Three reasons to support local and sustainable farms

While shopping for dinner, whether it be breakfast or filet mignon, I not only buy food to feed my family, but also to buy local in order to support the community.

Large corporations have fooled us into believing that growing and producing food is an inconvenience that we should not be bothered with.  We have been brainwashed into believing that corporate farms are better equipped to “produce” food as a commodity that is bought and sold to retail food corporations (Kraft, Nabisco, Quaker, etc.) for food production. 

Corn, wheat and other grains are grown on farms that contain thousands of acres of land and require high amounts of chemicals (pesticides) to produce high amounts food.  Growing food is big business, called Agrobusiness, and large corporate farms own ships, shipyards and trucking companies worldwide to prevent anything (weather, growing conditions, etc.) from not fulfilling food contracts with retailers. 1

Agrobusiness is about growing for shareholders profit and quality is not the highest priority.  Large corporately owned farms (Tyson, ConAgra, Cargill, etc.) produce high yields of outputs based on negotiated contracts with retailers (Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger, etc.). 1  What we eat for dinner is controlled through contracts made from commodity and supply chain availability.

The next time you are putting your grocery list together, remember that YOU can control what is for dinner by purchasing locally sourced foods and it also helps the earth, your community and your health.

Here are three great reasons to support local and sustainable food sourcing.

Reason #1

Locally sourced foods are better for the ENVIRONMENT

To make a profit, corporately owned farms track two things, keeping inputs (pesticides, fertilizer, seeds, farm equipment, etc.) low and outputs (wheat, barley, rye, corn, eggs, meat, etc.) high.  Large farms require large amounts of inputs to make large amounts of outputs, which can be detrimental to the environment.  For example, feed lots with thousands of cattle produce high amounts of CO2 (greenhouse gases) from excess manure and overused farm fields create soil imbalances that require chemicals to rebalance. 2  Pesticide runoff causes cancer, reproductive, immune and neurological diseases and nonproblematic insects and animals are impacted by small amounts of pesticides on farms as well. 3

Sustainable local farms can reduce or remove the need for chemicals like pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers, which can harm pollinating insects, birds, fish and wildlife. 4  The use of sustainable farming practices (crop rotations, crop covering, soil management and seed diversity) disrupt the life cycles of unwanted pests naturally and keep soil nutrients in balance, reducing the need for chemicals. 3

Local animal agriculture farming is better for the environment as well.  Farms with fewer animals can manage manure more easily than large farms.  This reduces the amount of CO2 (greenhouse gases) and allows animals to graze in larger areas, which is more humane. 2

Reason #2

Locally sourced foods are better for the ECONOMY

Agribusiness has purchasing power.  The business of buying up small farms (and farmland) not only to increase their growing acreage, but to encourage retail growth.  Strip malls with Costco, Target and Wal-Mart make consumers reliant on corporations for their food and perpetuate a buying cycle that only benefits big business. 5

Local farms play a big role in the local community’s economy through the “multiplier effect”.  This concept means money spent on local food products, is more likely to be re-spent within the local community.  For example, local farmers purchase seeds, fertilizer and equipment from local businesses who employ local people to continue the local buying process.  The “multiplier effect” from those sales have a ripple effect within the community. 6

Another economic benefit is through farm markets, farm stands and community support agriculture (CSA) programs.  CSA’s build relationships between farmers and consumers by allowing members to purchase “shares” of a farms bounty before the season begins.  CSA memberships help to reduce farmers financial risks from weather, poor growing conditions, natural disasters and fluctuating input costs and provide them working capital to plan a successful growing season. 7  CSA farms connect consumers to plant growing cycles and teaches them how and where food comes through educational seminars, programs and direct marketing.  This knowledge helps expand local business and funnels money through communities in a circle of positive impact. 7  The community pride from local food sourcing encourages people to work, eat and support local business and helps the community flourish.

Reason #3

Locally sourced foods are more NUTRITIOUS

If “we are what we eat”, then choose to be something grown from the earth, sun and soil in your local community.  Knowing where your food comes from positively fuels the body versus food manufactured in a factory made from corporately contracted commodities. 8

Local farming produces seasonal foods that are grown and picked at the peak of nutrition and travel shorter distances (food miles) to get from field to table. 9  Allowing foods to stay on the vine longer has been shown to increase their nutrient content, quality and taste which encourages people to eat more nutrient dense (seasonal) locally grown foods. 10 11 12

Animals raised on large farms are sometimes forced into confined, crowded environments and have been shown to have more stress hormones (adrenaline) which can affect the quality of their outputs and meat.  Overcrowding of animals may also require them to be treated with antibiotics to prevent the spread of diseases or given hormones to increase their growth rates.  Small farms, with fewer pasture raised animals, have less stress, require less antibiotics (and hormones) and produce better tasting biproducts. 13

Local and sustainable farm sourcing is gaining popularity thanks to social media, direct marketing and increased involvement in localism (eating within 50 miles of home).  Small farms use less pesticides, produce smaller amounts of greenhouse gases and are more conscious of soil quality than industrialized farms. 9  Consumers are building an understanding that quality of food matters and sourcing local ingredients keeps the circle of income within their communities.  And food grown in season and allowed to fully vine ripen is more nutritious and better tasting than food picked too early and shipped long distances.  The more you get involved in your food through CSA memberships, farm markets and farm stands, the more towns can prosper and grow from within, breaking the reliance on large corporations.

So remember that local sustainable food sourcing is better for the environment, the local economy and your nutrition.  Don’t forget to connect with and support your local farmers through CSA’s, Farm Markets and Farm stands


1. McKenzie S. A brief history of agriculture and food production:
The rise of “Industrial agriculture”. The Johns Hopkins University. 2007.

