get?"

Shoot.

I have to figure out which candies are gluten free, and I have to HURRY, because hubby is not happy about this added stop after a long weekend. 

So what's a Celiac mom to do?

Internet.

I google "Hershey's gluten free candy" and I get a complete list of Hersheys' gluten free candy options, as well as a shout out about certain candies that are not gluten free (for examples, did you know that Rolos are gluten free, but Rolos 'minis" are not). 


Thank God for Hershey's! Not only was I completely impressed that I had this information at my fingertips in seconds, but I am dually impressed by Hershey's Gluten Free practices. Thank you, Hershey's, for making so many gluten free candy possibilities for my Celiac son!

Finally, if you are reading this and you have heard about the leprechaun tradition, I apologize for my participation. The leprechaun is parental peer pressure at it's finest!



Leprechaun Image Credit: http://ferrebeekeeper.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/leprechaun5.jpg



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top 10 Kid Approved Gluten Free Products

Celiac son would like to share his Top 10 Kid Approved Gluten Free products with you.

Keep in mind, that these products must be eaten within a well balanced, overall meal plan. We learned the hard way (umm, literally) that too many processed, gluten free products consumed together can bind a person up. So space them out, and enjoy them as he does. I have images for most items, but some of them were munched on before I could get the shot!

1. Glutino Cheese Pizza


2. Bell & Evans Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets (Whole Foods and Market Basket)













3. Bionaturae Pasta (see my previous blog post review on this yummy pasta)





















4. Snyder's Gluten Free Pretzels (he was so excited to eat pretzels again!)















5. Udi's bread (he is not a big sandwich kid, but loves his toast, as you can see I'm almost out!)





















6. King Arthur Muffin Mix (you can add fruit like bananas or cranberries, but we love them as a sweet treat with chocolate chip bits)




7. Applegate Farms Bacon (Shaw's, Market Basket, Whole Foods)

8. Pillsbury Cookie Dough (can be found in the refrigerator section, near the puddings and Pillsbury cookie rolls)





























10. Udi's cinnamon sweet rolls, snickerdoodles, and oatmeal raisin cookies (okay, this is 3, but we couldn't resist, they are all yummy!)














How about you? Do you have any gluten free items you would add to the list? Celiac son loves to try new things!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Recipe Review: Warm Autumnal Rice and Vegetable Salad

Much of being a Celiac mom has to do with food. I guess that's true about being a mom, in general, though. Feeding our young is one of the primary functions of motherhood (along with loving them, clothing them, and providing them with shelter). My children would probably add things like: getting me an Xbox, driving me to Dick's Sporting Goods, and taking me to Walt Disney World to the list, but I digress.

So, what does a New Celiac Mom do at the beginning of her Celiac journey?

Look up new recipes.

As a blogger, I've looked to other bloggers in the gluten free space for yummy recipes that my whole family will enjoy. I've come across some amazing blogs (check out Blogs I Follow) including this one: A Girl Defloured.


Image Credit: www.agirldefloured.com

I love this blog! Not only is it so pretty to look at (am I right?), but A Girl Defloured has categorized her recipes into super fun categories like Ladies Who Lunch, Meatless Monday, From the Sea, and Mommy Needs A Drink (I will be checking this one out soon!).

This week, I tried one of her recipes for dinner. The recipe is Warm Autumnal Rice and Veg Salad. Yummy! Unfortunately, my picture isn't as pretty as the picture she has on her site (I think she must be a professional photographer as well as a yummy recipe maker), but I had to show it and to tell you how easy this recipe was to make.


Other than telling you that this salad was a big hit with Celiac child, there are other things you should know:


  • A Girl DeFloured says prep time is 10 minutes.
    • Prep time actually took me about 20 minutes, mainly due to chopping vegetables. Also, I couldn't find pre-cooked brown rice, so my rice took 20 minutes to cook. 
  • I thought this would make for a great leftover lunch the next day. If you plan to get two meals out of it, do not combine all of the rice with the salad and the cooked vegetables. 
    • Keep the parts separate for your leftover meal. If they are combined, you can't heat it up the next day. Otherwise you will either eat warmed up arugula (yuck!) or cold rice. 


