Archive for the ‘Useful Information’ Category

Tax Deduction Guide for the Gluten-Free / Allergen-Free Diet

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Right now the holiday season is in full-swing, fun is in the air and good-times are being had by all. But before we know it, the decorations and gifts will be packed away, we’ll have rung in the New Year, and the holiday season will turn into tax season with a blink of the eye.

That is why I was so intrigued when I found this article on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) website on how to deduct the costs of a medically required specialized diet on your tax returns. It’s a great resource that lists information, forms and IRS guidelines for you, and your accountant or tax preparer. Thanks NFCA for providing us with information such as this!

This article highlights the  key points such as having a note from your doctor stating that you need to be on a gluten-free / allergen-free diet, making sure that you keep your receipts, and determining the amount that is deductible. In addition to these key points I also have a few tips to assist in deducting food costs on tax returns:

– Highlight the items on your receipts after each shopping trip: Most supermarkets abbreviate the description of the items bought. That is why it is so important to note the items that you can deduct by highlighting each deductible item after each shopping trip. Otherwise, you’ll be scratching your head right before tax time, pawing through receipts and trying to remember what items are tax-deductible.

– Keep a spreadsheet of the costs of the “regular” items: I know that Lean Cuisine frozen meals cost about $4.96 per unit on, which I noted on my “Regular Food Cost” spreadsheet.  Now, whenever I buy a gluten-free frozen meal I use the difference from this “base-line” cost to determine the tax deductible amount.  This spreadsheet prevents me from having to search for the price after my next shopping trip. As an example, my favorite gluten-free frozen meal, Lillian’s Healthy Gourmet cost about $7.99 per unit. That is a difference of about $3.00 – the tax deductible amount.

– Keep all receipts for food in one place: I have a big manila envelope on my desk in my kitchen. Whenever, I go to the grocery store, natural food store, or even order food products on-line, I put the highlighted receipt in this envelope.  At the end of the year, during tax-prep time this solves the dilemma of searching for receipts.

– Plan ahead & reap the benefits: Make sure that you start the organization of this “tallying” of deductible amounts before the New Year begins. Be ready to go for January 1 of next year! Make sure that you set up an appointment with your accountant or tax preparer to discuss these deductions with them.

Eventually, saving & tallying your food receipts will be second-nature. Another benefit? You will start to see trends and unknowingly track where the best gluten-free and allergen-free food deals are!

Friday Favorite: Kitchen Basic Stocks

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

It that time of year again when I start digging out those recipes for my homemade stews & soups.

But often time I don’t have the time (or the patience!) to make homemade stocks.  That is when I reach for Kitchen Basic Stocks.

Found in most “mainstream” supermarkets alongside those gluteneous stocks and soups, Kitchen Basics products are all tested to be free of most allergens – including milk, egg, peanut, gluten, soy, tree nut and corn. (Note: all the products are also fish and shellfish free, with the exception of the Seafood and Clam Stocks – which are clearly marked).  They also do not autolyze, hydrolyze, or add or produce any MSG.

Just like the name implies, these broths are basic kitchen stocks I would make myself, if only I had the time, energy and effort during my busy dinnertime hour. I also like the convenient 8-ounce single serve containers, especially when cooking up a recipe that needs a cup or less of chicken, beef or seafood stock.

All these basic, simple and trouble-free reasons are why this week’s BeFreeForMe Favorite Friday goes to Kitchen Basics Stocks!

Soups on!

Gluten-Free Candy List: Just in time for Halloween!

Monday, October 18th, 2010

If you saw and wondered why there was a gal scrutinizing the ingredient list of every candy package in your local Walgreen’s over the past few weeks now you know why.

Just in time for Halloween, Alison, from Sure Foods Living, has been more than generous in sharing with us her comprehensive list of the common and mainstream candies that are gluten-free. How sweet is that?

To check out her list of the gluten-free candies check out her blog posting. If anyone out there knows of a similar list for food allergens (soy, dairy, nuts, etc.) … please let us know! Or please share your favorite gluten or allergen free candy.

And once again, Alison… I, as well as every other gluten free ghost and goblin out there, thank you from the bottom of our Trick and Treat bag.

