Dr. Vikki Petersen and Vitamin D

I want to share this video with you because there is some new research that Dr. Petersen discusses that might help someone struggling with Vitamin D Deficiency.

I decided to take a closer look at the vitamin supplements that we use:

This is the Liquid Multivitamin that I take by Country Life. From the website:

Does Not Contain: Yeast, wheat, soy, gluten, milk, artificial colors, artificial flavors or artificial sweeteners.

The Vitamin A in this multivitamin, is sourced 50% from Retinyl Palmitate (the pre-formed version of Vitamin A), and 50% Beta Carotene.  Click here for a great article on The World’s Healthiest Foods website re: Beta Carotene.

I also take a calcium supplement by Country Life, called Target Mins,  From the website:

Does Not Contain: Yeast, wheat, soy, gluten, milk, artificial colors, artificial flavors or artificial sweeteners.

This is the D3 Supplement that I take during the winter, also by Country Life.  From the website:

Does Not Contain: Yeast, wheat, soy, gluten, milk, starch, artificial colors, artificial flavors or artificial sweeteners.

Sam and Luke really like the flavor of the Animal Parade multivitamins by Nature’s Plus.  The best price I have found is on Amazon (180 vitamins for $14.51 with free shipping if you have Amazon Prime).  Be sure to talk with your child’s pediatrician before beginning a supplement program.

Click here for a a better view of the Supplement Facts.  The Vitamin A is sourced from Beta Carotene, so that is good but the Vitamin D in this product is ergocalciferol, or D2 (the less desirable form of Vitamin D).

I have been giving my boys Cod Liver Oil since they were under 1 year of age!  I am really glad I found Dr. Petersen’s video, since the cod liver oil competes with vitamin D absorption.  I will be looking for another DHA supplement for them right way.

This is the Vitamin D3 supplement that I give my boys during the winter, when they are not outside much getting their Vitamin D the natural way, from the sun.  I also buy this on Amazon.

I also want to suggest the following article on The World’s Healthiest Foods website: Vitamin D.  The article covers the role/benefits of Vitamin D, food sources of Vitamin D, and it also covers Deficiency and Toxicity symptoms.

Back in September, 2009; I had my doctor test my vitamin levels.  My Vitamin D3 came back at a “sufficient level” of 79.  Per my lab, the ranges are as follows:

Insufficiency:  < 20 ng/mL

Hypovitaminosis D:  20 – 30 ng/mL

Sufficiency: 40 – 100 ng/mL

Toxicity: Greater than 100 ng/mL

I actually need to watch how much Vitamin D supplementation I take (I do not supplement at all during the warm weather months because I live in a place with an abundance of sunshine and I spend a lot of time outdoors.  It is very important to talk to your health care provider about your specific needs.

Certain supplements can also affect your medications, which is another reason you should talk to your health care provider BEFORE beginning a vitamin/supplement program!  Case in point, calcium can affect how my body absorbs my thyroid replacement hormone so I need to space them out by at least 4 hours.

Lastly, I just ordered the following video and thought others might be interested too.  If the preview interests you, the full version can be ordered here, on the HealthNow website.

PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT a paid affiliate for any of these products.  I just want to share the information.

Is It Possible To Be Over-Weight And Have A Gluten Problem?

Does this surprise you, like it did me at one point in time? I would love to hear your stories.

Blue Horizon Fish and Chip Bites, a Gluten-Free Vinegar Odyssey and Valuable Lessons Relearned

I have been sitting on this post for about a month now (researching one thing has led to another and yet another), so some of the information in this post is a bit outdated (the ingredients and labeling of the Blue Horizon GF Fish & Chip Bites have been changed since I first bought them). What started out as a simple post to help other gluten-free advocates “clear up the confusion” over the labeling of this product, has turned out to be a GREAT gluten-free learning experience for me, and I have been trying to navigate this lifestyle for 5 years now. Which only further proves to me that no one person knows everything, and living gluten-free safely and happily is a collective effort, at least until the FDA officially defines the term “gluten-free.” Hopefully you will find some useful information in this post too. So grab a cup of coffee and sit down, this is definitely one of my longer posts, LOL! 😀 If you are in a rush or already know about the labeling confusion regarding the Blue Horizon Seafood Bites, be sure to check out the last part of this post on Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar.

Several months ago while on a shopping trip to Whole Foods, I bought some Blue Horizon Fish and Chip Bites that were clearly marked gluten-free on the front of the package. I will be honest and admit that I purchased them based on that gluten-free label alone (it happens sometimes), and I didn’t read the ingredient label on the back before buying them. When I got home, I promptly tucked them into my deep freezer and forgot about them (I do that all the time too). Anyway, back in March, I was in need of a quick meal for the boys one afternoon, so I pulled out the Fish and Chip Bites, placed them on a cookie sheet and into the oven the went. I am really thankful for having started to photograph the ingredient labels to share on my blog, because it was then that I first read the ingredient label (I don’t recommend doing that!). 😀

I’ll admit this too, I automatically thought the same thing that many other gluten-free people thought… uh-oh! But before I acted impulsively and made a blog post about it, I Googled the Blue Horizon Fish and Chip Bites and came across many forums already discussing the topic, like this one on Celiac.com (I encourage you to read this message board thread, because it gives you a great idea of how frustrated and confused other celiacs can become over what we thought was a black/white issue suddenly becoming very gray).

The confusion and alarm makes sense due to the fact that we are often taught to avoid Malt Vinegar on the gluten-free diet, because it is usually made from barley (although it can also be made from corn, but neither barley or corn are one of the top 8 allergens that the FDA requires to be listed on an ingredient label), AND Malt Vinegar is not distilled (or so I thought, until I read this article (you really should read this link too, Jen Cafferty does a great job demystifying the malt vinegar confusion).