2. Amarakoon ID, Zvomuya F, Cessna AJ, Degenhardt D, Larney FJ, McAllister TA. Runoff losses of excreted chlortetracycline, sulfamethazine, and tylosin from Surface‐Applied and Soil‐Incorporated beef cattle feedlot manure. Journal of environmental quality. 2014;43(2):549-557. doi: 10.2134/jeq2013.02.0039.

3. Leo Horrigan, Robert S. Lawrence, Walker P. How sustainable agriculture can address the environmental and human health harms of industrial agriculture. Environmental health perspectives. 2002;110(5):445-456.

4. Lichtenbert E. Diminishing returns: Salmon decline and pesticides . . 2001.

5. Mills E, Wilkinson J, Then C, et al. Agrifood atlas. . 2017. doi: 10.13140/rg.2.2.32895.51364.

6. Bloom D, Lelekacs J, Dunning R. Local food systems: Clarifying current research. NC State Extension Publications Web site. Updated 2018.

7. Paracha Z, Dang A, Fagan JM. The benefits of community supported agriculture. . 2011. doi:

8. Rosenthal J. Integrative nutrition. New York: Integrative Nutrition Inc; 2017.[SITE_ID]/detail.action?docID=4941557.

9. Pirog RS, Van Pelt T, Enshayan K, Cook E. Food, fuel, and freeways: An iowa perspective on how far food travels, fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions. Updated 2001.

10. Sargent S. Ripening tomatoes with ethylene. University of Florida Extension, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. 2000.

11. Bo Zhang, Denise M. Tieman, Chen Jiao, et al. Chilling-induced tomato flavor loss is associated with altered volatile synthesis and transient changes in DNA methylation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – PNAS. 2016;113(44):12580-12585. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1613910113.

12. Khoo HE, Azlan A, Tang ST, Lim SM. Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: Colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food & nutrition research. 2017;61(1):1361779-21. doi: 10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779.

13. Bozzo G, Barrasso R, Marchetti P, et al. Analysis of stress indicators for evaluation of animal welfare and meat quality in traditional and jewish slaughtering. Animals (Basel). 2018;8(4):43. doi: 10.3390/ani8040043.

It’s time to tailgate!

I love football, and I love fall, so I’m not sad to see the end of summer’s barbeque season, I just pull out my favorite team jersey and get the tailgate started.  Being gluten-free doesn’t have to hold you back from tailgate fun, you just need to take charge and plan ahead, so you are ready to enjoy the festivities without the worry of what to eat.

The key to the whole event is the pre-planning.  I’ve put together a gluten-free tailgate party checklist to help you easily plan the food everyone can enjoy, so the day of the event you can sit back and enjoy the fun.

First thing, if you are planning the event, I would contact friends and family attending and ask them if they have any additional dietary requirements that you can help accommodate.  We’ve all been heartbroken at social events where there was nothing gluten-free available to eat, so reach out before the event to see if you can eliminate that frustration for others.  It’s easy to have some vegan, vegetarian, paleo or keto friendly dishes for everyone to enjoy.  If you aren’t the planner, contact the person who is, and ask them to reach out to attendees to see what other dietary needs the group has.  Be that “dietary champion” that will surprise everyone that has a special diet need.

Next, choose a theme for the tailgate.  It will make your life so much easier, especially when other people ask what they can bring.  If you just leave it up to others to bring whatever they want, in most cases it won’t be gluten-free, or you won’t be sure if it was made with concern to preventing cross-contamination.  When you choose a theme, you can even make suggestions of specific food items and brands that you know are safe for you (and other dietary restricted guests) to eat.   Some examples of easy themes are; Mexican, Mediterranean, wine and cheese, barbecue, tropical or just picnic style.

Once you choose a theme, and know what ingredients you need to avoid, you can start to put a list together of what you can make and what others can prepare easily.  For example, for a BBQ themed party, you could offer to bring the pulled pork and ask others to bring coleslaw, gluten-free corn chips or a vegetable tray.  For a tropical themed party make some gluten-free teriyaki chicken skewers and ask others to bring a green salad (with no croutons) and some fresh fruit.  I’ve included a great planning guide with party themes and menu ideas.

There is a lot of items that you may need on the day of the party, and not all of them are food.  Perhaps you could ask friends to bring themed decorations, tablecloths, small tables and chairs, cups and napkins, beverages (non-alcoholic or alcoholic), coolers, prepackaged snacks, garbage bags, zip lock bags or saran wrap for leftovers. 

If you are bringing hot food items (or cold), be sure and plan ahead how to keep them at the proper temperature before and after the game.  A small grill is the perfect way to heat up food, but don’t forget to bring some foil pans to keep them warm and utensils to serve.  Don’t forget extra ice and coolers to help keep food cold for safe food preparation after the game.  I also like to label my food items with small signs, so others know what’s in it.  If it’s gluten-free and dairy-free, why not label it so others know they can eat it.  If you are concerned about unforeseen cross-contamination during the tailgate, keep some of your own salads or dips in a separate container to enjoy for yourself to take the pressure off.

Finally, have fun!  A little planning and preparation goes a long way to ensure a fun and satiating tailgate party that everyone can enjoy.

Fiber – Your body will tell you what it needs

Everyone talks about fiber and how we need to eat more of it. Our bodies ask for it every day by giving us clues on what kind it needs.  To be honest with you, sometimes when I eat too much fiber, I just don’t feel good.  So, instead of suffering from eating too much, or too little, I’ve decided to do a little research on this carbohydrate (starch) and see if I can figure out what kind of fiber my body is asking for.

