Category Archives: Gluten-Free

Nima Sensor: Gadget tests for gluten and peanut allergens

Avoidance of foods with life threatening allergens is far from easy when dining in or out. There are so many precautions to take to avoid the presence of any food allergy.

  • Read food labels. Call food manufacturers if necessary.
  • Talk to the restaurant manager and server.
  • Educate the schools, teachers, friends, family and loved ones.
  • Evaluate the policies of public schools, private schools, and universities, and then develop relevant plans.
  • Cook and bake your own food, including while on vacation.
  • Keep prescriptions current. Carry two epinephrine auto-injectors.

This is just a snapshot of the many steps some food allergic individuals and families take to avoid a food allergy reaction. Now, imagine a gadget that gives a supplemental level of caution before the first bite.

Years ago, I started following Nima Sensor from startup and tested the tool at the Gluten Free Expo in Bethesda, Md. I was captivated by a small gadget that fits in the palm of your hand that tests pea-sized food particles for an allergen. It can take only the size of a bread crumb to cause a food allergy reaction, and potentially anaphylaxis, a life threating reaction.

How it Works

Friday, Jan. 24, marked the one-year anniversary of the Gluten sensor on the market. Timely for a celebratory Facebook Live Chat to demonstrate the sensor for gluten and now peanuts, coming this March. Much like the demo video, the team showed how it works by testing cupcakes that were labeled gluten free and nut free cupcakes from a local San Francisco bakery.

The sensor comes with about 12 capsules. You order capsules as you need them for your own food testing. For accuracy, it must be about the size of a pea. It could take up to five minutes for the sensor to alert you of any level of presence of gluten and peanuts.

Now, I know you probably have a lot of questions, like those on the Facebook chat. My top two questions:

1) How do you know testing a pea-sized amount is enough to fully test a food item? Using any utensil if needed, you can take multiple samples from your plate or test a few areas of the specific food item you’d like to cross check.

2) How can the cost fit in the budget? Many of the users on the chat shared they were able to work with their individual health flexible spending plans to help cover the costs of the sensor and capsules for the gluten sensor. This process may also be supported by your physician and insurance plan, so it’s worth looking into. Currently there is a pre-sale to order the Nima Starter Kit – Peanut for $229 until March 8. It will retail for $289 later in the year. The maintenance cost is the order of replacement capsules which also needs to be considered in your budget.

Any supplement to  help you make the judgment call on what to eat may be worth it. We’re all looking for ways to ease our minds before the first bite. Learn more about the Nima Sensor.



Nalley Fresh Opens in Columbia, Build Salads and Better Health

Nalley Fresh_Food Lineup Veggies2
March is National Nutrition Month. The lineup of veggies at Nalley Fresh is a good way to celebrate the month and your health.

The power to choose veggies and proteins at Nalley Fresh, Columbia’s newest restaurant, successfully lured my 12-year-old to eat all of her salad, including the peas – Wasabi peas. Chef Greg Nalley’s approach to Nalley Fresh, the eighth restaurant opening in Maryland, sheds more light on the not-so-secret approach to healthier eating. Make it yourself. Well, sort of.

restaurant decor

A team of folks do the hard work of preparing the assortment of vegetables, meats, or rather proteins, including tofu and falafel. Make it in a bowl, salad or a wrap is part of the process. And mix it with dressings like Basil Dijon, or pour a broth in your bowl to make it real interesting.

The menu of choices

The range of choices are a bit intimidating at first. But the menu for seasonal signature salads is a good starting point. During the community event that offered free meals, I selected the Nalley Fiesta salad. Anything Mexican-inspired works for my palate and the order flow is much like Chipotle, so this came second nature. With envy I also delighted in the looks of the Shades of Green with Thai Pork my mom ordered and my 12-year-old’s Asian Salad (edamame and Wasabi – peas!) with chicken, which she mixed with Old Bay dressing. Gotta keep a bit of hometown flavor in all things.

Salad with Porkv2
Shades of Green with Thai Pulled Pork


Managing food allergies 

Restaurants that have ‘point and pick’ are prime for cross contact risk of allergens. And places we tend to avoid dining as a family because of my youngest daughter’s multiple food allergies.

Nalley Fresh_Food Lineup proteinsv2

However, Chef Nalley and nutritionist, Monica Rainagel, were on-hand during Community Day to answer questions, accommodate and guide us through the ingredients, including those in the sauces.

My youngest daughter chose grilled chicken, bacon, bleu cheese, cucumbers and romaine lettuce mixed with ranch dressing filled in a wrap, which she enjoyed safely.

Chicken Wrap

It is estimated that 15 million Americans have a food allergy. The common eight allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, dairy, and eggs. Shrimp and salmon are among the standard proteins you can select, for an extra cost, but these were not on the bar during Community Day. Toasted almonds, a tree nut, are also on the bar.

Proteins listv2

Nalley Fresh’s website features a nutrition guide, nutrition calculator and the listing of allergens are available onsite at the restaurant. The ingredients of the dressings are displayed. And the Asian Vinaigrette contains fish sauce and Caesar Dressing contains anchovies.

It would be further helpful to have all allergens listed as part of Nalley Fresh’s online interactive nutrition guide. Like most consumers, food allergy diners check websites for menus, but also call restaurants ahead to check for cooking practices and options.

Healthy lunch budget

I went for a second helping during a HoCoBlogs  event after the grand opening and tried the Bleu Collar, a salad with shredded beef and pretzel bites.

bleu collar
Bleu Collar Signature Salad

Nalley Fresh is a likely go-to-spot for an occasional work lunch break. Not so much for our entire family in light of  food allergies. However, it may be a consideration for those who have a gluten-free diet (without the bread and some toppings), vegan or prefer a Paleo way of eating. It’s about $9 for a meal without a drink. And I already signed up for the rewards program to get my 7th meal free.

The greatest reward you can give yourself is to make food choices that are tasty and healthy. And for that reason,  Nalley Fresh hits the spot.