Monday, January 30, 2012

Dinner 7: Hamburgers with Crispy Potatoes and Vegetables

Although I serve red meat once a week, we buy 100% grass fed beef locally raised beef from Whole Foods--and, I serve it with a lot of vegetables to make it a healthy meal. This week I had raw zucchini, asparagus, cherry tomatoes and crispy baked potatoes.

I love pulling every vegetable I can find out of the fridge and having a colorful assortment on the table for everyone to eat. Even if they don't eat their vegetables, they know what a healthy meal looks like. It took a while, but my kids do eat their veggies now. Sometimes I have to insist. But it's easier if there are a bunch of choices and an overwhelming abundance--not just one lonely carrot on their plate.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dinner 6: Gluten Free Pepperoni Pizza

Mondays are always pizza night at our house because we arrive home at 6:30. I need to make sure I serve a meal that everyone will eat that is quick. Using Udi's pizza crust, Rao's tomato sauce, pepperoni and cheese, I premake the pizzas before I leave to pick up the kids at 6 pm. My son, who is dairy free (and hasn't found a dairy free cheese he likes) has sauce, pepperoni and chiffonade of basil on his pizza. My daughter has cheese and pepperoni. I like cutting the personal sized pizza into 6 mini slices. But, if we are headed to a birthday party I cut two edges off making it into a regular size slice.

Of course, a vegetable plate goes with everything.

Pepperoni is so rich and greasy--even without the cheese it tastes like pizza!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is TABASCO Sauce Gluten Free?

The topic today at The CHEW , an ABC cooking show with Daphne Oz, was hot and spicy and they gave away a bucket of TABASCO Products to the studio audience. I was so happy to get an amazing assortment of TABASCO products after attending with my friend Amie. Not only is tabasco something I can eat--tabasco is something I LOVE to eat.

The following are Tabasco brand products that are "considered" gluten free. All the products use distilled vinegar which is produced from grain based alcohol. But, they couldn't find any detectable gluten in the final product of the products that are gluten free. (See the letter below if you want more info on testing.) Some people I know with celiac react to distilled vinegar. Others do fine with it. It is a good idea to watch if you have symptoms if you don't know if you react to a product that uses distilled vinegar. Although these products are found to have no detectable levels of gluten in the final product when tested, the best test is how you actually how you feel.

I am so excited for all the products that test gluten free and are "considered" gluten free...

TABASCO® Brand Pepper Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Habanero Pepper Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Garlic Pepper Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Green Pepper Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Garlic Basting Sauce
TABASCO® Brand New Orleans Style Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Caribbean Style Steak Sauce

The following are NOT GLUTEN FREE according to an email I received from the company...

TABASCO® Brand Buffalo Style Hot Sauce-NOT GF
TABASCO® Brand SWEET & Spicy Pepper Sauce-NOT GF
TABASCO® Brand Steak Sauce-NOT GF
TABASCO® Brand Garlic Grilling/Marinating Sauce-NOT GF

Off to spice up my lunch with some Pepper Sauce!

Here is the email from the company I received on January 25, 2012...

Thank you for your interest in our TABASCO® products. All of our products that contain vinegar as an ingredient, we use high quality distilled vinegar. Distilled vinegar is produced by fermenting a grain based alcohol. The principal grains used to produce the alcohol are wheat and milo. Gluten and other proteins are completely removed during the alcohol fermentation and distillation process.

According to the definitions set forth by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint standards program of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO), the following TABASCO® Brand products are considered “Gluten Free”:

TABASCO® Brand Pepper Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Habanero Pepper Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Garlic Pepper Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Green Pepper Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Garlic Basting Sauce
TABASCO® Brand New Orleans Style Sauce
TABASCO® Brand Caribbean Style Steak Sauce

These products were analyzed for Gluten by the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) at the University of Nebraska –Lincoln. FARRP was not able to find any detectable amounts of gluten in these products. If the McIlhenny Company can be of further assistance please do not hesitate to ask.

Our products are also dairy free.

Spicy Regards,
Sheila Romero
Tabasco Country Store
Customer Service
1-800-634-9599 Option 4

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Should You Buy Organic Produce? Make an Informed Decision.

I did some research to find out if eggplant was a vegetable that you need to buy organic.

