Friday, January 30, 2015

Bullying About Gluten? Yes, It’s a Thing

As unfortunate as it is, bullying is a nearly inescapable aspect of childhood. Kids sure can be mean about anything, it seems. Our kids, or we as kids ourselves, have probably all had an experience or two with being ridiculed for something. Whether it’s the clothes we wear, the friends we choose or whatever, if we’re different we can be a target.

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when people think about gluten-free living, but many of us know there’s quite a precedent for bullying about gluten, as well. It’s true! A recent study showed that 35 percent of kids over age 5 with food allergies have experienced some sort of harassment. So sad! What’s worse is, 65 percent of those children reported feeling sad or embarrassed about their treatment.

As the popularity of the gluten-free lifestyle has grown, so has the bullying aspect, it seems. Recently, the Disney Channel pulled an episode of its popular show “Jessie” off the air due to negative reaction. In the episode, a gluten-free character named Stuart is repeatedly harassed about his dietary needs, including recoiling in horror as kids throw pancakes at him.

Poor Stuart, it makes me want to do something to help him! Maybe we can.

Education seems like a good place to start – both for the gluten-free kiddos and those around them. Maybe if we inform our kids about their intolerance or allergy, and also make sure their teachers, etc. know the intricacies of their condition, it might make for a safer environment. And maybe it would be a tough sell, but educating those bullies is the most direct way to curb this harmful behavior. What if those kids knew that people like Stuart don’t eat differently because they want to be “weird” – they do so because they have to?

Part of me thinks a lot of this bullying stuff might be happening in the lunch room. I read somewhere that sending foods that look “normal” might kill some of this stuff at the root, and I agree! With all the gluten-free options available to us like cupcakes, pretzels and so much more, packing a gluten-free lunch in disguise shouldn't be too difficult.

Constant communication, as with most things, might be the biggest cure of all. If we’re talking with our kids on a regular basis and really getting to know their daily victories and defeats, we become better teammates. And those kids in the survey and young people like Stuart? They need teammates!

Let’s join forces to help become those teammates for Stuart and all the other youngsters out there facing bullying because of their diets!

Also, you can learn more about the controversy surrounding the Disney show here:

…And check out some great tips from Celiac Central on decreasing bullying here:

Friday, January 23, 2015

South Park Goes Gluten Free

Hello everyone G-Free here.  I may be behind the times but I just caught my first episode of Comedy Central’s show, South Park. I was encouraged to watch it by a friend since it had a theme that revolved around gluten – or should I say, the fear of gluten! As most of you probably know, South Park is a crude and over-the-top adults-only (I hope!) cartoon that focuses on current events and topical satire. Over the years, the creators of the show have tackled a number of social issues, and I guess it was the gluten-free movement’s turn to be roasted!

I will begin by saying that while I was amused by a few parts of the show – I found it mostly vulgar and absurd. Upon deeper reflection however, one can argue that the episode could be of some value. Past the surface elements, and off color gags, the show actually did a good job illustrating the point that there is considerable confusion about gluten-free living and gluten sensitivity – on both sides of the issue (those living gluten free, and those not).

My takeaways from watching the episode were twofold.

First, the main theme of the show was right on point: People need to educate themselves about things and not overreact or under react. Gluten isn't a poisonous killer that must be eradicated at all costs, any more than it is a throwaway chemical that fad-conscious folks cling to in an effort to simply appear trendy or health conscious.

But second and more importantly, I couldn't help but feel that it may have done more harm than good to advancing the understanding and tolerance of the gluten-free lifestyle. Not everyone living gluten free is a loon who’s simply looking for the latest fad, knowing nothing about the actual merits or roots of what he’s doing. Many of us take our gluten-free living very seriously, either because we believe in its benefits, because we are intolerant of gluten, or both.

I've never agreed with the idea that all press is good press, but anything that gets people talking about something that’s generally misunderstood, in theory gets us closer to understanding it. In summation, if you have not already you may want to watch the episode. A note of caution however, this show is filled with adult language and humor. You’ll very likely come away with some opinions – and I’d like to hear them! Let’s get that talking and understanding started right here, and right now!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Gluten-Free Parenting

One aspect of gluten-free living that is often overlooked is the effect it can have on our kids. Whether they are our children, grandchildren, nieces or the children of others, these kiddos have special gluten-free needs that have to be considered. With a little guidance, and support from us, we can help these little ones in adopting a gluten-free lifestyle. 

It’s never too early to start teaching children about the ins and outs of a gluten-free diet. I always try to remember that kids are just that – kids. I don’t know about your methods, but experience tells me that lectures don’t work when dealing with kids. I’ve found that dropping little nuggets of knowledge here and there in place of blah, blah, blah lectures can be very effective.

