I'm so excited to welcome my first guest blogger, Gigi Stewart, MA of Gluten Free Gigi! Gigi is a writer, recipe developer, and scentist who believes in smart nutrition backed by science. I love that we've been able to connect and stay in touch via social media and blogging. Today, Gigi shares her tips on selecting gluten free holiday candies. As you guys know, I love my sweets so this article rings true for me as I'm sure it will for you! I also did a guest blog post on her website so be sure to check them both out! Thanks Gigi!
Hi, everyone! I’m Gigi, creator of the GlutenFreeGigi.com, a website filled with gluten-free, allergen-free recipes and loads of my signature Smart Nutrition Backed by Science wellness information.
As someone with celiac disease and multiple food allergies, I aim to share valuable information with my readers to help them maintain a positive, balanced lifestyle while navigating a special diet.
I’m happy Jackie invited me to share some of my tips with you about choosing gluten-free holiday candies.
Strolling down the candy aisle around Christmas time can be overwhelming even if you don’t have to avoid gluten, but when you do, it can be a serious (and daunting) challenge.
There are many specialty companies making 100% gluten-free candy but what I’m most often asked by those who are new-to-gluten-free is can they still enjoy a favorite mainstream treat, especially around the holidays. Most of us have a special candy we associate with family holidays. Maybe it’s a candy dish full of Hershey’s Kisses® like my grandmother kept filled all season long. Or it could be the soft sugar peppermint sticks my godfather handed out on Christmas Eve.
When the holidays roll around and we want to reach for a taste of nostalgia, it’s good to know the facts on ingredients first.
Many mainstream candy companies share online resources listing their gluten-free offerings. For example, The Hershey Company created a Dietary Needs page. But unless you print each list prior to shopping for your holiday candy, you might find yourself confused over which candy to buy and which to avoid.
Many products are labeled “gluten-free” which means they contain less than 20 parts per million gluten per the FDA gluten-free food labeling law; however, there are some very good products that are 100% gluten-free that are not labeled as such. That may be because the product is naturally gluten-free and the producer never considered changing labels. Those soft peppermint sticks I mentioned earlier are a great example. For as long as the producer (Piedmont Candy Company) of my favorite brand has been in business, their facility has been 100% gluten-free. But it had nothing to do with trying to avoid gluten; it was just that their product naturally contains no gluten and that is all they produce.
But what about when we aren’t sure? The best place to start to figure out for yourself is with the ingredients label.
5 Tips for Finding Safe Gluten-Free Holiday Candy
1 - What to Look for on the Label
If you’re gluten-free, you already know wheat is on the “must avoid” list. Almost all traditional products containing flour as an ingredient contain wheat. While wheat is more common in baked goods, some candies (like licorice) contain wheat. It is used as a binder or thickener in certain candies.
Malt is a common gluten-containing ingredient in candy. Malt is the most common barley ingredient, used as a flavoring and flavor enhancer in a wide range of foods and beverages. In candies, you are likely to see maltose (malt sugar). All forms of barley, including all malt ingredients, contain gluten.
Not as common in candy, but still worth noting are rye and traditionally produced oats. Oats are technically gluten-free, but are often contaminated with gluten from the field where they are grown or from the production process. Oats grown in accordance with a purity protocol that are certified gluten-free are the best option, and still, not all celiac patients can tolerate oats, so keep that in mind.
2 - Other Words for Wheat
There are many varieties and names for wheat: bulgur, couscous, dinkle, durum, einkorn, emmer, Farina®, fu, graham, kamut, seitan, semolina and spelt.
Other common wheat products: wheat berries, wheat germ, wheat germ oil, wheat grass (also called triga), wheat gluten, wheat nut and wheat starch. Again, wheat starch is sometimes used to bind or thicken candies.
3 - Possible Hidden Gluten in Candies
Even when a candy appears straightforward, for example, a chocolate truffle, that doesn’t mean it is. As mentioned before, maltose (malt sugar) is used in some chocolate confections. Candies with crisp rice cereal bits (like a Crunch bar) also contain gluten due to the barley malt in the cereal.
Another issue to be aware of with holiday candy is that while some candies like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups® are gluten-free, the seasonal shapes (i.e., Christmas Tree Shaped Reese’s) are not. Those products are made from a different recipe than regular Reese’s Cups and contain wheat. This is true of many seasonal and “mini” shaped candies, so ALWAYS read those labels before buying and consuming!
