Thursday, December 2, 2010

Soup Kitchen in Full Swing... (White Chicken Chili)

After my Carrot Dill Success I decided to try #37 Carrot Ginger, which seemed like a more natural pairing. It tasted, well, like carrots and ginger. It was good, but I was not as thrilled as I had hoped. (However, if anyone needs a good baby food recipe..I recommend!)  In this recipe, which was precisely like the Carrot Dill except using ginger, I omitted the 2 tbs brown rice because my roomie doesn't eat rice. What a difference in texture it made! I will never underestimate the importance of thickeners/starches in a soup recipe (i.e. keep the 2 tbs rice)

My camera is currently broken, so I have been unable to take pictures- which significantly impairs my motivation to blog. BUT I am pressing on...(the above pic is courtesy of google images-don't sue me!)

This weekend I made a White Chicken Chili recipe which a friend promised was the "best chili recipe ever." Sure enough, it was darn tasty! It uses lots of canned ingredients, which I modified a bit to lower the salt content. But after refrigerating overnight as she suggested to allow flavors to truly was a great white chili recipe!

White Chicken Chili

  • 3 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded (I shredded)
  • 1 10 oz can Rotelle tomatoes with green chilies
  • 2 cans White Northern Beans (I drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can white shoe peg corn
  • 1 can chopped green chilies
  • 3-4 cups Reduced Sodium Chicken broth (depending on how thick you like it..I do less)
  • 1/2 large yellow onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Chili powder or cayenne pepper (a couple dashes, to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  1. Saute onion and garlic in cooking spray or oil about 5 mins, then season with chili powder
  2. Add tomatoes, beans, corn, green chilies, chicken and broth to pot. Bring to a boil. (I added chicken just after boil because it is fully cooked).
  3. Simmer for 10-15 mins. Remove from heat. (I think it is best the next make ahead of time or in the morning to serve later in the day).
  4. Top with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream or plain non-fat Greek yogurt. De-lish!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dietitian on a Mission...not always in the Kitchen

This is just an "FYI" post, but there was an article in my local newspaper by a dietitian in town who did a great job breaking down the job description of a dietitian as well as addressing a lot of the misconceptions. I can relate, that in a typical day's work, I am referred to as everything from "doctor" to "the food lady," and even as- wait for it- the "poop lady." (As one of my professors used to say- you can tell a lot about a person's eating habits by their poop; "what you eat is what you excrete."...That saying is a personal highlight from my college career, and I ask people about their poop all the time). Anyway, there are a lot of misconceptions about what we do and how we help people, and any registered dietitian will tell you it makes our skin crawl a little bit when we are called "nutritionists" (the article explains why).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Some fall favorites: Pumpkin Oatmeal

We are in the midst of autumn and although the blogging has been slow, the cooking has not! I've been trying to fully embrace all of the wonderful fall flavors and seasonal foods, and I keep finding myself wondering why I don't eat some of this stuff all year round. I now could package and sell my pumpkin oatmeal, which I humbly feel I have perfected; and I am also on a personal mission to convince my Resident Expert/roommate about the wonderful-ness of soups. She is not a soup lover and I'm committed to making one new soup recipe per week (so naturally I've renamed our kitchen The Soup Kitchen). I've done this for the past 3 weeks, and each recipe is better and better! Last week I made a creamy cauliflower soup which required me to pull my food processor out of the garage and get it in working order! I received the creamy cauliflower soup recipe as a part of an online recipe exchange, and am so glad I made it. I will share in a separate post, and below is my pumpkin oatmeal recipe.