Dig in!

WIN-It-Wednesday: “Mommy, What Is Celiac Disease?” by Katie Chalmers

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Understanding celiac disease is tough enough for adults, never mind for children.

Coming to grips that you can’t ever again eat the bread, pizza and beer that you’ve known, and loved, all your life takes a lot for an adult to accept and embrace. But thankfully, most adults realize that the gluten-free lifestyle is not the end of the world. In fact I, and many others, have discovered living the celiac lifestyle is actually a way to look at the sunny side of life.

But how can you explain eating gluten-free and celiac disease to a child whose whole world is centered around pizza parties at school, a best-friends birthday party, or favorite foods that include chicken nuggets and onion rings? How can a child look at the sunny side of being gluten-free?

Enter the book: “Mommy, What Is Celiac Disease?” by Katie Chalmers.

This one-of-a-kind book is gracefully & eloquently written by a Mom who has celiac disease. Both the author, Katie Chalmers and her daughter, Morgan, were diagnosed with celiac disease a little over 2 years ago. Since that time they have learned to embrace, and make the best, out of living gluten-free.

The book encompasses what celiac disease and the gluten free diet entail in language that children can understand, all the while encouraging dialogue for additional questions. A must-have for any child with celiac disease, this book is also a must-read for any elementary school story hour that has child with celiac disease in the classroom.

I like that  “Mommy, What Is Celiac Disease?” empathizes the positive, rather than the negative, attributes of a gluten-free diet. However, in no way does this book sugar-coat this disease. Instead “Mommy, What Is Celiac Disease?” puts a positive spin on a serious subject that many children may find difficult to understand and accept.

All these reasons are why I am so very excited that “Mommy, What Is Celiac Disease?” by Katie Chalmers is this week’s WIN-It-Wednesday sponsor on

Five (yes 5!) LUCKY BeFreeForMe members will receive a copy of the book.

How can you win?

Reply to this blog and let us know how you look at the sunny side of being gluten-free. (Me? Reading labels because of my celiac diagnosis has made me more conscious & aware of the ingredients in the foods I eat, which has resulted in me and my family eating a lot healthier across the board!)

All entries must be received by Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 at 12 midnight EST.

Good luck, Keep the sunny side up… and as always,

Be Free!

P.S. Want to learn more? Follow Katie on Facebook and find out more, as well as purchase, her book on her website.

Celebrate National Play-Doh Day: Gluten & Allergen Free!

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

A slow smile crept across my face this morning when I read that today was National Play-Doh Day.

And what a perfect Play-Doh Day it is on this dismal & misty Saturday here in New England.

Play-doh brings back such fond memories. We were never the type of family that had all the contraptions they sold that twisted and formed Play-Doh into some animal creature, jewelry, or food product.

Nope – good old fashioned creativity was required in our house.

My two sisters & I would keep busy for hours, while we kneeled on the chairs at the kitchen table, mixing and blending colors to make psychedelic Play-Doh twists and rolls, using Mom’s rolling pin, potato masher and spatulas to whip-up the best creations ever molded out of this marvelous, molding clay.

But unfortunately, kids that have celiac disease and food allergies are unable to use the traditional store-bought Play-Doh brand since it contains gluten – it’s primary ingredient is wheat flour.

That is why I am glad that there are companies out there that make gluten and allergen free play dough. These companies include Aroma Dough (Gluten-free), Soy-Yer Dough (Gluten, Dairy, Egg, Nut Free – plus they have an option for Soy Free if you check that off as a preference during check-out) and Colorations (Gluten, Nut, Egg, Dairy, Casein Free) or get real creative and make some gluten-free Play-Doh yourself by using this gluten-free play dough recipe found on the Celiac Sprue Association website.

So celebrate National Play-Doh Day gluten & allergen free! Pull up a kitchen chair, dig out the rolling pins and potato mashers, use your imagination and get the creativity flowing this afternoon!

The Same Old Rind: Breaking Out of My Watermelon, Cantaloupe & Honeydew Rut

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

It’s that time of year again when the melons are ripe, the price for them is great, and a bit of fruit juice running down your chin after that the first juicy bite is totally acceptable and downright savored.