First, I turned to What's on my food? which is a website with a ton of specific information on the types of pesticides that are found on each category food. They have an extensive list of foods--everything from almonds to watermelon. The website has symbols listed next to each pesticide so you can easily tell if it is a carcinogen, hormone disruptor, neurotoxin, developmental or reproductive toxin or bee toxin.

If you look up asparagus, for example--a vegetable that is safe to buy non organic because it is hardly sprayed--you see that while 9 pesticide residues were found they often were only found in 3.3% of the asparagus tested. Looking up eggplant, it looks like only traces from 18 pesticide residues were found (which is actually pretty low compared to apples which have traces of 42 pesticides on them--Thiabendazole is a known carcinogen found on 87% of apples.) Still, when you read this study out of Harvard it makes you realize that these these pesticides are having a real impact and maybe it is better to make the extra effort to buy organic...

This is from the What's on my food? website...
"A new study out of Harvard shows that even tiny, allowable amounts of a common pesticide class can have dramatic effects on brain chemistry. Organophosphate insecticides (OP’s) are among the most widely used pesticides in the U.S. & have long been known to be particularly toxic for children. This is the first study to examine their effects across a representative population with average levels of exposure. Finding :: Kids with above-average pesticide exposures are 2x as likely to have ADHD." 1

Another GREAT resource that is quite simple is the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. According to EWG, eggplant are on the clean 15 meaning that eggplant is a produce that was among the lowest in pesticides--quite close to asparagus and right next to avocado--two of my favorite vegetables.

I recommend looking up any produce on BOTH of these websites that you are eating every day so that you can make an informed decision about whether to buy conventional or spring for the higher priced organic version. And don't be mislead by the price tag. They sell organic produce at Costco at affordable prices and conventional produce at Whole Foods.

This is especially important for children and people with chronic health issues who are most at risk at being affected by the toxins in pesticides. EWG clearly says "The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweighs he risks of pesticide exposure." 2 So don't be afraid--just be informed.

It looks like eggplant is one of the safer vegetables to buy conventional--but I would still buy the organic if given the choice.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Dinner 5: Gluten Free Dumplings and A Vegetable Plate

I have a recipe for gluten free dumplings, but over the weekend we like to relax. G-Free NYC sells these ready made Feel Good Foods chicken dumplings. The dumplings come with sauce but even on the weekend I prefer to make my own dipping sauce. Here is the recipe for my gluten free dipping sauce--and my recipe for gluten free dumplings in case you feel inspired to make them.

The Feel Good Foods chicken dumplings are a little tricky to make--the directions say to use a teflon pan and it is not something we have so...The best way I have found to cook the dumplings is to use a steamer basket. I like fill the pan up with an inch of water and then spray the steamer basket with non stick spray (or you can brush oil on it.) Place the frozen dumplings in the tray and steam for 15 minutes on medium.

Some of us were impatient and kind of annoyed about the paparrazi making it a photo shoot. Which kind of made the photo shoot that much more compelling. (My kids painted the platter at paint your own pottery place--one of our favorite family activities.)

Next we had a vegetable plate--eggplants, peppers, brussel sprouts, julienned carrots, leeks and celery.

We actually were full from our vegetables so we served ended up serving this quinoa bean salad Sunday for lunch. The kids had takeout from Peter's. The french fries were gone before I had time to take a photo.

Q&A: Red Cheeks and Testing for Food Intolerances

This was a question from a parent left on my post: Allergic Red Cheeks.

Q: Our son has exactly these red cheeks!

We are currently avoiding all foods that came up as "moderate" or "avoid" on an ELISA blood test but after two weeks his cheeks still flare up about every other day. The duration of the flare ups may be shorter but every time they flare I question if we are missing something or if the test was wrong.

Once you identified and eliminated the foods your son was reacting to did he still have flare ups? Or once you removed the offending foods the flare ups stopped immediately?

A: The test we did was the ALCAT test. The ALCAT is a test that takes 10-150 foods and mixes each one with food then looks at the white blood cells for inflammation. You can see my post on ALCAT here or go to the Alcat site for clinical info here. Foods are then broken down by categories. So foods that end up in the red group you are severely intolerant of--in the test they cause the most inflammation. Foods in the orange category you are moderately intolerant of. Then there are yellow foods that you mildly intolerant of. The green foods are foods that show no inflammation.

