Gluten free commentary: FDA defines gluten free

fda-logoI’m so late on this but in case you haven’t heard, back in August the FDA released a statement announcing that they have officially created a standardized definition of gluten free as it pertains to food labeling.

According to the FDA which by the way is  a federal executive department is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), and veterinary products.

In order to use the term “gluten-free” on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free. Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements.

So what does this all mean for us celiac and gluten intolerant? Well, it’s nice that the FDA is trying to hold food processors accountable for their labeling and creating a standardized guideline for processed foods. Still as consumers we have to remain vigilant in  our own checking and rechecking of labels, production methods, and standards that manufacturers use when creating gluten free products. This year alone we’ve seen many major brands and chains offering gluten free products including Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and Pillsbury. When it comes to the world of processed foods deception is the perception and we would be foolish to blindly think that a new guideline will automatically make everything safe. Just because a product says it is gluten free does not mean that it is. You (we) should always check labels. If you find something that looks odd or may be a potential source of hidden gluten call, write, contact the manufacturer. In many cases we are the experts. If your gut tells you not to eat something; Don’t. Many questions arise when examining whether a gluten free labeled product is safe for consumption:

  • Where was said product produced?
  • Is it manufactured in facility that produces products containing wheat, rye or barely?
  • What grains are used?
  • Where are said grains grown?

Just recently Bob’s Red Mill did a recall on their sweet sorghum flour due to a discrepancy between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency finding that samples of the flour contained over 32 parts per million and the tests that Bob’s did found that it was below 20 parts per million. Bob’s was very open about their double testing of said sample but based on reactions from the community and concerned consumers they voluntarily recalled the flour. In this instance whose testing was correct? How many products remain on the market? Will they remain off the market indefinitely? You see how tricky this can get?

I swear by Bob’s Red Mill and in the world of food processing and testing mistakes happen. I understand this but my point is that even brands with the best intentions and transparency make mistakes. We must be our own advocates of our health and cannot rely on the FDA or any other agency or any label to ensure our own safety. Many times recalls, standards, and guidelines are determined not with the consumer in mind but money, power and politics. The truth is not always pretty. But it is what it is.

Eating more whole real foods that you can easily trace the source of production from farm to table is one way to ensure optimal food safety for you and your family. Standards by the FDA and USDA are good and all but in the grand scheme of the matrix such standards do not always mean a whole lot. For instance what happens to standards and governance when the government is shut down? You see what I mean?

To learn more about the FDA’s new gluten free labeling click here

and to learn more about the viles and corruption of the processed food industry check out the following books:

eating animals

salt sugar fat

Gluten free commentary: The skinny on sugar free

SugarcubesSo many people I talk to confuse gluten free with calorie free, sugar free, and fat free. Even with the mainstreaming of celic disease and gluten free diets there remain many misconceptions about what it means to be gluten free. Many people think that gluten free foods and baked goods are healthier than other foods. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Gluten free cooking and baking can be healthy in the same way you can make all  food healthier by using less fat, whole grains, more veggies, applesauce in place of butter etc. Eating whole, unprocessed real foods along with consistent exercise is the foundation to a healthy lifestyle and diet. The principles of baking instead of frying, steaming, roasting, and grilling also apply. For those conscious of their sugar intake experimenting with natural unrefined sugars is another way to count calories in your meals with or without gluten. So, what exactly is sugar free? Don’t all foods contain sugar?

I posed this question to Nicole Morrissey, RD and fellow food blogger of Prevention RD. Nicole is the Director of Nutrition Services at a small hospital in southwest Michigan. I love her blog and I posed my question during one of her online QA sessions. Check out her thorough response below and remember that gluten free is just that; foods that do not contain gluten or grains containing wheat, barley or rye. Gluten free foods can be just as delicious, healthy, and/or unhealthy as their gluten full counterparts if prepared the right or wrong way. Just like any other food.

QA with Nicole Morrissey of Prevention RD.: What exactly is sugar free?

Prevention RD: What a great question! One of the things I find myself saying often is, “Sugar-free does not mean carb-free!” – a very common misconception, especially for diabetics. In truth, I don’t look at sugar very often on food labels because nearly every food contains sugar. By law, “sugar-free” means less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving. Carbohydrate, on the other hand, represents sugar, complex carbohydrate, and fiber. Focusing on sugar can also deter people from eating foods that are actually quite healthy, such as fruit (fructose) and dairy (lactose). Another point is sugar alcohols which will show up on ingredient lists often listed as sorbitol, xylitol and/or mannitol. While sugar alcohols are not sugar, they have similar tastes and properties with less calories, but are not carbohydrate-free. Some of the products I may compare sugar on include cereal and yogurt – for some reason, those 2 foods tend to vary a lot in actual sugar content and may be worth comparing. Otherwise, I urge people to focus more on fiber than sugar. I hope that helps!

