Go Wheatless, But Don’t Lose Your Mind by Tara Heath, LA based freelance health writer

Have you recently found out that you have an allergy to gluten? Perhaps you simply want to remove gluten from your diet because it may be causing you to gain unwanted weight and is producing other adverse effects. Transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle may sound easy at first, but in truth, it is much harder than most originally think.

Gluten is in so many different products – some that seem harmless – so you really have to pay attention to ingredients lists to make sure you aren’t consuming anything containing gluten. On top of that, it’s probably necessary for you to give up some of your favorite foods in order to support your new lifestyle.

Yes, transitioning into a new diet may be more difficult than you first thought. However, with some tips, you can make the transition as smooth as possible and make living a gluten-free lifestyle a success.

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Know what to look for.

Educating yourself is the best way to make the transition into a gluten-free lifestyle a success. It is important that you are aware of what products constitute as gluten. You will not be able to eat anything that contains wheat, barley, rye, or triticale. These are all grains that contain the gluten protein and cause adverse effects on your body, which is why you are giving up gluten products in the first place.

Know where to look.

Don’t just assume that gluten is only in food, or that it is very easy to determine what products contain this protein. Yes, there are some products that you will automatically know not to consume, such as bread, but don’t give yourself the benefit of the doubt that you already know and can easily identity other products that contain gluten. Food is sneaky - sometimes the things you least expect can be your worst enemy.

There are many things that do contain some type of derivative of gluten, and you may never even know it. Common places where this ingredient can be lurking include:

·         Beer

·         Croutons

·         Energy bars

·         Matzo

·         Marinades

·         Medications

·         Salad dressings

·         Lunch meat

·         Imitation seafood

·         Sauces

·         Gravies



Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Always read the labels of all products that you buy to ensure that you are buying gluten-free. If you are unsure of the contents of a product, avoid buying it or do further research before you purchase it to make certain it is gluten-free. There are dozens of sites online that offer great resources to help you in determining what does, and does not, fit your lifestyle.

Cook for yourself.

Eating out at restaurants or even at other people’s houses is sometimes a challenge. You don’t want to put other people out because of your inability to consume gluten. Furthermore, restaurants cannot guarantee that the dishes they prepare you won’t contain gluten. The best way to play it safe is to prepare your own meals, this way you can avoid hassle and stress.

If you do have plans to eat out at a restaurant, do some research before you get there. Take a look at the menu and find out if you’ll be able to make substitutions. More and more restaurants are adapting their menus for those with gluten sensitivities.

Be Patient with Yourself.

Such a strict change in diet is difficult to adjust to. You may feel stressed out, or irritable because you have to give up certain foods that you love. Don’t assume that you are going to breeze through this transition with ease. Know that there will be hurdles and allow yourself some space so you can successfully jump over them. Being too hard on yourself only makes matters more difficult to deal with.

Remember - you are not just talking about a diet change, you are talking about an entire lifestyle change when make the decision to go gluten-free. With these tips, the transition will be as smooth and as painless as possible. It is going to take some effort, but you will be able to succeed.

Tara Heath is a freelance writer in Southern California. She enjoys eating healthy and clean foods. You can find more of her work at the blog on www.CandyConceptsInc.com.


Seasons Say It All!


Back in the very old days our great grandparents ate from what was available in their environment. Today we are lucky we get food from all over the world and our brilliant scientists have figured out a way to make food available to us in the winter that is befitting for the summer.

Are we really that lucky?

Mother Nature naturally and brilliantly offers us bountiful foods that are befitting for the season. Why? Because they are the foods that promote our perfect health for that particular season and that correlate to a specific organ which in turn connects us with a different emotion.

Take fall, for example, which is “lung season” that is connected to the emotion of grief and sadness. This means old stuck reflections of sadness might come up on you during this season.

This is the time to eat white foods such as onions, leaks, cauliflower, almonds, daikon radish, potatoes, turnip, parsnip, rutabaga, apple, pear, rice, oats, sesame seeds, garlic, and white peppercorns.

Note that white flour and white sugar are not part of these Lung-strengthening foods! In fact, they can further deplete the immune system.

After lung season we move into kidney season as we dive deeper into the winter months.  Though winter is my least favorite season, I recognize all seasons have their purpose. Winter is the season to pull inward and hibernate to ground and root. Kidneys relate to the emotions of fear and anxiety.  For slender people this is the worst season, we cannot seem to stay warm. People with more adipose are stronger due to insulation.  Food can help us to stay warm and heal through this season.