The first thing I learned from researching is that dietary fiber is found only in plant foods and amazingly humans don’t have the enzymes to break it down, so really, we can’t digest it.  Whole grains, for example, contain a lot of fiber, which we start to breakdown in our stomachs and small intestines.  But the fiber just passes through to our gastrointestinal tract like a broom to sweep out the digestive tract.  Once it reaches the large intestine, it becomes fermented by our gut microbiome where it turns in to short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that travel through our body, through our blood stream, for energy, or used by intestinal cells.  Although whole grains contain a lot of fiber, fruits, vegetables and legumes (especially Mediterranean diet types) create the best fiber with the most SCFA.

There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.  Each has a benefit in the digestive tract and knowing which type your body needs, can help prevent (or alleviate) unwanted symptoms like diarrhea or constipation.

Soluble fiber attracts water like a sponge and turns to gel during digestion, which slows digestion.  As you can tell from the description, soluble fiber would be good for anyone suffering from diarrhea or loose stools.  Because it slows how fast foods are digested, it can help lower blood sugar, which is a great choice if you battle with diabetes.  It also makes you feel full longer which can aid in weight loss.  This type of fiber is fermented by gut bacteria in the large intestines and provides nutrition to the microbiome.

Examples of soluble fiber foods:

Oats, oat bran, dried beans and lentils, carrots, applesauce, pears, oranges, strawberries, bananas, onions, chickory, sunchokes, avocado, potatoes and sweet potatoes, sunflower seed and brussels sprouts.

Insoluble fiber passes through the gut quickly, which makes it the perfect choice for anyone suffering from constipation.  This type of fiber doesn’t provide the body with nutritional needs or feed our microbiome, but it does keep things moving through the colon and keeps things “cleaned out”.   This type of fiber helps prevent infections of the gut, hemorrhoids, heart disease and may prevent some types of cancers.

Insoluble fiber comes from fruits with skins, uncooked vegetables, nuts and bran, brown rice and whole grain flours and is more rough on intestinal lining than soluble fiber.

Examples of insoluble fiber foods:

Zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages, leafy greens, uncooked vegetables, raw peppers, flax and chia seeds, whole grains, fruits with skins and berries, nuts and legumes.

One last thing to keep in mind about fiber.  If you are bloated, have abdominal pain and fatigue after eating fiber, you may want to get tested for something called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).   SIBO happens when bacteria in the small intestine get out of balance and over grown.  Although there can be almost 1,000 different species of bacteria in our gut, most is meant to be located in the large intestine and colon where they help to breakdown food.  When there is an imbalance in the gut and more bacteria starts to grow in the small intestine, it can create a multitude of symptoms from abdominal pain, bloating and food intolerances to physical pain, fatigue and unexplained vitamin and mineral deficiencies or leaky gut.

As I learned from Dr. Amy Myers article titled 10 Signs You Have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), the good news is that there are several tests that can diagnose SIBO and it can be treated with dietary change, antibiotics and/or probiotics.   It’s certainly worth mentioning to your doctor if you feel there is an imbalance in your gut from poor diet, overused antibiotics or autoimmune conditions like Chrohn’s disease.

After all this research, the one take away I learned is to increase fiber slowly to prevent your stool from moving too quickly or too slow.  You will also want to drink plenty of water to turn that soluble fiber into the gel consistency that your body needs it to be in to aid digestion and push that insoluble through your digestive tract and through your colon.  Fiber can’t do its job without water, and you don’t want to create and imbalance in the gut, which could lead to other problems like SIBO.  As you can see, the choices of fiber is important to your health so listen to your body, it will tell you what you need.

Allison Webster, R. (2019). Gut Check: Whole Grains and the Microbiome – IFIC Foundation. [online] IFIC Foundation. Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

Mayo Clinic. (2019). How much fiber is found in common foods?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

Stop Colon Cancer Now. (2019). High-Fiber Diet Shown To Boost Colon Health. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

Myers, A. (2019). 10 Signs You Have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) – Amy Myers MD. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

BMJ. “High dietary fiber intake linked to health promoting short chain fatty acids: Beneficial effects not limited to vegetarian or vegan diets.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 September 2015. <>.

O’Brien, MS, S. (2019). Top 20 Foods High in Soluble Fiber. [online] Healthline. Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

Decker, F. (2019). Best Sources of Soluble Fiber From Natural Foods. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

Local and Seasonal Foods for the Gut

seasonal-eatingFor a Celiac sufferer, nothing should pass by the lips that could damage their already fragile intestinal tract.  Most importantly, they must avoid anything that could contain gluten.

In case you don’t already know, gluten is a protein that is found in many grains, but most commonly in wheat, barley and rye (there are many others).  Ingesting any gluten containing grain will trigger a reaction in the intestines of a Celiac (an autoimmune disease), causing their villi (tiny finger like hairs) in the gut to atrophy (or shrink).  This reaction prevents nutrients from being absorbed into the body, thus creating nutritional deficiencies and a multitude of symptoms (bloating, gas, diarrhea, pain, anemia, etc.).  In the non-autoimmune condition called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), the symptoms range even farther than just intestinal.  Many suffer from anxiety, depression, joint pain and migraines, just to name a few.  For a wheat and/or gluten allergy, sufferers must carry an EpiPen to counteract the anaphylaxis response that could be generated from ingesting ingredients.  Three designations of gluten disorders, but all with the same result…ABSOLUTELY NO EATING GLUTEN.

Avoiding gluten containing grains is stressful enough, but my feeling is that they should not only avoid gluten, but try and stay away from foods that don’t support a healthy immune system (i.e. sugar, food dyes, processed foods, etc.).  My recommendation is to choose naturally gluten-free foods to support the immune system.  We naturally are what we eat, so choosing quality foods is important for anyone with a compromised immune system.