It is my understanding that there are many types of allergies and intolerances. IgE is one type of antibody that is tested for--the fast acting type of allergy where you need an Epipen. This is the type of testing that is done at an allergists office. The ELISA test tests IgG levels--another immune reaction. But there are other types of antibodies (IgM, IgA, IgD) as well as ones we don't know about.

We had the best results from the ALCAT because it measures downstream reaction. So any antibody reaction that would produce inflammation might show up on the test. The test does not tell you which antibody is causing the reaction. Just how intense the reaction was. Because red cheeks are clearly an inflamed response, this test happened to help us accurately pinpoint the cause of our son's red cheeks.

But, we were also gluten free, dairy free and soy free on top of the results we got back from the test as we knew that those were things to avoid.

We saw good results consistently for 6 months by following the ALCAT test results. As soon as we removed the red (severely intolerant) foods and orange (moderately intolerant) foods and were careful of the yellow (mildly intolerant foods) the red cheeks vanished. But we were careful to follow a rotation diet so that he didn't eat the same foods every day. Using a rotation diet and the results from the test, for 6 months his cheeks would be clear. After about 6 months he would become allergic to new foods and the red cheeks would come back. At that point the test was not valid any longer and the results had changed.

After 2 years of using the ALCAT test, we found a nutritionist, Geri Brewster, and did the biofilm protocol, which healed his gut. After the biofilm protocol, my son stopped reacting to foods, his allergies disappeared and he no longer needed the ALCAT test. Although mainstream doctors dismiss "leaky gut" as a problem, it seems that when we healed his gut, he no longer had allergies.

But before we were able to do the biofilm protocol we did the ALCAT every six months when the allergies returned.

I am not sure if your son is becoming intolerant of new foods in two weeks or if there are things he is sensitive to that the ELISA test is missing. My email is on the right if you have more questions or if you would like further help. Good luck with your search for answers.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kids Food Festival in Bryant Park TODAY

There is a kid's food festival today in Bryant Park. Looks like fun.

Click HERE for more info on today's event.

Here are highlights from today...

Sunday, January 22nd:

James Beard Foundation Future Foodies Pavilion

3:00 Andrea Beaman: Whole Grain Fried Rice and Coconut Rice Pudding

Kids Food Festival Performance Area

3:00 Amie Valpone: Kid's Rise n' Shine Oatmeal Breakfast

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dinner 4: Gluten Free Fajitas and Guacamole

"What I Cooked for Dinner" is not the same thing as "What My Kids Ate For Dinner." The good news is when you focus on the cooking and the presentation it takes the pressure off anyone eating anything. (Who cares--I got a GREAT shot!) Tonight I made fajitas from the leftover steak we had from Dinner 2. I also served guacamole with cucumbers chips.

Posting "What I Cooked for Dinner" (now just "Dinner") definitely makes our evening meal a little more self conscious--things are just slightly more presentable as when you are having guests to dinner. Only no guests--just my camera. And it's just the food that is more presentable. It's very real here. This one wants just meat in a tortilla and no onions or peppers. Another one wants just guacamole in a corn tortilla. Of course, I always set the table. I LOVE setting the table with real silver and china. It's just my thing. And it is not because I have my camera out- I just love the sparkle of silver on a Wednesday.

Well, everyone ate something. I certainly served a balanced meal--and have the pictures to prove it. Which, I have been told is my job. To present healthy food and let everyone else figure out what they want to eat. Below is my recipe for steak fajitas and guacamole.


2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or smashed
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
2 limes
leftover steak
8 soft or hard corn tacos

Heat olive oil in large pan. Add sliced red pepper, yellow onion and garlic. Saute until the onions are translucent and carmelized. Then add the spices and steak. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until steak is warm. Cut a lime in half and drizzle over lime juice over fajitas. Insert a fork in the center of the lime to help squeeze the juice out.

Serve with corn tacos, daiya cheese, a wedge of lime and guacamole


Cucumber Chips are a favorite way to dress up this average vegetable. Just cut 1/4 inch rounds and arrange in a circle on a plate.