Root vegetable stew is one of my favorites that incorporate many of the rooting grounding qualities that are essential during the kidney season of winter.  Don’t be afraid to use those interesting roots that you may never have tried, such as rutabaga, turnip, burdock, daikon, parsnip, carrots and squash. To find recipes incorporating these yummy roots download my free cookbook available at www.denashealthyu.com.

Stay warm, rest, cut back on sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy and cold raw foods. Consume much more warming nourishing foods such as stews and soups along with warming herbs such as ginger, cumin, coriander and turmeric.

Health and Light

Dr. Dena Mendes


Dena is a licensed and certified Health Coach, holistic yoga instructor, holistic chef and pranic healer.  Dr. Dena received her degree in broadcast journalism and public health from Arizona State University, has attended prestigious alternative health programs at Harvard and Northwestern Universities and holds a Doctor of Naturopathy degree.  She lives in the North Shore of Chicago with her two children.

Myths and Facts about the Gluten-Free Diet by Lara Fields


When is choosing a gf diet a good idea, outside of having Celiac Disease or a Wheat/gluten allergy?

Gluten-free foods are simply foods without wheat, rye, and barley. Thus, when asked if anyone can go on a gluten-free diet, the answer is always, yes! Technically speaking, gluten is not necessary for a nutrient-dense, healthful diet. With that said, it is important to always choose the right foods, just as you should on a gluten-containing diet, or else you could create a nutritional nightmare.

In general, too many consumers are eating a large quantity of refined carbohydrates, and most often, these products are made with white flour, rice, or corn. Everything from crackers, to cookies, to cereal bars, most of these products are made from wheat, and contain enriched white flour as the first ingredient.  These foods, when consumed in excess are the source of weight gain for many.  Thus, it is crucial to choose foods that contain nutritionally dense grains/seeds such as quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, flax and chia. And further, it is always important to choose a balanced diet, including a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and calcium-rich dairy or dairy alternatives.

When first going gluten free, what should one look for on product labels?  Just the gf certification logo, manufacturing statements, ingredients, all or just one?

Gluten-free labeling is one of the most confusing topics for consumers. The FDA was mandated to draft and implement a proposed definition for “gluten-free” and how it is used on food labels in the US by 2008.  However, at this time, a final ruling has not been established. Once the final definition is in effect, the term “gluten-free” will be voluntary for use in the labeling of foods. Thus, it will be up to manufacturers discretion whether or not they wish to label their product “gluten-free”.

Currently, there are no universal labeling standards for all food products in terms of the food product’s gluten-free status.  Thus, there is no legal definition for gluten-free.

Thanks to the Gluten Intolerance Group, the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) was established to review products and manufacturing facilities for gluten and provide assurance to consumers of the safety of the foods. Until the FDA rule is passed, consumers can rely on the GFCO seal to determine if a product is safe (<10ppm gluten).

The GFCO performs a rigorous ingredient review, on-site inspection, and ongoing testing to ensure a product is safe. Aside from the GFCO “stamp,” there is no other universally recognized, reliable testing method of gluten-free products. Consumers should look for the GFCO stamp on products to ensure their product is free of gluten.

In addition to the GFCO stamp, consumers should read the ingredient listing to determine if a product is gluten-free. The ingredients (on the actual package of food versus the product website, which may be outdated) are the single best way to understand what is contained in the particular food product.

It is also voluntary for food manufacturers to provide information about cross contact or exposure with gluten-containing products.  By definition, ingredients on a package must only reflect what is contained in the package, rather than what the food product may come in contact with during manufacturing.  Thus, a manufacturer need not disclose if a particular food is made on shared equipment with gluten-containing ingredients.

What’s a basic “Toolbox” of pantry items to keep on hand for clean, healthy gf cooking and baking?

The following items are must-haves for every gluten-free pantry.

Gluten-free oats – A fantastic source of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, and oats have proven effective in lowering cholesterol. Historically, oats were restricted on a gluten-free diet, however research shows they are safe to include on a gluten-free diet, as long as they are pure, and uncontaminated.

Flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed) – Not only a source of omega-3 fatty acids, but flaxseed also is rich in lignans, which may provide some protection from cancer (specifically breast cancer). Further, flaxseed meal is an excellent source of protein and fiber. Mix 1 TBSP flaxseed meal with 3 TBSP water, let sit for 10 minutes, and you have a nutrient-packed egg substitute that can be used in baking.

Assorted nuts/nut flours (almonds/almond flour, walnuts, pecans, pistachios) – Many gluten or grain-free recipes utilize nuts and nut flours to provide texture in baked goods.  Nuts are an incredible source of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin E, selenium, manganese, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

Chia seeds – As similar to flax, chia seeds contain Omega-3s, and antioxidants, however chia has about twice the dietary fiber. A rich source of calcium and phosphorus, chia is primarily used in recipes as a thickener.  A wonderful additive to everything from pancakes to salad dressings.