For more questions, comments, and commentary from Nicole check out her A+mazing blog Prevention RD and be sure to pick up her new cookbook: Prevention RD’s Everyday Healthy Cooking: 100 Light and Delicious Recipes to Promote Energy, Weight Loss, and Well-Being

prevention rd Photo credit (sugar cubes): Wikipedia

Gluten free on the go: 10 Gluten Free Travel Tips When Flying

gluten free guideThis month’s gluten free on the go feature comes courtesy of Adam Bryan who is the founder of the amazing resource site Gluten Free Guide HQ.   This site is by far one of the best gluten free resources on the web right now. It’s gives a plethora of tips about:
  • “What restaurants offer gluten free options?”
  • “Are there any restaurants that almost eliminate the risk of cross-contamination?”
  • “What on earth can I eat at McDonalds, Taco Bell, or any other fast food restaurant?”
  • “Since I’m a Celiac, can I eat out safely?”
  • “How can I eat at a restaurant comfortably without getting sick?”
  • “Where can I get a juicy cheeseburger on a freshly baked bun?”
I’m fortunate to have Adam’s expertise on how to create a stress free no hassle gluten free airline experience. Check out his article below and be sure to follow his twitter (@Urbantasetebuds) and facebook pages as well as purchase his book The Gluten Free Fast Food Guide at Amazon.com
10 Gluten Free Travel Tips When Flying by Adam Bryan
Winter is just around the corner and that means more opportunities for travelers to take holiday vacations and trips.Whether if you’re taking a Thanksgiving trip to Disney World, or seeing relatives in England for Christmas, preparing for a trip that requires air travel can sometimes be a hassle. First of all, it sometimes become quite difficult trying to find something suitable to eat at an airport. And second of all, most airlines don’t serve gluten free snacks on their flights. I mean seriously, it’s almost like as if they don’t even serve peanuts anymore. Instead, airlines have opted to serve mini-pretzels, in which 99.99% of the time are not gluten free. So how do you create a stress free travel environment especially when you have to venture into unknown airports and airlines? Well that’s where these 10 extremely helpful tips and tricks come in!
Booking Your Flight
1. Order a gluten free meal for your flight. If you know for sure that you will be flying internationally, be sure to request a gluten free meal (GFML) when you book your flight. (This only works if your flight will be serving a meal. Now if you are flying domestically and still want a gluten free meal, a few airlines such as United Airlines, Delta, and Virgin America do offer gluten free meal options, for an additional cost, unless you’re flying first class. So just be sure to do your research first. Here’s a pretty awesome gluten free airline meal list for most major airlines across globe. Plus this will tell you if your airline has gluten free meals that are Celiac friendly.
Packing
2. When packing your bags for your upcoming trip, be sure to bring along a few snacks with you. Preferably, you should bring prepackaged items such as chips, or pretzels, candy bars, etc. Fruits are only suitable for domestic flights (within the U.S.) and not internationally only because every country’s customs laws vary.
At the Airport
3. Now if you did request a gluten free meal (GFML) for your flight, be sure to check in with the gate representative to ensure that your meal request was received. This can be done when you’re checking in at your flight or when you’re at the gate.
Tip: Now if the airline that you ordered a meal from dropped the ball and didn’t process your meal request, be sure to find a suitable food place within the airport to get yourself another meal. There’s more on this on tip #4.
4. If you are eating at an airport, be sure to check out the food directory to see what’s available.  Since a majority of these fast food restaurants in airport food courts are chain restaurants, chances are you can find their gluten free menu online. You can check out this handy list of gluten free restaurant menus to help you make safer choices.
5. If you didn’t bring any snacks with you to the airport and you know that your flight is long but doesn’t serve any food, be sure to stop by a snack shop at the airport. These places are usually disguised as magazine stores but they do have a snack section. The safest bets are always fruit cups especially if you are unsure if other snacks contain gluten or not.
6.  Bring an extra meal with you. Airlines make mistakes, so there may be times that airlines forget your meal completely or worse, they have a meal waiting for you, but it has gluten written all over it. If this happens, you’re basically going to have to starve for the entire duration of your flight. BUT, this can all be avoided if you come prepared with a second meal. This tip isn’t always necessary but it’s always a great thing to ensure the safety  and comfort of your belly.
In the Airplane
7. The last tip is to double check the “gluten-free-ness” of your inflight meal. Like I mentioned earlier, airlines do make mistakes so there may be times that they items with gluten in your meal. I mean seriously, there have been incidences when people have received toast or soy sauce with their gluten free meal. So always double check your meal.
So by following these 7 steps/tips, you’ll be sure to never go hungry when traveling through the air. Thanks for reading and happy travels!

Gluten free review: Rosario Pino’s Artisan Foods

r-logoIf you live in the Rochester area and you have yet to stop into Rosario Pino’s then you are seriously missing out. This not so hidden gem in the Piano Works Plaza on West Commercial street in East Rochester is full of old and new world oils, vinegars, spices, cookware and other products imported directly from Italy. Named after the family patriarch Rosario Pino’s is a family owned and operated food market. The family feel adds to its intimate charm and old world hospitality. The staff is ever so welcoming and friendly which is hard to find in our fast paced world.

