Thursday, August 21, 2014

Celiac School Tips with Smart Flour Foods

This post is sponsored by Smart Flour Foods

College textbooks are arriving in the mail, my roommate is texting about dorm colors and teachers' emails are filling my inbox. As hard as it is to believe, this celiac has less than two weeks before its time to head back to college and attack sophomore year! As excited as I am, though, my endless to-do list of reins over my thoughts at night. So when Smart Flour Foods contacted me about writing a post on what to do before stepping into homeroom, I couldn't say no!

How could I say no to the maker of this?
Smart Flour Foods focuses on providing nutritional, delicious gluten free products from pizzas to hamburger buns. All the food uses a particular "Smart Flour" blend, a mix of ancient grains, to skyrocket the amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in every bite.

Preparing for school is a lot like finding the ideal flour blend: it takes lots of mistakes and practice to finally get it right. Here are three tips from Smart Flour Foods and me that'll take the stress out of school planning.

First off, take advantage of 21st century technology and communicate with your school officials. In terms of the lower schools (high school and earlier), Smart Flour Foods suggests contacting the teachers in charge of snack time, the school nurse and other relevant members of staff.

Talk it out!
In my experience, at the college level, the two most important people to get in contact with are those in charge of the Disability Resource Center and the staff involved in the dining facilities (including the manager and chefs). The Disability Resource Center is important because, depending on the set up of the school, a student can document his or her celiac disease/food allergy and therefore be eligible for accommodations. In my case, I have medical files about my celiac diagnosis that justifies special cafeteria accommodations, emails to my teachers about long-term celiac related absences, and more.

As for the cafeteria staff, try to learn the most possible about their procedures and allergy protocol before day one. There is nothing more stressful on the first day of school than walking blind into the cafeteria, starving but unsure what is safe to eat. In my case, my cafeteria has a new manager this upcoming school year who is apparently going to try to prevent cross contamination of the gluten free stations. My email requesting further details hasn't been answered yet, but I still have introduced myself and my dietary needs before school actually starts. Mission (at least partly) completed!

Make friends with the chef!
Second, step onto campus fully loaded - with food, of course! When I first left for college last year, food only took up one of my bags. That was a mistake my growling and jealous stomach wouldn't let me forget! This year, I'm bringing an entire arsenal of food ranging from homemade granola to power up my breakfast to protein bars for between classes! 

Equally as important as snacks, though, are actual meal substitutes. No matter how awesomely understanding the cafeteria staff may be, mistakes will happen. A few times I walked out of the cafeteria still hungry after my meal order got lost. For those kind of cases, bulk up on items like soup (I love Gluten Free Cafe's Chicken Noodle), cereal, and frozen meals (I can personally vouch for the delicious taste and texture of Smart Flour Food's frozen pizza). 

Mom and I approved the pizza!
And, if Lady Luck has provided a kitchen, take advantage of it! I have a dorm kitchen for the first time this year so I'm also packing a few basic cooking utensils, flour mixes (midnight pancakes, anyone?) and grains (like quinoa and buckwheat) so I can whip up my own dinner when the mood strikes (or the cafeteria fails). 

Lastly, though, try not to over-stress about planning for everything. Anyone who knows how Type-A I can act is laughing right now, but this is a tip I'm actively trying to follow myself. There will be forgotten necessities (can someone remind me to add baking powder to my shopping list?) and unexpected events. I knew I was surprised when my Psychology group wanted to have a pancake breakfast and I didn't have a gluten free mix on hand! The fact is, though, being unprepared every so often didn't taint my whole freshman year experience. It only gave me more insight on how to make next time - this sophomore year - even better!

Topping this? Challenge accepted!
One of Smart Flour Foods's suggestions is to make the experience of planning and making food a fun activity. I couldn't agree more! As I start my "To-Bring-Food" list, I'm thinking of all the fun I'm going to have cooking with my roommate and fueling my college adventures, not what ingredient I could be missing. That's what grocery stores are for! 

In past years, the end of summer had always been a period of mourning. This year, my last two weeks filled with planning and preparation, is different. It's celebratory and my bags of stuff and snacks are a sign of the adventures to come. With the three tips Smart Flour Foods and I have shared above, I hope preparing can be the same for you! 

What's the food you can't go to class without? Have you ever tried a product by Smart Flour Foods? Comment below!  

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Story of the Elimination Diet, Part 1

If I'd been asked how to define an "elimination diet" a few months ago, my best guess would have had something to do with an assassination plot to "eliminate all threats." That's just how my brain rolls. Now that two weeks have passed since I started my diet adventure, though, a new definition is forming: Hard. Restrictive. (Hopefully) healing.