4 - Cross-Contamination Issues
You’re likely familiar with the allergen statements located below or near the ingredients list on food labels. The top eight allergens (wheat, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish) must be listed there if contained in the ingredients according to the FDA. Additionally, there are sometimes caution statements about possible cross-contamination with one of those top eight allergens. While gluten is not one of the top eight, wheat is, and these days manufacturers often include gluten in their allergen statement or caution notices on product labels.
A single facility processes multiple products. Depending on those products, that could mean airborne gluten-containing wheat.
Shared equipment is used to process various food items in a manufacturing facility.
5 - Look out for “Re-bagged” Candies
Some candies are re-bagged, meaning purchased in bulk from the producer, then repackaged into smaller packaging. One example of this is Smarties candies from Spangler. Direct from the company, Smarties are gluten-free, however, as the manufacturer points out, the candies are sold in bulk and often re-bagged by sellers, at which time, the candy could come into contact with gluten or other allergens.
Some Tasty Gluten-Free Choices
Lots of mainstream holiday candies are gluten-free, here are a few:
You might find my 2016 Gluten-Free Christmas Candy List useful, too!
Keep in mind, I’m not advocating we overdo it with sweet treats during the holidays or any time, but I do believe the occasional indulgence, especially during the holidays, is perfectly fine. If you feel the same way, I hope this information helps you make the best choices for your gluten-free diet.
Happy gluten-free holidays!
Facebook Gluten Free Gigi
Pinterest Gluten FreeGigi
The most common question I'm asked: What eateries are 100% gluten free?
So here you go! Below are 19 eateries in NYC and 14 eateries in California that are 100% gluten free. I've broken them down by sit-down restaurants, grab & go eateries, and bakeries like I do on the NYC and Cali pages of my website. I also indicate what type of food they serve. Please note that food offerings can change at any time so I urge you to ask the eatery before dining to make sure they are still 100% gluten free. Enjoy!
100% Gluten Free Eateries in NYC:
Grab & Go Eateries:
100% Gluten Free Eateries in California:
Grab & Go Eateries:
I'm all for food intolerance tests because I'm so thankful that taking a test five years ago lead me to the realization that I had to cut gluten out of my diet. Five years ago, I didn't even know what gluten was... imagine my shock when I was told I had to stop eating it!
I constantly hear people say that they could never NOT eat gluten. First of all, if you have to do it, you can do it! And secondly, it's really not that hard once you figure out what you can and cannot eat. You guys see that I eat a TON of delicious food so I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything :)
I recently learned about the Pinnertest and was intrigued. I haven't taken a food intolerance test since I first found out about gluten five years ago so I was interested in taking another test and seeing if anything else came up.
How to Take the Test:
It's super easy to take the test - you don't even have to go to the doctor! When you order a Pinnertest, they send you a kit with instructions (all pics above). When you receive the kit, then you or someone else (thanks Brendan!) pricks you with a pricker they provide. Pricks/needles/shots are not my thing so I'm glad I had Brendan there to do it! After you get pricked, you press that finger onto the sheet to get some blood on it. Finally, you send it back in the addressed envelope. You will receive your food intolerance results up to 7 to 10 business days later.
I have screenshots of my food intolerance test results above. You will see that gluten did not show up in my results. If you want to be tested for gluten (or any other food item), you must eat it the week before taking the test. I chose not to do that because I haven't purposely ingested gluten in over five years and didn't want to start now! I already know that I can't eat gluten, and my reaction to gluten is throwing up so it wasn't worth it to me. If you're already eating a bit or a lot of gluten and curious to see if you're food intolerant to it, I recommend getting testing for it.
I'm really happy that only a few foods to avoid came up from this test!
- Potato: 1 degree (low reaction)
- Apple: 2 degree (moderate reaction)
- Onion: 3 degree (high reaction)
I don't go out of my way to eat potatoes or onions so it will be easy for me to avoid those foods. I would say I eat them more at restaurants when they're part of dishes rather than using them in my recipes. However, I do eat an apple every day as part of my breakfast so this will be challenging for me! I got into the routine of eating an apple in college because they're always available, and you can eat them on the go. I'm going to work on eating more berries, oranges, kiwis and other fruits in the morning instead of apples :)
I definitely recommend taking this test to find out if you have any food intolerances! It's so important to know what is making you feel sick and not 100%. Use my code GFFM for $60 off your Pinnertest, and let me know how it goes for you!