I am going to go even further into vinegars in a minute, but will tie up the Blue Horizon Fish and Chip Bites first. I contacted Blue Horizon and they were very gracious and explained the vinegar source and even included the lab test results showing that no gluten was detected in the products! That was really cool, if you ask me and I will buy their products again because of it.

Good Morning Heidi,

Thank you for contacting us with your question on the Blue Horizon Fish
& Chip Bites.

We use distilled malt vinegar which has no gluten in it. I have attached
the report form an independent laboratory showing this product is
gluten-free. Also we have changed this ingredient from the original
formula and are now using apple cider vinegar.

If you can respond with your address I can send you some $1off coupons
so you may try these gluten-free products.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards,
Phyllis

Here are the Lab Test Results for Blue Horizon Gluten-Free Seafood Bites:

Tiffany Janes, another great advocate for the celiac community, wrote an insightful article on the Blue Horizon Seafood Bites and you can read that here. I also encourage reading that article because Tiffany touched on some things that I think every gluten-free person needs to consider more often.

So on to the vinegar odyssey I have been on!

Did you know that there was a distilled malt vinegar? I sure didn’t! I actually got excited about it, thinking I needed to score some so I could have “real” fish and chips again (I have been using Red Wine Vinegar as my Malt Vinegar substitute since going gluten-free, it’s actually pretty good!).

So what is Distilled Malt Vinegar?

According to this website, distilled malt vinegar is:

This is a clear, white vinegar, also known as spirit vinegar, made by distilling ordinary malt vinegar to produce a very strong, colourless liquid high in acetic acid. It is less pungent than malt vinegar.
Uses: In home-made pickles, and especially where the colour of the food needs to be retained for example, pickled pears.

So, I had to see what my GF pals on Twitter thought and if anyone knew where I could find distilled malt vinegar. One response I received was from a pal in Ireland, where it is quite common, he even sent me a photo of an Irish Distilled Malt Vinegar (seriously, how cool is that?). To make a long story short, after quite a bit of chatter on the gluten-free status of the different types of vinegar from various parts of the world, and a bit of confusion after I wasn’t overly clear on another question I had asked (something as simple as another person thinking I had made a statement of fact because they did not see the ? after something I wrote). It was an innocent oversight but it took off like wildfire! Remember playing the “telephone” game as a child?

I realized just how easy it is to add more confusion (even if it is unintentional) to the swirling whirlpool of misinformation flowing in the gluten-free community. 😉 I highly recommend reading a GREAT article titled “The Gluten-Free Rumor Mill” by Tiffany Jakubowski (make note of when Tiffany talks about similar products by the same company but in different countries) Whether you are new to the GF lifestyle or have been doing it for many years, it is useful “continuing education.”

Anyway, I now realize that much of the confusion caused by my Twitter bomb could have been avoided if I had paid closer attention to some information on the Heinz website (see below… I told you this was a vinegar odyssey, right?).  And this just speaks to the greater problem that I think many of us face on a daily basis: how many products have we become so comfortable with that we just drop them in our shopping cart week after week without realizing that we haven’t “checked” on them for a few years?  How many products have similar sounding names but different formulations that we don’t even think to check the label for that extra word or two that signals the difference?

From the Heinz Website:

Are Heinz® Vinegars gluten-free?

Heinz® Distilled White Vinegar is sourced from corn, not from wheat, rye, barley, or oats. Wine Vinegar and Apple Cider Vinegar are sourced from grapes and apples, respectively, not grains. Therefore, they would all be appropriate for gluten-sensitive individuals. However, Heinz® Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar is NOT gluten free.

Ah, yes. I had completely forgotten about the Heinz Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar! I cannot recall ever seeing it at the store, and I buy my vinegar in bulk at Costco anyway, so I do not even use Heinz to stay acquainted with the products.

So, I probed deeper into the Heinz Website, looking for more information on the Apple Cider FLAVORED vinegar. I visited their products page and found nothing about the flavored vinegar. I did a Google Image search looking for a picture of the label… nothing. I eventually ended up on their foodservice site, Club Heinz (scroll down to the Products section, then a little further down to the subcategory “Bulk Vinegar,” and that is where I saw it, still no picture though)!

I started to relax thinking this was just a commercial foodservice product (that lasted a millisecond before I thought.. oh no, how many restaurants/manufacturers use this product, unknowingly? So, I sent an email to Heinz and the following is what transpired:

March 22, 2010

Dear Heidi,

Thank you for contacting us to find out where you can purchase Heinz Apple Cider Flavored Vinegar. This vinegar is distilled white vinegar with an apple flavoring. The other kind is the Apple Cider Vinegar that is made from apples. Both are gluten free. The labels will be on the bottles and if you have any additional questions please feel free to contact us.

If the above stores (I omitted these to save on space) are not close to your area or the item is out of stock, we suggest that you speak with your store manager.

While we would like to be able to offer you the option to purchase this item directly from our company, we unfortunately are not set up for direct sales to consumers at this time.

Thank you again for your interest and continued patronage.  We hope that you will soon have a convenient source for all the products that you enjoy.

Heinz Consumer Resource Center
Heinzconsumeraffairs@us.hjheinz.com

When contacting us, please refer to the following reference number: 003159252A

HEINZ/cl

PS – We love hearing from Heinz® Ketchup fans. So we’ve created a place on Facebook where Heinz® Ketchup lovers can share thoughts, ideas and stories. Stop over and fan us. You’ll find recipes, videos, info, and have a chance to chat with your fellow Heinz® Ketchup aficionados. Plus you’ll be among the very first to get the latest news from Heinz® Ketchup.  Join us at:  http://www.facebook.com/HeinzKetchup

Okay, did I read that first paragraph right? Did the Heinz representative say that BOTH the regular Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar and the Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar ARE gluten-free? Does the Heinz website not say the exact opposite?? Hmmm.. so, I had to send an email back to them for clarification (I have been known to read things wrong before!):

You are saying that the Heinz Apple FLAVORED Vinegar IS gluten-free?