As I am writing, I am making a simple carrot dill soup, courtesy of the Food Network which has a 50 Simple Soups section on their website. I'm overwhelmed with options! I am making #34 carrot dill soup because I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, and figured if I'm going to make some of these then I need to get started. (This particular one happens to be Gluten Free as long as GF broth is used!) Here's the link:

Pumpkin Oatmeal a-la-Heather
(Makes 4 servings)
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/4-1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • dash of ground cloves
  • pumpkin pie spice (be generous!)
Bring water to a boil and add oats. Immediately reduce to a simmer, stir for a minute or two (I recommend a non-stick pot). Add vanilla extract and spices. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 15-20 minutes. Add raisins and maple syrup cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. I stir in canned pumpkin during the last 5 minutes, but it can be added at any time. Let cool before serving or refrigerating.
This will stay good for several days! Just add a few tablespoons of water or milk before re-heating in microwave. I also top mine with 1 tbs of ground flaxseed and 1 tbs chopped walnuts.
*Side note: spice measurements are estimated- I probably use double by the time I'm done shakin' and playin'!
Can you see why breakfast is my favorite meal of the day?? It is my favorite meal of the day...until lunch :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Falling in Love with Fall

October is my favorite month of the year- there are so many reasons to celebrate! My birthday (a questionable reason to celebrate), Florida finally reaches less than 90 degrees, and of course the wonderful seasonal food! I would not be surprised if I woke up orange one day from the amount of pumpkin I've been eating. It can be added to everything- oatmeal, cookies, pudding, brown rice, smoothies, sauces...this list goes on. In addition to pumpkin, there's cranberries, pears, butternut and acorn squash and the debut of soup/chili season. I've got more recipes than I can keep up with. A fun one I tried with a friend recently was a butternut squash-apple-cranberry mixture with a little bit of brown sugar and butter. Can you say delicious?

As dietitians, we encourage people to eat from the "rainbow;" meaning the brighter the colors the more nutrient-filled the food (vegetable or fruit). It's true- they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other health-boosting, disease fighting nutrients. Fall foods provide such a good opportunity! It's never been more fun to eat healthfully. Baked or poached apples, peaches or pears tossed with seasonal spices like cinnamon and nutmeg make the perfect side dish or dessert. No kidding, my roommate and I have gone through at least 3 bottles of ground cinnamon.

I'll be sad to see all these foods go, but until then I'll experiment all I can. I know it's a little premature for New Years resolutions, but this year I think I'll resolve to eat pumpkin all year long. To whet your taste buds, check out this yummy recipe below-courtesy of Whole Foods of course :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Yes, No, Maybe later...

Did you know the average person makes about 200 food-related decisions per day? Wow! There's a lot more to it than deciding "what will I have for dinner tonight?" We are constantly making decisions and many of those are influenced by our environment (i.e. do I eat the candy sitting on my co-workers desk? If so, how many? One handful? Two?) . I ran across this article that highlights some other examples:

I always encourage my patients to set themselves up for success. The less decisions you have to make, and the less contact you have with environmental eating cues, the easier it is to eat healthfully. For example, it's a lot easier to say "no" to the ice cream ONCE in the grocery store than it is to say "no" every time you open your freezer. (Trust me, I know from experience.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mission: In Progress

I have been a bad blogger. Life got (extra) busy for a few weeks and I did not share about my GF adventures. I successfully finished my GF month with only a few minor slip-ups. My biggest rookie error was eating a non-GF frozen mac'n'cheese entree thinking it was GF (I swear it was when I grabbed it off the shelf). Since I last blogged, I have transitioned into the young old age of 26 with GF pumpkin cream cheese cupcakes (thanks roomie), successfully navigated an unplanned eating out experience (it was Mexican), and experimented with some delicious quinoa recipes (I'm obsessed)!
I also got to refine my explanation of a gluten free lifestyle to the many people who asked me why on earth I would do this. My knowledge is far from complete, however. I know that it would take many months to become truly expert in the day-to-day living, but I am confident that I could function fairly well.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading other people's blogs about gluten free living and talking with friends-it has been enlightening! I also kept my eyes open for professional updates that came through my work contacts and found several new resources. One I was particularly happy about is that General Mills brands (including Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Progresso, etc) is introducing several new products in the coming months and will have more than 350 soon. And all will be labeled 'Gluten Free.' You can find recipes, menu planners, product listings, and additional resources at
I am taking a hiatus for the next few weeks until I decide on my next mission. I am open to suggestions! I will plan to stay connected with interesting articles and fun recipes in the mean-time. Until then- per la salude!