If you've been following my recent posts, you've heard about my continued struggle to gain weight, the random rash popping up on my face despite three rounds of Prednisone, and how my stomach still likes to throw fits. After trudging out of the offices for the allergist and dermatologist empty handed, I knew I had to do something to win back the reins to my health. Cue the elimination diet, started the day after I flew back from my Houston vacation.

My last hurrah the day before I flew out!
There are many different kinds of elimination diets, but I am following the typical comprehensive elimination diet suggested for those trying to discover food intolerances. Websites vary on the exact details of what to eat and what to lock in the house safe, but the basic outline is this: no gluten (wow, that was a challenge!), dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, fast food, legumes, certain spices, etc. Because I didn't want to lose any weight, I kept some of the ingredients that some avoid, like a few pieces of soy-free chocolate, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and limited sweeteners.

The diet is followed for at least three weeks, the time it takes for inflammation in the body from food intolerances to subside. After three weeks, the reintroduction starts. One restricted food twice a day for two days - any side effects, it stays restricted. If the tummy's happy, it can stay.

I thought the three weeks would fly by. "I'm already gluten and (mostly) dairy free," I thought. "I survived freshman year of college! Bring it on!"

I figured I'd climbed bigger mountains...
It brought it. And, honestly, it kinda stinks at times. To anyone with numerous extreme food allergies - now I know a fraction of your pain and all I can say is that I'm sorry. I miss my baked goods, fluffy yet solid with the aid of eggs. I miss Red Robin and Chipotle, who disappeared from my diet right after entering. And I - a lover of repetition and no-think cooking - even miss the small amount of variety I used to enjoy. I knew I was limited when I started worrying about how bored my Instagram followers must be feeling!

But you know what? Even though I still have a week to go, I've already learned so much. I've explored a corner of gluten free cooking previously ignored: the masterpieces that can be formed through vegan and gluten free cooking. In many ways, I want to shake celiac's hand for triggering my passion for cooking. As my ingredient list shrunk, that passion has only grown. I'm one step closer to finding the balance between enjoying a meal's simplicty yet experimenting without fear.

I learned that ground chia seeds make an awesome egg substitute in coconut flour pancakes.

One goooooood breakfast!
After my "baking soda biscuits" - free of every traditional binder and fluffer - actually rose, I nearly searched my oven for fairy dust!

And, as I write this, my kitchen smells like Christmas cookies thanks to the three trays of chocolate chip and trailmix beauties I baked this morning.

Not too shabby!
I'm hopeful that this diet will unlock the key to a happy body by ferriting out the foods that are fighting with my stomach. I'm hopeful that, new information in hand, I'll be that much more ready to tackle my sophomore year as a college celiac!

Even if it doesn't give me all that I want, though, I'm counting it as a win. Now, I know even more how to empathize with those suffering from food allergies. Now, I understand how vegans survive without eggs and dairy. And, now I know that throwing ingredients into a bowl and praying for culinary magic (sometimes) actually pans out (I had to throw at least one cooking pun in there!).

My "kitchen sink" rice and pesto patties!
There are a lot of different definitions for an elimination diet. Negatives, postives, and a bunch more in between. My recent favorite? Training for my sophmore year of college. If I can stay dedicated, determined and confident with food on the brain, doing it with books will be a breeze!

Have you ever done an elimination diet? How inventive are you in the kitchen? Comment below!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Celebrating Change, 100 Posts and Sophomore Celiac

Change. If this past year of mine - and my blog itself - boasts a theme, that's it. I've transformed from a gluten-eating, Papa-John-lovin' teenager to a dedicated celiac. Homemade banana bread, pizza, pesto and more has joined my previously bare cooking repertoire. I've even left home for the first time, surviving my freshman year at college

My first gluten free apple pie!
As I stared at my blog stats this morning, all I could think of when I saw the "105th post" marker was how I've changed since my fingers pressed "publish" for the first time over a year ago. I've never been the kind of writer to stay dedicated to one media - and the handful of unfinished journals stashed around my room prove it. When I started "Casey the College Celiac," I had no idea I'd hit over 37,000 views, share my thoughts over 100 times and make dozens of digital friends. Surprise! 

The bigger surprise? How much this blog has changed me. I've become an obnoxiously loud advocate for celiac disease, opening up my medical file for the entire Internet to explore. I treat my computer like a best friend, whispering insecurities - physical, dietary and everything in between - through my Arial front. Encouragement from strangers all over the globe has strengthened me more than the gluten free diet itself. 