Then why does your website list it as NOT gluten-free? http://www.heinzvinegar.com/faq.aspx (Last question on the page)

Just want to make sure I have it correct before making a post on my blog. 🙂

Thank you kindly,

Heidi Kelly

Response back:

March 23, 2010

Dear Heidi,

Thank you for your interest in Heinz Products. We certainly understand how difficult it can be to find foods that meet the requirements of a restricted diet.

As you requested, the following is a listing of all of our products that do NOT have gluten containing ingredients. If the product you asked about is not on this list, then it may contain gluten containing ingredients.  Also, please note that recipes can change without notice.  Therefore, we recommend you always check the ingredient statement on the label.

HEINZ PRODUCTS:
Heinz BBQ Sauces  (Original, Chicken & Rib, Garlic, Honey Garlic Only)
Heinz Chili Sauce (All Varieties)
Heinz Cocktail Sauce (All Varieties)
Heinz Horseradish Sauce
Heinz Ketchup
Heinz Organic Ketchup
Heinz Reduced Sugar Ketchup
Heinz No-Sodium Added Ketchup
Heinz Hot Ketchup
Heinz Mustard   (All Varieties)
Heinz Pickles  (All Varieties)
Heinz Peppers  (All Varieties)
Heinz Relish  (All Varieties)
Heinz Sloppy Joe Sauce
Heinz Tartar Sauce
Heinz Traditional Steak Sauce
Heinz Worcestershire Sauce
Heinz Vegetarian Beans
Heinz Distilled White Vinegar
Heinz Red Wine Vinegar
***Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar
***Heinz Apple Cider Flavored Vinegar

Heinz Red Wine Vinegar
Heinz Garlic Wine Vinegar

Jack Daniel’s BBQ Sauces  (Original #7, Honey Smokehouse, Hickory Brown Sugar, Spicy BBQ Only)
Jack Daniel’s EZ Marinader — Teriyaki, Garlic & Herb, Steakhouse
Jack Daniel’s Steak Sauce (Both Varieties)
Lea & Perrins White Wine Marinade
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (All Varieties)
Lea & Perrins Traditional Steak Sauce
TGI Fridays Salsa  (All Varieties)

CLASSICO PRODUCTS:
Classico Red Sauces  (All Varieties)
Classico Alfredo Sauces (All Varieties)
Classico Pesto Sauces  (All Varieties)
Classico Bruschetta (All Varieties)

DELIMEX PRODUCTS:
UPC CODE:          PRODUCT NAME:
1769600019        Tamales, 12 ct. Delimex Chicken & Cheese
1769600024        Tamales, 6 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600028        Taquitos, 25 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600029        Taquitos, 25 ct. Delimex Chicken
1769600048        Taquitos, 36 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600095        Taquitos, 12 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600096        Taquitos, 12 ct. Delimex Chicken
1769600155        Tamales, 15 ct. Costco Beef
1769600159        Tamales, 20 ct. Delimex Beef, Costco
1769600180        Taquitos, 60 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600186        Taquitos, 60 ct. Sam’s Club Beef
1769600214        Taquitos, 25 ct. Delimex 3-Cheese
1769600565        Tamales, 20 ct. Beef, Sam’s Club
1769600684        Taquitos, 66 ct. Costco Beef
1769600685        Taquitos, 66 ct. Costco Chicken
1769600315        Taquitos, 50 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600316        Taquitos, 50 ct. Delimex Chicken
1769602630        Taquitos, 50 ct. Delimex Chicken Grande
1769602640        Taquitos, 50 ct. Delimex Beef Grande
1769600189        Taquitos, 60 ct. Delimex Chicken

ORE-IDA PRODUCTS:
UPC CODE:           PRODUCT NAME:
13120XXXXX-        ALL VARIETIES of Ore-Ida® Tater Tots®
1312001879         Ore-Ida® ABC Tater Tots®
1312000080         Ore-Ida Golden Patties® (9 ct.)
1312000258         Ore-Ida® Golden Fries® (32 oz.)
1312000278         Ore-Ida® Golden Fries®  (5 lb.)
1312000286         Ore-Ida® Golden Crinkles® (32 oz.)
1312000291         Ore-Ida® Golden Crinkles® (5 lb.)
1312000296         Ore-Ida® Pixie Crinkles (26 oz.)
1312000377         Ore-Ida® Cottage Fries (32 oz.)
1312000392         Ore-Ida® Southern Style Hash Browns (32 oz.)
1312000428         Ore-Ida® Country Style Steak Fries (28 oz.)
1312000455         Ore-Ida® Zesty Twirls (28 oz.)
1312000469         Ore-Ida® Potatoes O’Brien (28 oz.)
1312000647         Ore-Ida® French Fries (8 lb.)
1312000654         Ore-Ida® Country Style Hashbrowns (6 lb.)
1312000784         Ore-Ida® Steam N’ Mash Cut Russets®
1312000785         Ore-Ida® Steam N’ Mash Cut Sweet Potatoes®
1312000787         Ore-Ida® Steam N’ Mash Garlic Seasoned Potatoes®
1312000483         Ore-Ida® Golden Twirls® (28 oz.)
1312000484         Ore-Ida® Zesties® (2 lb.)
1312000800         Ore-Ida® Steak Fries® (28 oz.)
1312000801         Ore-Ida® Shoestrings® (5 lb)
1312000828         Ore-Ida® Shoestrings® (28 oz.)
1312000833         Ore-Ida® Country Style Hashbrowns (30 oz.)
1312000862         Ore-Ida® Country Style Hashbrowns (6 lb.)
1312001036         Ore-Ida® Crispers® (20 oz.)
1312001176         Ore-Ida® Waffle Fries® (22 oz.)
1312001260         Ore-Ida® Extra Crispy Crinkle Cut (26 oz.)
1312001280         Ore-Ida® Extra Crispy Seasoned Crinkle Cut® (26 oz.)
1312001417         Ore-Ida® Extra Crispy Fast Food Fries (26 oz.)
1312001461         Ore-Ida® Country Fries  (30 oz.)
1312001492         Ore-Ida® Fast Food Fries (4 lb.)
1312008564         Ore-Ida® Golden Crinkles® (8 lb.)
1312008565         Ore-Ida® Golden Fries (8 lb.)
1312008572         Ore-Ida® Golden Crinkles® (8 lb.)  CLUB
1312001320         Ore-Ida® Sweet Potato Fries
1312001330         Ore-Ida® Sweet Potato Fries