Monday, October 4, 2010

She must have read my blog...

An article came out today quoting Shelley Case (the Registered Dietitian who is a leading expert in Celiac Disease) on her stance that Gluten Free products should focus on nutritional quality and not just taste/texture. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, many GF products are not fortified with vitamins and minerals that regular wheat/grain products are. The result is that people following GF diets that may not be health-conscious can become deficient in certain nutrients. (Who would ever think to check if they are getting 100% of their daily riboflavin besides a dietitian anyway?)

Here's a link to the article:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And the honeymoon period is over.

Well last week was a busy week and I didn't have much time to explore and experiment with new recipes. I've got to be honest, the novelty of a new "project" is over and the frustration of not being able to grab something quick on the way home first hit last week. I'm trying not to stock up on gluten free convenience foods like frozen meals (which are pretty yummy) because they cost about twice as much as the more common brands. However, I have still been consistently spending $10-15 more per week at the grocery store, and it is a small price to pay for health if necessary, but I know there's an easier way to do this.

I scanned over my "recipe" folder in my inbox looking for recipes and websites I may have overlooked and- eureka! I ran across a website one of by BFF's sent me a year ago: This woman is a professional mom- seriously! She has kids with different food allergies and still manages to make meals for $5 or less. AND she uses the slow-cooker a lot, which I am a huge fan of because it is pretty impossible for me to screw up. Anyway, one of my former staples was her Slow Cooker Black Beans and Rice recipe (search for it in the recipe index). She also has quite a variety of gluten free dinners. I can't wait to look through them all and get my budget back on track! And you know she's legit because she made it to the Rachel Ray show! RR is one of my personal faves.

Note of caution: The beans and recipe says it makes 6 servings..I don't how much this woman eats but mine had to make at least 12.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A 'hole' in the Gluten Free diet

As I said in one of my earlier blogs, it is entirely possible to eat a well-balanced diet following a GF eating plan. However, it may take a little creativity at times. After about 2 solid weeks of eating gluten free, I realized a short-coming in my own eating plan: the lack of whole grains. I noticed this fairly quickly because my dietitian mind is trained to look for possible nutrition deficiencies in people's diets. I suspect it could take much longer for the average person who is new to GF eating, as there are many potential nutritional shortcomings.

So what's the deal with whole grains? Well for starters, whole grains provide a good source of fiber in the American diet, and for people who aren't eating the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, it is the main source of fiber. General recommendations for fiber are 25-30 grams/day, and my quick calculations told me I was previously getting about half of my fiber from whole grains. Whole grains also are rich sources of many other minerals that are otherwise scarce in the typical western diet. As a newly GF 'convert' I did what most people would probably do: go for the easy grain substitutes (GF bread, potatoes, rice) which are (or are made from) less fiber rich sources, and often not fortified with other important nutrients. In the U.S. most grains are fortified with folic acid, niacin, thiamin, iron and riboflavin- nutrients which are often lost in processing. GF substitutes often lack these also. However, there are several less well-known whole grains that are GF such as quinoa (keen-wah), amaranth, millet, corn and buckwheat just to name a few.

