Monday, January 16, 2017

When Blogging is the Lowest Priority on Your List

This weekend, I went for one of the most memorable walks of my life: across a stage decorated in green and gold to receive my college diploma.

When I flew out to San Diego last Thursday, I was a college student, a friend, a blogger, Senior Editor to Entity Magazine and too many other descriptors to count. As I'm sitting in the Denver airport and typing this into my phone, I can add "Summa Cum Laude Point Loma Nazarene University graduate" to the list.

casey the college celiac

It was one of the craziest weekends I've ever had. Our flight out of Colorado Springs was delayed twice and three passengers were kicked off because our small plane was over the weight limit. Then the stewardess started putting luggage into the empty seats to redistribute weight - which was super reassuring, I might add, as a passenger - and, after we finally got ready for lift off, we learned that too much fuel had been added to the plane, so we needed to taxi for five minutes to burn it off. We were biting our nails until we speed-walked to our second flight with fifteen minutes to spare - but we made it to San Diego.

We even survived getting a rental car, reaching our rented condo (which, let me just say, was worthy of a blog post on its own...)  and climbing into bed. The next day, I spent twelve straight hours at my old college campus, visiting friends and teachers. And, on Saturday - which boasted beautiful San Diego weather despite days of endless rain before - I rocked my black gown, stepped across the stage (praying not to trip the entire time) and received the piece of paper I've been working toward for three and a half years. (And blogging about it just as long - like my first blog post about it!)

casey the college celiac
Freshman year vs. graduation senior year!
And, for once, I embraced the moment. I put the blog and food and work and social media on hold - and I just lived. Will I have a hectic catch-up week ahead? Of course. Will the time I spent lazing in my roomies' beds, hammocking over the ocean or listening to the rain fall on the car roof as we talked in the back seat for an hour be worth it? Absolutely!

The truth is, we all have constant to-do lists tattooed on our minds. Buy (dairy free) milk. Fold the laundry. Finally answer that email. Have dinner with the family. Go for a run.

And while checking off every box may be important regularly, sometimes our priorities need to shift. This weekend, I didn't get much sleep or my usual dose of water and veggies. But I got more than my daily quota of hugs, devoured the best gluten free salmon burger in my young life (thank you Stacked!) and celebrated three years of hard work while being surrounded by friends and family.

casey the college celiac stacked
The BEST burger I've had in ages!!!
Right now, I'm feeling a lot of mixed emotions (at least underneath the jet lag and exhaustion). I don't feel different since walking across that stage - but I don't feel the same either.

What I do know? Graduation was a bittersweet conclusion to this chapter of my life. It meant saying goodbye to the friends I've come to love as family and the campus that acted as my home for seven semesters. But it also meant embracing new adventures - like my first full-time job, grad school and more - heading my way.

And, for now, thinking of those treasured memories is more important than writing The blog post that will go viral or has the most shareable content. Because, sometimes, living is a higher priority than writing about my life online. In fact, sometimes I blog because I have something I need to say instead of something that others need to hear.

A few snap shots!
This blog post, I suppose, is a little of both. It's my own virtual pat on the back, but it's also more than that. It's my written hope that, the next time a celebration or adventure heads your way, you don't hesitate to throw your regular to-do list to the side and decide what really matters right now.

Your life shouldn't - and probably isn't - exactly the same every day. Your priorities enjoy the same freedom.

*Also found at What'd You Do This Weekend, Totally Terrific Tuesday, Turn It Up Tuesday*

Have you celebrated anything recently or gone on an adventure? How do you approach shifting priorities? Comment below!

Friday, January 13, 2017

4 Reasons to Ditch Comparing Your Food Choices to Others' in 2017

Just imagine: it's a Friday night and you're having dinner out on the town with your favorite girlfriends. You haven't seen each other since the holidays and have tons to catch up on, so you barely look at the menu before ordering your usual dish: a cheeseburger with sweet potato fries. Only, your bestie says, "I'll have a salad, dressing on the side. Making up for all those Christmas cookies!"

Suddenly, your burger doesn't sound that good - and you don't feel that great about yourself either.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you aren't alone. The fact is, comparison seems to be in our blood. Various psychology experiments have found that when people see someone else with a possession, personality trait or wealth...they want it for themselves. One thing you should never compare? Your diet - the food, how often you eat and when you eat - with someone else's.

casey the college celiac

Not sure why? Here are four reasons why you should ditch comparing your food choices to others' - during New Year's resolution season and otherwise!

1. You don't know their medical chart or history.

Now if you have celiac disease or some of dietary restriction, you're probably used to fighting comparison to a certain extent. Even when you make your own "safe" pizza for movie night at home, your family's Papa Johns may still call your name. In fact, you may even be mistakenly praised for "having such restraint" by turning down cake at a birthday party - despite the fact that you're rejecting a double chocolate pastry to stay alive instead of skinny.

Even as someone whose diet is often compared to other "normal" Americans', though, I can still find myself wondering if someone else's diet is more "right" than mine. January always invites an army of dieters, from fad gluten free eaters to people jumping on the Whole 30 train. Sometimes I wonder, "Would doing the Whole 30 help me? I've been eating more processed foods and sugar lately..."

casey the college celiac
Like lots of these cookies...
But then I remember: my stomach is doing pretty dang awesome, my weight still needs a boost and, honestly, I love baking. So why should I force myself to follow an even stricter diet than I already need to do - just because everyone else is? 

