Soup’s On: The Scoop on BPA & Your Health

BPA and how it might be affecting your health

In the colder weather, it’s harder to get fresh foods and more people look toward canned soups, canned veggies or fruit.

BPA (short for Bisphenol A) is everywhere, and if you’re not going out of your way to avoid it, it’s most likely in your diet.  It’s found in can liners, which includes canned vegetable, soup, or soda and even canned infant formula. It is in many plastic or polyurethane containers, water bottles and even on cash register tape. The hypothesis is that the chemical mimics estrogens, and can affect hormonal systems in the body.

There’s growing evidence that BPA is problematic.  A study came out from JAMA in Sept 2012 showing that BPA seems to be linked to obesity in children. Moms with more BPA in their urine during pregnancy seem to have children with more emotional issues at the age of 3.  Many more studies are listed here. Certainly there is considerable speculation that it may be linked to cancer, too. Also, for reasons that are not clear, women with PCOS (a common endocrine disorder) seem to be more sensitive to BPA and have higher levels, and there is some speculation that BPA may even cause PCOS.

Consumer Reports has confirmed that cans do pack a whopping dose—often double the max recommended value.  AND, although we often have a sense this doesn’t affect us because we may choose to, say, eat fresh veggies. Unfortunately, if you do eat out, chances are parts of the meal came from a can.

FDA’s stance has always been that BPA is safe—however, now it’s been moved to “some reason for concern” category. They finally banned it from sippy cups…after manufacturers already stopped using it. More studies are underway, but in the meantime, consider reducing your risk!

Some manufacturers have declared their intent to ban BPA, like Campbell’s and Muir Glen. However, they haven’t yet actually stopped using it in all products yet.

Good bets:

  • When possible, use fresh or frozen foods
  • Make sure your water bottle is BPA free, and ideally stainless steel
  • Ditch the soda. There are just so many reasons…
  • Skip the plastic containers. Instead, store food in glass, like Ball Jars.
  • Look for brands of cans without BPA:

Eden foods, who has been BPA free for MANY years. The only exception is their canned tomato products. They do test for gluten, too…

Edwards and Sons has products without BPA, and many gluten-free products, too.

Amy’s Organic cans are all BPA free since March 2012

Farmer’s Market, which has super yummy canned pumpkin, sweet potato and more

Vital Choice Seafood

Trader Joe’s has SOME BPA free cans as well.

Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Certified Wellness Coach in Fairfax & Alexandria, VA. Cheryl works with people to feel and look their best with a range of specialties, including Celiac Disease, food allergies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, vegetarian and vegan diets, preventing diseases and “whole foods” eating. Let’s get you on your way to achieving your goals.  Email her or call 571-271-8742.

Gluten-free in a Natural Disaster

Sandy has been a big wake up call to me, in part because it was supposed to do much more damage here, too. It’s 2 weeks out and the area where I grew up is still without power, and much of NY and NJ are in the same boat.

Now, obviously many people have suffered a lot of loss and inconvenience. But what about g-free folks? Most of the food at shelters or evacuations sites is probably not gluten-free. It’s a great time to plan ahead & investing in your future comfort and health NOW. After all, it seems like we’ve been having once a century storms about once a year, so the odds are it will come in handy.

Do you have a 3-day food supply as FEMA recommends? And what if you had to make it 2 weeks? I’d have enough food for 5 days because I have latent squirrel genes, but 2 weeks would be pushing it.

Here are some ideas. Some require hot water or a manual can opener.

Ready to go meals:

These require heating:

  • Gluten-free emergency kit
  • Options from Trail Food Express
  • My Own Meal


  • Cold cereal—So many to choose from!
  • Just hot add water G-free oatmeal packs
  • Ready to eat rice, wild rice and quinoa packets, such as Seeds of Change (no gluten-ingredients used), Trader Joe’s, etc. Caution on Uncle Ben’s—some contain wheat.


Sanity savers:

  • Gluten-free chocolate
  • Cookies—consider stashing a 2 pack of a gluten-free brand, like Pamela’s, Enjoy Life, etc.
  • Hot cocoa
  • Tea


It’s also worthwhile to think about

  • water
  • medications
  • food for your furry, feathered or finned friends
  • other necessities. 

A camp stove, matches, a sterno, generator, etc. will come in handy, too. For other, more general preparedness resources please see the FEMA website.

And, of course, my sympathy for everyone directly involved in this disaster.

PS—The NY region still needs help. Please consider donating if you are so inclined!

