Monday, June 10, 2013

How do you prefer to shop for gluten-free groceries?

There's no doubt that gluten-free items are getting easier to find in mainstream

Some have created dedicated gluten-free sections or include gluten-free foods in a designated natural or health food department in the store. Others spread the gluten-free products throughout the store, for example putting gluten-free pasta on the shelves where "regular" pasta is stocked.

In some supermarkets, it's a hybrid system, with specialty brands in the reserved gluten-free spot and mainstream brands in the regular aisles. So while you might find Kinnikinnick S'moreables with other gluten-free products, you'll find Chex gluten-free cereals in the same aisle as gluten-containing Cheerios.

I recently listened to a webinar that touched on approaches for retailers interested in stocking gluten-free products. One of the presenters said she thought integration of gluten-free products in the regular aisles is the wave of the future.

And it got me thinking about gluten-free consumers' shopping preferences.

I personally prefer a specialty section, though I have no problem picking up the mainstream items as I go through the rest of the store. The two supermarkets closest to my home, Wegmans and Giant, both do it this way.

I know just where the specialty area is, and I can easily find products I buy all the time. I also quickly notice new products  when they are added to the shelves. In both stores, a freezer section that carries gluten-free foods is included in the specialty area even though it's far from the regular freezer aisles.

 If I only need specific gluten-free items - a gluten-free baguette and pasta for dinner, bagels for the next morning and crackers for a snack, I can go to one place, gather them quickly and make a quick get-away. (I admit the supermarket is not my favorite place to spend a lot of time.)

When I am doing a larger weekly shop and go through all the aisles, I pick up other gluten-free products as I go. But sometimes a new product will be added and get lost in the crowd of gluten-containing items. If I, and other shoppers, can't readily find it, it's usually not long before the store decides it's not really a big seller. Then it's gone for good.

I think it's especially hard to find frozen foods when they are added to the mainstream freezer case. Maybe it's all that door banging and cold air escaping that causes me to rush and miss things. Giant carried gluten-free meatballs for months before I ever found them.

Wegmans has long been known for its attention to gluten-free shoppers and those who have the regional supermarket nearby usually feel lucky. The gluten-free section, located in the store's Nature's Marketplace, is big and well stocked. You can use coupons issued for products from the marketplace for any gluten-free item.

Wegmans also has an extensive line of store brand products that are clearly marked with a "G" for gluten-free which it sells in the regular aisles. Many of these are non-perishable items like Wegmans Asian Classics sauces, but it also includes things like ice cream and potato chips. The symbol makes it easy to identify gluten-free items and reduces the need to rely on very close label reading of ingredients.

Some stories like Giant have shelf tags that alert you to gluten-free products and while these can work well, you have to make sure that the product you pick up is the one really intended to be flagged by the tag. Shoppers have been know to move things around on the shelves.

And you won't find tags for naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables and plain meats, which can lead those new to the gluten-free diet to wonder if that means these items are not gluten free. (They are.)

Some stores purposefully do not have a dedicated gluten-free section and stock all of their gluten-free products throughout the regular aisles. Whole Foods, a  natural and organic food store chain, previously handled gluten-free items this way, but now almost all locations offer both a gluten-free section and gluten-free products spread throughout the store.

I am interested in what readers think. Let me know what system you like best and why. What is the best gluten-free feature of the store where you shop regularly?

Even as I type this I am mindful that in some places, none of these options exist and it's still hard to find gluten-free foods without having to travel far or order them online. I hope that as the gluten-free market grows and more food stores realize gluten-free shoppers are important consumers this will change.

Amy Ratner

Gluten-free 20-somethings hit the blog scene

Through blogs and social media, gluten-free 20-somethings are navigating the complicated world of jobs, school, roommates and dating.

Graduate student Candice of

Young bloggers bring their fresh perspectives to the lifestyle, providing insight on the trials and triumphs of getting out in the world gluten free. Some bloggers share recipes and restaurant reviews, while others use their blogs as platforms for social change. Still others offer a more artistic, personal account of their experience, like gluten-free travel and dating mishaps. From east coast to west, Milwaukee to San Diego, these young writers are living life to the fullest.

Below, we’ve put together a list of 14 young, gluten-free bloggers you should tweet, follow and friend.

