Autoimmune, Blog, Celiac, Gluten, Labels

Reading Labels

Guys! THIS!!!! This right here has to be one of my top 3 biggest issues when it comes to navigating my life and what I can eat each day.

So, let’s back up a sec…we’re hosting Christmas Eve this year. 30 people. Yep I’m crazy. But I LOVE hosting ANY event! The laughter, food, company, love, serving others and everyone enjoying themselves. I love it all. So, when it was presented to us to host Christmas Eve, we happily grabbed it! Now I’m in super mom/party planner mode planning, prepping, making my lists and checkin’ ‘em twice.

Every year I make a ridiculous amount of Christmas cookies. Well maybe not as many as my dear friend Afton who loves making enough cookies for the entire county. She has a deep passion for baking like I do, and she makes some amazingly delicious cookies that she shares with all her family and friends!

Some of the cookies that are always on my baking itinerary include, the famous Rainbow Cookies. These little Italian, 6 layer, spongy, works of art, are something that you cannot live without during Christmas time. These little babies take hours to make but man are they worth it!

When I got the diagnosis the end of August last year and was forced to be completely gluten free, I panicked; how was I going to make all my Christmas cookies?? I cannot live without at least one rainbow cookie on Christmas Eve!

For months, I had been experimenting with different baking projects, so I’d be ready come Christmas time. I had difficulty finding the right flour. Straight almond flour made muffins and baked goods very heavy and dense. Coconut flour made them flaky and fall apart. Gluten free flour would sometimes be missing xanthan gum or a binding agent making the baked goods not rise properly.

Then I tried “making my own flour mixture.” Oh Tracy. Haha! Sometimes I get so ambitious and excited to do something new, that I don’t really think of the expense and time it takes. So, I bought all the ingredients to make my own flour blend: brown rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, guar gum and arrowroot flour. Holy crap that grocery bill was enough to cover our electric bill. Okay so “my mixture” didn’t work that well. I followed a recipe, but it was not making my baked goods rise or taste like I wanted them. I’m not a chemist people. I’m a busy PTA mom of 2 young boys. I do not have time to add a pinch of that and a dash of this to make the perfect blend of gluten free flour. So, it was back to the grocery store.

THEN, I discovered King Arthur Measure for Measure Gluten Free Flour. I will not buy another flour, ever.

Okay, wow I have gone on quite the tangent. So, back to my rainbow cookies!

Okay so one of the most important ingredients in rainbow cookies is almond paste. I have never heard of such a thing until I started making these little gems. So last year when I made these cookies gluten free for the first time, I found a brand of almond paste that claimed it was gluten free. I made the cookies as usual, just using gluten free flour this time and yummmm, they were as good, if not better, than years before!

Now, this year as I’m prepping and planning for Christmas, I made my grocery list for everything I needed, including almond paste for my rainbow cookies. As I’m shopping and searching for the almond paste, I couldn’t find it, so I asked one of the friendly Publix workers. She showed me where they were. There was only one brand. A different brand than what I used last year. I picked up the box to review the label and ingredients, like I am accustomed to nowadays. On the front of the package, in big bold letters, I read GLUTEN FREE. Yay! But don’t get too excited! I turn the box over to read the ingredients and what do I read….

INGREDIENTS: Almonds (45%), sugar, glucose syrup (FROM WHEAT), water.

ALLERGENS: Contains tree nuts (almonds), wheat*

THEN the kicker…it continues to elaborate on the meaning of the asterisk next to the word wheat by saying:

*Odense almond paste contains less than 20 parts of gluten per million (PPM). Pursuant to FDA regulations, products containing less than 20 PPM of gluten are gluten free.

Seriously!? I am so frustrated when I find things like this. It is nothing against this brand. They are following the FDA’s regulations. I just cannot and will not understand why and how something can claim to be “GLUTEN FREE” when in fact there is some gluten in the product. Even a small amount means it is NOT free from gluten. I will say it over and over again, “you cannot just be a little bit pregnant.” When you have Celiac you cannot “just have a little bit of gluten.” So, finding items that say they are gluten free, to only realize they still have small amounts of gluten, can harm us greatly!

Just imagine a product that claims to be peanut free and you read on the back…weeellll “according to the FDA” there can be 2% peanut product in our foods and still be claimed peanut free. I mean that is terrifying to someone who will have an anaphylactic shock reaction from peanuts.

The labeling is scary for those of us with Celiac because a lot of items out there claim to be gluten free but then you might read (usually in very small print) under the list of ingredients “processed in a facility with wheat.”

This can, and most likely will, cause cross contact and a reaction to those of us with Celiac. This can be difficult when it comes to loving family members and friends who want to cook for us and they just do not know the extent of how detailed and meticulous we have to be about reading and researching every-single-ingredient we put into a recipe or dish we make.

If you ever see me in Publix, I am 100% “that person” who is standing in the aisle carefully reading every single word on that product label. I spend more time in the grocery than most, but I have to. Eating even small tiny crumbs of gluten can cause so much damage internally to my body. Untreated Celiac can lead to a long list of terrifying health conditions including the big “C” word. So, I WILL protect myself. I have this ability to keep my body safe from damage by avoiding gluten at all costs. I want to live. I choose to live. And I choose to live a life that makes me happy and my body happy. So, if I pass on that delicious salad you made for the potluck, it’s because I most likely cannot eat the dressing that is on it. Or if I say no thanks to that delicious cake you made, I am most certainly not concerned with “watching my weight.” I am making sure that my body can continue to heal itself!

Now, to ease your mind, I DID find the almond paste brand that I used last year that is, in fact, 100% gluten free. SO! I won’t have to go without rainbow cookies. YAY!! I may or may not eat them all but if you’d like to try one, I might be willing to share!

“Never allow anyone to take away your sparkle. Be kind and laugh and love often.”

Cheers, Tracy

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