Forest Park resident, dietitian and author Megan Hart thinks there’s much more to life than gluten-filled food.

Hart and co-author Kim Lutz have written a new gluten-free cookbook called Welcoming Kitchen, and they’ll be sharing recipes from it at the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo, between April 29 and March 1, at the Wyndham Hotel, 3000 Warrenville Rd., in Lisle.

Hart, a dietitian at Chciago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital, said she wanted her book to introduce readers to a brand-new world of food.

“There is a whole other world of food out there for you,” Hart said. “Don’t focus on what you can’t have. Instead, focus on all the things you can have. There are just as many options in gluten-free diet as there are in a non-gluten-free diet. Your kitchen should be welcoming – that’s where the title of the book comes from. Focus on what foods you can have and how you can celebrate that.”

According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, about 1 in every 133 people has celiac disease, a condition where the body cannot tolerate gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. Those with celiac disease have to adopt a gluten-free diet.

“I love working with families and helping them to take something that might seem so life-changing when they are given the diagnosis and try to help them to see the positives in it,” Hart said. “I want them to see [a] whole other world of food. They may not be familiar with it but it’s there, and I can help them find it.”

Gluten-free options include rice and corn pasta, quinoa, brown rice, millet, and other whole grains.

Hart said she and Lutz, who is a mother of children with multiple food allergies, wanted to come together to help other people.

“Kim is the recipe queen,” Hart said. “She is a mother who has children with multiple food allergies, and has been cooking the welcoming kitchen way to feed her family safely for years.”

Hart said the Welcoming Kitchen cookbook can help with any type of food allergy, not just a gluten-free diet. The book will be available June 7.

“Most people who come to your home for a meal will have some type of food restriction,” Hart said. “With this book, everyone will be able to come to your home and eat. It is vegan, gluten-free, and free of [the] top eight food allergens: wheat, eggs, shellfish, milk, soy, tree nuts and peanuts. It has 200 recipes and covers everything, including snacks, appetizers, entrees, desserts, soups, family meals.”

Hart and Lutz will be cooking three recipes from their Welcoming Kitchen cookbook at 8 a.m. on May 1 during a Comfort Breakfast Foods class at the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo.

The expo was founded by Jennifer Cafferty in 2007, and includes dietitians, cookbook authors, nutritionists, bloggers, and others who follow gluten-free diets.

Cafferty is a mother of two who works to help others understand and embrace a gluten-free diet.

“Living on a restricted diet doesn’t have to mean living without the joy of cooking, baking, and eating foods that look and taste great,” Cafferty said. “There is nothing like this in Chicagoland – a place where individuals, parents, and others can spend from a few hours to a full day sampling hundreds of products, and discovering that special dietary needs and cookies that taste like cardboard are not synonymous.”

Hart said she was excited about this year’s expo.

“The expo is amazing,” Hart said. “It is full of people who are living the gluten-free lifestyle, and they celebrate living gluten-free. I am excited to be a part of it all. It is a great place to interact and get excited about a diet that maybe you weren’t so excited about before. At the expo, you find people who will celebrate with you.”

The expo will be held daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost for a full day of cooking classes is $175, and includes a gluten- and dairy-free lunch, gift bag, printed recipe and passes to the vendor fair. Tickets to the vendor fair are $15 at the door, $11.50 in advance online and free for children under 12 years old.

For more information about Hart and Lutz and their cookbook, visit For more information about the expo, or to purchase tickets, visit