So I turned to my (as of yet) most trustworthy GF resource, a comprehensive book written by Shelley Case, a dietitian who specializes in Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance disorders. It's called: Gluten Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. Why am I partial to this book? I've read tons of great blogs and websites and learned about many recipes and products, but from a nutrition and health perspective, dietitians are really the only professionals trained to examine a diet as a whole and assess its adequacy. There are many people (some of my patients included) who know far more about GF living than I do- but I believe it is a full time job to be able to look at someone's intake and determine "is he/she getting enough protein/calcium/iron/fiber/ carbohydrates/etc based on his/her individual needs?"..and this is something dietitians are skilled to do. This book does that, as well as provide product listings, recipes, the latest research and credible organizations with reliable information. (find at

Tonight I made a great quinoa pilaf with cranberries and almonds. This might be my favorite GF experiment yet in terms of ease, taste, and health. I think it will be a new staple in my diet. The great thing about quinoa is that it is the only grain that is also a complete protein. Most other grains lack one or more of the essential amino acids that would make them "complete." Again, this is a Whole Foods recipe (I promise I don't work for them):

A De-lish Fish Dish

I try to eat fish 2-3x/week, for heart health and because I love it! I usually buy whatever is on sale, which is often tilapia, but this week it was catfish. I don't recall ever making catfish, but figured I wouldn't be straying too far from my norm as I tend to think most white fish taste pretty similar. But I did get a little nervous when the guy at the seafood counter asked if I was "from here" because most people "from here" don't like catfish. I'm still trying to figure that one out, but I turned to my trusty Whole Foods website for a recipe. I found the following recipe which met all of my criteria (cheap, few ingredients, easy-check!):

I actually had cornmeal in my pantry (I have no idea why), and it made a very good coating-even better than bread crumbs for pan-frying. It was light, didn't get soggy, and in my non-stick pan I was able to get away with very little oil (again, the dietitian voice inside me usually screams the loudest). Mixed with the paprika and spices it made a very tasty fish dish. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My love-hate relationship with pizza

I really should have picked an easier first recipe, but pizza is my favorite food and I felt I needed to find an alternative ASAP. I was given a GF pizza dough mix from a friend, but a disclaimer to all: I cannot bake. I love to cook, but baking is a whole different ball game. I once "baked" a cake but never combined the wet and dry ingredients so my mom came home to burnt flour, essentially. My resident expert (R.E.) experienced this lack of baking know-how first hand tonight. I won't give you every play-by-play, but I'll say that the highlight was definitely when my mixer started smoking and I just kept chugging along until my R.E. intervened and told me it was not, in fact, supposed to do that.

Anyway, I was trying to adapt a Paula Deen recipe where she made veggie pizza on English muffins (see recipe at So while my dough was rising (supposedly), I sauteed some eggplant and grated zucchini in olive oil and simmered the mixture in crushed tomatoes. I pre-baked my pizza dough for about 5 minutes and then put on my eggplant sauce along with some fresh spinach and shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. I then baked for another 10-15 minutes and-viola! Pizza!

So, the verdict: After spending about 2 hours total prepping, reading and re-reading instructions, waiting for dough to rise, and baking, I thought surely this would not be worth the work. (I mean Mellow Mushroom is right down the road if I need pizza that badly). But I was pleasantly surprised! More than that- it was really good! It was great texture and taste and I can't wait to eat it again..probably for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because I have so much. I used the remaining half of the dough to make bread, which was also quite tasty! So for the skeptics out there- you can still enjoy good pizza and bread while following a GF eating plan. Trust me, if I can bake successfully, anyone can. I mean that. (Although I do recommend that everyone get their own Resident Experts just in case).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thanks for the "feed"back!

Hey all! Just wanted to take a moment to say thanks for all the wonderful responses I've gotten for the blog! I've heard from various people- neighbors, co-workers, friends of friends, etc-and it has been quite encouraging! So thanks for spreading the word. I've got some fun recipes I'm hoping to try this week and I spent a ridiculous amount of money at the grocery store stocking up on staples. A few I plan to try: veggie pizza (with home-made gluten free pizza crust), quinoa pilaf, and Salmon Goat Cheese sandwich. Yum!