I happened upon this gem on a whim and I am glad I did. A few months ago when I first came back to Rochester I added Rosario Pino’s  to my list of shops to visit that carry gluten free products. I wasn’t sure how gluten friendly my hometown of Rochester was but fortunately Rosario’s was top on the list of gluten friendly establishments to pop up in my Google search. Of course life happened and I never got around to visiting Rosario’s until a doctors visit brought me to the East Rochester area last Monday. Rosario’s carries a number of artisan and special edition gluten free Italian brands that you won’t find anywhere else. But if gluten free is not your concern there are more than a few things for you as well. Artisan pastas, sauces, and olive oils are just a few of the goods that fill the shelves.

What sets this market apart from any other place in the area is the Sub-Zero & Wolf Demonstration Kitchen where cooking classes are held for the public. This demo kitchen looks like it comes straight from Food Network. On a monthly basis culinary masters and chefs from all over the Rochester area show anyone who is interested how to prepare gourmet and everyday dinners and desserts. The food is cooked in front of you and then you get to sample all the meals that are prepared.  How cool is that? Fortunately for this chef, Rosario’s is interested in putting me in the spotlight and demonstrating the wonders of gluten free baking! I wonder was it fate or pure coincidence that brought me to the market last Monday but whatever it was, I am glad that I stopped in.

Rosario Pino’s is the place to be if you are looking for an artisan food or culinary gift for that special someone or if you just happen to be in the area looking to browse some place interesting. I look forward to working with the awesome staff at Rosario Pino’s  and sharing my delights and experiences with one of the coolest shops in Rochester!

Rating 5/5

Gluten free commentary: Gluten free myths debunked part I

mythsI get many comments on both of my blogs from readers expressing thoughts and concerns about gluten free options and my gluten free lifestyle. I felt compelled to address some of the myth’s and inaccuracies that I’ve read overtime in many of these comments. Gluten free and celiac disease have become popular media buzzwords recently and there are many misrepresentations and myths being perpetuated by media outlets and in some cases professionals making false claims about gluten, gluten free diets and celiac disease.

Feel free to join this discussion with your thoughts in the comments on this post and share more myths you would like debunked. I would like this to become a regular discussion on the blog. Remember to be kind, polite, and respectful when responding to and leaving comments. Everyone has a voice and a right to an opinion. Spirited debate and passionate discussion is encouraged however impolite comments or personal attacks will be moderated.

So without further adieu,

Common Gluten Free Myths & Inaccuracies Part I

1. Myth: I want to lose weight so I should try this new gluten free diet
Truth: A gluten free diet is not a weight-loss diet or a diet in the sense of restricting foods or food groups in an effort to reduce calories or lose weight. A gluten free diet is a lifestyle or way of eating that excludes foods and ingredients made with wheat, barley and other grains containing gluten.

2. What is gluten?
Truth: Simply put gluten is the protein found in grains such as wheat, barely, rye, and spelt. It is what gives bread its elasticity, chew, and pull. Grains such as rice, corn, oats, and buckwheat are naturally gluten free.

Most processed foods contain some trace of wheat, which makes it so difficult to find gluten free products on the market. There can be hidden traces of wheat in everything from salad dressing to ice cream.

3. Myth: Celiac disease is a food allergy.
Truth: Celiac disease is not a food allergy. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder. In an individual with celiac disease when foods containing gluten are ingested an immune mediated toxic reaction is created that causes damage to the small intestine. This damage does not allow food to be properly absorbed by the body.

Overtime this damage can effect the small bowel and lead to a host of problems in the body including fatigue, IBS, skin rashes, constipation, extreme weightless and many other thigs. Ingesting even trace amounts of gluten can be a matter of life and death for a celiac.

4. Myth:  I don’t have celiac disease but I still want to go gluten free.
Truth: Just like any diet or long term way of eating one should consult with a medical professional including a certified nutritionist before beginning. A nutritionist will help you understand proper replacements and alternatives to ensure that you are getting full nutrition and essential vitamins that may be lost when consuming foods devoid of gluten.

5. Myth: A gluten free diet will cure Fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Truth: As of now there is no known cure for fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Additionally there is not substantive research on the effects of a gluten free diet on fibromyalgia. The varied nature of fibromyaglia make any treatment individual specific meaning that some things work more or less between one person to the next. Again it is best to consult with your physician to create the best fibromyalgia treatment plan for you.

6. Myth: Gluten free food is healthier.
Truth: One should look at the ingredients and nutritional content of any and all foods consumed. Foods labeled gluten free are not neccessarily “healthier” nor better for you than any other foods. Most nutritionists recommend diets high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. As a rule consuming whole real foods free from preservatives, sugar, and empty calories is your best bet. Visit the Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate for recommendations on a healthy daily diet. Remember these are recommendations and each family/person has to decide what foods are best for you and your family to consume.

Jump in in the comment section and let me know your thoughts. For more information on fibromyalgia and celiac disease visit the links below.

Celiac Disease info

Fibromyalgia info