But after visiting my local farmers market and the supermarket over the past few weeks, I’ve seen firsthand the tons and tons of melon varieties available. It is then that I realized I am a melon bore.

Being gluten-free I have found that my diet, at times, can be quite limited. That’s why I always love to try new foods whenever possible. But for some funny reason I find myself reaching for, squeezing, and only purchasing the three basic melons that have been in my life since my childhood: Watermelon, Cantaloupe and Honeydew.

This summer I decided to “break out of the same old rind”, broaden my melon-knowledge and get myself out of this melon-slump. My goal: To try as many new types of melon as possible. And to assist all of you gluten-free, melon-seeking folks that would also like to partake on this journey I have put together the following “Melon 101”:

Watermelon: The juiciest and most popular melon in the United States, this melon is 92% water (hence, the name)! A cousin to cucumbers, pumpkins and squash, the redder the flesh the sweeter the taste. They come in tons of varieties, including seeded, seedless and even a personal size watermelon. Want to find out some fun watermelon facts? Check out the National Watermelon Board for tons of “everything watermelon” information!

Cantaloupe: To contain the juices avoid cutting into this thick netted skinned melon, until just ready to eat. Very juicy, and so sweet, this melon is a favorite served in fruit salads and breakfast buffets. Not sure when a cantaloupe is ripe? Look for one that is heavy for its size!

Honeydew: There are two types of honeydew melons – one with green flesh and the other with orange flesh. Perfect for those on a gluten-free diet that are watching their weight (ahummm – that would be me!) these low-calorie melons contain no fat, no sodium and are high in vitamin C. I like to cut honeydews in half, scoop out the flesh and use the shell as a “salad bowl” filled with a nice diced chicken and melon salad.

Crenshaw: With a salmon colored orangish-pink flesh, Crenshaw melons make a statement in any salad or dessert. Slightly spice and fragrant, they are a great addition to a fruit salads too.

Santa Claus: This mild flavored melon resembles a small watermelon at first glance. The green flesh is similar to the honeydew melon, but not as sweet. Perfect for melon salsas, chutneys and fruit salads.

Casaba: This pumpkin shaped melon with a thick, hard, grooved rind has a unique mild cucumber flavor. I love this melon chopped in a salad instead of using cucumber!

Canary: With a firm & crisp whitish to light green flesh, this melon is shaped like a football. While it is not as sweet as many other melons, it is still great for snacking and tossing in salads.

Ask Shelley Case: Are there any alcoholic beverages that are gluten-free?

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Question: On hot summer days, many people like to enjoy a cool, refreshing alcoholic beverage. Are there any alcoholic beverages that are gluten-free?

Answer: There has been a lot of misinformation about the gluten-free status of alcohol. The good news is that many alcoholic beverages are gluten-free. So lift up your glass and let’s toast to this good news! Here is the scoop…

Distilled Alcoholic Beverages:

Rye whiskey, scotch whiskey, gin, vodka and bourbon are distilled from a mash of fermented grains. Even though these alcoholic beverages can be derived from a gluten-containing grain, the distillation process removes the gluten from the purified final product, so they are gluten-free. Rum (distilled from sugar cane) and brandy (distilled from wine) are also gluten-free.

However, be aware that some pre-made Bloody Mary and Caesar beverage mixes may contain barley malt flavoring or hydrolyzed wheat protein and are not gluten-free so check the label on these items.

Liqueurs (also known as cordials):

These are made from an infusion of a distilled alcoholic beverage with added sugar and flavoring agents such as nuts, fruits, seeds, flowers or cream. Liqueurs are gluten-free.

Wine (including vermouth, port and sherry):

Wines are made from fermented grapes or other fruits. There are also fortified wines such as vermouth; port and sherry which include an added brandy or another distilled alcohol. All these wines are gluten-free.

Wine Coolers:

Historically most wine coolers were gluten-free as they were made from wine, fruit juice, a carbonated beverage and sugar. However in 1991 the US Congress increased the excise tax on wine so many producers substituted malt (from barley) for the wine. Any malt-based coolers are not gluten-free.