SMART ONES PRODUCTS:
UPC CODE:           PRODUCT NAME:
2580002011         Smart Ones Broccoli & Cheddar Potatoes
2580002247         Smart Ones Lemon Herb Chicken Piccata
2580002254         Smart Ones Fiesta Chicken
2580002360         Smart Ones Santa Fe Rice & Beans
2580002918         Smart Ones Chicken Santa Fe
2580002931         Smart Ones Cranberry Turkey Medallions
2580002290         Smart Ones Honey Dijon Chicken

Again, we appreciate you taking the time to contact us.   If you need further information, feel free to call us at this toll-free number (1-800-255-5750).  Our offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM until 6:00 PM, Eastern Time.

Heinz Consumer Resource Center
Heinzconsumeraffairs@us.hjheinz.com

Huh! I love how they did not address the issue that there is conflicting information on their website! It was probably an “auto-reply!” 😉

So, one day while shopping at my local Smith’s, I saw the elusive Heinz Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar (so yes, it is in some grocery stores) and bought it, as well as a bottle of the regular apple cider vinegar so I could take photos of the labels for you!

If you are not looking closely at the label, would you think these products are the same, just in different sized containers?

A closer look:

And closer still:

Is it just me, or do these two labels look very similar?? At least similar enough that you might not catch the distinction?

The two Ingredient Labels:

Ingredient label for the Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar

The ingredient label for the Regular Apple Cider Vinegar

Talk about a paradox!

Now, knowing what I know about the distillation process (by Megan Tichy) and the gluten-free status of caramel coloring, (Nancy Lapid is another great source of information for the celiac community). I would personally lean towards the fact that the Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar is probably indeed “gluten-free,” but should I take the risk?

This little “adventure” has really got me thinking about the products I buy for me and my gluten-free family. Several months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mary Schluckebier, Executive Director of the Celiac Sprue Association. We were originally discussing McDonald’s french fries and whether or not they are in fact “gluten-free,” (I will leave that one alone 😀 ) and she said something that has really resonated with me over the past several months. In a nutshell, Mary planted the following seeds in my head:

  • As celiacs, our heath is a matter of personal responsibility.
  • It all comes down to personal RISK, as to the products we choose to buy and consume. Reducing risk when possible should always be our main priority.
  • We all need to learn to “ask the next question.”
  • The term “Gluten-Free” does not necessarily mean “free of gluten.”

Here are few things I have been pondering over the past several months as a result of those “seeds” (these are just my personal thoughts):

  • So if one eats 10 products a day that have been tested to be under the 20 ppm limit, but still registers some level of gluten, does that have a cumulative effect?
  • If a product is tested to contain, say 6 ppm of gluten, is that per serving or the entire package?
  • If it’s per serving, and you eat the entire thing and it is technically 4 servings (how many folks actually eat a true serving size?), would that not be equal to eating something that contains 24 ppm of gluten? What is the daily maximum threshold of gluten consumption for someone with celiac disease?

I cannot seem to find any concrete answers to those questions (and yes, I do realize that I may be the only “wackadoodle” that thinks of these things!). But I have celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis and my son has celiac disease too. I want us to LIVE a healthy, happy and long life if possible, and in order to do that, I need to know what I am eating (have you seen Food, Inc. yet? 😀 )

On that note, I want to recommend a video on the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center website, that I really encourage folks to watch. I cry each time I hear the kiddos talk, I feel the pain of the parents and am inspired to do whatever I can to help spread awareness. While you’re there, if you can spare a buck or two, please consider donating to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.

Zevia All-Natural Diet Soda Review, with some added “food for thought”

I have found myself with a bit of spring fever lately and cannot seem to get myself back in the kitchen. Although I haven’t been outside as much as I would like because the New Mexico winds can be rather ferocious in the spring time! I have lived here for 12 years, and I still cannot get over the tumbling tumbleweeds that blow everywhere, they get stuck underneath my car, I get piles of them in my backyard, I even have to run away from them when I am out for my daily walk… crazy!  I saw this picture on Google Images and had to share it, it’s funny but so true!

Anyway, Sam, Luke and I were out and about yesterday afternoon and we stopped by one of my favorite places to buy gluten-free products, R. Downs Nutrition Center. Mike was out of town on a business trip so I decided we would do something different for dinner, to make it fun for the boys because they were missing their dad (he really is like a 3rd child when it comes to playtime) and so I didn’t have to do any dishes!. We splurged on some gluten-free packaged foods for dinner (will be doing reviews of those soon), and I “kicked it up a notch” by trying a new product (new to us anyway), Zevia All Natural Diet Sodas. I can’t say I was optimistic about this, as I have tried many “Natural Sodas” over the years, while trying to kick my nasty Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi habit, but my curiosity got the best of me.

I didn’t start drinking diet soda because I wanted to lose weight, but my dad has battled Type-2 Diabetes for years and when I was growing up, if there was soda in the house, it was diet soda. I developed an affinity for that artificial taste at an early age. I was never a big plain water drinker as a teen/young adult (although I am now… is it just me or does your craving for water only increase the more you drink??), I guess I thought it was too boring. 😀 Because of my own experience, my kids drink mostly water, milk or I allow them a juice in their lunch box (no more than one a day). I want better for them and I know that if you start kids young enough eating and drinking healthfully (and naturally), that is what they will prefer, at least in the long run.