Amaranth  -  Amaranth grain has been cultivated for over 8000 years. Once used as a staple food of the Aztecs, it was used as an integral part in Aztec ceremonies.  Now known as gluten-free staple, Amaranth is actually a pseudograin, because it is a seed, used like a grain. Sold as a popular snack in parts of Mexico, Amaranth is sometimes popped like popcorn and mixed with chocolate or puffed rice. Amaranth contains a rich source of protein, dietary fiber, and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese.   It only takes 1/4 cup Amaranth to supply about 65% of the RDA of iron. One cup dry Amaranth will be tender when cooked for 20-30 minutes in 2 cups water or other liquid such as chicken broth.  Amaranth is sold as flour or whole grain and is used as an excellent thickener to soups, gravies and casseroles.  Its nutty flavor makes it a great addition to bread mixes when combined with almond, coconut and sorghum flour.

Quinoa  -  Amaranth was to Aztecs as Quinoa was to Incas, and also a pseudograin, Quinoa has been harvested for over 6,000 years. In its natural state, Quinoa has a coating of saponins, which makes it very bitter tasting and unpalatable.  However, most quinoa sold commercially has been processed to remove this coating. When cooked, quinoa has a light, fluffy texture making it a great alternative to rice or couscous. One cup dry quinoa will be tender when cooked for 15-30 minutes in 1 ¾-2 cups water or other liquid.  Fully cooked quinoa is finished when the germ, which looks like a tiny curl, separates from the seed.  Quinoa is rich in protein, dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.  Unlike rice, quinoa contains balanced amino acids making it a complete protein, thus a healthy choice for vegetarians.  Substitute quinoa in cold salad recipes and combine with ingredients such as parsley, garlic, onion, tomato and even feta or goat cheese.

Buckwheat - Completely unrelated to WHEAT, the name buckwheat or “beech wheat” comes from the triangular seeds, which resemble seeds of the beech nut from the beech tree.  Similar to wheat, buckwheat flour is used in traditional soba noodles and in pancake and waffle mixes.  Buckwheat is rich in dietary fiber, iron, zinc and selenium. When 1 cup buckwheat is mixed with 2-2 ½ cups of water, it will be tender in 15-20 minutes.  Another form is buckwheat groats, which are also called kasha and mixed with pasta or used as a filling.

Is there a rule of thumb of what not to buy that’s gf when shopping?  If so, what should one look to stay clear of?

Considering the heightened awareness of the gluten-free diet, new products are popping up daily. Many of these are rich in refined gluten-free flours such as tapioca starch, potato flour, and rice.  All of these refined grains break down quickly in our body, causing a blood glucose spike, and typically result in overconsumption. In general, stick to food products that contain rich sources of whole grains, including quinoa, sorghum, chia, hemp or oats.  As in any grocery trip, limit quantity of “filler foods” such as chips, cookies, and crackers. Fill your cart with fresh produce, lean meats, dairy and dairy alternatives, and whole grains.

Questions about the gluten-free diet? Curious how your grocery cart measures up? Contact Lara at 847-651-4729 orlara@feedkids.com.


FDA – Questions and Answers on the Gluten-Free Labeling Proposed Rule, January 2007

small adhd sign

ADHD, Food and My Family


November 2004.  My oldest son, Max, who was 10 years old and in 4th grade was showing signs of struggling in grade school.  Lack of focus, lack of interest and low self-esteem in the classroom were rearing their ugly heads.  Being that Max was the first of my five kids, being that my husband’s ADHD was still undiagnosed in his mid-thirties and being that Max was a boy, hockey goalie and all around athletic kid, how would we have ever known he had ADHD?  He was our guinea pig, the one whe’d make the most mistakes with, our first-born.  It was during his fall conference that year that his teacher at the time suggested that we have Max tested for ADHD.  She kept us calm, focused and talked us out of blaming ourselves for the rest of our lives.  At the end of our conference, knowing how talented and committed Max was at playing high level hockey at such a young age, she left us with these words of wisdom that I still think about daily with my other kids.  She told us to never take him out of a hockey rink.  I didn’t get it back then, I was far too young of a mother.  But, those words have helped me raise my kids to have self-worth, independence, routine and discipline.  Character traits they would have never gotten from school.