2 avocados
1.5 Tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 to a whole lemon)
4-10 splashes tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mash avocados. Add seasoning. Mix well. Serve with tortilla chips or cucumber chips.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What I Cooked for Dinner 3: Chicken Paillard and Vegetables

Chicken Paillard with lemon is another staple at our house. Often I serve this dish with a sauce on the side for the adults but it is surprisingly good with a splash of lemon. My 6 year old wouldn't eat chicken for the longest time but he loves this recipe and even started eating fish when I prepared it the same way. I use my recipe for Crispy Chicken Tenders but I pound the chicken flat and cook the breaded filets in a pan with some olive oil for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

This morning, I ordered the chicken pounded flat from our butcher, Holland Court Meat Market I dredged it in some potato starch to tenderize it. It took all of half an hour to make when I returned home at 6 pm. At 6:30 we were sitting down to eat.

I served the chicken with fresh veggies--carrots, zucchini, celery, and red and yellow peppers. The kids just ate the carrots. I offered my son a point" if he licked a piece of red pepper as I have been told that is a step to eating something unfamiliar. He did with a smile then placed it on my plate.

I like having an abundance of veggies on the table is a even if I am am the only one eating them. In the bottom of my fridge, hidden in the vegetable drawer there is no chance of anyone eating the vegetables. At least on the table there is a small chance that someone might try them.

And, it's okay if they don't eat them--they make an inspiring centerpiece.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What's Cooking: Amie Valpone from The Healthy Apple

I asked Amie Valpone from The Healthy Apple to help me cook her favorite recipes so I would have healthy food in my fridge all week.

Today we decided that fresh salsa is going to be a staple. It's nice that ready made salsa is gluten free, but after sampling Amie's homemade cilantro salsa my not-so-new-years-resolution was FRESH SALSA!

Today Amie cooked: spinach with chickpeas, roasted eggplant and peppers, fresh salsa, black bean dip, and cauliflower guacamole. We also made Fish en Papillote (in parchment) and chicken stock. Recipes can be found on her blog The Healthy Apple in the next few weeks!

Cooking together is such a lost art--especially in New York City--with our small kitchens and our busy schedules. All summer, in Amagansett and in Vermont I cook with my family and it is so nice to bring some of that togetherness to my city life. And already, Amie Valpone feels like family. We don't just cook together--we eat together--tasting as we cook--reveling in the glistening vegetables that pose on the plates as we wrap up our our cooking marathon. Preparing vegetables and prepping for the week with Amie leaves me more time to cook for--and be with--my kids. I tend to bake a few things for the week--chocolate chip cookies and homemade crackers--while Amie focuses on vegetable dishes. At the end of three hours that fly by, my fridge is filled with vegetable dishes for the week, a homemade stock, crudite and several dips.

The best thing about Amie is her enthusiasm for healthy fresh food. When she offers you ZUCCHINI!!! with sea salt and herbs and fresh salsa!!! you feel like you are eating chocolate--she is so over the moon excited about it.

Besides filling my fridge with fresh, homemade food, Amie and I are also brainstorming future projects. You can read more about all the amazing things that Amie Valpone is doing now by visiting The Healthy Apple - Services.

What I Cooked for Dinner 2: Steak, Broccoli, Red Peppers and Potatoes

Broccoli with asparagus. I boil the entire head of broccoli in boiling water for exactly three minutes with the floret side down. Then I cut off the florets onto the plate and arrange them so they look like they are still on the stem. The asparagus was leftover from last night but it seemed to be the most popular vegetable. Instead of serving one vegetable and demanding kids eat it try serving two and ask them to choose one! Getting kids to eat their vegetables is super tricky. This weekend my son wouldn't touch anything on his plate.

Red and yellow peppers with a black bean dip...Hmm...not so popular. I ate it!

My kids love flank steak. Last week, my son was crying when I asked if he could have a hot dog after I realized I had forgotten to buy steak. Below is a gluten free version of the Epicurious Flank Steak Recipe. I adjusted the cooking times too and added some details.