With the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share with you what I'm thankful for! I try to show my appreciation every day but I love that Thanksgiving gives us the chance to say thanks.
What I'm Thankful For:
1. YOU! --- I seriously have the best followers. You send me the sweetest notes and comments on my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Insta Story, Snapchat, and via email. It's so easy to make recipes with all of you in mind because I know that you appreciate and use them. I love seeing you re-create my recipes and enjoy the restaurants and brands I feature.
2. My Husband --- I'm finally getting used to saying the word "husband!" Brendan and I have been married for over three months now, and he's amazing. We've been together for over 8 years, and he's been so supportive of Gluten Free Follow Me. Brendan isn't gluten free so I love asking his opinion even more. Getting the validation on a restaurant, product, or recipe from a gluten eater is the ultimate seal of approval!
3. My Family & Friends --- It's so important to surround yourself with people who support you and who you support. I loved having those close to me at our wedding because it's one of the few opportunities you're able to have so many people you love in one place.
4. Food --- How could I not be thankful for food?! I'm so thankful that gluten free food is all over. I'm lucky that I learned that I had to go gluten free right when it was becoming "popular" about five years ago because there are so many options now. I appreciate the abundance of gluten free friendly brands and restaurants that make it so much easier for us to live a gluten free life.
What are YOU thankful for?!
I loved doing Pure Barre this past summer before my wedding, and I knew I wanted to get back into it once I got to California! The day after I made it to Santa Monica, I took my first class at Pure Barre Santa Monica! It felt amazing to get back to the lift, tone, and burn.
Pure Barre is a total body workout. The hour-long low-impact classes focus on your hips, thighs, seat, abdominals, and arms - the key areas us females want to improve! Each portion of the workout has a strength section followed by a stretching section which helps you form long and lean muscles without bulk.
Over the past 20 days, I've taken 20 Pure Barre classes! I'm glad that I've been able to go this often since I wasn't able to go as consistently this past summer. I did more like 4-5 classes a week then when I was in town. I really see a difference in my technique. I'm much more familiar with the sequence of moves and can usually pinpoint how to adjust myself without having one of the teachers fix it for me. I set small goals for myself throughout this past month. The arms portion is one of the toughest parts of class, and I focused on doing the whole section with my two pound weights without dropping them, and then doing it with three pound weights. Even though the weight sounds low, it's very challenging to go through the whole set without dropping them since all of the exercises are continuous! I also follow the teachers' instructions on taking the moves to the next level so I can make the class even more challenging. My favorite part about Pure Barre is that even though the class follows a certain sequence, the teachers change up the moves so your body is always faced with something new which is the best way to get results. Thanks Meryl, Kevin, Samantha, Jessica, Alison, Michele, and Jessie for all the great classes! Next goal...30 classes in 30 days ;)
Join me at the barre and use code GFFM to get 5 weeks of classes for only $99!
I just moved into my new place so it worked out perfectly that I didn't have to buy any groceries for my first home-cooked meal!
I selected these three gluten free meals from Hello Fresh, and they arrived Monday evening:
Hello Fresh is a food delivery meal kit service, and their recipes indicate if they are gluten free, nut free, dairy free, and/or vegetarian. I love when brands indicate which options are allergen friendly because it makes it so much easy for those of us with allergies :)
I was most excited for the marble potato and Brussels sprouts hash because I love Brussels sprouts and eggs! Naturally, I had to cook this dish first. Hello Fresh sends you all the ingredients you need to make the meals, with the exception of olive oil and butter. The ingredients for this recipe are Brussels sprouts, red onion, garlic, marble potatoes, red cabbage, eggs, and cayenne pepper. It's a pretty simple recipe, and I love that it's only 7 ingredients because I'm all about less is more.
Below is Hello Fresh's recipe which I followed completely except I used olive oil instead of butter for Step 3, and I omitted the garlic :)
This dish was SO good that my husband Brendan and I ended up eating it for lunch today and then snacked on it until it was gone! I highly recommend Hello Fresh for when you want to cook but don't necessarily want to go out and buy all of the ingredients yourself and come up with a recipe on your own. And I have a discount code for you all! Use code GFFM35 for $35 off your first box at hellofresh.com
Brendan and I got married on August 20th at The Belle Haven Club in Greenwich CT, and it was the most amazing night! You have all been sending me the sweetest messages, and I so appreciate it! I seriously have the best followers :) We honeymooned in Thailand for a couple weeks, exploring Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui. I detailed my gluten free finds in Thailand here. Thailand isn't the easiest place to eat gluten free but it is possible!