One way to support a healthy immune system is to eat foods that are whole, clean, local, seasonal and organic.  I’m not saying that prepacked gluten-free products don’t have a place, but keeping balance in your diet is an important practice.  Where is the best place to do that?  One place to start, is shopping on the outside aisles (fresh produce, dairy and meats) of the grocery store.  BUT, the best place to shop, is the local farm markets in your town.farm4

Here in Eastern, Pennsylvania there are farm markets almost every day of the week from spring until late fall.  Finding a winter market takes a little more work, but they are there.  Wednesday is farm market day in my town and quite honestly, it’s the best day of my week.  Buying local is good for everyone!  Supporting local farmers keeps money and jobs close to home, helps preserve farms, open space and supports families in our community.  And just as important, foods locally produced can help heal the body.  Nutrient content goes down as soon as fresh foods are picked, therefore, the closer to home the food is grown, the more nutrients it will have.  This is not only true for fruits and vegetables, but meat, poultry and dairy as well.

In my opinion, local ingredients produce more flavorful foods as well.  Fresh picked ingredients are usually in the hands of consumers within 24 hours of harvesting.  Compare that to foods grown and picked on the other side of the earth that are shipped to warehouses before getting into stores.  It could take weeks to get to you, after being picked, which certainly affects taste and nutrients.

Another thing to remember is that many foods are picked before fully ripened and exposed to ethylene gas to change their appearance to look riper.  Tomatoes are a good example of this, they are picked green and unripe, then gassed with ethylene to give their appearance a more red and ripe look on the outside.  Food can stay on the vine longer when grown locally, since transportation distances to stores is closer, which helps their flavors build.


The other wonderful benefit of farm markets is finding seasonal foods to eat.  Why does eating seasonally matter on a gluten-free diet you ask?  Our bodies adapt to the environment we live in, specifically the different seasons/climate in the geographic area.  Seasonally rotating foods in (and out) of our diet keeps our immune system in balance. Eating foods out of season (or climate) can overload our systems, which may contribute to food intolerance/imbalances and disrupt our immune system.

A good example of eating seasonally is preparing our bodies for winter.  The foods available here in Pennsylvania during fall are high in vitamins A, D & C (immune supportive) rich foods.  Winter squashes, like pumpkin, butternut and delicatta, as well as ginger, onions, peppers, apples, pears and honey help to make our immune system strong for the coming cold winter.farm1

Eating fats in winter helps to keep us warm and conserve energy.  Low sodium foods, beef, eggs, mushrooms, dairy and root vegetables support our systems and help keep us warm in the winter.farm3

In spring, there will be more cleansing choices to help detox our bodies from winter.  Dark green leafy foods (lettuce, kale, spinach, arugula, etc.) help clean out the liver from the heavy fats consumed in winter.

Summer foods provide liquids to prevent dehydration and keep us cool (melons, cucumbers, strawberries, blueberries and lean meats and fish).

Finally, a note on eating organic whenever possible, is always a plus for the gut.  Less pesticides and fungicides on our foods means less in our bodies.  Remember, USDA certified organic means NO GMO ingredients or hormones can be used in foods including livestock.  It’s also better for the environment with less run off into our water and in the air.

My recommendation has always been to try to buy fresh and local whenever you can and maybe do a little preserving or freezing in the summer to enjoy locally produced foods all winter.

To learn more about eating seasonally buy my book, 3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living on Amazon.

Healthy Food Advocate Takes Back Name Gluten-Free

Gluten-Free Fad is officially OVER!

I’m sure you read my title and are asking yourself, what the heck is a Healthy Food Advocate?  I know the first time I saw that title, I said the same thing.  But, when I read those words, something rang in my head and said…This is YOU!

In case you were wondering, a Healthy Food Advocate is someone who “Votes with their fork.”  Meaning, they make food choices with a conscience by supporting local businesses and farmers, shopping locally, buying and eating according to what they believe is right as well as speaking out about laws and legislation that could affect the foods they eat.  All of those are really who I am and want to be when it comes to making healthy food choices for myself and my family.  But, I had to take food advocacy to the next level when I started to see articles written about how unhealthy gluten-free eating is.

Over seven years ago when I started on my gluten-free journey, no one knew what the term gluten-free meant.  I had to explain to everyone I came in contact with (including my friends and family) what it entailed and why I had to be so strict about what I ate.  Then the book Wheat Belly, by Dr. William Davis, came on the market and people started to hear the term gluten-free in magazines and in the news.  It went from being a medical necessity to a weight loss fad diet in a very short period of time.  With all the press, the gluten-free pre-packaged food market surged and new products came on the grocery store shelves daily.   It was a double-edged sword for people like me who needed to eat this way to stay healthy.  On one hand, there were so many convenient food replacements available to choose from, but on the other hand the fad took the name gluten-free and made it less medically serious.

Now that the fad is dying out, and people are moving on to a more Paleo way of eating (a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food[1]), articles are now being written that say gluten-free foods are not healthy.  To be clear, I agree that eating a diet consisting of only pre-packaged products (gluten-free or not) is not a healthy way for anyone to eat.   My goal as a Gluten-Free Healthy Food Advocate is to take back the name gluten-free as a term only used for people who medically require it and educate people that gluten-free eating is not an unhealthy fad, but rather a way for people to safely consume naturally gluten-free foods to heal their damaged digestive system.

I’m always amazed at people’s reaction when I tell them that I am gluten-free now compared to seven years ago.  Lots of people roll their eyes in disbelief and many others uncomfortably explain that they’ve been meaning to go gluten-free or that they eat gluten-free some of the time (probably to keep up with the fad).  Eating gluten-free only becomes necessary if you categorize yourself into one of the three medical designations below.