Flank Steak Recipe from Epicurious

  • 1/3 cup gluten free organic Tamari soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 3 cloves of garlic-smashed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 flank steak
  • Combine marinade ingredients in a glass baking pan.
  • Marinate the flank steak (30 minutes to overnight depending on how much time you have.)
  • Remove steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you are going to cook it.
  • Preheat broiler to high.
  • Pour marinade from steak into sauce pan and boil to reduce until the sauce is half it's volume. Cook for at least 3 minutes.
  • Dry off steak with a paper towel--it will cook better if it is dry.
  • Place steak on a rack to cook so that the juices will drain into a pan. I used a wire baking rack over a baking tray.
  • Broil steak for 7-8 minutes on the first side and 6 minutes on the second side for medium steak.
  • Let sit out and rest for 10 minutes before you cut it. The steak will cook more as it rests and the juices are reabsorbed into the steak.
  • Serve with reduced marinade and some freshly ground pepper.
I also served the leftover potatoes from last nights dinner. No dessert tonight.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What I Cooked For Dinner 1: Fish Sticks, Asparagus & Roasted Potatoes

Tilapia en Papillote. This is my new favorite way to prepare fish. I will post the recipe later in the week. The truth is this is the adult option at our house. I haven't even offered it to the kids--mostly because I know my kids. They might never eat fish again if I served Til
apia en Papillote to them.

What I Cooked For Dinner is a new thing I have been thinking about lately--just posting pictures of what ended up on my table for dinner. Trying to be honest, too--about what food ends up on my kitchen table at 6 pm. I tend to cook dinner Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Then on the weekend I take it easy and we go out or have prepared food. I like the ritual of cooking during the week and more indulgent food on the weekends. I also love the schedule I have created for myself. Having a schedule really simplifies things because I no longer have to spend any time thinking "What am I going to make for dinner?" Monday is pizza night. Tuesday is fish. Wednesday is steak or some kind of red meat. Thursday is chicken. Friday is "whatever."

For a while I had "Whatever Wednesday." That was also fun. But we have settled into a routine and it works. "Whatever Wednesday" has turned into "Fun Friday." Fun Friday is not as catchy but it is certainly a fun way to begin the weekend.

I tend to rotate vegetables/starches too but I don't have such a fixed plan. Usually I rotate potatoes, rice and corn/pasta for the starch and try to serve a vegetable I know everyone will eat like asparagus, broccoli, artichokes or cucumbers. There are plenty of leftovers come the weekend and I know at the end of the week that I have served a variety of foods.

Tomorrow, I am doing a post on "What's Cooking in My Kitchen" about the exciting work that I am doing with The Healthy Apple, Amie Valpone. Be sure to visit her blog The Healthy Apple and check back for tomorrow's post on all the healthy food that we made together. Off to eat some eggplant! Here is more about What I Cooked For Dinner...

Homemade Fish Sticks Kids Fight Over made with Cereal. Here is a link to the breading in my recipe for Crispy Chicken Tenders. I find that flounder produces the best fish sticks because it is drier than cod. I cut up the fish in pieces, dredge in egg and in seasoned cereal crumbs. I cook the fish for 2 minutes per side in olive oil. Served with a wedge of lemon and a vegetable your almost done with dinner.

Asparagus cooked in the microwave in water for 4 minutes. My son was raving about my mother-in-law's asparagus. Now her secret is out. I prefer less high tech cooking methods but my main goal is getting my kids to eat veggies. So, sometimes I use my microwave. The end result is actually pretty close to perfect--which is why everyone likes them. Plus, it makes me seem decidedly modern when I actually use my microwave to prepare dinner.

Roasted New Potatoes...My kids love french fries. These new potatoes have a similar feel. I did some research on how to make crispy potatoes that were soft inside like french fries. If you slice the potatoes into 1/3 inch slices then boil them until they are a little soft and a fork goes in easily the end result is a crispy on the outside but soft on the inside oven roasted fry. After boiling them in salted water, I drain them and drizzle some oil on them and bake them in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes per side. They take a total of an hour to prepare (20 minutes to slice and boil them--40 minutes in the oven) but the results are worth the extra effort.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

BOLD Organics Gluten-Free Dairy Free Pizza at G-Free NYC

Today at G-Free NYC they were sampling Bold Organics Great Tasting Gluten-Free and Dairy Free Pizzas. The crust and flavor of the pizzas made them a big hit. After sampling the different pizzas, we purchased a vegan cheese pizza--a slightly spicy, delicious treat for adults or adventurous kids. Bold Organics Pizzas are made with Vegan Gourmet Cheese Alternative--which contains soy.* But they are made without gluten, milk, lactose, casein, whey, eggs and peanuts so a lot of people will enjoy this delicious new pizza. It is definitely more flavorful and satisfying than Amy's gluten free pizza--and because it is dairy free, the people who are gfcf will be able to enjoy it.