Alcoholic and non-alcoholic ciders are made from apple juice. Sparkling cider is made with apple cider and a carbonated beverage. Most ciders are gluten-free but some brands may use barley in its production and are not gluten-free. The best bet is to check with the manufacturer to determine if they are gluten-free.

Beer, Ale and Lager:

The basic ingredients in beer, ale and lager include malted barley, hops (a type of flower), yeast and water. As this mixture is only fermented and not distilled, it contains varying levels of gluten and must be avoided. However, a variety of gluten-free specialty  beers are now on the market made from various gluten-free grains such as buckwheat, sorghum, millet and rice.

Note: Always remember that although certain alcoholic beverages can be included in a gluten-free diet, it must be consumed responsibly and in moderation!

Ask Shelley Case is a feature of It is published the second Tuesday of each month. Shelley Case is a Registered Dietitian, Consulting Dietitian, Speaker and Author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. Visit Shelley and get more gluten-free tips & info at:

This Tuesday (July 13) Your Questions About Celiac Disease and the Gluten Free Diet… Answered!

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Just a quick reminder to everyone to sign up for Dr. Daniel Leffler’s FREE webinar that will take place this TUESDAY night, July 13th.

This week’s webinar is the last of three-part summer series of webinars that are presented by riceworks brown rice crisps and sponsored by

Dr, Daniel Leffler, MD, MS, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Division of Gastroenterology at BIDMC, has just launched his book Real Life with Celiac Disease (I got a sneak peak and it is a great resource!). Join Dr. Leffler this Tuesday July 13th to learn about a wide range of topics from his new book including screening and diagnosis, associated conditions, food allergies and intolerances, complications, nongastrointestinal manifestations, and what the difference is between celiac disease and a gluten intolerance.

This is a great way to learn more about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, lifestyle and living!  

I hope to see you all there!
Be Free!

Shelley Case Webinar – Myths & Facts: Weight Gain After Going Gluten-Free, Gluten in Flavorings, Spices & Seasonings, Gluten-Free Grain Alternatives… and More!

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Shelley Case amazed me once again this evening by sharing information and answers about the most common gluten-free questions we all have. She answered questions that are so common-place, yet so confusing. Some topics she touched upon include how you know if seasonings and spices contain gluten, or why does weight gain occur after going gluten-free.

Tonights webinar was the second of a three part summer series sponsored by riceworks Brown Rice Crisps. Close to 500 registered participants listened as Shelley detailed the answers to questions that we all have wondered or need to know.

My favorite part of the webinar was when Shelley reviewed so many gluten-free grain alternatives and ways to use them. After this segment, I had to wonder if Shelley has a second calling as a chef or baker… her ideas on using these gluten-free grains sounded so very tasty!

If you missed the webinar tonight, or the one on June 15th, click on the or websites for a free download of both of these informative webinars.

Also, remember to tune in on Tuesday, July 13, 2010 when Doctor Daniel Leffler, MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Division of Gastroenterology at BIDMC, who has just launched his book Real Life with Celiac Disease, is the guest on riceworks third webinar of summer series.

Be Informed, Be Healthy… and as always,

Be Free!

COMING TOMORROW! Tuesday 06/15…Free Webinar with Shelley Case!

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Gluten & Allergen Free Questions… Answered!

Just a quick reminder to everyone to make sure you remember to sign up for Shelley Case’s FREE webinar that will take place TOMORROW night, Tuesday, June 15.

Tomorrow night’s webinar is the first of three-part summer series of webinars that are presented by riceworks brown rice crisps and sponsored by

Shelley Case, a leading international nutrition expert on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet; and author of the book, The Gluten-Free Diet will be covering information on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity in addition to all her tips and facts for managing a gluten-free diet. Join Shelley on June 15th or June 22nd.

Dr, Daniel Leffler, MD, MS, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Division of Gastroenterology at BIDMC, has just launched his book Real Life with Celiac Disease. Join Dr. Leffler on July 13th to learn about a wide range of topics from his book Real Life with Celiac Disease including screening and diagnosis, associated conditions, food allergies and intolerances, complications, nongastrointestinal manifestations, and celiac disease vs gluten intolerance.

These are a great way to learn more about the gluten-free diet, lifestyle and living!   I hope to see you all there!

Be Free!

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