All of these recipes are pretty simple. I'll admit, although I love to cook, I rarely muster up the motivation to cook a gourmet meal for just myself. I do a lot of "one person" meals like omelettes and quesadillas and salads. But for the sake of not making this the most boring blog ever, I will cook! I feel kind of like I'm re-enacting the Julie and Julia project! I even have my "resident expert" (my roommate) to offer ideas and words of encouragement, and who laughs at my silly jokes and puns.

I will say that so far in this journey, breakfast has been the greatest struggle, because nearly all breakfast foods are carbohydrate rich and/or wheat-based. I lived off of whole wheat English muffins, frozen Kashi waffles, and Clif bars. Now, I have been making eggs and GF toast, or fruit smoothies. But for my early morning days, I have found a wonderful quick meal bar called Larabars. They are gluten free and made with "whole food" ingredients. It is music to a dietitian's ears when we can read a food label and pronounce AND recognize every ingredient on the label. Larabars have 2 to 9 ingredients and are made with nuts, fruit, spices, and minimal other ingredients (depending on flavor). The chocolate chip cookie dough bar is to die for! And if paired with yogurt and fruit, make a perfect balanced breakfast! They are widely available at grocery stores and Target. Check them out at (Note to Larabar: I am hoping you will sponsor me if I become famous and write a book or something.)

I plan to keep a "log" of meals I make for the week, so check back for updates! Happy Labor day!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Something for your sweet tooth

Well the first few days of gluten free have been a success so far. I have eaten pretty much the same thing every day for sake of ease, but I did manage to find time to test out 2 dessert recipes! (I never made dessert regularly before, so why I started now..I do not know!) Next week I am going to plan to make some more meals so that I don't end up eating my rice pudding for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I had an abundance of leftover rice from dinner one night and since I am not a huge rice fan (unless it's in risotto), so I took the recommendation of a friend to make rice pudding! The Whole Foods website had an easy rice pudding recipe, and it was delicious! Check it out at:

The other dessert I made was homemade strawberry ice cream, courtesy of my mother (who found it in Good Housekeeping magazine). It was very easy, and you'll probably notice that I gravitate toward recipes with very few ingredients! If it has 5 or less, I am all about it! This recipe calls for lowfat Greek yogurt which I am in love with. If I had to live on one food for the rest of my life, Greek yogurt would probably be it!

1 lb frozen strawberries
1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (*Make sure is GF-most aren't)

1. In food processor, pulse 1 cup strawberries until finely chopped. Transfer to large metal bowl.
2. In food processor, puree yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and remaining strawberries until smooth. Transfer to bowl with strawberries; stir until well combined. Cover and freeze about 1 hour, until firm but not hard.

It's best eaten right away, but I did save some for later and it was fine. I got 5-6 servings out of this, but the recipe didn't say how many it's supposed to make. It makes about 3-4 cups. I highly recommend!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My first heartbreak..

Today was almost tragic! It's a shame I don't have a reality TV show because this would have been entertaining. I nearly had a breakdown in the grocery store when I momentarily thought that Splenda was not gluten free. I have had many of my patients ask me about Splenda and I always assure them that it is gluten free, and I myself am a Splenda devotee for my daily cup of coffee. So I experienced something close to heartbreak when I saw that the one of the main ingredients is "maltodextrin." I think the hard part was that I wasn't prepared for it. I had already amicably parted ways with bread, pasta, and my beloved Healthy Choice frozen dinners, but this was unexpected! After a solid 5 minutes of staring at the box in disbelief, I purchased (begrudingly) a different sugar substitute and came home to immediately google the situation.

(Side note: If I learned nothing else from grad school or in working at a research-based hospital, I learned the importance of deciphering quality, trustworthy health information from credible resources. And much of my training as a dietitian is to learn how to navigate and distinguish between the true and the false when it comes to such information. One of the things I don't want my patients to do is go straight to the internet for all their nutrition advice. With that being said, I feel confident that I did a thorough review of the information available for Splenda!)