When I got back to the US, I picked up our marriage license at the Greenwich Town Hall. It was official! Next, I looked into how I could change my name to my new married name. To be honest, I was pretty overwhelmed. There are so many forms you have to fill out and you have to do them in a certain order. You have to get a new social security card, driver's license, passport (I JUST got a new passport before we left for Thailand), credit cards, notify your job's payroll and bank accounts, etc. The easiest part would be to change my name on Facebook!
After a few Google searches, I came across HitchSwitch which said you could change your name in a few easy steps. It seemed too good to be true... But sure enough, you choose which package you want (print at home, platinum, or full service) and fill out their easy form and then #ClaimYourName. The first option, print at home, is $29, and you get to print all the forms needed and then fill them out. The second option, platinum, is $59, and HitchSwitch will send you the paperwork filled out by them based on the info you give them in their easy form. The third option, full service, is $79, and includes the full service package in addition to a ready-to-ship passport photo and help from the Personal Name Concierge at any time. I chose the second option package which is the most popular.
A few days later I received a package labeled: OUT with the Aanonsen & IN with the McEwan. HitchSwitch had already filled out most of my info and clearly indicated which parts I needed to fill out in order for the form to be complete. Everything was so clearly labeled which was a relief. You still have to go to your local social security office, and then at least 48 hours later you can get a driver's license, passport, etc. I went to my local AAA instead of the DMV to get my new driver's license which I highly recommend doing if you can - it is so much quicker and it's only $5 if you aren't a AAA member. I mailed in the necessary info including my marriage license to get a new passport. Once the passport office mails my marriage license back to me, I will notify my bank accounts and job so my new name will be all set!
Thank you, HitchSwitch, for making my name change so much easier! And thanks to ALL OF YOU for your sweet messages :)
P.S. If you want to see what our wedding was like, here is a link to our video highlight :)
I'm so excited for the GFAF Expo! It's on Oct 15th & 16th in Secaucus, NJ. I went for the first time last year and loved it! I sampled SO MANY brands, and they're all gluten free so you don't have to worry about checking labels unless if you want to :) I'm most excited for the baked goods. I mean, put me in a room filled with cakes, brownies, cookies, muffins, and more, and I'm quite happy! The Expo is perfect for finding new gluten free brands and enjoying the ones you already love.
You can buy your tickets here, and I hope to see you there!
30% off w/ code EARLYBIRD (thru 9/14)
20% off w/ code ADVANCE (thru 10/14)
As many of you know, I love working out! I have always been into running. Running the NYC and Boston Marathons were such incredible experiences for me, and I'm so thankful I was able to do them. Working out is my way of decompressing, and it's a part of my daily routine. A few months ago, I started to incorporate more core and strengthening exercises into my workouts because I wanted to do more than just run - I wanted to be stronger and more toned.
During the July 4th long weekend, I drove by the Pure Barre studio in Greenwich, CT and knew I had to try it out. I remembered going to a Pure Barre class when I visited my friend in Pittsburgh a couple years. I loved the class because I was shocked at how hard it was. With my wedding around the corner (August 20th!), I thought adding Pure Barre to my workouts would be perfect, and I was so right!
Pure Barre is a total body workout. The 55 minute low-impact classes focus on your hips, thighs, seat, abdominals, and arms - the key areas us females want to improve! Each portion of the workout has a strength section followed by a stretching section which helps you form long and lean muscles without bulk.
The owner Ashley made me feel comfortable from the moment I walked into the studio. Ashley and the other instructors are so friendly, upbeat, and knowledgeable. I love how each class is a bit different so you never get bored which also means your body doesn't get bored. When I was doing core work on my own, I would repeat the same moves over and over again. Pure Barre fixes this issue since the instructors are creative, and they have a never-ending list of moves and variations to do. I'm so glad I drove by the studio a few weeks ago and can't wait to continue my classes in the final stretch before my wedding! Thanks Pure Barre Greenwich :)