Overall, Celiac son and I give this recipe an A! It was easy to make, looked fantastic, tasted yummy, and hit some major food groups!










Friday, March 7, 2014

How to bring your Celiac child to a weekend hockey tournament

Kids’ lives are so different today than they were when we were growing up. I certainly don’t remember being as active and as involved as my kids are. Every kid I know plays sports or is active in boy scouts/girl scouts or other activities that keep them busy—and often require overnight stays.

My family’s sport is ice hockey.
Kids getting ready to take the ice
You could insert your child’s sport/activity into this blog. Tournament weekends all follow a similar pattern whether it’s gymnastics, karate, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, boy scout/girl scout camping trips, etc.

These events have always been a source of excitement for our family. It’s a blast getting together with teammates and their families for a whole weekend. Typically there are 3 or 4 games in a weekend, lots of time together at the hotel pool, many meals shared together at restaurants, and pizza parties.

Wait. 

Stop.

Yes I said restaurants and pizza parties.

So, how does a Celiac Mom pull off this challenge? Well, our family recently participated in an ice hockey tournament weekend, our first since the Celiac diagnosis. I had to put some thought and planning into it ahead of time, but I assure you, it went out without a hitch.

So if you have an upcoming tournament weekend with your Celiac child, here are 5 tips to help it run smoothly:

  1. Plan ahead. If you are new to Celiac, I’m sure you are quickly realizing that there is really no such thing as winging it anymore. Any event including birthday/holiday parties, sporting events, day outings, and vacations require careful planning. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but you really do need to prepare a meal itinerary and make sure that your Celiac child will have what he/she needs for the weekend.
  2. Play Team Manager. Our ice hockey teams tend to have at least one pizza party (typically
    Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bouldair/6419720977/
    around the hotel pool or in the hotel lounge) during tournament weekends. This allows the team to get together in a more relaxed environment with no formal restrictions (like worrying about good manners at a restaurant—always hard to pull off with 13 boys running around!) Offer to make the arrangements for the pizza party. Research pizza joints in the area, and see if you can find one that makes a
    true gluten free pizza (ensure that they use best practices to cook the pizza, and don’t just offer a gluten free dough). Collect the money from the families and order the pizza yourself. I did this for our recent hockey tournament, and learned that 6 people in our party were gluten free!
  3. Upgrade to a room with a mini kitchen.
    Image credit: Holiday Inn Express
    I know this can be pricey, but you may be surprised to hear that it doesn’t have to break the bank. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express,
    and the suite with a mini kitchen only cost us $14 more than the double room. This room had a mini refrigerator, a sink, and a microwave. If the price is astronomically higher, call and explain your situation to the reservations manager. They may be willing to supply you with a mini fridge and a microwave at no extra charge.
  4. Cook meals ahead of time. My Celiac son has an appetite. He doesn’t just eat 3 meals a day and little snacks. After a hockey game, he is looking for a meal. It doesn’t matter if it’s 9 in the morning or 9 at night, a snack isn’t going to cut it. I made a full sized pan of baked ziti (gluten free of course!) ahead of time, brought 6 portioned microwaveable containers, and heated them up whenever hunger struck. I also brought him sliced ham, which he likes to eat cold with a little bit of mustard for dipping. These were great protein fillers that tasted great and got him through to his next meal. Of course, I also brought lots of fruits and veggies and other snack options, but those mini meals really got him through.
  5. Research area restaurants and find gluten free options. Tournament weekends typically take place in cities with lots of chain restaurants. Call ahead and make sure that you are comfortable with the restaurant’s best practices regarding the management of gluten free foods. The 99 Restaurant, OutbackSteakhouse, and Pizzeria Uno are three chains that we have had luck with.



Not allowing this disease to change Celiac son’s quality of life is at the top of my priority list. He had a great weekend and didn’t feel singled out at all. Sure, it was more work for me, but a wise man once told me “anything worth doing is worth over-doing.” He sure is worth over-doing!