According to Splenda's website (and various others), Splenda has no gluten-containing products. The maltodextrin actually is a corn-derivative. However, they do note that they do not test the finished product, and it is currently not gluten free certified. So this is one of those many "grey areas" that individuals need to ultimately decide for themselves. I personally feel that I am confident recommending Splenda as a "safe" gluten free food.

While I'm mentioning the grocery store, I want to also point out another grey area: My wonderful mother informed me that all of the Boar's Head deli meats were advertised as gluten-free (which they are). However, my particular deli did not wash the meat slicer between slicing my GF order and the previous person's non-GF order. I did not specifically request that they do so, and they may very well have been willing to. But nonetheless- something to take into consideration. This was definitely a potential for cross-contamination!

That is all for now. I'm having a GF kick-off dinner tomorrow night (nothing crazy, just chicken, rice, veggies and homemade ice cream!) before I launch the full-fledged Sept 1st! I'm hoping the ice cream works out, and I'll post it if it does!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Risotto: a Gluten Free delight!

I have had a fascination with risotto long before my Gluten Free endeavor. I know, it is not likely to be the first recipe a newly GF person will try because it can be rather time consuming, but as I was thinking about the recipes I already make, I was thrilled to realize this one is on the "safe" list without having to alter it! I first tried to make this several months ago, with little success. (Word of advice: do not make this on a first date if you are not good at multi-tasking; i.e. trying to engage in meaningful conversation, all while constantly stirring and timing). But not liking to fail, I resolved to conquer the art of risotto, with the help of my friend, Russell. He offered me a great Basic Risotto recipe which I'll share with you below: (Also, check out his blog at for other great recipes!)

Basic Risotto
Serves 4

1 cup Arborio rice
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced (about 1/2 -3/4 cup)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 1/2-3 cups chicken broth (be sure this is GF! Pacific Foods is a good one)
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbs cream (regular or fat free both work)


1. Preheat the chicken broth just to the boiling point and keep heated stove side. In a large skillet with a heavy bottom, heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Cook the onions until translucent.

2. Add the arborio rice and saute with the onions, until grains are toasted and begin to brown (about 7 minutes).

3. Once rice is toasted, add wine slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon.

4. After the rice has absorbed the wine and the skillet is nearly dry, add the heated broth, 1/2 to 1 cup at a time, stirring occassionally. Cook over low heat until absorbed. You can tell when to add more broth by drawing a line in the middle of the skillet and the resulting line fills in very slowly (see picture below). Repeat this process until the your broth is gone and rice is cooked and chewy. This whole process usually takes me 25-30 minutes.

5. Add butter, parmesan, and cream and stir to combine. (Note: some recipes then say to cover and let sit for 3-5 minutes)

Another fun thing about risotto, is once you have your basic risotto, you can mix in any of your favorite ingredients. I've done with shrimp, spinach and sundried tomatoes. Most recently I added cooked spinach and cannellini (white) beans. Delicious!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bye Bye, Pasta..See you in my dreams!

So my creative wheels have been turning 24/7...literally! I woke up the other night thinking about all the possibilities of a gluten free eating plan. I know, I should not be losing sleep over this, but new projects get me excited the first few days. I was laying in bed making a mental list of all the things I can make in the coming mind said: "fish tacos! Polenta! Twice baked potatoes...and risotto!" The endless possibilities. Given my Italian heritage, I am risking being cast out of my family by saying, I think I'll be just fine without pasta and bread (sorry Mom!). I will, however, miss the convenience of throwing a sandwich together last minute or boiling spaghetti for dinner. I have observed though, while replacing items in my pantry with gluten-free foods and being conscious of reading every food label this past week, the key element in my success on this eating plan will be planning. No more on-the-spot decisions, because nearly everything goes through some sort of processing (and therefore likely has gluten). This is something I encourage all my patients in anyway, regardless of their dietary needs: when you rely on processed foods and eating out, then you give away the control over what you are putting in your body. So this has been enlightening for me, and I have prior knowledge and resources to my credit. I can't imagine how overwhelming this can be for someone who is not doing this by choice. Which brings me back to my mission :)