And in the July/August issue of Gluten-Free Living, you’ll find an in-depth look at the way 20-somethings are navigating their young adult lives, including some who use the web to dish about their gluten-free lifestyles.

Embrace G-Free
Graduate student Candice Clifford shares positive energy, empowerment and resources through her posts and poems.

Lindsey Schnitt, whose friends call her “the schnittuation,” blogs about food, restaurants and events.

The Hamroff sisters of
Celiac Sisters
Samantha and Brooke Hamroff, sisters diagnosed when they were 16, list their favorite eateries and share other news.

G-Free Laura
Laura Hanley posts advice, product reviews and delicious recipes.

Gluten Freeways
Stephen, a young foodie who’s never let the gluten-free diet stop him from eating out, focuses on restaurants in San Diego, where he lives, and those he visits in his travels. Every blog ends with “Do you love it or do you love it?” That says something about his attitude.

CC Gluten Freed
CC Bonaduce empowers readers with her social and political activism, encouraging gluten-free communities throughout the country.
Sprinkles & Allergies
Bethany Trainor tackles her multiple food allergies with mouth-watering recipes and encouragement for readers.

Celiac Teen
Since the age of 15, Lauren McMillan has blogged about how she “let go of the gluten” in her journey with celiac disease.

College Student with Celiac
College undergraduate Chynna Foucek posts friendly anecdotes and recipes.

Jenny of
Creative Cooking Gluten Free
Culinary student Jenny Manseau posts recipes and reviews products.

Gluten Free? Gimme Three!
Anna Luke catalogs the ups and downs of living gluten free and reports the latest restaurant news in Washington D.C.

Gluten Free Betsy
Chicago’s go-to girl on all things gluten free, Betsy Thompson, provides advice on dining out and products.

Celiac in the City
Milwaukee-based Sarah Nielsen blogs weekly photos of her dining, cooking and travel adventures.

Celiac Scoop
A blogger passionate about nutrition, Christie Bessinger shares easy recipes and health tips based on her experiences.

Hillary Casavant

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A pill to treat celiac disease is no longer a pipe dream

We're moving closer to a pill to treat cd

We all go through stages of transition after a diagnosis of celiac disease.

For most, the first includes lots of confusion, worry and fear that eating will never be the same. Then good health returns and, eventually, we get to the point where we feel we're controlling the disease instead of it controlling us. Mainly that's because we get a handle on the gluten-free diet and once we conquer that we feel like we've largely conquered the disease.

Now, Alice Bast, president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, is pushing us to go one step further. She's urging us to really understand what celiac disease is and how it works.

"For most of us, knowing what to eat, what to avoid and which questions to ask when dining out are enough to get by," Bast says. "Words like "t-cells" and "zonulin" aren't part of our everyday conversation, and they certainly don't help when trying to decode a nutrition label."

The NFCA, a Philadelphia-based patient advocacy group, is hosting a free webinar June 11 to help patients understand how celiac disease works and what role medications to treat it are likely to play in the future.

"It's more critical now than ever to know and understand how celiac disease works," Bast explains. "We are on the cusp of a pharmaceutical revolution in celiac disease treatment. A vaccine or pill is no longer a pipe dream. It's a very real possibility."

The webinar, Celiac Disease: Immunology 101 and the Drug Development Process, will touch on the immunological process of celiac disease as well as the process of drug development and approval.

It will be conducted by Francisco Leon, MD, vice president of immunology translational medicine, and Ken Kilgore, PhD, director of immuno-pharmacology, at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson.

They will review existing research to explain why scientists are looking into the development of a pill or vaccine.*

Bast says it's a chance to learn about things that aren't covered in a typical appointment with your doctor or dietitian.

If you've ever wondered about the role patients play in clinical trials for a drug or the steps needed for Food and Drug Administration approval of one, you should tune in.

You can register here. There's also information on how to listen to the webinar after the fact if you can't do so live.

While not everyone is anxious to take a pill to treat celiac disease, knowledge has always been the most powerful tool in combating its symptoms and long-term consequences.  Expanding your understanding of new issues that will certainly affect how you live your gluten-free life is always a good idea.

So take this opportunity to find out about the science behind celiac disease and the steps that are being take to develop new treatments for it.

Amy Ratner
*This is an update to clarify information previously provided by the NFCA.