A G-Free Thanksgiving


It takes a little planning ahead to guarantee a great Thanksgiving. In many ways, it’s easier if you’re hosting, because you know what you can and can’t have. Most people hate to impose on their hosts, but it’s easier on you AND your host to ask beforehand than sit through a four-hour meal and watch others eat. Remember, nothing is more important that staying safe!

Though it’s always good to check, the good news is that all plain fresh turkey is naturally gluten free. However, self-basting turkeys usually contain gluten. Most gravy packets are a problem, too.  As of 2011, ALL of the companies I called did have gluten-free turkeys, except Tofurky, which has gluten. Check out my gluten-free turkey list for 2011, which has manufacturer contact info.

If you’re not hosting Thanksgiving at your house, talk to your host as soon as you can. You’ll need to talk about:

* Broth used for basting
* Seasonings
* Stuffing in the turkey
* Cross contamination

Vegetarian/vegan options:

Okay, so Tofurkey is off the table. Here are great roundups with ideas for main meals. Most of the other sides here are already vegetarian.

Gluten-Free Goddess’ Roundup’s roundup


Almost all regular canned gravy and gravy packets are not gluten-free. Gluten-free gravy is available online, and Trader Joe’s sells some now.   Also, it’s pretty easy to make a simple gravy with gluten-free broth and cornstarch instead of wheat (and if corn is a problem for you, arrowroot can be substituted 1:1 instead).

Herb Gravy From Elana’s Pantry

Gravy using Cornstarch from Simply Recipes or see this link for recipes.

Side dishes

There are lots of good options here. Green bean casserole, baked yams, cranberry relish, gelatin salads, butternut squash soup, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, applesauce…all of these things are easy to adapt to food restrictions, and they’re healthy and delicious to boot.

Here are some ideas to get you going:


My Cranberry Fresh Fruit Relish

Crockpot Applesauce by Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free

Green Bean Casserole from Gluten Free Mommy

Simply Tasty Asparagus from Celiac Family

Roasted butternut squash soup from Jules Gluten-Free


This is obviously more of a challenge. You can go the nontraditional route and do a wild rice, buckwheat or quinoa stuffing. You could use a gluten-free cornbread or pre-made bread crumbs.

Cornbread stuffing with roasted acorn squash from the Gluten-Free Goddess

The NY Times Blog had a G-Free Stuffing section with a few recipes


For many people (myself included!) dessert is the highlight of the Thanksgiving route.  If you’d like to use your standard recipes, you can easily make a crustless pumpkin or sweet potato pie or check out Whole Foods’ crusts.  Or, you can easily make a crust from crushed up cookies, shredded coconut or almond meal. Apple crisps are also simple, too. And, of course, now with the new GF Betty Crocker mixes, a cake or brownies are pretty simple, even if they’re not traditional.

The Best Pecan Pie (one of my very favorites)

Easy, Crustless Apple Pie from Gluten Free Easily

Ginger Lemon Girl’s Pecan Pumpkin Pie bars

Apple Crisp–A lazy way to get that apple pie taste!

Cranberry Cobbler from Ginger Lemon Girl

T Day Recipes:
It’s dangerous when someone asks about food while I’m hungry.  When I was asked for Thanksgiving favorites, of course I started thinking (and drooling) about all the wonderful things that would make for an absolutely amazing gluten-free feast!  Here are a bunch from some of my favorite GF bloggers.


Events, news, etc:

Please vote…for my cookies! The Almond board is hosting a recipe contest and if you’re on Facebook, I’d greatly appreciate a vote for my yummy “Intense Cocoa Bites”. They’re gluten-free, of course, but also dairy-free, vegan, sugar-free, grain free and healthy, too. Part of the prize is almond packs for clients, so this may be in your best interest.

  • DC Metro Area Celiac Association Meeting Topic: “Adolescents and Young Adults with Celiac Disease & Gluten Free Travel” Meeting Date: Saturday, November 17, 2012, 2:00–4:00 pm
  • Speaker: Aaron Rakow, PhD (Clinical Psychologist), a team member of the Celiac Disease Program at Children’s National Medical Center, will discuss Children’s National’s new program, “Celiac Disease Group Therapy for Kids,” and how it is geared to help adolescents and young adults with their psychological needs.
  • Location: Tenley-Friendship Public Library
  • 4450 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20016

As always, wishing you and yours a joyful, peaceful and yummy holiday season.

Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Certified Wellness Coach in Fairfax & Alexandria, VA. Cheryl works with people to feel and look their best with a range of specialties, including Celiac Disease, food allergies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, vegetarian and vegan diets, preventing diseases and “whole foods” eating. Let’s get you on your way to achieving your goals.  Email her or call 571-271-8742.