The truth is, everyone's body is different. Everyone has different foods that agree with them and different medical histories. A diabetic won't eat the same diet as a celiac. Neither would a recovering anorexic, nor someone with a deadly peanut allergy

If 2017 is the age of anything, I hope it's the age of "you do you" when it comes to diet

2. Different eating times work for different people.

If you've ever read a health magazine or researched how to eat "healthily," you've probably heard the old cliche, "Don't eat anything after 8 o'clock." This myth claims that since you're the least active at night, that midnight snack will turn directly into a muffin top or extra fat

casey the college celiac
What a shocking concept!
You want to know a secret? Lately, I've been eating as late as 10 o'clock at night...and I haven't turned into Violet from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory yet! 

Some people thrive on eating five small meals spaced closer together. Others, like me, prefer three big meals with limited snacks. And others' diets change day to day...and all of this is A-OK. 

After all, we all get up and go to bed at different times. We have different jobs whose schedules often determine when we can take a food break. And we have different activity levels and times we enjoy breaking a sweat. Personally, I work out in the morning right after I get up - and I need the carbs I enjoyed the night before to fuel me through my fasted workout. 

casey the college celiac
Like lots of yoga!
When your eating schedule differs from others, eating can feel awkward at times. Sometimes, I feel self conscious munching away when the rest of my family already ate their last snack of the night. But there's nothing wrong with following the eating routine that works for your body. And if your night snack always ends the day on a deliciously sweet note? Well, that's just a bonus.

3. Taste preferences are just as individual as fingerprints.

The differences between my roommates' and my preferred foods never failed to crack me up. Hannah loves anything spicy and never fails to add Sriracha to her Mac n' cheese and soup. Sarah can live off of nut butter (especially white chocolate peanut butter), though she used to endlessly snack on tofu. And Meghan wouldn't be the same without her popcorn

None of our diets are better than the other (though I will say I consume more veggies than the average college bear). And it makes no sense to compare our dinner to someone else's when our cravings are entirely different. Sure, maybe you ordered a burger on Friday night while your friend got a salad. But would you really want to spend $12 on a bunch of lettuce when what you really wanted was a fluffy gluten free bun
Taste preferences also change - day to day and over longer periods of time. Some days, I may eat a paleo dinner like sweet potato salmon sliders. Other days, I may be craving my homemade vegan pizza. If you're going to compare your diet to anything, it should be to your past dietary habits...and even that can be an absurd practice if you've switched from one healthy diet to another.

4. Comparison will distract you from listening to what really matters: your own body.

When people hear that I eat gluten free (even when they don't know the reason), they often praise me for being "so healthy." Yet, I am just as vulnerable to culinary comparison as anyone else. I think that's one of the downfalls of being a perfectionist: even when we find a diet that works for us, we're still always looking for ways to improve

Add perfectionism with the influx of January dieting resolutions, and you have a recipe for disaster

But, this January, I have a different kind of food resolution. It's not to follow any "detox" or a strict diet plan. It's not even to change my weight (though a few added pounds would be appreciated in this freezing weather!). It's just to strip down eating to its roots: feeding my body what it calls for. 

casey the college celiac
More fuel for jumping into the New Year! ;)
That means eating when I'm hungry, not by the clock. Eating meat and plant based protein, not according to what I "should" enjoy but by what I'm craving. Most importantly, it means eating without shame or self-consciousness. Because who knows? I might need that burger just as much as you need those veggies. 

When January rolls into town, diet resolutions often tag along. While I'll always support people trying to transform their health - whether by losing weight, cutting out processed foods or adopting a new dietary lifestyle - their choices shouldn't negatively impact our own. 

After all, it's 2017. And, in my mind, there's no better resolution than an anti-resolution of owning our own body and food choices while ditching culinary comparison back in 2016. 

You are a complex, beautiful, strong, unique human being. Your diet should be just as individual...and just as free. 

*Also found at Saucy Saturdays, Creative Collection Party, Dare to Share, Inspiration Monday, Create Link Inspire!*

Do you ever feel self conscious about your eating preferences or times? Do you have a food-related New Year's resolution this year? Tell me your thoughts!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Secretly Superfood-Packed Slow Cooker Mac N Cheese (Gluten Free, Vegan)

January always comes with a strange mix of recipes in the blogosphere. Half Whole-30-inspired meals for people wanting a healthy kick off to the New Year. Half updated versions of your favorite comfort foods to warm people up from the inside out. After revisiting my original Mac n' Cheese recipe on National Spaghetti Day, though, I wondered: why not have the best of both (delicious) worlds?

And that, my friendly foodies, is when this Secretly Superfood-Packed Slow Cooker Mac N' Cheese (a mouthful, but an accurately scrumptious one, I promise) was born! 

casey the college celiac

While offering the same soft, creamy texture of your favorite childhood dinner, this gluten free and vegan Mac n' cheese gives plenty of nutrients. It's free of most allergens, including gluten, nuts, soy, dairy and eggs. Even better, turmeric gives it a gorgeous yellow color and a boost of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Thanks to its long cooking time, your family will also hardly notice the spiralized veggies hiding inside. It also doesn't hurt that this recipe basically cooks itself in your crock pot. 

Read to dive into your own bowl of creamy, cozy and healthy comfort food? Then gather the ingredients below! 