Lynn, the owner of G-Free and I were speaking about the fact that so many people who have celiac also avoid dairy. From the people we have spoken with, about half the people we know who are gluten free are also dairy free. In our gluten free family of four, this is exactly the case--two of us are gluten free and dairy free and two others are gluten free and can tolerate dairy. Well, the two of us who are gluten free and dairy free were super excited to try the BOLD Organics Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Pizza Party.

Congratulations to Chef Eric and Aaron who really packed in the flavor to this organic product. I can't wait to fire up the vegan cheese pizza--and I am mad at myself for not purchasing a deluxe pizza! I was so busy thinking about what the kids would like I didn't realize how much I enjoyed the deluxe pizza with uncured pepperoni, Italian sausage, organic roasted red peppers, organic roasted yellow onions and shiitake mushrooms.

Thanks to G-Free for hosting the pizza party--and to BOLD Organics Pizza for the delicious pizza!

Visit G-Free NYC to purchase a Bold Organics pizza or stop by on Sunday for "Sample Sunday" where they feature a favorite product with samples and product information. Bold Organics JUST launched this new pizza and are now available nationwide starting January 1, 2012. To find out where you can buy them near you visit their Where to Buy Bold Organics Pizza page.

*We don't eat a ton of soy because we were told early on by a NYU neurologist that the soy molecule was similar to the gluten molecule. (I haven't confirmed that but it definitely helped to go light on soy in the beginning.) Now that everyone is 100% better it's no longer off limits. For people who are avoiding soy--you can try Solterra Foods Pizza which is soy free made with daiya cheese. Maybe BOLD Organics can also carry a soy free pizza in the future. But right now they are launching with four great new pizzas. Can't think they can do anymore right now but expecting big things in the future so thought I would put in a request early.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Children. Nature. $10.

January is a good time to think of others...
Here is a Deal of the Day from Groupon that is a worthy cause. Children. Nature. $10. How could you not take a few minutes to donate today? If you miss the Goupon deal you can check out the website of the Children's Nature Institute or donate directly to them HERE.


In a Nutshell

Guided field trips connect urban students with nature, teach about environmental issues & spark interest in science

The Fine Print

  • Expires Apr 11, 2012
  • 100% of donations go directly to CNI. All donations matched up to $4,000 by an anonymous donor!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Info on Comprehensive Thyroid Testing--and Hives

Although most people think hives are an allergic reaction--they can be a symptom of a thyroid problem. Hives were a symptom of low thyroid for myself and my six year old when he was younger. In particular, studies have connected hives to autoimmune thyroid issues. [1] Anyone with hives should rule out an autoimmune thyroid problem by asking to have a comprehensive thyroid testing done. Doctors often test only TSH and then say that your thyroid panel is normal, but according to Mary Shomon who has written five books on treatment of thyroid disease, a thorough Thyroid panel should include: [2]
  • TSH- level should be between .3 and 3.0
  • Free T4-storage thyroid hormone (the "cake mix"--needs to be activated or baked ie turned into T3) level should be ABOVE the 50% of normal (if range is 1-10 level should be 5)
  • Free T3- actual thyroid hormone that can be used by body. Level should be ABOVE 75% of normal range (if normal is 1-10 then you should be 7.5 or above)
  • Thyroid Antibodies - proteins that attack the thyroid gland
  • Reverse T3 - measuring sidelined T3 that is unavailable to body
  • Ferritin - stored form of iron (normal range is 20-100 but optimal is 60 or 80 if you need to lose weight)
  • Vitamin D - normal range is 20-100 but want to see 60 0r 80 for women who want to lose weight. Get blood level to determine supplementation for this critical hormone. Some doctors suggest 5,000 a day for people whose blood levels are low. There is a once a week prescription of 50,000 IU for people who levels don't respond to daily supplementation. Ask your doctor about this. Watch CBS News Watch about the importance of vitamin D.
[1] Verneuil L, Leconte C, Ballet JJ, Coffin C, Laroche D, Izard JP, Reznik Y, Leroy D. Association between chronic urticaria and thyroid autoimmunity: a prospective study involving 99 patients (Internet). Caen, France: University Hospital, Department of Dermatology, 2004. Available from:
[2] Mary Shomon, "Hormone Balance after 40", The New York Open Center, January 14, 2011.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

ourGFfamily Q&A on Cooking Gluten-Free

These are questions sent to me by a reader who is working on changing her kitchen to a gluten free/dairy free diet for a family member...