One idea that’s worked for me is creating gluten-free games, like a grocery store scavenger hunt. This gets young ones involved with and excited about the products they’ll be munching on later – and out of my hair! Another idea is to turn coupon clipping into an impromptu scissor practice. And how about using plastic play foods as part of a restaurant game? Taking turns “making dinner” for each other could be fun and informative – if little Billy reaches for bread, ask if it’s gluten free, and so on. The folks over at Allergic Living have some more great tips on just these sorts of things: Click here.

Keep it Fun
As we all know, kids these days are glued to things with screens! They seem to be naturals with gadgets, so why not integrate technology into your gluten-free lessons? An awesome Web bookmark for ideas is G-Free Kid; check out these great tips: Click here.
What about this: Getting the gluten-free mini-mes their own gluten-free mini-fridge will seem like a huge deal to them, right?! Well, it can also be a great tool for moms and dads. Stock that thing full of healthy snacks, then sit back and enjoy the smooth transition when a little one approaches you with hunger pains: “Oh, you’re hungry, honey? Go get in your fridge! Have whatever you want!” Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom has the skinny on all sorts of cool tricks like that one: Click here. 

Older kids may be more familiar with what they can and can’t put in their bodies, but like most gluten-free folks, questions still do arise. The Savvy Celiac is so much more than just a resource for Celiacs alone, and addresses adolescents’ gluten-free issues: Click here. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Not Your Grandmother's Vending Machine

Since we are in the business of vending machines, and I am a bit of a geek who likes research, I recently found myself digging into the history of these food dispensing monsters.  I was shocked at some of the early purposes of these machines and felt you might get a kick out of some of the facts I uncovered.  

  • Did you know the earliest known vending machine dispensed holy water in exchange for one coin? It was created by a first-century engineer/mathematician. Today you can find almost anything inside a vending machine. Just to name a few…
    • Gold bars
    • Live crabs
    • Caviar
  • The first vending machine to accept paper bills was invented in 1965 – and with it came the wrinkled dollar dilemma we all know too well. Some modern machines avoid the problem altogether by accepting currencies other than money:
    • Coca-Cola installed a “Hug Me” machine in Singapore that dispensed free beverages when people embraced it.
    • Facebook’s headquarters have machines on site that dispense computer accessories to employees with a simple swipe of their badge.
    • A company in Turkey created machines that feed stray animals in exchange for recyclable bottles! Once a bottle is inserted, food and water are dispensed into pet bowls below.
  • Until recently, vending machine companies were not required to display the nutrition information of products inside their machines, but in December 2014, the FDA finalized a rule requiring those who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to display calorie information. A few other ways vending machine companies are promoting healthier choices include:
    • The “Fit Pick” system, launched in 2005 – stickers are placed in front of products that meet certain health guidelines
    • Electronic or Digital Displays of nutrition information – some machines have screens where nutrition and calorie information is displayed
It’s amazing to think about how far vending technology has come! In creating our machines we decided to ditch the holy water and live crabs, but to include other cool features like these:
  • Our machines accept credit cards – no need to spend time flattening out your crumpled currency.
  • We don’t think nutrition information should be top-secret – there will be a QR code on the outside of our machines that will take you directly to the “Amy’s Choice” page on our website. Here, you can find nutrition info for all our products!
  • We are the first vending machine dedicated to providing 100% gluten-free food and beverages – our products vary from small snacks to complete on-the-go meals!

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year's Resolutions: Setting Gluten-Free Goals

New Year’s resolutions are things most of us have made at some point, usually with varying levels of success. Typically, they revolve around improving our diet. But what about gluten-free people? The task of implementing or overhauling a gluten-free intake can be complicated.
Here are a few gluten-free resolution tips to consider as you prepare for 2015.

Enlist Some Help
A good support group can be very beneficial. Find a buddy to compare diet notes with – even if that person is not gluten free. Sometimes a spouse or co-worker can be good for moral support and venting. A gluten-free friend who likes to cook can be an even better asset, helping you find new recipes while providing initiative to keep your resolution going.

Get Tech-y
If you’re having trouble staying gluten free, look to technology for help. In a study of kids who must keep records of their diets, those who did so via text message instead of by hand were more likely to stick to their plan. Use your smartphone or email to communicate with buddies – you’ll create a database to look back on in the process. Join forum discussions or social network groups to share your progress. Here are a few of our favorite G-free apps to help get you started!

Spice it Up
Rotating the same four or five gluten-free meals every week can get old. There are plenty of recipe resources available – use them! Adding just one gluten-free recipe per week will keep your rotation fresh and give your taste buds something to look forward to.

Make Breakfast Fruity
Gluten-free waffles 365 times a year might get old by themselves. Why not change it up a little? Adding fruit to your breakfast is simpler and fast than it sounds. Resolve to always keep frozen and dried fruit available and add them to your waffles, cereal and muffins.

Supplement Your Diet
A gluten-free diet can be strict enough at times that some of the vitamins and minerals your body needs could be missing. Daily gluten-free supplements could go a long way towards making your gluten-free initiative a success. Find more information on supplementing your gluten-free diet, here.