Oh, and great news! I have been looking into local restaurants via the Gluten Free Registry ( and was delighted to find Mellow Mushroom on the list in my town. I emailed the manager to ask about what they offer and he assured me that they have certified gluten-free chefs, and that the recipes are prepared in a separate part of the kitchen in a separate oven. And so, for the good of the people, I tried their pizza right away :) It was very tasty. The crust was thinner and slightly less heavenly than their homemade pizza crust, but definitely perfectly acceptable pizza. Now to find a gluten-free beer to drink with my pizza.

I also made a great risotto recipe, courtesy of my friend Russell. I will be posting that later, with pictures! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The "Skinny" on Gluten free

I love puns and acronyms, so I'll use them whenever possible! So before I get into the fun stuff, I wanted to give a little background on the gluten free diet.

What a gluten free diet is:
A gluten free diet is used mainly for people with Celiac Disease (CD), which is an autoimmune disorder in which the body (specifically the intestinal tract) does not tolerate gluten- a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Because the body responds to gluten like an "allergy," its immune response causes the intestine to become inflamed and gluten is not absorbed. Our efficient body does whatever it can to eliminate gluten, which it perceives to be a foreign substance. This can lead to stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, and malabsorption of nutrients. And here is where the danger lies for people with CD: long term malabsorption of gluten can lead to malabsorption of other nutrients and therefore the potential for many secondary conditions like anemia, osteoporosis, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The only treatment is the absolute avoidance of gluten and all foods containing it.

It is more than possible to have a healthy balanced diet following a GF eating plan. It does not exclude any one food group, and is adequate in all nutrients. It is, however, quite restricted in the grain group. The greatest struggle comes with the consumption of processed foods, because some gluten is present in many preservatives and artificial ingredients.

Some sneaky culprits (there are many but a few less obvious):
  • "natural flavor"
  • "artificial flavor"
  • maltodextrin or dextrin
  • hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • modified starch
  • soy sauce
  • salad dressings
  • shredded cheese
  • ice cream
What it is NOT:
A gluten free diet is not a "diet" in the usual sense of the word, meaning it is not intended for weight loss. In fact, many specialty gluten free products are higher calorie than the original product they are replacing. Although it has become a recent fad in the celebrity world, there is no research showing that it has much benefit for the average healthy person without CD. A positive for eating a gluten free diet is that it avoids many processed foods, and focuses on natural whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, protein and dairy.

OK that's enough mumbo jumbo..more to come!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Mission

Welcome! My name is Heather and I am a Registered Dietitian. So basically I get to talk and think about food all day long- and get paid for it! My job is to help people with various medical conditions alter their diets to meet their individual needs. A great challenge of the job is helping people turn their new restrictions into a practical, and joyful, way of life. This is easier said than done. Knowing the ins and outs of a diet is vastly different than living it. I often leave work wishing I had known the answer to every question, or that I had better ideas to offer. One day recently I realized that I won't ever be able to relate to my patients until I walk in their shoes. What better way to help them than to experience their struggles for myself, and learn strategies to overcome them? And the idea was born! I decided I would follow each of the various diets that I educate my patients about. The blog is a place for me to document my struggles and successes, offer recipes, links, tips, or whatever else can help people in the day-to-day when they leave my office.

And so we begin. I decided to start with what I consider to be the hardest diet to follow in today's world: a gluten free diet. It has been quite the hype as the latest fad diet; but it is medically necessary for people with a condition called Celiac disease. More to come on the details of the diet, but I'm starting with this one because I have a roommate (my resident expert) who is gluten free and I figured, if all else fails then I can just copy her and eat what she eats! :)

My official "launch" of going gluten free is September 1st. I'll be spending the rest of the month eating through my gluten-filled pantry. I welcome ideas, recipes, questions and thoughts! Thanks for reading!