Meal Planning Monday ~ May is Celiac Awareness Month

This week’s blog post is by Christine Luken.

May is Celiac Awareness Month.  Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.  People with celiac disease really need to be vigilant about avoiding gluten to stay healthy.  Unfortunately, gluten is added to many packaged and processed food which can make avoidance a chore.  There’s a whole host of other people who experience gluten sensitivity. Although gluten sensitivity is not as serious as full-blown celiac disease, it can cause
individuals unwanted gastric upset.

I’m no expert on celiac disease, but I have friends and family members who are affected by it.  Chances are you do, too.  I suspect that I am somewhat gluten sensitive, because if I eat too many wheat products in a 24 hour period, I do notice some digestive upset.  My purpose here is to give you some great resources for information on celiac disease and point you to some excellent gluten-free recipes.  Even if you are able to eat gluten with no ill effects, you may find yourself entertaining dinner guests with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Francine Luzak, head of the Northern Kentucky Celiac Support Group, says that people diagnosed with celiac disease often have a hard time avoiding gluten.  It’s not just a matter of avoiding wheat, barley, rye, and oats.  Gluten is added as a thickening and flavor enhancing agent in many processed foods.  Francine says, “If food comes in a box or a bag, beware!  Gluten may be hiding in there.”  What should you look for on food labels to identify gluten?  You might see things like “hydrogenated vegetable protein,” “malt flavoring,” “caramel color,” and “natural flavors.”  I was surprised to learn that foods such as beef broth and chocolate frosting can have added gluten.  If you have a severe reaction to gluten, stick with packages that have “Gluten Free” on the label.

Another challenge for people with celiac disease is dining out.  Even if a restaurant has some gluten-free items, there’s a big risk for cross-contamination.  For people with mild cases, a tiny amount of gluten might not be a big deal.  But for someone with a severe case of celiac disease, even the smallest amount of gluten can leave them ill for several days.  I was pleased to find this great resource online – a list of restaurants with gluten free menus.

Francine recommends several books, websites, and even iPhone apps, like “Is That Gluten Free,” that can help people who need avoid gluten.  If you’re in the NKY area and want to check out the Celiac Support Group, you can find more information about it here.

Helpful Celiac Websites:

Helpful Celiac Books:



My friend and fellow blogger, Julie Brawley of, is also gluten sensitive.  The majority of the recipes on her website are gluten free and she’s shared some of her favorites here.  I’ve also included a recipe for Gluten Free Brazilian Cheese Bread from and my Gluten Free Healthy Candy recipe, which tastes fantastic!  The original recipe was made with Multi-Grain Cheerios, but I’ve substituted gluten-free Rice Chex to make it 100% healthy and delicious.


Main Dishes

Side Dishes


Gluten FreeHealthy Candy

Take one bag of dark chocolate chips and put them in a large microwave safe bowl.  Put them in the microwave on high for one
minute.  Stir, and then put them back in the microwave for one more minute.  Stir again, then immediately add 1 ½ cups of Rice Chex, ½ cup of chopped walnuts, and a 5 – 6 oz. bag of dried cherries.  Stir thoroughly to coat the cereal, nuts, and cherries with the dark chocolate.  Drop spoonful’s onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and put them in the fridge to cool for 1 to 2 hours.  I typically store my Healthy Candy in the fridge because it can get a bit melted if left at room temperature, especially in the warmer months.  This dark chocolate treat goes great with a nice glass of red wine.

A big thank-you to my step-mom, Francine Luzak, and my good friend, Julie Brawley, for sharing their gluten-free knowledge and recipes with all of us!