My diet soda consumption only increased as I aged, especially after I started developing more serious health problems. I put on some serious poundage after my thyroid was ablated (Graves’ Disease) but before my “hidden” Celiac Disease and Dermatitis Herpetiformis were discovered. No joke, I was essentially without a thyroid for over 6 months, my TSH levels were in the 150’s at one point! I was probably putting on 2 – 4 lbs a week, despite being on Weight Watchers, drinking 4- 5 diet sodas a day (needed the caffeine for energy because I was so lethargic from the severe hypothyroidism) and exercising like a mad woman (when my energy levels were up enough to do so, which is why I drank so much diet soda and coffee). Looking back in hindsight, I believe I was only contributing to my weight gain by drinking so much diet soda! It was a vicious cycle. Check out this article on one of my favorite new blogs: Fooducate, I HIGHLY recommend subscribing to it, they do a great job helping to break down the complexity of processed food ingredients! Here is another one from Fooducate: Phosphoric Acid.

Anyway, after my brilliant endocrinologist (you need to scroll down a bit on the page I linked to, for a great article on endocrinological disorders and celiac disease), returned from a medical conference (after being at his wits end as to why I was not absorbing my thyroid replacement hormone) and gave me the blood test for celiac disease. That was in 2005, when it was exceptionally unusual for doctors, especially non-GI doctors, to do a random blood test on someone without the classic GI symptoms of celiac disease. I really do love that man, well, after 2 years of therapy I do, because before that, I cursed his name for handing me that diagnosis! 😀

Anyway, on to my review (Warning: this has turned into more than a simple review for me. I apologize in advance for my tangent 😀 ).

I have tried many natural soda alternatives over the years, including Oogave but it wasn’t close enough to what I craved to work for me. Oogave soda still has 17 grams of sugar, regardless of the fact that it is lower on the Glycemic Index, it is still sugar and diabetics especially, need to watch their sugar intake. I eventually gave up hope for finding something that would fill that diet soda void and after many fits and starts, I decided to suck it up and go a completely different route. Sparkling water with lemon or lime juice. It took a while to adjust to it, but now it is my beverage of choice when I want something bubbly. However, a cold, crisp sugar-free soda would be a really nice occasional treat (especially with some popcorn!). Zevia fills that void for me. I also think this soda would be helpful if one is trying to wean off of mainstream diet sodas (hopefully on the journey to drinking more WATER!). I am excited to see what my dad thinks of these.

First, a little bit about Zevia All-Natural Diet Sodas:

Based in Seattle, Washington, Zevia LLC is the creator of the world’s first all natural zero calorie soda: Zevia® Natural Diet Soda. Zevia® is branded Nature’s Answer To Diet Soda™ for one reason: the ingredients. Zevia® contains none of the chemically processed artificial sugar substitutes found in other diet sodas because Zevia® is sweetened with stevia. Other diet sodas also contain artificial flavors and colors. Zevia® does not. All seven delicious Zevia® varieties – Zevia® Natural Cola, Zevia® Natural Orange, Zevia® Natural Twist , Zevia® Natural Root Beer , Zevia® Natural Black Cherry , and Zevia® Natural Ginger Ale – are healthier and taste better than regular diet soda. Click here to read about the passionate and inspired history and people behind Zevia®, the world’s only truly all natural zero calorie soda. Click here to meet the management team at Zevia LLC.

I want to re-post something from the Zevia Website, that I found really interesting and wanted to see what others thought, my emphasis is added in bold, red type (remember my warning)!

Because stevia has no effect on blood sugar levels, it is attractive as a natural sweetener to people who must control their intake of certain carbohydrates. But, in 1991, responding to an anonymous complaint, the United States Food and Drug Administration labeled stevia as an “unsafe food additive” and restricted its import. Many believe the complaint came from Monsanto, owner of Nutrasweet® artificial sweetener. Stevia was later approved for use as a dietary supplement but not as a food additive. >Learn More. That meant we could offer ZEVIA, but we could not call it a “soda”. From January, 2007 until February, 2009, ZEVIA was labeled as a “carbonated stevia supplement”, consistent with the FDA requirements.

**Is it just me or do you suddenly find yourself hearing a lot about Monsanto these days? The above information re: Nutrasweet® may be common knowledge to a lot of people, but I only recently heard about Monsanto for the first time, after watching Food, Inc! I am amazed by all the products or political figures that seem to have a Monsanto connection. If you have not seen Food, Inc. yet, PBS will be airing the film on Wednesday, April 21, 2010, and I cannot recommend this film enough!!

I am still just completely dumbfounded and disturbed by what I viewed on Food, Inc. (as well as other food documentaries). I am just seeking the truth about the food I put into my mouth, not only for maintaining my disease, but for the overall health of my family. I just want the facts so I can decide what I want to buy or not buy. I have tried to have an open mind with both sides of the issue, but what I cannot get past, is that IF biotech food products are completely “safe” then WHY isn’t there a label on the product that tells me, that what I am about to purchase and consume, is not really what I think it is?

According to Bio.org, here is the reason:

Myth: Biotech crops increase food allergies.
Fact: There is no evidence that biotech crops increase food allergies; in fact, researchers are working to develop biotech foods that are free of known allergens, such as peanuts. In fact, according to the FDA’s labeling policy, biotech foods are required to be labeled if the product is significantly changed nutritionally or uses material from a potential allergen. Today, the majority of biotech products in the marketplace are not labeled since they are not derived from known allergens.

Okay, so what does that mean? The top 8 known allergens or ALL known allergens?

And what about this in regards to the Increasing Prevalence of Celiac Disease?

