Q&A with a Dietitian - Crista Copheranham, MS RD LD

We were privileged to get to sit down with Dietitian Crista Copheranham. Crista is a Clinical Dietitian in the Texas Panhandle area & passionately advocates for people with celiac disease, or those that need to live a gluten-free lifestyle.

Enjoy our... Q&A.

What's your name? Crista Copheranham

Where did you go to school? Baylor University and Masters at Texas Tech,


What is your profession? Clinical Dietitian at BSA HealthCare systems of Amarillo, Texas

How often do you treat celiacs? On average, four a month.

What diet do you suggest? An exclusive, life-long, gluten-free diet.

What vitamins do you recommend for celiacs? I recommend B vitamins & a 'One-a-day Vitamin'.

Why those vitamins? We typically enrich ourselves with vitamins when digesting wheat grains. When one removes these grains, a deficiency can result. I recommend an iron supplement and calcium as well, but be sure to take them at least two hours apart instead of at the same time. Multivitamins usually cover it. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you need Calcium or a D supplement.

Do you see kids that also have diabetes? Yes, most children I see with celiac disease also have type 1 diabetes.

Should a person with type 1 diabetes get tested for celiac disease? If one's insulin is already regulated, yet are still having GI symptoms such as: constipation,

bloating, diarrhea or headaches...then, yes, get tested.

Do you think people who aren't gluten intolerant or have celiac disease should go gluten-free? No. I think sometimes there are benefits to do a trial run to see if symptoms improve for 1-2 months. But as a whole, there are things gluten provides to achieve a well balanced diet. For example, many gluten whole grains can help lower cholesterol, and wheat contains great sources of fiber.

What are some things most gluten-free people do wrong in the their diet?

1. Cross contamination & incorrect nutrition label reading.

There's a lot of words that mean gluten, but don't say gluten (for example: durum, semolina, dextrin). Most people look for wheat and flour. Most of my time with patients is spent teaching them how to correctly read labeling.

2. Thinking it's ok to have a little gluten.

Many people misunderstand it's total elimination. They think it's ok to cheat. Especially if they have, or are familiar with diabetes. A person with diabetes can adjust their insulin based on how many carbs they consume, so they think they can do the same thing with a gluten-free diet. However, it's not the same.

What type of food pyramid do you suggest? Actually, I don't suggest a food pyramid. I suggest MyPlate.

Here's the goal for MyPlate:

  • 50% carbohydrates - grains, sugar, rice, flour, dairy, fruit or starchy veg, such as beans, corn, potatoes and peas.

  • 20-25% protein

  • 25-35% fat - unsaturated fats: oils, nuts, avocados, olives. And the less healthy saturated fats, such as butter, sour cream, gravy, bacon and sausage.

  • For more information, go to choosemyplate.gov

What association have you seen with gluten-free and dairy-free? Usually a person can outgrow being dairy-free. Many people are allergic to lactose, or lactic. The biggest concern with lactose intolerance is calcium, so it's recommended to get at least 30 minutes a day of sunlight. Another option is to incorporate soy milks, almond milks, rice milks, or orange juice because many are enriched with calcium.

What if my child can't tolerate lactose? I recommend a multivitamin such as, One-a-Day or gluten-free Flintstones (check labeling for specifications if it contains gluten).

Do you, personally, follow a gf diet? No.

Why this profession? I've always liked food and baking. I had a friend in high school who struggled with an eating disorder. That gave me the passion to help women know they are beautiful at every size and shape. My senior year of high school, my sister was diagnosed with celiac disease and the dietitian printed out a piece of paper and handed it to her, not knowing much about celiac disease. All these events instilled in me a passion to help teach people about nutrition, especially those who are gluten-free. I love teaching that it's not just about being healthy, but encouraging them in this new necessary lifestyle change.

What suggestion do you have for parents? Be proactive. As the knowledge of gluten-free grows, more companies and manufacturers are required to remove food colorings, additives, artificial flavorings & fully disclose ingredients in labeling. Many companies are going gluten-free, so if they are not now, they may offer things soon. However, do NOT assume companies stay gluten-free, always check labeling and manufacturing notes.

What snacks do you recommend for kids? They can still have popular kid snacks like natural Fritos, Lay chips, Skittles, Starbursts & Sprite.

A lot of people may balk that these aren't healthy choices. However, kids are getting told so many things they can't do or have...I like to show there are things they can have and enjoy! For example, when they go to the movies with their friends, they can still have something, or when riding on the bus and attending a birthday party; they can feel normal and not like they are an 'allergy' kid.

What if one thinks they have celiac disease? I recommend getting a biopsy done to confirm it. There's no harm, but you do have to be on a diet containing gluten.

Anything else you'd like to share about the gluten-free subject? Don't think gluten is just in food. It can be found in toothpaste, make-up, toiletries, Play-Doh and charcoal. Not all people are that sensitive, but some people need to be careful of such things. Please work with your physician and dietitian.

What's your passion in your profession? Food is the thing everyone can relate to... I'd rather make it a good experience rather than an intimidating one!

What's your hobby? I love running, reading & baking. I also enjoy hanging out with my husband, daughter & Golden-doodle, Harvey.

Thanks Crista for your time! And thanks for the countless hours you spend helping people have a smooth transition to a gluten-free lifestyle.

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