(Enough Mac n' cheese for 5 decent servings)

9 oz of noodles (I prefer Tinyaka's rice noodles or Bonza's chickpea noodles)
1/4 cup of Daiya Cheese (I prefer mozzarella shreds)
1 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into strips
1 large squash, cut lengthwise into strips
1/4-1/2 cup of chopped broccoli (depending on how much you want)
1/2 cup of unsweetened dairy free milk of choice
1 cup of water (add 3/4 cup initially and the last 1/4 cup after 2 hours)
1 heaping handful of greens (spinach, radish tops, kale, etc)
1/2 tsp mustard powder
Pinch of cayenne 

Vegan Cheese Sauce (adapted from TheVegan8's amazing recipe): 
(You will have lots of extra to enjoy in different ways) 

2 big Yukon potatoes or 1/2 a russet potato, baked or steamed
1/2 large zucchini or squash, steamed 
1/4 cup of water or unsweetened dairy free milk of choice 
Liberal scoop of turmeric powder
Liberal shake of mustard powder
Sprinkle of paprika 
Optional: sprinkle of oregano and/or thyme 

Thanks to your trusty slow cooker and blender, this recipe is super easy to whip up. First, make your cheese sauce (or use your own favorite recipe) by blending all of the cooked ingredients in a high-speed blender. If it seems too thick, add a tablespoon more of water until it reaches your desired consistency. For an extra quick supper, make this cheese sauce ahead of time. It stays good in the fridge for around four days. 

casey the college celiac
Straight from the crock pot...
I've even found that this sauce works just as deliciously after being frozen. To get it back to its creamy state, just warm it up in the oven, on the stove top or in the crock pot. With this recipe, you can just toss in cubes of the frozen cheese and it'll melt as everything else cooks! 

Once you're satisfyingly saucy, start putting the noodles, veggies, Daiya cheese and liquid (using only 3/4 cup of the water) into the crockpot. Then, scoop in some of your vegan cheese sauce. I don't measure how much; just eyeball it and add more or less depending on how cheesy you want it. I'd start with less and add more during the cooking process as needed. While the mac n' cheese may look a bit dry in the beginning, it turns into a (vegan) cheesy monster by the end! 

Then, simply turn your crock pot on low (to cook for 6-8 hours) or high (3-4 hours). I like to cook mainly on low, but crank my crock pot to high for 30 minute intervals every once in a while. This gives the mac n' cheese some crunchy, browned edges while keeping the middle soft and gooey. After two hours, you should add the last 1/4 cup of water and mix thoroughly.

casey the college celiac
I <3 Mac n' cheese!

The cooking time varies depending on the size of your crock pot and how high you put the heat, so just start checking around 4 hours and stir every 1 or 2 hours. You know it's done when the cheese has melted, the veggies are soft to the point of disappearing into the sauce, and you can't find any undercooked noodles.

Eating it is equally simple. For a well-rounded meal, add a source of protein (if your pasta noodles don't already have it) like chickpeas, white beans, ground turkey meat, ham - or, my roomies' favorite, bacon. I also like topping my bowl with some mixed greens and cabbage  for a crunchy element. And, if your stomach needs a healthy boost, you can even pour on a little apple cider vinegar as "dressing."

casey the college celiac
Addicted to that creamy goodness!

While I happily devoured leftovers for dinner five days in a row, you can also freeze containers of this mac n' cheese for later. While it may come out a little drier (depending on if you let it defrost naturally or use your microwave), you can bring it back to life with a little cheese sauce, melted Daiya shreds or even avocado

January, to put it lightly, is a confusing time. Many people are craving a fresh start and trying to adopt new, healthy habits, but others are just trying to survive a cold winter and the start of another busy year

So why not feed your soul and your body by diving into a recipe that's cozy, packed superfoods like turmeric and hidden veggies, and takes 30 minutes or less to prep and throw in the crock pot? 

casey the college celiac
Yes please!
Maybe I'm being cheesy, but that sounds like a  match made in heaven to me! 

What do you crave in January - lots of healthy food, comfort food or a mix? What's your favorite unique add-in to mac n' cheese? Tell me your thoughts below!   

Monday, January 9, 2017

5 Surprising Facts No One Tell You About Eating Gluten Free

I like to say that when celiac disease joined the family, I got several new birthdays as well. My date of diagnosis in May, which is, ironically enough, Celiac Awareness Month. And now National Gluten Free Day.

So no day seemed more fitting than today to share a post I've been contemplating for awhile: the secrets about eating gluten free that you don't realize until you're a few years in. 

casey the college celiac national gluten free day

Do you know everything about eating gluten free? Find out by learning 5 facts no one tells you about eating gluten free!

1. Your taste buds will change

Now, I'm not saying that after hating strawberries for 20 years, you'll go gluten free and suddenly crave pints of strawberry ice cream. However, I'm still amazed my how much my taste buds have adapted to gluten free products. 

For instance, a few weeks after I was diagnosed, my family had a craving for chocolate chip cookies so we decided to experiment with King Arthur's cookie mix. Our conclusion? They were OK...but definitely nothing to write home (or the blog) about. Flash forward two years and my mom ended up using the same cookie mix (without realizing at the time). Those treats disappeared within days, and we couldn't stop raving about how sweet and chewy they tasted - and how they didn't have the funky aftertaste gluten free baked goods are often known for. 