Wheat Allergy Sufferer: This reaction happens very fast (within minutes to a few hours) and can involve a range of symptoms from nausea, abdominal pain, itching, swelling of the lips and tongue, to trouble breathing, or anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction). [2]

 Celiac Disease: Is a genetic, autoimmune disorder that occurs in reaction to the ingestion of gluten in genetically susceptible individuals. The reaction to gluten causes villous atrophy or flattening of the cells lining the small intestine, which can lead to malabsorption of nutrients with wide-reaching symptoms. [2]

Non-Celiac Gluten-Sensitive: Reactions can begin up to 48 hours after ingesting gluten and last for much longer? [2]

No one should give-up eating gluten without first being tested for Celiac as you cannot get an accurate blood test result unless you are actively eating gluten.  I made that mistake and gave-up eating gluten after years of being sick (intestinal bleeding, focus and attention problems, anxiety, bladder infections, chronic sore throats, infertility, weight fluctuations, migraines, depression, arthritic pain, various autoimmune conditions, etc.) that no one associated with the food I was eating.  Years of antibiotics and overuse of NSAID’s [3] probably ruined my gut flora, but all I knew when I started to feel better after removing gluten, was that I wasn’t going to start eating it again to get the blood test.  So sadly I will never know if I have Celiac Disease.

Now my goal is to be an advocate for other gluten-free food eaters.  I wrote my book 3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living to save people time and money after diagnosis of a gluten related disorder.  By understanding what needs to be eliminated from the diet, how to transition emotionally and physically away from gluten and names of convenient pre-packaged gluten-free items to substitute back into your pantry, anyone can adapt a healthy gluten-free diet quickly and easily.  The book stresses keeping balance in your life by choosing fresh ingredients to eat alongside convenient products.  By choosing whole, clean, local, seasonal and organic foods (fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats), and combining them with convenient pre-packaged products, anyone required to eat gluten-free can find balance and enjoy a healthy gluten-free diet.  For example, eating a brown rice and quinoa cracker with some local cheese or buying some red pepper hummus with some fresh seasonal vegetables is a perfect way to achieve that healthy balance.

My Gluten-Free Food Advocacy has taken me all over to do food demonstrations and talks about how to adapt a healthy gluten-free diet.  I am passionate about the subject of eating locally and seasonally and seek out reporters who try to debunk gluten-free eating as a fad and unhealthy.  I’m here to announce to the world that the Gluten-Free fad is OVER and gluten-free is now back with the people who medically need it.

To learn more about my book go to or

[1] “Google.” Google search. 25 July 2016. Web search. 25 July 2016.

[2] “Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity or Wheat Allergy:  What is the Difference? – The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America.”  Web; 25 July 2016.  <;.

[3] Fugo, Jennifer. “How Ibuprofen (and Other NSAIDs) Lead to Gluten Sensitivity.”Gluten Free School. N.p., 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 25 July 2016. <;.


Target’s First “Gluten-Freesta”

Slide1I’m sure you’ve heard the term “fashionista” as an endearing term for anyone that frequently buys clothing from Target retail stores.  If you aren’t familiar with Target, it is the second leading upscale discount retailer in the US and they have a lot of really cute clothes.  Matter of fact, I always tell my husband how lucky he is to have a wife that buys her clothing (and children’s clothes) from Target (pronounced Tar-Jay to sound more French and fancy).

But, I’m here to coin a new title for Target.  I am not only a “fashionista” I am also a       “Gluten-Freesta.”  This is a new term (that I just made up) for someone who frequents the store for their many gluten-free offerings in the grocery section of the store.

I’ve been gluten-free for over seven years and have seen many changes in retail over this period of time.  It used to be difficult for anyone required to eat gluten-free to shop.  Matter of fact, I can remember standing in the aisles of grocery stores reading label ingredients for hidden names of gluten for long periods of time.  Traveling to 2-3 different stores to get the products you needed for recipes was expected, but since the FDA’s gluten-free labeling requirements came into effect in 2015, labeling has only gotten better for the Celiac and gluten-intolerant.  No longer do sufferers have to read the ingredient lists line item by line, but instead just look for the GF certification symbol on the package to ensure its safety.

Thankfully, Target has embraced the gluten-free food market and now offers many different gluten-free products in their grocery section.  It’s a one-stop-shop for everything gluten-free.  For anyone not familiar with Target’s gluten-free product line, and to secure the name as the very first “Gluten-Freesta” here is my tour of products for your convenience.  Keep in mind that not all Targets carry the same products, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for at one Target, go to another and see what they have on their shelves.

As a Gluten-Free Health Coach, I must encourage seeking out naturally gluten-free products first in any grocery store setting.  In a standard grocery store, that means shopping on the exterior aisles of the grocery store which include the fresh produce, dairy and fresh meats.  All Targets are set-up a little different, but their grocery section puts the fresh produce, meats and dairy together in the same area for convenience.  Naturally gluten-free foods like fruits and vegetables are always safe for a gluten-intolerant to eat, so stock-up here first.  I found some great fresh salad dressings, hummus packs, yogurt and lunch snacks in this section so be sure to look on all the shelves for products.  I love the fresh meat department specifically for their chicken tenders because they label them as gluten-free.  If you didn’t know, some meats contain fillers or flavorings that could contain gluten, so read every label.  In the refrigerator section behind the dairy items, they carry several brands of gluten-free lunch meats (my fav is Applegate Farms) and cheeses for kids lunches and sandwiches.

After you stock up on fresh ingredients, you can get what you need to make your breakfast smoothies.  I like to grab my almond milk (or soy, rice or regular cows milk) as well as various juice blends and frozen fruit, which is all in the same area of the store.

As you head down the aisle, you can pick-up a gluten-free pizza and head into the frozen food section for any frozen veggies you couldn’t find in the fresh section of the store.  I’m lucky because both of the Targets in my town have freezer space specifically for their Udi’s gluten-free items.  I love Udi’s gluten-free tortillas, bagels and bread, but they also carry some Udi’s frozen meals as well.   They do carry fresh Canyon House breads near the potatoes and onions in the center aisle of the fresh produce section if you prefer bread not frozen.