How about you? Do you have any great tips you can share regarding preparing ahead of time for a weekend away with Celiac? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: bionaturae Gluten Free Pasta


Years ago, when I moved into my first place, my Auntie took the time to put together a family recipe cookbook for me—handwritten! It was the most amazing gift. In her perfect penmanship, she carefully hand wrote recipe cards of the dishes I grew up eating. Auntie included recipes from my mother, her sisters, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. Each recipe card included attribution to the chef. 

All these years later, my recipe book is looking a little worse for the wear. It is tattered. The spine is bent out of shape. There are splashes and smudges covering the most used recipe pages. These include chicken parmigiana, baked ziti, meatballs, pancakes, brownies, and apple pie. 

You see where I'm going with this?

I will admit that when Celiac son was first diagnosed, I felt guilty at how emotional I was, and I was trying to be so strong for him. And then another Celiac mother said to me "It's okay to be sad about this." So I was. I allowed myself a couple of really good cries. I cried that my son was never again going to get to eat Oreos, or Bertucci's bread, or "real" pizza, or my grandmother's whoopie pies or so many of the foods that I grew up with. 

But when I was done crying, it was time to get to work. I am, after all, his mother. And one of my primary jobs is to feed and to nourish him. Time to start learning a new way to cook, and finding substitutions to make some of those favorite family recipes work.

Celiac son was always a huge pasta fan. Funny—because when I look back to the couple of undiagnosed years BEFORE, he never gave up his pasta. He would shy away from McDonald's and Dairy Queen, and from sandwiches and cereal. I never noticed the pattern, though. I just thought he didn't like junk food. But he never backed down from a good bowl of pasta. 

And this is the reason for my post.

Trying to find the right pasta to satisfy him and to help him to embrace his new diet took a few tries, but we hit the jackpot early on.


The BEST gluten free pasta we have found is bionaturae Organic Gluten Free pasta.


gluten free pasta



I make it with everything! My grandmother's chicken parmigiana over linguini, my Auntie's gulash, my mother's spaghetti and meatballs (all with gluten free breadcrumbs of course), and another Auntie's baked ziti.

Our entire family devours this pasta like we did in the non-gluten free days. Even peanut-allergy brother, who is the pickiest eater in the house, doesn't even notice that he is eating gluten free pasta when I serve bionaturae. 

I have found bionaturae at Shaw's and Whole Foods. And unfortunately, it is pricey—about $3.99 for 12 ounces. But I promise you, it is worth every penny. We have tried about a half-dozen gluten free pastas and none of them even came close to bionaturae. 

How about you? Have you had any luck with gluten free pastas? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Welcome to my blog: New Celiac Mom!

Hello! Welcome to my very first post on my new blog: New Celiac Mom.

If you haven't read my About page, be sure to check it out. I am the mother of a 10 year old child who was diagnosed about 6 months ago with Celiac Disease. This diagnosis has changed the way our family functions (to say the least). We are in the very early stages of educating ourselves about Celiac, enduring trials and tribulations, and jubilating over the fact that my son's constant tummy aches are—for the most part—gone.

Celiac son has a peanut allergy brother, so food allergies are not brand new to us. Peanut allergy brother has traveled with an Epi-pen his entire life and does not know what a peanut (or peanut butter or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or peanut M&Ms) taste like. Peanut allergy brother could go into anaphylactic shock if he accidentally comes in contact with a peanut. Scary stuff.

Although Celiac son's symptoms do not seem as severe on the outside, we know that what is going on in the inside is just as scary. As a family, we want to do everything we can to keep him safe. Since his diagnosis came later in life, he knows what he's "missing." Pizza. Pasta. Bagels. Muffins. Baked Goods.

If you're reading this, I'm sure you can relate. 

So, if you are also on a new Celiac journey, or even if your journey is not so new, I'd love to hear from you. I will be sharing tips and tricks that have worked for us, how-to's, yummy recipes we love, reviews, and probably most of all, reflections of our Celiac journey.