Basically, the old saying, "Out of sight, out of mind" gets a gluten free update of "Out of mouth, out of mind" to describe changing taste buds. After not tasting "normal" chocolate chip cookies for 2+ years, my mom and I could no longer compare these GF cookies to our precious gluten-filled favorites. And when gluten was out of the running, these GF cookies easily took the win

casey the college celiac national gluten free day
I also learned nice cream always makes cookies better!
What does that mean for you? Basically, eating gluten free gets better with time. Your taste buds will forget what gluten tastes like (though, full disclosure, you may still have gluten cravings from time to time) and you'll be able to discover how good gluten free can taste. 

2. Just because a food is gluten free doesn't mean it will agree with your stomach. 

As a celiac, I'm often hit with a variety of worried questions when my stomach throws me for a loop: Was it gluten? Or just an upset stomach? Or something else? Web MD has nothing on my brutal self analysis

However, if you don't feel 100% awesome even while following a strict, cross-contamination-free gluten free diet, you aren't crazy. One of the challenges of gluten free baking and cooking is that, without wheat, chefs need to experiment with different, unique ingredient substitutes. These can include products like xanthan gum, psyllium husk, flax seeds, and so much more.

While these ingredients are great in that they can keep your gluten free muffin from baking like a hockey puck, people can also experience intolerances to these ingredients - intolerances that often surprise them because they've been living for XYZ years and "never had a problem." However, they might have never eaten these ingredients (at all or on such a wide scale) before going gluten free! 

casey the college celiac national gluten free day
All the questions...
My biggest piece of advice? Follow your gut. The feeling that something was wrong may have been what led to your celiac diagnosis, and that feeling could help you feel healthier on a gluten free diet. People who eat gluten probably don't love every single gluten-containing product or meal. Gluten free eaters have the same right

3. Eating gluten free can be as simple or as complex as you want - and no celiac's diet is exactly the same

I still remember the mixed emotions when I got that phone call from my doctor: Yay! I'm not crazy and something really is wrong with me. But a gluten free diet? What even is gluten? 

The truth is, entirely transforming your diet is hard. While time has made following a strict GF diet easier, there are still moments where I hate how "complicated" my eating has to be. Really, though, eating gluten free can be as easy or as complex as you want/need. 

What am I talking about? Let's say that you don't know how to cook that much, you have a busy job and you have a large family to take care of. Food is the last thing on your mind. You can still eat the diet your body needs, though, by following KISS: keep it simple, stupid. Rely on naturally gluten free foods like brown rice, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy (while watching out for cross contamination). Use pre-made meals from companies like Udi's or processed products like Tinkyada rice pasta. Your diet doesn't have to be any more high-maintenance than that. 
On the other hand, maybe you're a foodie whose crushed at the thought of needing to follow a limited diet. All you have to do is avoid gluten - everything else is fair game! You can make anything from comfort foods like chicken pot pie to homemade granola to fancy sauces to unique twists on old favorite foods (like an enchilada-stuffed spaghetti squash). When people ask what you can eat on a GF diet, you can honestly answer: "Anything - as long as it's gluten free." 

The choice of what your GF diet looks like is entirely in your control. My mom and I are both gluten free, but are daily meals look very different. I start the day off with a big smoothie; she prefers buckwheat flakes with a little banana and honey. She eats a sandwich every day; I rarely eat bread. Neither diet is "better" than the other - you just need to find the unique combination that works for you

4. You need to be more aware of nutritional risks, like vitamin deficiencies or arsenic poisoning. 

You've probably heard the old saying, "You are what you eat." When it comes to a gluten free diet, this phrase means you need to pay extra attention to what fills your plate every day. The truth is, gluten free definitely doesn't equate with "healthier" or "free of bad ingredients." In fact, gluten free foods often have more sugar, sodium and calories than their gluten-filled counterparts. Not only that, but many gluten free products aren't fortified with nutrients (like folic aid and iron), which means you may have to work harder to get all of the vitamins you need.

As crazy as it sounds, you also need to watch your arsenic levels. After all, when you scan the ingredients of your favorite gluten free cereal, bread or baked good, what word often pops up? Rice. And that rice can add up fast: a 2014 study found that men and women with celiac disease had arsenic levels almost ten times higher than the suggested amount.

casey the college celiac national gluten free day
See the main ingredient in both of those cereals?

Before you start analyzing everything you eat, though, remember that all of these risks are relative. Only you know how much rice-containing products you actually eat or whether you enjoy a balanced (and nutrition-packed) diet. Need some tips for success? Embrace naturally gluten free foods (like the ones I listed earlier), read your product labels to check for added vitamins, and be aware of how much rice you're eating - or how little vitamins you're getting. You're as healthy as you're willing to work for.

5. A gluten free diet can be just as delicious as a "normal" diet...once you find the right brands and products. 

Okay, maybe some kind soul did tell you this. Maybe it was the nutritionist who met with you at the hospital, or maybe it was your mother, comforting you as everyone else enjoyed Papa John's. However, it may take some time and experimentation for you to believe this piece of wisdom - but I can attest that it's true. 