I am not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but I do have to say that the connections that have been made between Monsanto and certain US government employees, definitely raise my eyebrows. If you are interested, click here for more on Monsanto (Wikipedia article). Click here for Monsanto’s statement regarding the claims made in the film Food, Inc.

What are your thoughts on this issue??

I always worry about posting things like this because one, I do not want to come off as a person “on the fringe,” because I am not, and I usually just “tune out” people that I think are extreme. Second, I don’t have any real answers because I do not know what the “truth” is. I just hope to encourage people “to ask the next question.” Our health and well-being is a matter of personal responsibility, but it is difficult to make the best decisions for ourselves when there is so much hidden, incorrect or conflicting information out there.**

There really is no “quick post” with me, is there? LOL! 😉 Moving along…

About Stevia

Stevia is an herb in the sunflower family, native to subtropical and tropical South America and Central America. For centuries, the Guarani Native Americans of Paraguay and Brazil used stevia as a sweetener in native foods and medicinal teas. The extract from the stevia leaf has no calories, no effect on blood sugar levels, and is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar.

Stevia Has Other Health Benefits

Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry concludes that stevia could also be a rich source of antioxidants and may protect against DNA damage and cancer. <click here for an abstract of the research.>

Stevia also has shown promise in medical research on high blood pressure <Research Link #1> , inflamation <Research Link #2> , insulin efficiency <Research Link #3> , cellular immuntiy and nutrition <Research Link #4> , and healthy cell growth <Research Link #5>.

Purdue University’s Dental Science Research Group concluded after two studies that stevia “significantly” inhibits the development of plaque and may help to prevent cavities.

Here is another article that is just plain educational on how the food industry works. The article is on artificial sweeteners, including Splenda and it also mentions Stevia. Some of the information is outdated as the article is from 2007.

As for how Zevia All-Natural Diet Sodas taste? While the Cola is not exactly like Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi, I think it is really darned close!!! The Ginger Root Beer and Orange flavors were our favorites. The Twist was good too, but it has a much more pronounced lemon lime flavor than say Diet 7-Up or Diet Sprite, and I presume that is because the lemon lime flavor is derived from lemon and lime oils, which are more pronounced (if you have ever used oil flavorings in baked goods, instead of extracts, you will know what I mean). Mike thought it tasted like the “old” Gatorade, only carbonated. Mike is excited to try the Dr. Zevia if I can find some. There is also Black Cherry and Ginger Ale, which we haven’t tried yet.

Have you tried Zevia All-Natural Diet Sodas yet? If so, what did you think of them?

PureFit Nutrition Bars Product Review

A few months ago, I received some complimentary nutrition bars from PureFit to sample and review on my blog. I feel like a real heel that I am just now posting this review in April. Truth be told, I forgot about it because my boys ate them too fast so I didn’t have a bar sitting around to trigger my memory. It didn’t help that this was during the mayhem of the holiday season either. Maybe if I had been eating more balanced nutrition bars instead of sugar cookies, the sugar induced  “brain fog” would not have been present! 😀

First, a little info on PureFit Nutrition Bars:

Kosher-certified and vegan-approved PureFit bars do not contain dairy, wheat, or gluten, and will not melt in their packaging. PureFit works diligently to provide high-quality, award-winning nutrition bars without artificial ingredients, sugar alcohols or common allergens, including milk, wheat or gluten.

Our bars are an integral part of The PureFit Fat-Burning System. It provides many of the nutrients and calories you need to round out your PureFit diet. And it does not contain harmful ingredients found in virtually every nutrition bar on the market. 100% All-Natural Ingredients, 18 Grams of Soy Protein, Non-GMO Soy, Unprecedented Great Taste. This low glycemic, nondairy bar is based on over 20 years of research and was not practical to manufacture until now. It offers:

  • NO Hydrogenated Oils
  • NO Animal Products – Vegan
  • NO Cholesterol or Trans Fatty Acids
  • NO Wheat or Gluten
  • NO Artificial Sweeteners
  • NO Hidden Carbohydrates
  • NO Sugar Alcohol

Did you see that little blurb about PureFit bars not melting in their packaging? I plan on sending these with Sam to his Sports Summer Day Camp in a few months as an easy “pick-me-up’ snack, they would also be great to take to the pool, beach, etc.!

There is also some great information on PureFit’sChoose The Right Bar” page:

A lot of so-called nutrition bars contain as many hollow calories as the average fast food sandwich. Keep in mind that one-pound equals 3,500 calories, and that in order to maintain your current weight, your body requires 10 calories per pound per day. In other words, if you weigh 190 pounds, your body requires 1,900 calories per day to maintain that weight.

If you consume a candy bar-like nutrition bar, one that accounts for nearly 20% of your daily caloric needs, you’re bound get into trouble. Of course, you need to take into account that exercise burns calories, but still, err on the safe side by looking for nutrition bars with approximately 150 to 300 calories per serving.

Here is a piece from the “Ingredients Matter” section. Click here for more information on Sugar Alcohols.

Not all nutrition bars are created equal, and to see this for yourself, just look at the list of ingredients of your average nutrition bar. Many are loaded with sugar, partially hydrogenated oil, artificial sweeteners, and other ingredients that just aren’t very good for you. As one example, some popular nutrition bar companies use maltitol syrup in their bars.

Maltitol syrup is a sweetener that can produce gas, bloating and a laxative so overpowering that many countries now require a warning label on foods contain the item.

Other commonly used sugar alcohols you may want to avoid include: malitol syrup (notice the different spelling), glycol, isomalt, lactitol, glycerol, glycerine, erythritol, arabitol, xylitol, ribitol, mannitol, and sorbitol.