How convenient that they carry 2-3 different gluten-free breaded chicken nuggets and strips in the freezer section for a quick dinner.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and there are lots of frozen gluten-free breakfast items to choose from.  Gluten-free waffles and french toast are all available in the freezer section to pop into your toaster.

Heading into the dry goods of the store, you are in gluten-free heaven.  Gluten-free products are conveniently labeled with a grey dot next to the pricing tag on the shelf.  So look for those as you go down the aisles.  Target’s own Simply Balanced products are priced competitively and taste just as good (if not better) than the branded products.  I’m a big Barilla pasta fan, but they also carry Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta.  I’m seeing more and more gluten-free labeled Indian and Asian products on the shelf, which I love!

Lunch is my MOST hated meal of the day.  My husband is Celiac and currently very paleo and my recently gluten-free son requests socially acceptable gluten-free products for his lunch and his sister is gluten-full, so its the meal I struggle with the most.  But thankfully Target has something for everyone.  Nut butters (Simply Balanced almond butter is a MUST) and jellies are all in the same section and labeled as gluten-free.  There are even some quick grab gluten-free snack boxes from Picnic and Annie’s brand microwave macaroni and cheese to send in for lunch with a Kind bar or Annie’s granola bar.

For the paleo husband, I pick-up different flavors of jerky, nuts and seeds to send in his lunch.  They even have dehydrated fruits (strawberries, apples, etc.) that everyone in our house fights over.

The snack section of our pantry is filled with lots of gluten-free products from Target.  Simply Balanced nut crackers for entertaining and some Doritos and chips for my son to devour. Anyone that isn’t gluten-free would enjoy them as well, so no need to buy separate brands for the gluten-full eaters that come over to visit.

As if that wasn’t enough products to convince you that Target is the place for all your gluten-free shopping, there is a plethora of gluten-free baking products, spices, flours and mixes in the baking aisle.  Gluten-Free Bisquick is a MUST in our house!

And now for my most hated aisle in ANY store, it’s the place where the most arguments with my children occur in public…the dreaded cereal aisle.  Thankfully Target offers lots of gluten-free and gluten-full options (for my daughter).  Trying to get out without 10 different boxes is always a challenge.  Our favorite is Chex brand, but now they carry gluten-free Cheerios in many different flavors.  I love all the different granola’s that are available for a quick breakfast with fruit for me.

So, as you can see from this long and detailed post, I deserve the title as first “Gluten-freesta.”  To learn more about the products and retailers I recommend, please purchase my book, 3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living from or visit my website or

Could Gluten Be Your Migraine Trigger?

It’s hard to imagine, as I now sit on my back porch in the bright warm sun, that 24 hours ago I was laying with my eyes blocked in a dark room icing my head to ease the debilitating pain of a migraine. I should’ve known when I couldn’t button my pants yesterday morning, and my right shoulder and neck were starting to throb, that I should’ve stayed in bed. Matter of fact, I did stay in bed for most of the day, which is better than many migraine sufferers who have headaches that last days, weeks or months. I’m lucky because I know what the cause of my headaches are…gluten.


Yesterday’s migraine perplexed me because I’m such a careful person when it comes to eating out. Like many gluten-intolerant sufferers, I don’t eat out very often because of the fear of being “glutened” (the name for inadvertently ingesting gluten) so I wasn’t sure what the cause of this headache was. But as I lay in bed last night it dawned on me that I had eaten out two days prior and neglected to tell the waitress that I was gluten-free. I had frequented this particular local breakfast spot many times before with no problems, but this time I let my guard down and forgot to say the words “I’m gluten-free” when ordering my food.

20160311_114544This morning I looked at myself in the mirror and although my eyes were still swollen, the scale was 2 pounds lighter from the previous days inflammation decreasing.  Sadly, I was still anxious trying to figure out if another day of pain was ahead of me. Thankfully, as the day went on and there was no sign of pain, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, I ventured outside into the sunshine to enjoy the day. I sat down to write this post and found an article from Dr. Mark Hyman titled How to End Migraines. It shocked me that more than 10 million Americans suffer from migraines, and many may find relief by removing gluten and don’t know it.

As with many gluten related symptoms, there are very few studies that link migraines directly with gluten consumption, but in my case (and I’m sure with many others) the pain of a headache doesn’t occur until 24-48 hours after ingestion, so it’s difficult to connect food with the pain for many people. My own experience connecting my head pain with food came when my neurologist completed all his testing only to recommend two different treatment plans.  One choice was high doses of riboflavin (B2) and the alternative was daily pharmaceutical migraine medicine. Two extremes, but I chose to try the B-supplement as a conservative approach. Lucky for me it worked and lead me down the path to find I was extremely vitamin deficient (B) and anemic and that gluten was my poison. It was like an onion, peeling away each layer eventually getting me to the core problem.

To help others peel away the layers of their migraine onion, the following steps will help…

  1. Be a detective and keep a food/symptom log to try and connect which foods may be a trigger for inflammation. Remember that symptoms could take 24-48 hours to show up after ingestion of gluten, so you need to be a detective and analyze the data after you write it for a period of time. Keep special notes on ingredients like, chocolate, dairy, eggs, artificial sweeteners, sugar and other common migraine food triggers. It may not be gluten, but another food or combination of foods that you need to avoid. There are lots of great apps to keep on your phone (Food Diary, Migraine Buddy, Migraine Triggers) and even more examples of written food logs on Pinterest and on the web. Here’s an example of one I found on Pinterest, but you can make one on your own computer as well.
  2. Fullscreen capture 3132016 34404 PMMake an appointment with your doctor/neurologist and bring your personal food log data with you. Ask for blood tests for possible nutritional deficiencies (Vitamin B, Iron Magnesium, D, etc.) along with any physical exams they may wish to do. Ask for a Celiac blood test to rule out an autoimmune disease before making any dietary changes. An article posted on USNEWS.Com referenced a study that showed 1/3 of celiac disease or gluten-sensitive sufferers have some form of migraine, so get tested before you give up gluten to get an accurate test result. Don’t do what I did and stop eating gluten before your blood test, you won’t go back and ingest it later to get an accurate result if you start to feel good. In my case, I’ll never know if I have Celiac because I won’t eat it long enough to produce a reaction for a blood test to register.
  3. Follow-up with your doctor/neurologist after all the tests and symptom trackers are complete to make a plan to remove possible food triggers (i.e. gluten). When eliminating gluten you need to eliminate it 100% for several weeks or months to start to feel better, so make sure you make a plan before you start a gluten-free diet so you have success with it quickly. My book can help with that part (3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living).