In the three years since my celiac diagnosis, I've:
  • Eaten more pieces of bland, falling-apart, nasty-after-taste bread than I can count...but recently tasted the best GF roll in my life, thanks to Beyond the Breadbox
  • Cried over not having any GF tortillas in the house...but fallen in love with Food for Life's rice tortillas 
  • Missed out on enjoying countless birthday cakes or cookies handed out in class...but have gone steady with Pamela's Chocolate Cake mix
  • Cried a couple times in restaurants (most famously, at this Outback) when chefs said they understood "gluten free" yet obviously didn't...but have also enjoyed some of the best meals EVER when eating out (that also just happened to be gluten free) 
If I've learned one thing in the trial and error process of thriving with a gluten free diet, it's that trial and error is a necessary right of passage. You learn what products are definitely worth the money, and which to avoid. And that moment you bite into something and it tastes 1000X better than you ever expected? Honestly, it'll blow your mind
In my three years, I've found a handful of companies I consider my edible BFFs - and you can find the list here. However, I also know that every gluten free eater's taste buds is different...and that each person needs to discover some of their own favorite foods. 

When you're diagnosed with celiac disease, you may initially focus on everything you're losing. The freedom to eat anything you want. The gluten-filled foods you've grown up loving. Even being able to kiss a cute certain someone without giving him or her a toothbrush first

However, National Gluten Free Day is also the perfect time to celebrate everything you gain with a restricted diet, like: the motivation to learn how to cook or experiment in the kitchen; the chance to try out different products and companies; and, of course, the pride that emerges when you realize one day, "Wow! I'm actually kicking some gluten free butt!"

Everyone's gluten free journey is unique, but from one celiac to any other diet-restricted foodies, I hope knowing these five, little-known facts about eating GF will make your trip easier

casey the college celiac

And if it helps make you life tastier too? Well, that's just a bonus. 

Did you know that it's National Gluten Free Day? Are there any other GF "secrets" you learned down the road? I can't wait to hear them! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Healthy Chef's Guide to Cooking Gluten Free with Beans

When it comes to beans, people usually fall in one of two categories: they love em' or they hate them. Considering that today is National Bean Day, though, I figured we should celebrate bean lovers...and maybe even convert people in the latter group!

Now, beans and I have always had a good relationship, but we didn't start going steady until I began experimenting with more plant-based meals. Suddenly, I realized: black beans aren't the only legumes who know how to party! White beans, kidney beans, chickpeas...the list ran on and on.

casey the college celiac national bean day

As does the list of how you can work beans into your daily diet. The truth is, beans aren't just for side dishes anymore. They can be the star of an entree or even the secret ingredient of dessert. Ready to celebrate National Bean Day in (delicious) style? Here's a healthy chef's guide bean types, their health benefits, and common kitchen uses - plus plenty of drool-worthy gluten free, vegan and paleo recipes along the way.

1. Black Beans

You may only know black beans for being a plant based source of protein, but this food packs a bigger nutritional punch than just that. Black beans also offer high doses of fiber, folate, copper, manganese, vitamin B1 and magnesium. Studies have also shown that black beans can reduce inflammation, protect against cancer, improve digestive health and stabilize blood sugar levels.

Some common uses for black beans include dishes from Mexican, Brazilian, Dominican, Cuban and Creole cuisines. For instance, you've probably seen black beans inside or served as a side with burritos or tacos, or pureed into a thick soup or dip for chips. To use black beans to the fullest in your own kitchen, you can experiment with recipes like:

*V = Vegan, P = Paleo (in terms of the rest of the ingredients being paleo as beans are not part of a "strict" paleo diet)

casey the college celiac national bean day
Nachos, enchiladas, potatoes...whatever they are, they're delish!

Whether you're sneaking black beans into your dessert or diving into dinner, this plant-based protein is always guaranteed to give your taste buds one heck of a fiesta!

2. Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans

Am I the only one whose mind was totally blown when I figured out that chickpeas and garbanzo beans are the same thing? Or that chickpeas actually taste freakin' delicious? Well, even if I'm alone in those surprises, I'm not the only one enjoying the health benefits of chickpeas.

Chickpeas are one of the oldest consumed crops in the world, filling people's plates for over 7,500 years. As with black beans, chickpeas are high in fiber and protein. They are also packed with manganese, folate, copper, phosphorus and iron. Studies have also shown that chickpeas help maintain blood sugar levels, aid with satiety and weight loss, improve digestion, balance unhealthy cholesterol levels and reduce hypertension.

casey the college celiac national bean day
That purple sweet potato though...

, chickpeas first appeared in Mediterranean countries before spreading to southern France and Germany. Ancient Romans used chickpeas in everything from broths to roasts to stews. As chickpeas became popular in the Middle East, they also appeared in foods like hummus and falafel. Chickpeas are also unique in that you can use with chickpea flour and aquafaba, or the liquid found in a chickpea can! How can you easily add chickpeas to your diet? Try out recipes like:

2016 was the year that I became addicted to chickpeas...and I think these recipes are plain examples why!

casey the college celiac national bean day
Those cookies!

3. Kidney Beans

If you're craving a rainbow for dinner, kidney beans might be your secret weapon: they come in a variety of colors and patterns, including white, black, red, purple, spotted and striped. Besides being rich in protein, kidney beans consist of 78% starch and a good dose of fiber. They also offer high levels of molydenum, folate, iron and copper while helping protect eaters from colon cancer. Be aware, though, that kidney beans are toxic when uncooked or improperly cooked!