I found this informative (about the 40-30-30 philosophy), it is from the “Watch Your Balance” section:

Choosing a nutrition bar with the right balance of carbohydrates, fat and protein is critical to optimal performance, and here’s why: A diet composed of approximately 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat is ideal for body fat loss and consistent energy. This nutritional philosophy is commonly referred to as “The Zone,” and is, in our opinion, the greatest dietary discovery of the last 50 years. In short, it is especially difficult, if not impossible, to lose weight when eating a diet primarily comprised of carbohydrates, especially if you work out consistently, because you force your body to burn carbohydrates (sugars). When you eat a diet composed of about one-third protein, you allow your body to burn stored body fat—the reason most of us work out. In other words, the ratio of the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in your diet determines if you will predominately burn carbohydrates or stored body fat.

The PureFit website even offers a free downloadable fat burning guide which has some great tips for eating better, including sample meal plans. While you are on that page, check out the link titled “Low Carb Myth,” it talks a little bit about sugar alcohols and package labeling. You can even see a clip of the PureFit Bars being featured on “The Real Housewives of Orange County!”

As for the taste, all I can tell you is how the bars were received by my sons, and they loved them! They both fought over the Chocolate Brownie Bar (Luke won, but gave a tiny piece to his brother in the spirit of “sharing”). Sam ended up enjoying the Peanut Butter Crunch Bar even more. I personally did not get to try them because Mike gave them to the boys without realizing they were for a review… when I wasn’t at home to guard them!

I had Mike run out to Smith’s (part of the Kroger Company) last night to get more bars so I could personally sample them and take photos for this post, but unfortunately, they are not carrying them anymore and here is why. I personally plan on contacting the Kroger Company as well, because PureFit has done a lot to help spread awareness of celiac disease. Check out all the PureFit Blog posts that Robb Dorf, Founder and CEO of PureFit, Inc. has made on Celiac Disease, Autism, and Type 1 Diabetes (I highly recommend watching the video on this post about IronKIDz. I watched it with Sam and it was a great teaching moment to show him how other kids have “differences” too, that he is not alone in dealing with a major medical issue at such a young age. It validated his feelings and showed him at the same time that celiac disease is just one part of him and not the entire definition of who he is).

I believe it is important to support companies that take the next step by raising awareness for and supporting medical research of the health issues that affect their customers. Thank you Robb, I really appreciate your efforts!

Vivagave Fiber Supplement Review

Did you know that we should be getting 20 – 35 grams of fiber a day and that the average American’s mean fiber intake is around 14 – 15 grams a day??  Check out this article on the importance of fiber from WebMD.

20 – 35 grams of fiber can be tough to achieve if one dines primarily on fast and convenient food!  I think back to my days at Ohio State and my daily meals of Ramen Noodles and Taco Bell (typical “food” on a college budget), and it makes me shudder to think of it!  Anyway, fast forward a couple of years (okay, 12) and things are much much different!  I have now have this “little” thing called celiac disease so Ramen noodles and fast food are definitely off the table (which is one benefit of having celiac disease!!) but I am also older, and somewhat wiser.  I try to learn something new everyday, and when I was going through my medical odyssey with Sam and Luke a couple of years ago, I learned quite a bit from their pediatrician and pediatric GI on how the human body works, especially the GI tract.  Sam and Luke were on opposite ends of the spectrum though, one needed fiber and one needed Miralax.  Here is a link to an article on the Basics of the Digestive System on KidsHealth.org.  I have been going over it with Sam to help him better understand celiac disease and the importance of a gluten-free diet so he can absorb important nutrients.

Since this is a fiber post, I will stick with fiber (gotta resist the urge for a major ADD tangent!).  I prefer that my family and I get as much fiber as possible from whole foods.  You always hear how hard it is to get fiber on the gluten-free diet, but I really don’t think that is true.  The problem, I think, is how we eat.  I can only speak for myself, but at the time I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I was relying a lot on all the “fortified” foods at the supermarket to get my “nutrients.”  Even Wonder Bread has fiber and vitamins added, but that does not necessarily make Wonder Bread a wise food choice!  Or all the sugary kid cereals that are fortified with vitamins and minerals, or are labeled that they are made with “Whole Grains” but contain so many other questionable ingredients.  I am much more aware today than I was even a year ago, heck, 3 months ago, when I saw Food, Inc. and King Corn for the first time!  If you are not looking for the information, you certainly will not find it labeled on all the brightly colored packages at the supermarket!  I STILL cannot go into the grocery store without hearing the music from the intro of Food Inc. in my head!!

Apparently, I still managed to sneak in a tangent… but seriously, if you have not seen either of these documentaries, I cannot encourage you enough to watch them.  If for no other reason, it may speed up your acceptance of the gluten-free diet! 😉

When I was newly diagnosed with celiac disease and didn’t know the first thing about gluten-free cooking (which really isn’t hard if you go naturally gluten-free), and was still craving the foods I grew up on; I relied a lot on gluten-free processed foods.  Back then at least, GF processed foods were not only horrible in taste, but they weren’t fortified with vitamins and minerals the same way mainstream gluten-containing processed foods are.  I am thankful now (5 years later), that my taste buds have changed for the better (so if you are newly diagnosed… I promise, it DOES get easier!), and we eat a diet that is primarily naturally gluten-free; whole fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. It is healthier and a LOT less expensive than buying gluten-free processed foods.  It took me time though, to get to this place, in terms of taste and emotional acceptance.

So, from the point of my diagnosis to where I am today, I relied a lot on supplements, and I still take them as added “insurance.”  A couple of months ago I found a new fiber supplement to try and we love it, even Sam and Luke, just by the fact that they don’t know I have put it in their food or beverage! It is called Vivagave, an Organic Blue Agave Inulin powder (read the health effects section on the Inulin link). Here is a bit of information on Vivagave from their website:

As a soluble fiber, this versatile Prebiotic can be used to aid in the growth of “good” intestinal bacteria.

