Blog | Rachel Begun, MS, RD | Page 2

Asheville Gluten-Free


This weekend brought me to the GF Expo in Asheville, NC–a place that’s been on my travel go-to list for a while now. I had the honor of speaking at the expo about preventing cross contact, which is a perfect segue to sharing with you my gluten-free (GF) finds.

I stayed with a good friend, who did her homework and made reservations at GF-friendly restaurants.

The night before the expo, we went to Posana Cafe.  Saying it is GF-friendly is an understatement.  It is a 100% GF restaurant serving awesome farm-to-table food in an upscale, yet casual ambiance. What a treat to be able to order anything on the menu!  I can’t remember the last time I could order crab cakes! I had the chance to say hello and chat with the executive chef, Peter Pollay, who has worked with some of the world’s culinary greats, including Wolfgang Puck and David Burke.  He was a delight to meet.  I found out that his wife has celiac disease, and that is the inspiration behind his 100% GF restaurant.

You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, which serves plenty of options–from vegetarian to fish and seafood to locally-raised meats.  When dessert came around, we were eyeing the lemon olive oil cake with black pepper ricotta and honey, but were too full to go for it.

Low and behold, the Posana Cafe hosted a booth at the Asheville GF Expo and was serving samples of this divine and sublime dessert.  So, I didn’t get to miss out after all.  While tasting the sample, I got to meet the pastry chef at Posana Cafe, who was also genuinely happy to please GF attendees.

Many tried and true national GF brands were at the Expo, including Enjoy Life Foods, SOYJOY, Udi’s, Glutino, King Arthur Flour, Bob’s Red Mill, Bakery on Main, and more.

But since this post is about GF in Asheville, I’d like to call out a few local GF brands that deserve an honorable mention:

Roots is definitely a call out.  This is an Asheville-based company that makes 9 varieties of hummus, 3 types of salsa as well as tzatziki. All products are gluten-free, vegan and non-GMO.  I particularly loved the Hot Chipotle Hummus and the Thai Coconut Curry was like eating coconut curry soup in a dip!


Ingles Markets deserves a callout for sure, because this is a regional supermarket chain that gets gluten-free. Ingles co-hosted the Asheville GF Expo along with the local gluten-free support groups. Leah McGrath, Ingles’ registered dietitian is the one who asked me to speak at the expo.  Ingles, with Leah’s support, has been a champion for serving the gluten-free community for many years.  Ingles offers hundreds of gluten-free products at their stores, they provide a list of these gluten-free products on their website, and Leah regularly shares gluten-free resources and touts gluten-free experts on social media to help spread the good word.


Lastly, I’d like to thank Ingles Market, the Gluten Intolerance Group of Asheville, the Western (North Carolina) Dietetic Association and Enjoy Life Foods for supporting my talk–a perfect opportunity to educate about the gluten-free lifestyle while visiting Asheville, a very GF-friendly town!

National Nutrition Month – Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right


March is National Nutrition Month (NNM) and I still have yet to weigh in.  This year’s theme by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.

I don’t always dedicate a blog post to NNM, but this year’s theme resonates with me.  In fact, my food philosophy, stated on the very first sentence of the home page of my website is “I believe food enjoyment is essential to sustaining lifelong healthy eating habits, and that good nutrition and delicious eating can co-exist.”

So, you can see why I want to weigh in this year.

Most of us generally know what foods we should be eating more of and which ones we should be eating less of.  What stops many of us from eating the foods we know we should be eating more of is not knowing how to make them delicious.  And that’s the key to healthful eating…enjoying your food.

Here are the four foods/food categories my clients most often tell me they want to eat but don’t like or know how to prepare…and my recommendations for how to enjoy them.

Leafy Greens
With so much good nutrition packaged into so few calories, leafy greens are nutrition superstars. Spinach, kale and collard greens are mentioned all the time, but bok choy, which is recommended much less often, I consider a “gateway” green. Bok choy and baby bok choy are milder than some of their more bitter counterparts and a cinch to make.

Wash bok choy thoroughly in cool water.  Cut off the bottoms of the white stalk and cut the stems/leaves into bite-sized pieces. Sauté in cooking oil until the leafy ends become wilted and bright green and the white stems become translucent. Use your favorite cooking oil, but if you need a tip I am particularly fond of sautéing or stir-frying bok choy in toasted sesame oil.

 Chili Chicken with Wilted Greens

All Other Veggies
If there is one piece of dietary advice most people can benefit from, it’s to eat more veggies.  And to eat more, you don’t necessarily have to eat them on their own as a side dish.  I find that my clients who really just don’t have an interest in veggies can have success in eating more when they focus on adding them to the foods they already love.  Lettuce and tomato go down better when added to a favorite sandwich or burger.  Spinach and mushrooms are more palatable in a morning omelet. Peas and carrots gown down better when prepared with rice.  Avocado is preferred when diced and sprinkled onto a taco.  So, perhaps you, too, can increase your vegetable intake with this different approach?!


Dietary guidelines recommend eating fish two to three times a week to get the health benefits from lean protein and healthy fats, particularly omega-3s. In reality, though, very few Americans are eating enough fish or the nutrients they provide. Mostly because they either don’t like fish or don’t know how to prepare it.

Once again, I recommend trying it in a form you are already familiar with and enjoy. Think fish tacos in lieu of meat tacos, fish sticks instead of chicken tenders, and salmon or tuna burgers. Not only will you get those two to three recommended servings, but you’ll expand your recipe repertoire.

If fresh fish doesn’t fit into your budget, try canned.  You get the same health benefits at a fraction of the cost of fresh fish and there are so many ways it can be used in recipes.  Click here for a round-up of canned tuna and salmon recipes.


They are indeed good for the heart…and the digestive system…and so many other things. My experience is that people tend to avoid beans because they aren’t used to preparing or eating them.

Becoming familiar with beans is a really good idea, both nutritionally and economically.  They are one of very few foods that offers significant amounts of both protein and fiber in one package.  That is what makes them so special.  They are also loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.  The darker the bean, the more antioxidants it contains.

Economically, they are one of the lowest cost sources of protein you can buy.  Beans are also eco-friendly in that they require much less water and energy use than harvesting animal protein.

If you have yet to become a bean fan, here are ways to get this nutrition superstar into your diet in familiar ways: add to your favorite soups, stews and chilis, prepare as dips such as hummus (made from chickpeas) or white or black bean, and puree and add to baked goods mixes such as brownies. Recipes for all these recommendations abound on the web and in cookbooks.

 Mexican chili beans

When it comes down to it, most people like most foods. They just don’t know it because they either haven’t tried it yet, or their first experience wasn’t a good one.

If you want to make healthy eating a way of life, then trial and error is required.   You don’t become an excellent soccer or piano player the first time you try.  It takes practice.  Healthy eating is no different.  You have to try foods many times prepared in different ways before you know what you like.

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