For people wanting to lower their meat consumption in 2017, kidney beans may become your new best friend. Combine them with a whole grain like brown rice or gluten free pasta for a complete protein. Because kidney beans hold up well when cooked, you'll often see them in simmered dishes or stews. Another bonus? Kidney beans absorb the flavors they're cooked with well. Some of my favorite dishes include:

casey the college celiac national bean day
Kidney beans = 100X more delicious than they sound!

I'll admit, kidney beans aren't my favorite out of the group...but some of these eats have definitely converted me.

4. White/Cannellini Beans

To round up this celebration for National Bean Day, here are some facts about white beans that you should know. First of all, one cup boasts around 90 calories - which offer 8% of your needed daily calcium, 7.7% of your needed daily potassium needs and 25% of your needed fiber. White beans also can help prevent skin damage (and skin cancer) and can aid people with Crohn's disease. Like other beans, Cannellini also help people regulate blood sugar, reduce high blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight.

casey the college celiac national bean day
Under all of that pesto goodness...

As the Huffington Post has shown
, white beans can appear in a variety of recipes, ranging from dip to plenty of different kinds of soup to chili's to quesadillas. Some of my favorites?

Basically, these recipes show that, when it comes to food, white beans are the new black!

Maybe you're already a legume-lover. Maybe in 2017, you're just hoping to lower your meat consumption - which has been shown to not only make people healthier, but also decrease greenhouse gas emissions and lower health care costs. Either way, National Bean Day is the perfect chance to add some beans to your diet.

casey the college celiac national bean day
Make your pizza and eat it too!

Who knows. After you try some of these tasty recipes - or eat a bean brownies and don't even taste the bean - you might even find yourself asking: "Where have you bean all my life?"

*Also found at VegetarianMama, What's Cookin' Wednesday, Saucy Saturdays, Pretty Pintastic, Creative Collection, Snickerdoodle Sunday, RunningwithSpoons, InspirationMonday!*

What's your favorite type of bean or bean recipe? Do you try to add plant-based protein to your diet? Tell me your thoughts below!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

5 Yoga-Inspired Ways to Turn Health Goals into Healthy Actions

What does hot yoga and New Year's resolutions have in common? More than you would think. 

As I balanced in tree pose during a hot yoga class on New Year's Day, around 62% of Americans were trying to find balance through another method: New Year's resolutions. And while they made a variety of promises - whether to lose weight or spend more time with family - I heard a different kind of resolution: my yoga teacher's mantra of "experiencing what you know." 

You may know that you're determined and kind, but you have to act that way to fully experience those traits. Similarly, you can't just think - or want - to be healthier in the New Year. You have to act to make those resolutions a reality.

casey the college celiac new year's

Not sure how? Here are five yoga-inspired tips to make 2017 your healthiest year yet!

1. Be honest about the "why" behind your goal. 

That morning, I didn't necessarily feel like going to yoga. Even though I didn't stay up until midnight, 8:30 still felt like an early wake up time for Christmas break...and the studio across town seemed pretty far away. Yet, I got up, got dressed, and proceeded to balance, twist and sweat my heart out. Why? Because hot yoga comes with benefits that I can't find in other at-home workouts: detoxification, socialization and even a few spiritual moments. 

When you pick a New Year's resolution, you need to have just as strong of motivations. Have you ever promised to lose weight, get better grades or make more money because of an inner sense of competition instead a craving to improve? Or have you made a yearly goal simply because, when the New Year comes around, you feel like "everybody" does? 

If you're being driven by motivations like these, you probably won't reach the finish line. Studies have shown that succeeding at New Year's Resolutions often requires having a "higher purpose" - like losing weight so you can be healthy enough to play with your daughter. On the other hand, researchers have also found that people succeed more with "prevention goals" than "promotional goals." Promotion goals involve achieving hopes or dreams while prevention goals consist of fulfilling duties or avoiding punishment. 

Basically, the more you have at stake, the more likely you'll be part of the 8% of people who keep their New Year's resolution

2. Choose specific, realistic goals over vague ones. 

At the beginning of every yoga class, the instructor gives a mantra - a spiritual slogan, one might call it - for students to keep in mind. Sometimes it's staying present...which, oddly enough, always makes the class go by faster. Other times it's remembering what you're thankful for, reminding yourself of inner strength or even allowing yourself to ruminate on defeats or struggles. Whatever the mantra, they all have the same purpose: giving students' thoughts a "road map" of sorts to follow during the practice.

casey the college celiac new year's
One of my favorites...
Similarly, the best way to take healthy action is by mapping out exactly what you need to do to succeed. For instance, don't just say, "I want to get my first job." Instead, promise to apply to five positions a week until you get a job within your field that pays at least minimum wage. Or, rather than vowing to "be kinder of people in 2017," say that you'll do four random acts of kindness - from buying someone's coffee to spending thirty minutes talking to your lonely neighbor - each week. 

You want to be realistic about your goals, too. Although we may not want to admit it sometimes, we know how much work and time we're usually willing to dedicate to projects. So, if you know you're out of shape, don't strive to run a marathon by the end of the year. You want to set yourself up to celebrate a productive 2017 - so be honest about what you can do within your time, money and motivational constraints. 

3. Set yourself up for success with the right equipment

So you've got the right goal and the right reason for making it. Now, you need a secret weapon: equipment that will set you up for a win. After all, you don't go to a yoga class without exercise clothes, a yoga mat and water. Similarly, you can't tackle any other challenge without the right gear

This is where making the right investment can really pay off in the end. For instance, if you want to run a marathon for the first time, you may want to invest in a couple of training sessions with a professional. Not only can they help keep you from injuring yourself, but you can also learn valuable tips and techniques for your big day. 