And so, our journey along the ADHD rollercoaster had begun.  After having my son being tested by a third party, confirming that he does have ADHD, my husband started thinking about his own struggles.  Then he went to get tested.  Two for two.  Did I mention my husband was also a hockey goalie? Four more kids waiting in the wings.  We decided to try a low dose of Concerta, which Max stayed on for the next four years.  That love-hate relationship had begun. Max would hold his focus in school much longer, however, his desire to eat and drink would diminish, thus affecting his mood throughout the day.  For those of you who have gone down this path with a child, you know the scene.  By three in the afternoon, there was a crash, emotionally and physically.  Our nutritional saving grace – fruit smoothies with protein powder.  Cold, liquid and quick.  By the time hockey practice rolled around after dinner, an energy charge, followed by a late night eating frenzy as soon as the meds wore off.  Another energy surge capped the night with little sleep.  Homework?  Not a chance.  His brain was fried long ago from holding it together from 8-3.  Mornings were no party.  Get the meds in atleast half an hour before school, get the food in before the meds took effect.  It was a game against the clock, everyday.

During the next four years I perfected my ADHD sense.   ADHD has a wide spectrum and not all kids or adults are alike, so what one child’s symptons are may very well be non-existent with another child.   What was working for Max would not work for Asher, or Simon.  Our third child, Zev, was born Apraxic, which is like dyslexia of speech, so he stuttered a little and had a hard time retrieving information from his brain.  What they all have in common is that their brains are wired to not function so easily.  Information is not passed smoothly, often getting stuck or taken down the wrong path.   What else they have in common is their athletic ability and a mom committed to fueling their brain.  This combination would be their ticket to re-building themselves in and out of the classroom.  Although I tried my best to feed them whole, organic foods during their early kid years, it was not so easy.  I quickly learned that just because something was labeled as organic didn’t mean it was healthy.  I tried to keep them on as anti-inflammatory based foods as possible, but way back when, healthy gluten free options were rare.

At fourteen, Max was scouted by East Coast prep schools during a Boston hockey tournament.  With high school just around the corner, and no 504 Plan in place(that’s another blogpost!), prep school seemed like an option we couldn’t refuse.  Small classrooms, low teacher-student ratio, scheduled study time, access to teachers all day and night and a hockey rink fifty feet away from your dorm was just too perfect to pass up.  The biggest negative for me?  The food he’d be eating.

Max took himself off his meds that year.  He wanted himself back and I couldn’t blame him.  While the other kids still had me to fuel them with clean food free of additives, preservatives, gmo’s and keeping on a gluten free based diet, prep school cafeteria food in the mountains of Maine would not be so.  Max has been around healthy and organic eating his whole life.  He knew the terms, he knew how to read a label and new what questions to ask.  But, he was still fourteen and leaving home with a lot of other things clogging his mind.  Even though I sent many gluten free care packages, he did not keep up as he should on his clean eating.  Being on the road for hockey, team pizza parties and unlabeled sauces, dressings and deli meats left Max in the dark about his meals.  I have raised my kids to eat a certain way, not for food allergies, but for focus, for endurance, for better sleeping patterns, for overall health and wellness.  Their first words as a baby may have been “mommy” and “daddy”, but “organic” was soon after!

The gastro problems started soon for him.  Daily pain enough to keep him from playing hockey at his peak, keep him up at night and take his focus away from his studies.  It confirmed his gluten intolerance to us both.  We went through the cafeteria meals and talked about what was safe and not safe for him.  Food was his fuel.  It was then that he made the 100% gluten free, healthy eating commitment for himself.  He became a role model for his younger siblings.  They all started to believe in this “hoax” of food as fuel that I have been creating in our home for the past decade and a half.

Max graduates this year from prep school, just committed to a Division III hockey program in New Hampshire and will be representing Team USA in the Israeli Olympics this summer.  Not bad for a kid who felt like a failure his entire three years spent in junior high.  Not bad for a kid who struggled between the worlds of ADHD on and off meds.  Not bad for a kid who is now a leader on his hockey team, a role model for working hard at his sport and for trying his best at school.  His siblings have followed in his footsteps:  Zev is successfully earning A/B grades in his final year of junior high, managing his weight gain for football by cooking his own grass-fed beef burgers, cooking organic eggs and drinking his green smoothies full of kale, spinach, almond milk and berries.  Asher, who has ADHD, doesn’t take meds and is also a hockey goalie, just brought home the State win and the Central States win this season and is in 6th grade.  Simon, who just turned 10 and is in 4th grade, also a hockey player, has ADHD, no meds and just brought home a 2nd place State win.  As hard as school may be for them, it’s important they find success in other areas of life. They view their daily diet as being instrumental in their success.

I get asked by people all the time how do I control what my kids eat OUTSIDE of our home.  I don’t.  They don’t have food allergies.  I want to teach them to pay attention to how they feel after they eat certain foods.  All I can do is be their guide on the journey to overall health and wellness.