Remember, if you have a negative Celiac test, you could still have a gluten sensitivity (which there is no test for), so don’t be discouraged if a blood test doesn’t give you the answer to your headaches, gluten may still be the problem.

“Oh my aching back!”


I used to say that all the time before I went gluten-free. Matter of fact, when I get glutened (name for accidently ingesting gluten), the first things that hurt are my back and neck. Thankfully, I don’t have pain anymore, but this week I attended a talk at our local hospital about the damaging effects of gluten in women with celiac, specifically Calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies and their relationship to osteoporosis.

The speaker was Dr. Keith Laskin, MD who went to New York University School of Medicine and is a gastroenterologist in the Philadelphia region. He opened his talk telling the audience about the updated prevalence of celiac (previously 1 in 133 is now 1 in 1001) worldwide and for whatever reasons, is becoming more common. His statistics on the hereditary factors of celiac and how the disease is 65% more common in women was astonishing. No one is really sure why it is more common in women, but in general (and as a woman), I think we take our health much more seriously than men and look for reasons for symptoms rather than just live with them.

In the past, doctors would only test patients who were severely malnourished, but now there are many more symptoms that could present as celiac. Patients are getting smarter in asking to be screened for symptoms, like the ones below, which are not the typical G.I. symptoms celiac was thought of presenting.

• Iron Deficiency
• Constipation
• Fatigue
• Indigestion
• Neuropathy/ataxia
• Increased liver enzymes
• Skin rash
• Infertility
• Bone Diseases

I was familiar with all the symptoms above, but honestly, I didn’t think about bone diseases as being a concern. Boy was I wrong! Until Gluten is removed from a Celiacs diet, nutrients like calcium and vitamin D cannot be absorbed, which puts women at a higher risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become less dense and more likely to fracture2. Matter of fact, it puts people at 6 times greater risk of having a hip fracture3. Nutrients like calcium are absorbed in the small intestines, which is the exact spot where Celiacs villi atrophy occurs most frequently.

Once a gluten-free diet is in place, there are three things that can be done to support bone health.

1. Good Nutrition: Dark green leafy greens (collard greens, kale, etc.), broccoli, soy beans, bok choy and even dried figs are good sources of calcium. Dairy products and fortified non-dairy beverages (almond, soy, rice milks) can have as much as 300 mg of calcium as well.

Some vitamin D rich foods are egg yolks, saltwater fish and liver. But a supplement might be the easiest and fastest way to get vitamin D, especially if you live in northern areas of the United States. The Vitamin D Council is a great online source for information regarding safety and dosing.

2. Exercise: Weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercise can help strengthen muscle and build bone.

Weight bearing exercises make you move against gravity and stay upright and can be easily done
• Dancing
• Aerobics
• Hiking
• Jogging
• Jumping rope
• Stair climbing
• Tennis
Muscle strengthening exercises
• Lifting weights
• Elastic exercise bands
• Weight machines
• Lifting your own body weight

3. Healthy Lifestyle: Smoking and drinking excessively are very detrimental to bone health. Did you know that women who smoke go through menopause earlier than non-smokers resulting in lower estrogen levels which can decrease calcium. Alcohol can suppress new bone growth and not to mention, feeling “tipsy” can cause falls and possible bone break.

Dr. Laskin recommended getting a Dexa scan (bone mass test) about one year after adapting a gluten-free diet. It may take up to that amount of time for your body to recover from nutritional deficiencies, depending on how much damage is done to the small intestines. The good news is, adhering to a strict gluten-free diet will allow the gut to heal in most Celiacs. It just may take time, but with good nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes calcium and vitamin D deficiencies can be reversed.

1. “What Is Celiac Disease? – Celiac Disease Foundation.” Celiac Disease Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
2. “What People With Celiac Disease Need to Know About Osteoporosis.” What People With Celiac Disease Need to Know About Osteoporosis. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
3. “Celiac Disease: The Medical Case for Gluten Free in Women”. By Keith Laskin. Paoli Hospital, Paoli, PA. 20 Jan. 2016. Performance.

Celiac and gluten-intolerance is NOT a competition, it’s a team!

This past Sunday, I took my two children and drove 3.5 hours (each way) to a gluten-free expo in State College, PA. Gluten-free shows are rare, so I didn’t hesitate when I heard they were looking for vendors for the show.

The last gluten-free show I attended was three years ago in Philadelphia. I had just launched my blog and spent the day meeting other bloggers, book writers and listening to talks from physicians and patient organization. Not to mention sampling a wide array of gluten-free products and arm fulls of yummy samples. It left a huge impression on me because I was surrounded by people that understood that one person’s food is another’s poison, which is gluten for us.

For three years I searched for a gluten-free show in my geographic area, but until the show in State College, none were around. I gladly paid the vendor fee, bought new business cards and bookmarks to hand out about my newly published book, 3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living. It is a step-by-step guide for anyone newly diagnosed with celiac or gluten-intolerance to help answer the question of “Where do I start?”