Or maybe you want to drink more water - at least eight 8-ounce cups - each day. If you don't have easy access to clean water, though, you probably need to buy a water (my new and sponsored) Aquagear filter. Your goal for 2017 probably involves doing something "better"...and Aquagear has the same mindset with each filter removing over 2000% more contaminants than Brita. While I won't claim that Aquagear's water filter has turned me into superwoman or changed my life, it has made drinking more and cleaner water much easier as a college student! It doesn't hurt that the filter looks pretty sleek too.
casey the college celiac aquagear
A photo from their website...because my photography skills fail with water filters apparently!

The equation is simple: you can't do your best without having the best equipment at your side. While this doesn't mean you should blow your savings on New Year's resolutions (especially if your resolution is spend less money!), it does mean that your personal growth and self improvement are worth investing in.

4. Learn from your mistakes in previous years. 

Early last year, I made the goal to do a forearm stand in hot yoga. I looked up the proper form online. I found a wall in my college apartment I could balance on until I could hold the pose on my own. So, when my teacher invited us to go into inversions during one of my hot yoga classes, I jumped right in...and flipping myself over, slamming into the mirror. 

While I was (luckily) fine except for a few bruises (and one frazzled yoga instructor), that flip revealed one of my faults: impatience. Now, I recognize that I need to go through all the "boring" baby steps before trying a new, advanced pose. I use my past mistakes to help prevent future ones. 

It's time to apply this yogi lesson to your own history of New Year's resolutions. Do you promise to be more adventurous with your gluten free diet every year, but end up giving up once your schedule picks up? Then try tweaking some of your go-to recipes, like using your favorite enchilada sauce on a spaghetti squash instead of tortillas. Only you know what really caused your previous resolutions to not turn out as amazing as you planned...and only you can pave over those anticipated potholes this time around. 

5. Be flexible and set up a backup plan just in case. 

In my past two yoga classes, one of our ending poses has involved splits. Now, full disclosure, I ain't a split kind of girl. I can now touch my toes (when, years ago, I used to struggle to touch my knees), but I won't be making gymnasts jealous anytime soon. So, I change it up, and sit on a block to help stretch my hamstrings. And - shocker - no one cares

casey the college celiac
With my usual face...
The truth is, only you have the power of deeming your resolution a "failure." Maybe you promised to go to the gym everyday, but you end up running around your neighborhood instead. Some might say you didn't meet your resolution...but I'm not so sure. Of course, if your underlying motivation was making that pricey gym membership worth it, maybe you didn't hit the mark. But if you just wanted to get more active, you definitely checked that box - and, perhaps even more importantly, learned what kind of movement works for you

Instead of trying to exactly meet your resolution, be flexible. Go into crow pose if you're not comfortable doing a headstand. Lower your target monthly books to read from five to three if need be, and don't feel any less proud of your accomplishment. 

After all, the purpose of a resolution isn't - or, at the very least, shouldn't - be perfection. Instead, it's to be better than you were. And I don't know about you, but I think that small, yet consistent, progress beats big talk and no walk everyday! 

When I walk into my hot yoga studio, I never know how I'm going to feel when I walk out. Sometimes, I feel vulnerable after hidden emotions were coaxed out by that day's practice. Sometimes, like on New Year's Day, I feel refreshed and reflective after the mantra truly spoke to my heart. 

You may not have started out the New Year with a hot yoga class, but you can still kick off 2017 with a renewed understanding of how to turn thoughts into action. 

casey the college celiac
Rockin' my Enjoy Life Foods t-shirt!
You should know that you are a successful, powerful, unique individual. Use 2017 to show it. 

So you enjoy mantras during hot yoga? Do you have any New Year's resolutions? Tell me your thoughts! 

Monday, January 2, 2017

4 Secrets Moving Across the Country Taught Me About Thriving with Celiac Disease

For many people, the New Year is equivalent to change. A new date to write on their papers. Some new goals and dreams for the blank slate that is 365 new days. For this college celiac, though, the "newness" of 2017 began a few weeks early when I flew into Colorado.

Let's just say that as soon as I stepped into the terminal and saw my breath, I knew I wasn't in California anymore. 

While I've definitely loved getting to see my family and being "home" (though it's a different one for me), adjusting to Colorado hasn't been without its challenges. And as I was freezing at the local zoo a few nights ago, I realized: I could say the same about celiac disease

casey the college celiac

In fact, the more I thought about it, the harder it hit me: moving across the country actually taught me four secrets that make thriving with celiac disease - or any chronic illness - more possible than ever in 2017.

1. Prepare for success or prepare to despair.

Okay, this tip may sound a little corny and dramatic at first glance. However, when preparation can make the difference between happiness and pain - even life or death - I think a little exaggeration is warranted

The truth is, when I landed in Denver airport, I wasn't prepared for the -10 degree weather. All I had were San Diego clothes that I layered as much as, when I stood outside for five minutes waiting for my shuttle, it's no surprise that my glove-less fingers started to go numb and I started crying from pain. 

casey the college celiac
The most pathetic of all selfies...
Living with celiac disease is similar in a lot of ways. If you don't eat beforehand or bring your own food, the pizza party with friends will probably feel more torturous than fun. If you don't have a list of easy recipes or frozen meals for when time gets rough, you may end up crossing your fingers and eating out at a less-than-celiac-safe restaurant instead. 