Agave Inulin has a minimal impact on blood sugar, is not insulemic, will not raise triglycerides; making agave inulin a low glycemic product. Inulin also increases calcium and magnesium absorption.

A diet rich in soluble fiber, such as inulin, helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract and may help promote regularity

10 grams of fiber in 1 tablespoon!

I found Vivagave at my local Whole Foods. It was not in the vitamin/supplement section of the store, but in the grocery section near the agave nectar. A 7-ounce package is $8.99, a really good price compared to other fiber supplements and 7-oz. goes a long way! Mike and I each take a tablespoon a day, and I put one teaspoon’s worth in Sam and Luke’s milk, juice, yogurt or something else that I can blend it in, like the chocolate “pudding” below or mashed potatoes, etc. Just for reference, here is a good article titled High-Fiber Foods for Gluten-Free Diets. On the first page is a guideline for how much fiber children need. There are also some great suggestions for foods with high-fiber content.

Vivagave is a superfine white powder and it dissolves well without giving you that “texture” common in some fiber supplements:

I like to add a tablespoon to my Chobani Greek Yogurt:

This morning, I put some in Luke’s chocolate pudding (wait till you see what this “pudding” is made of! I will post that next):

The powder totally disappears!

The “proof is in the pudding!” 😀

Vivagave also comes in Vanilla and Chocolate, but we haven’t tried those yet.

There are also other ways of adding fiber into your diet.  I have been experimenting a lot lately with replacing eggs in my baked goods with flax gel for added fiber and less cholesterol.  I have also been putting beans in my baked goods, like black beans in brownies or the chocolate chips cookies with garbanzo beans/chickpeas recipe I posted back in October.  Beans “hide” very well in baked goods!! 🙂

Aroma Dough Giveaway!

This is SOOOO Exciting! I have ANOTHER giveaway!

A few days ago, I posted my review of gluten free play doughs. Aroma Dough was one of the companies whose product I reviewed and Diane (one of the founders and a fellow mom!) has so generously offered to give away a Splat Mat Set to one of my lucky readers! Woo Hoo! Just in time for the holidays…what an awesome stocking stuffer!

The Splat Mat Set includes: 3 cookie cutters, rolling pin, 11×17 Splat mat and 4 assorted gluten free tubs of Aroma Dough. The retail value of this set is $25.95!

I want to share a little more information on Aroma Dough because I really think they are an amazing company with a unique product. The following highlighted sections are from the Aroma Dough Website:

At Aroma Dough®, Inc. we only use 100%, child safe, natural ingredients. Our gourmet, kid-tested formulas are whipped up fresh in our factory and shipped off directly to your school or child-care center fresh with absolutely no petroleum distillates. Featured in articles in Redbook and American Baby Magazine and sold nationally at Sam’s Clubs and Discovery Toys, we now bring our original Aroma Dough® aromatic formula directly to you…..only the safest, natural, parent & teacher approved ingredients are used for your little ones to enjoy hours of aroma infused creative play!

Invented in 1992, ORIGINAL Aroma Dough®’s soft and pliable original formula is packed with a variety of natural, aromatic oils to spark your children’s creative senses. And don’t be fooled, Aroma Dough® truly brings out the kid hidden in all of us … no matter what your age! So go on, pick it up and give it a squeeze and breath in the aromas of childhood.

Winner of Seal of Approval by Parent’s Choice

Stays soft and pliable for hours of fun

Non-crumbling formula

Washes easily from carpet and clothing (no kidding, really!!)

Natural formula safe for little ones

NO ARTIFICIAL PRESERVATIVES OR PETROLEUM DISTILLATES USED as in other modeling compounds!

Confirms to ASTM-4236

Organic, Gluten-Free/Wheat Free Formula:
Fun DoughALL products are Gluten Free  made with 100% organic, wheat-free rice flour, sodium, water, moisturizing oils, natural aromas (no perfumes). This formula is perfect for children who have special needs such as Autism, Celiac’s Disease, ADD/ADHD, or other allergy related issues. It DOES NOT contain nuts, nut oils, perfumes, soy, dairy products or wheat.

This GF play dough is AMAZING! I can only imagine how this dough would be beneficial, not only for all children (and adults alike!) but especially for children who can benefit from the sensory stimulation of the intensely inviting and relaxing aromas, the moisturizing oils in the dough that keep your hands very soft (NOT greasy!) and the bright, vivid colors. I know what I am putting in the goodie bags for Sam and Luke’s birthday parties this year!

Considering the affect Aroma Dough had on me, (I felt very calm, focused and relaxed) I think this would also be a great gift for companies to give their employees during these stressful economic times! Think of it as the new stress ball! 😀

Aroma Dough also does customized products as well!

Aroma Dough play dough can be private labeled
for your company or product, with aromas customized to match your product,
corporation, theme or party.

We can even do small quantity orders for:

  • birthday parties
  • bar mitzvahs
  • corporate giveaways or fun gifts
  • personalized with your own photo

We have done private labeling for such companies as:

  • Scentsational Dough Discovery Toys “Scentsational Dough”
  • Natural Wonder Stores
  • Sesame Street Stores
  • Right Start Catalog

Products for Teachers:


Gluten Free Aroma Dough Play Dough Class Pack™ $19.95

Class PackIs ideal for educational environments such as school and childcare centers. One color of Aroma Dough® fills a 5 lb. air-tight sealed clear bucket with handle.

  • Cherry Cola Fizz (memory booster)
  • Groovy Blue (creative thinking)
  • Lemon Drops (uplifting)
  • Lollipop Lime (for concentration)

So here is the contest:

Name a New Aroma Dough Character!!

Leave a comment on this post about what you think would be a great new Aroma Dough Character. Include a Color, Scent and the Name of your character!

The deadline for this contest will be Friday, December 11th, 2009 so we can be sure to get the Splat Mat Set to you before the 25th! Good Luck and have fun!