I had a basket raffle, gave books as door prizes and donated magnets to the first 500 attendees in their product gift bags. To say I was excited about this show is an understatement. 20151108_105541

For 6+ hours I stood at the booth and talked with hundreds of people about my book and their gluten-free journeys. I heard stories of pain, depression, anxiety, migraines, intestinal distress, despair and frustration, just to name a few.20151108_105531

Celiacs with multiple autoimmune conditions had the saddest stories. One woman finally got her celiac diagnosis only to find out a year later that she now has Huntington’s disease.  Huntington’s disease, which is another autoimmune disease that causes the progressive breakdown (degeneration) of nerve cells in the brain. I was humbled (and saddened) listening to her fear and desperation for relief.

Of all the people I talked with that day one woman, a mother of a celiac sufferer, made a comment that rocked me to my core. I was talking with her daughter, a nurse that was diagnosed 3 years ago with celiac, about my books ability to keep information about shopping, eating out and traveling, organized.

Her mother, who had a close ear on our conversation, threw her arms in the air, stormed away only to turn back and shout to her daughter, “You are wasting your money, she’s not even celiac . You should be writing a book because gluten-intolerance isn’t as serious and you know everything there is to know because you are nurse.”

I began to walk toward the Mom to explain to her that Yes, I was not diagnosed with celiac, but I had been suffering with a multitude of symptoms since I was 14 years old. I wanted to tell her how humiliating it was at 16 to spend the day in the hospital on an IV doing the exhausting prep for the following days colonoscopy.

I wanted her to hear how many bladder infections, sinus infections and throat infections I had in my 20’s and how much money was spent on tests and antibiotics to try and figure out why they were so recurrent.

Maybe if she knew how heartbroken my husband and I were because we couldn’t conceive our children without the help of a team infertility doctors in my 30’s. We never hesitated a moment to spend our savings of over $30K to get pregnant with our amazing children.

After all that, she should’ve heard about my 40’s and the arthritic pain, gastrointestinal problems, depression, anxiety and debilitating migraines I battled. I wanted to tell her about the tens of thousands of dollars that has been spent over my life seeking an explanation and diagnosis for the years of pain and hardships only to find out, on my own, that food was my poison. I was probably the only gluten-intolerant person to want a celiac diagnosis only to have a name for all my suffering to validate to others that it was real. I found that because doctors couldn’t give me a positive celiac diagnosis, I was left with a nameless condition and on my own to figure out the gluten-free world, and it was not easy.

I wrote my book to help others comply with a 100% gluten-free diet quickly, easily and less expensive than I had. I don’t claim to be an expert in celiac, but I do live it every day, especially now since my husband was diagnosed with celiac.

So, to the mother of the nurse that was so angry that I wrote a book to help celiac and gluten-intolerant suffers without a true medical diagnosis, I want you to know that giving up the traditional ethnic foods of my family, spending extreme amounts of money on gluten-free foods and not going out with friends to restaurants because the fear of being glutened is not something I do to seek attention. I do it to try and keep my immune system strong. I don’t want to suffer in my up and coming 50’s like I did my previous decades.

And to the daughter/nurse, thank you for buying my book and being kind and empathetic to me while your mother stomped away. Please encourage her to read the section of my book entitled “A Message to Your Family.” It’s directed to the family and friends of gluten intolerant to ask for encouragement, empathy, patience, advocacy and open mindedness, which should be shown to anyone suffering from food sensitives or allergies…diagnosis or not.

Statistics say, one percent of the population is diagnosed with celiac, but up to twenty percent has a gluten-intolerance. It’s that twenty percent that is driving change in the market and demanding legislation to provide laws for safer labeling. There is no hidden competition between celiacs and gluten-intolerant, we are a team and should be supportive to each other.

Everyone at the show had a reason to be there and every vendor wanted to make life a little easier for each of them, including myself. In the end, I spent way more money on the show than I made on the sale of my book, but the lasting memories of all the wonderful people that did stop to talk and listen to me made the whole day worth while.

“Where do I start?” has been answered!

Well, it’s taken me 12 months, but it’s finally done!

3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living is now available on

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And just in time!  I just read that “roughly 1 in every 133 Americans has celiac disease, but 95% remain undiagnosed.  This means that almost 3 million Americans have celiac disease and only about 150,000 know they have it.”  THAT IS INCREDIBLE!  This one statistic is why I am passionate about people going gluten-free the right way.  More and more people are being tested for celiac and many more are being diagnosed with little or no direction from their medical providers.  To no fault of their own, doctors don’t receive much nutrition training, so patients are forced to turn to the internet and figure out how to navigate the gluten-free world on their own which takes lots of time, energy and money.

My own husband was diagnosed with celiac in May and was told (by phone) to change his diet with no recommendation on how to do it.

This book is perfect for anyone newly diagnosed by a doctor with celiac or gluten-intolerance because it takes you step-by-step through the journey.  The first step is learning to eliminate gluten 100% from your pantry and why that is so important.  Each page is a different subject and provides just enough information to give the reader a jumping off point for that subject.

The second step is transitioning your heart and home to a new way of eating. Losing the foods you love is extremely hard, but having a positive attitude and being prepared when eating out takes the stress out of eating and makes new foods more enjoyable.  I provide thought provoking exercises to get the readers to recognize new and exciting foods to love.

Finally, knowing what foods to substitute back into your pantry to make life easier saves time and money.  I stress that being gluten-free is NOT a diet, it’s medically necessary.  If you do it the wrong way you will gain weight, but by eating organic, fresh and local ingredients you’ll always have safe foods to eat that are good (and healing) for you.

I’m looking forward to getting this information into the hands of people who need it now, so please forward my post to anyone you know that is new to the gluten-free community and tell them they are not alone on their gluten-free journey!

Thanks for all your support!