Recap: The Gluten-Free Living Conference in Orlando

April 8, 2014

Recap: The Gluten-Free Living Conference in Orlando

NFCA Communications Assistant Alicia Carango provides a summary of her trip to Blogger U and the Gluten-Free Living Conference.

It’s not often that I get to meet the celiac disease and gluten sensitive communities in person. Sure, I talk to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’ (NFCA) following on a daily basis through social media, but there’s something different about connecting face-to-face, rather than computer-to-computer. Thanks to the Gluten-Free Living Conference, I was able to connect with new and old gluten-free blogging friends and the people we reach through our online writing.

I have been so excited to tell you all about the highlight of my weekend since I returned from the conference in Orlando, so I am skipping right to that before I get into the full conference recap. I had the opportunity to meet and attend a keynote speech presented by renowned celiac disease expert Dr. Alessio Fasano, the Director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and member of NFCA’s Scientific/Medical Advisory Council. Our former Kids Central Blogger, Alexis, used to refer to Dr. Fasano as “Dr. Rockstar” and I can definitely see why. Conference attendees were wrapped around the conference hall, waiting to hear his speech. He certainly didn’t disappoint! Dr. Fasano made so many amazing points in his hour-long talk, but here are a few that really stuck with me:

  • With so many different signs and symptoms, celiac disease is truly a “clinical chameleon.”
  • The gluten-free diet is to people with celiac disease as insulin is to people with diabetes. Just because there is no drug name, doesn’t mean that it’s not medicine.
  • People “are not born celiacs,” but rather with the genetic predisposition to potentially develop celiac disease.

According to Amy Ratnor, the Editor of Gluten-Free Livingmagazine, 78% of readers polled said the gluten-free fad/weight loss diet is the most upsetting myth about the gluten-free diet. It appears that Dr. Fasano agrees with the majority. He expressed his frustration with the fad diet during his talk and his comment was met with a roaring cheer and a round of applause from the audience – I think it’s safe to say attendees agreed with Gluten-Free Livingreaders and Dr. Fasano.

Veggie tray

One of the many yummy veggie trays at the mixer.
You could spot the bloggers right away – we were
the only ones taking pictures of food!

After the Saturday sessions, attendees gathered for a mixer and Dr. Fasano was also in attendance. I was speaking with the fabulous Kathleen of Celiac Baby at the event and we decided to go introduce ourselves. It was like meeting a celebrity! We hear about Dr. Fasano in celiac disease and gluten-free news, so we were excited to meet the man behind the ground-breaking research at the Center for Celiac Research.

Ok! Back to the event recap.

The weekend kicked off with Blogger U, a session highlighting the ins and outs of gluten-free blogging. Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple talked about adding flair to recipes – not just about which spice creates which taste, but how her recipes are inspired from her long path to wellness after learning how connected diet and nutrition are to the way we feel. Jules Shepherd of Jules Gluten Free talked about how to succeed in blogging by creating meaningful content for readers while Mia Moran of Stay Basic covered how to make food look as great in photos as it does in the kitchen.


We had a delicious gluten-free lunch during
Blogger U! Roasted veggies, potato salad,

and Chicken Noodle Veggie Soup.

I was thrilled to meet Amy Leger of The Savvy Celiac in person. Amy spoke both during Blogger U and during the regular sessions held on Saturday and Sunday. I am a regular reader of The Savvy Celiac, so getting to speak to the voice behind the blog was amazing. I also met Amy’s daughter, Emma, the inspiration for the blog. Amy shared with me some exciting things she has planned for her readers. If you’re not already a subscriber, definitely look her up – you won’t be disappointed!

The group

From left to right: Daria, Me, Kathleen of Celiac Baby,
Angela of Angela’s Kitchen and Mia Moran of
Stay Basic

The conference was filled with bloggers, people living with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’), their family members and people still waiting for a diagnosis. I met tons of community members, each with their own unique story to share. I had a blast learning about Mary and Tom, a couple who flew in from Texas to learn more about starting a blog of their own. I realized what a small world we live in with I met Monica and Daria from Pennsylvania (I hope you ladies are reading this!). Daria was diagnosed with celiac disease while attending the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to be a pastry chef. We had a good laugh when we discovered one of her teachers was NFCA’s very own former webinar panelist, Chef Richard Coppedge. This mother-daughter duo is also working to become a part of the blogging world, so keep an eye out for them on the web!

I was able to finally meet Taylor Miller of Gluten Away in person and I had the pleasure of forming new relationships with Anna of Gluten-Free Jet Set and Angela of Angela’s Kitchen. I even got to catch up with a great friend of NFCA – Michael of Gluten Free Philly.

Enjoy Life Booth

Just one of the many vendors at the conference.
Plentils are one of my favorite snacks!

There were loads of vendors at the conference handing out samples of their gluten-free products. I brought back a bunch in my carry-on, so stay tuned for some new product reviews. (Sneak peek: Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery’s new Cranberry Almond Bars are amazing!)

Thanks to Gluten-Free Livingfor hosting such an informative, well-rounded and interesting conference!

– Alicia