Passover, G-Free Style

Passover isn’t here until March 27th but many of the products are already appearing in grocery stores. Not all Passover foods are gluten-free, but many are, and there’s a much wider selection than usual at the grocery store. This can be a good time to stock up on GF cakes and mixes, cookies, macaroons, some of the “bread” crumbs and supplies like potato starch. As an added bonus for people with multiple restrictions, most Kosher for Passover products contain no corn or soy products, either.

In a nutshell, the basic rule of foods for Passover is no leavened foods, which eliminates normal breads, cakes etc. Matzo is the main exception. Matzo is an unleavened bread usually made from wheat and is eaten regularly, and some products contain products with Matzo and matzo meal, which also potentially listed as cake meal or farfel. However, many products don’t contain gluten. Or, if you find products labeled “non-gebrok or gebroktz or grebrochts” (or another spelling variation) they’re non-grain containing and therefore have no gluten-containing ingredients. Often Kosher for Passover products and cakes are made of potato flour or nut meals rather than wheat or glutinous grains.

As always in the gluten-free world, read labels carefully. “Kosher” and “Kosher for Passover” are two different things entirely. Kosher for Passover foods will be labeled “May be used for Passover” or have a symbol that says OUP. I have often seen “regular” Kosher foods in the Passover section at grocery stores, so please do check the labels very carefully.

Keep in mind that many Passover foods are imported from other countries. Technically, imports must follow the FDA allergen labeling laws, but I can say I’ve seen many that aren’t labeled quite in the same way as the FALCPA U.S. labeling laws dictate So the label on an import may say matzo, but may not say “wheat” explicitly or have the disclaimer stating that it contains wheat.

Most Kosher for Passover products will have to adhere to strict standards for cross contamination from a religious perspective. Voluntary allergen labeling statements (AKA “Made in a factory” claims) are still not regulated.

From a gluten-free perspective, possibly the best part of Passover is AFTER Passover, when all of the great gluten-free goodies are on sale! Passover ends April 4th 2021, so mark your calendars, because the word has gotten out in gluten-free circles and the mad rush is on.

Back when you really couldn’t get GF prepared foods in the regular grocery store, this was a much bigger deal. But it’s still nicer to have an expanded selection, and nicest of all is AFTER Passover, when all of the products are on sale!

For people who DO celebrate the actual holiday of Passover, not just the gluten-free food, here are some great recipes and information:

Other favorite gluten-free recipe sites for Passover? Let me know in the comments section on my website.

Lately, Whole Foods has stocked a gluten-free Matzah, and the brand is Yehuda, so keep your eyes peeled! You can also get it on Amazon. It’s not technically matza because it’s not made of oats, but it’s “Matzo style squares”. There are also many more Kosher markets, such as Kosher Mart in Rockville. Some local grocery stores also have a great selection.

 

 

Nutrient Balance: Gluten-Free Newsletter

It’s National Nutrition Month, so it’s a good time to touch on the cornerstones of a gluten-free diet to make sure you’re getting the nutrients needed for health.

Are you getting the nutrients you need on a gluten free diet?

Mint quinoa bowl
Mint quinoa

When people start off on a gluten free diet, step one is figuring a way to take out all the gluten, and get adjusted to this new way of living and eating.  But as life starts to ease back to normal, it’s important to take the second step and eat a diet with all of the nutrients you need to feel better, allow your intestines to heal, and live well.

Years ago, studies showed that many people weren’t getting enough iron and B vitamins, so the US government decided to fortify our breads, cereals, etc.  However, GF foods are considered specialty foods, and there are no laws about enrichment. Many GF foods are not fortified, so it’s not surprising that researchers have found that on average, people on a gluten free diet are eating less of these key nutrients than general population.   People on a gluten free diet also seem to be eating less calcium, fiber and grains than recommended, especially among women.

Calcium:

Calcium is particularly important to people with Celiac disease, since osteoporosis often occurs due to intestinal damage from CD, which can cause malabsorption of calcium and Vitamin D.  Also, many people with Celiac disease avoid dairy due to lactose intolerance.   In a study of people on a GF diet, less than a third of the women ate the recommended amounts of calcium, although most men did get the amounts recommended. When people start off on a gluten free diet, step one is figuring a way to take out all the gluten, and get adjusted to this new way of living and eating.  But as life starts to ease back to normal, it’s important to take the second step and eat a diet with all of the nutrients you need to feel better, allow your intestines to heal, and live well.

Iron:

A survey of people on a gluten free diet found that less than half of women are getting recommended amounts of iron.  This is particularly important, since many people with Celiac disease are anemic before going gluten free due to the constant intestinal damage and irritation.  Anemia often causes fatigue, weakness and poor concentration.   Liver and organ meats are great sources of iron, but there are a variety of foods and ways of combining foods with vitamin C that can help raise iron levels, too.

Fiber:

Most Americans are getting less fiber than recommended, and getting enough fiber can be even more challenging on a gluten free diet, since many high fiber cereals, breads and bars are off limits.   Fiber is best known for its help keeping people regular, but it is important in helping lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, too.

So what’s a gluten free gal (or guy) to do?

  • Take a (gluten free!) multivitamin
  • Choose fortified gluten free products
  • If you avoid dairy products, find other calcium fortified beverages and other high calcium foods
  • Make sure you’re getting your Celiac serology (blood test) done yearly, and other #s, like vitamin D, iron, B12, folate, thyroid, etc. done every few years or as needed to avoid deficiencies.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough fiber!  Veggies, fruits, beans, flaxseed, and whole grain GF foods are a great source of fiber.
  • Consider speaking to a dietitian to help you trouble shoot and make sure you’re getting what you need.

Quick takes:

  • I’m doing a presentation for the Metro DC EDS Association on Digestion and Hypermobility and EDS on March 15th. If you have EDS or HSD and you’d like to attend, email me for more information.

Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Wellcoach in Fairfax, VA.  She helps people with a range of dietary issues, including Celiac Disease, digestive issues, preventing diseases and “whole foods” eating. Let’s get you on your way to achieving your goals and feeling great!  Email or call 571-271-8742.