It's now been over three years since my celiac diagnosis, and I've come embrace the fact that while I'm low-maintenance in many ways, food isn't one of them. I always have a bar in my purse, food prep whenever possible and call restaurants ahead of time to ask about their gluten free protocol

I can survive weather in the negatives with the right amount of coats, gloves and layers. In the same spirit, I  - and anyone - can thrive with celiac disease as long as we've curved our c's and dotted our i's.

2. Keep trying new things.

Maybe you're a preparation ninja. Your purse mimics Mary Poppins' (if she had celiac disease or an addiction to gluten free snacks and meds, anyway) and you never forget to read your ingredient labels. Even after you find a routine that works for you, though, you should keep experimenting

A few days after I got home, I felt like I was doing purty dang well at building up a winter wardrobe. Long underwear? Check. Thick fuzzy socks? Check. Scarf, hat, gloves and so many layers, I lose count? Check, check and check. Yet, when we went to see the Christmas lights at our local zoo one night, I felt like I was naked. The bitter cold seeped right through my four layers - and it freakin' hurt

The lesson I learned? Well, first of all, always put on one more layer than you think you need. But more importantly, keep looking for new ways to improve your life - like fleece leggings and a winter shirt specially designed for insulation. 

casey the college celiac
My face almost froze like that (bonus points if you realized it was an animal eye)
In the past years, I've similarly kept tweaking my gluten free diet to see what works for me. Yes to probiotics, no to tomatoes. Yes to small amounts of sweet potatoes but definitely no to butternut squash. I'm extremely fortunate to get to partner with companies and try new products that way. However, experimenting as a celiac can also be as simple as buying the new GF cereal that's on sale one week or trying a restaurant with raving reviews on the Find Me Gluten Free app.  

Celiac disease, by nature, is restrictive. It limits what we can eat, what products we can use and, many times, how we choose to socialize or live our lives. Through experimentation, you can take back a little of your control - and possibly make your life even more awesome than before. 

3. Accept - even embrace - moments of discomfort.

Sometimes, though, discomfort is unavoidable. Even once I get some crazy warm clothing, there will still be days I'm cold. That's just a fact created by my cold-blooded nature (my sister inherited my dad's natural furnace abilities) and Colorado's cold weather. But that's not going to stop me from enjoying myself and the beautiful Colorado scenery

Because, honestly, the discomfort is minimal when compared to the joy I get from exploring the outdoors. I get to see huge groups of deer chillin' in a yard across our street. I can revisit the nearby river I loved to walk to this past summer and see the icy designs winter has drawn on the water. My cheeks become frozen in a smile - only partly because of the brittle wind. 

casey the college celiac
A bit chillier of backgrounds!
The longer I've been diagnosed, the easier it is to apply the same mindset to celiac disease. Sometimes, I'm going to attend parties and feel left out, even though I've brought my own food to enjoy. Sometimes I'll even choose to avoid social events (like I did with Thanksgiving) because I don't want to deal with the food offers, my polite rejections and the resulting questions. And sometimes my stomach will freak out for absolutely no reason, and I'll hate that celiac disease keeps me from eating anything like a "normal" 20-something. 

But these bittersweet moment are becoming fewer and farther in between. I've surrounded myself with people who care about me and not about my dietary differences. I've educated my friends so they know what to expect, from my food to my finicky stomach. I've learned that celiac disease, for better or for worse, is part of my identity...and that needing to eat gluten free doesn't make me any less of a bad ass

4. Know that practice makes progress - not perfect.

You've heard the cliche before, whether about your fifth grade math worksheet or challenges at your new job: Practice makes perfect. I'm sorry to ruin your fairytale ending, but I've discovered that advice isn't entirely accurate. My parents have lived in Colorado Springs since July, and they're still discovering plenty of challenges about living in a snowy environment. Like: ice may not melt for weeks, so you need shoes that won't slide. Like: stock up on food before a snow storm because you may not leave the house for a few days. 

casey the college ceilac
Our family photo this year
Even after years of practice, I'm 100% not the "perfect" celiac. I recently discovered the probiotic I used for months contains gluten; since it was gluten free the first time I bought it, I never bothered to check the ingredient list again. The truth is, I'm human. I make mistakes - and while mistakes should be avoided as much as possible when it comes to eating gluten free, I also won't beat myself up for it. 

Because with every misstep comes a lesson. I nearly froze at the zoo; I need to buy clothes specifically designed for winter. I glutened myself with a product I "trusted"; I need to not take GF for granted and always scan the ingredient list. My goal isn't to be perfect - as a celiac or a snow survivalist. Instead, it's to be and do better than before

This New Year, you may have a lot of worthwhile goals you want to check off your list. Maybe it's losing or gaining weight, or maybe you want to spend more time with family and less on your phone. Whatever you're striving for in 2017, just remember: the secrets to thriving in life often emerge from (even seemingly unrelated) challenges. 

casey the college celiac
Walking in a winter wonderland...
Or, in my case, the secrets to thriving with celiac disease may emerge from some very cold, Colorado-livin' feet!

*Also found at What'd You Do This Weekend, Wine'd Down Wednesday, Dare to Share!*

Have you ever moved? What lessons did you learn? Comment below!