Where do you get all of your recipes and realistically how much time do you spend in the kitchen a day?

The recipes on my blog are often interpretations of regular recipes which I adapt to be gluten free or recipes which I adapt to be healthier. I try to incorporate healthy protein in most of my indulgent recipes so that it functions as a meal. For instance, my EASY gluten free pancake recipe has a whole egg per serving and not as carb heavy as most traditional pancake recipes. I throw a few Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips in them and the kids don't notice that they are slightly healthier than regular pancakes--just that they have chips in them. I also have a gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipe that has garbanzo bean and fava bean flour. With the brown sugar you don't notice the alternative grains. But you can really use any alternative flour (brown rice flour etc.) in the recipe. When I make cupcakes or cookies I make an effort to throw in nuts that are finely ground up like cashews. Of course, these recipes are not health food--they contain sugar--but they are homemade and they have healthy ingredients to balance the sugar.

I believe cooking for your kids is crucial to health. It doesn't have to be complicated though--you can use my friend Peggy's dinner formula--rice, a steamed veggie, a protein. She does this every night and although she feels guilty about it and thinks she doesn't cook enough for her kids, I am impressed that she does better than most at serving a home cooked meal to her kids. Also, I love the simplicity of her meal plan as an option for parents who feel tired or overwhelmed.

Realistically, I spend WAY too much time cooking for my kids (and myself!) Yesterday, my six year old son said to me as I was cooking a salad, black beans, chicken and brown basmati rice for my husband (after having made pizza for the kids) "I think you spend more time cooking food than eating." YES, it is a real drag to spend so much time cooking! Although I love to cook and it gives me a lot of satisfaction, I would love to be able to order a pizza and not cook and I often feel it is all too much. But, I am also grateful for the health of our family. To be able to address health problems through diet is actually a blessing and a gift. There are so many health problems that you have to take medication for. Other health problems are incurable. I meet so many parents who are struggling with developmental challenges like learning and behavior problems. I have a super energetic boy--but, knock on wood, he is focused in school and on track developmentally and learning to read. I hate to even say that in print--afraid I will jinx it! But, I know that for today that is the truth. And I see a huge difference depending on what food he eats--and fish oil and probiotics are also a huge help! Not all developmental and learning problems can be addressed through dietary intervention but when people say "he is so bright" I have to bite my tongue and not say "it's nutrition" because it has made such a difference for us.

What is your recommendation on where to begin with making this process less overwhelming?

In the beginning, focus on things that are naturally gluten free in their less processed form--all fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, eggs and starches such as corn, potatoes and rice are all gluten free. Use processed gluten free/dairy free foods in the beginning to make it easier. There are a lot of ready made gluten free substitutes. Then after everyone has adjusted to the switch away from the typical readymade food you can worry about decreasing the processed food.

What is your opinion and knowledge about the need for dairy and gluten if we do not seem to have any health concern or sensitivities when consuming it?

Wheat and dairy are very inexpensive ways to get nutrients. Also, they are often fortified. But, they can be contributing to a lot of chronic health problems. On any restricted diet (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free), you need to pay attention to make sure that you are getting healthy foods to avoid nutrient deficiencies. I would not recommend a restricted diet for someone that does not have any health concerns--although they might feel better without these highly allergenic foods! But if you have any chronic health problems, learning issues, developmental issues, arthritis, mood issues, skin issues or auto immune issues or constant ear infections I would look into the possibility that diet might be a factor. Often, we don't know that wheat or dairy is a contributing factor to ongoing health issues. There is some testing available but the best test is removing these proteins 100% for a period of time. Also, someone with a first degree relative (a parent, child or sibling) of someone with a serious problem with these foods might benefit from a restricted diet. Another thing to think about is if you do have serious health issues your diet needs to be 100% free of gluten and dairy to see benefits.