Friendly support helped too!
Strangely enough, when I look back at my early posts (with the same bashful shame that a high schooler feels when reviewing their middle school yearbook), I can see sparks of my recent work. Worries about body image. Reviews of my favorite gluten free foods. And, of course, fretting over my upcoming freshman year of college. 

This year, college will be delightfully different. I have a roommate who already knows that celiac and I are a package deal. I have a car (in my school, freshmen and wheels are prohibited to cohabitate) to take me to some nearby gluten free grub. I even have a kitchen in my dorm this year! Midnight cookies are definitely on the top of my to-do list this semester.

My magnificent kitchen!
Sure, arranging gluten free accommodations with the PLNU cafeteria still triggers nightmares, and I'll still be pizza-less during club meetings. Yet, unlike last year, I'm healthy. I'm underweight, but my celiac is in remission, my spirits are up and my mind is refreshed. Not to mention that, thanks to last year, I like to think I dance the celiac-college jig pretty well. Come at me, sophomore year! 

I don't have long to wait. In less than three weeks, school will change my reading material from blogs to textbooks. Despite the hints of fear in the edge of my mind, though, I'm smiling as I pack my things. By the end of this year, I hope to be transformed again. Stronger. Smarter. Happier

Let's see where the road takes me now!
As for the blog, 100 posts is only the first celebratory number. (One thousand, I'm talking 'bout you!). Starting this sophomore year, I'm going to share more. Not only my struggles, but my successes. This baby is also going to celebrate more than just celiac - it's going to celebrate sophomore year, teenage adventures and culinary experimentation. 

When I started my blog and freshman year of college, I was equally clueless about the transformation I would experience. Now, I know change is coming. And I'm counting down the minutes.

What are you celebrating right now? What was your favorite year of school? Comment below!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Finding College Celiac Support

College - especially freshman year - isn't easy for anyone, but as I've shared through this blog, mine boasted its share of challenges. Homesickness. Freshman orientation. And, of course, lots of celiac complications

As the clock ticks down on my summer vacation, however, only one thought is filling my mind: Soon, I'll be back at Point Loma, adventuring with all the amazing gals and guys I met last year!

My hall of girls!
The fact is, I wouldn't have survived without my personal campus cheerleaders. The girls in my dorm. The teachers whose lessons surpassed the classroom. Not to mention the chefs that kept my belly (and my spirits) full. 

Thanks to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, I have the valuable opportunity to share my story about the support that I found as a college celiac and the resources that every student with special diets should reach out to. 

'Cause even though I can remember awkwardly standing away from the buffet table during Freshman Orientation, flashes of midnight dares (like wearing 50 T-shirts at once - I did it!), teachers' encouragement  and unfiltered laughter pops into my brain more often. And, as my summer trickles to an end, these people are the reason I'm beyond excited for school to start. 

This view doesn't hurt either...
To hear about the support I found in detail, click here for my full article. Also, while you're there, don't forget to explore the NFCA's amazing website packed full of information, resources and stories

What support have you found? Has anyone ever changed your perspective on celiac/dietary restrictions? Comment below! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Happy: Houston Highlights

Happiness. It's elusive and wily. Almost indescribable. Three days since I arrived back in San Diego from my family visit to Texas, though, I keep finding happiness in the memories that won't stop popping into my mind.

Happiness is: walking into the Xoco-latte bakery in Sugarland, Texas and staring at the cabinets piled with gluten free goodies. The bakery's name originates from the Spaniards, who learned of a "magical" energizing drink that the Aztecs made with cacao. We tangled our tongues over the French pronunciation, laughing at our failed accents.

Can you pronounce it?
The number of shelves was overwhelming. Four types of cookies. Our favorites? I devoured the dark chocolate chip, whose sweet dough was peppered with tiny chocolate chips. Mom preferred the cacao butter cookies. We tried to nail down what made them taste so spectacular - creamy with only the slight sweet edge of cacao - but ran out of cookies before we figured it out.

Then there were the house-made chocolates, like a pumpkin bread truffle covered in dark chocolate that I sampled. Swoon. Against the sweetness of the pumpkin bread, the dark 72% chocolate gave a delicious bite. We walked out of the store with bags full of cookies, breads, and cupcakes. The entire week of our visit, we devoured them. Happily.

All the choices...
Happiness is: walking through a giant mouth in the Houston Health Museum, awed by the theatrics that is the human body. I don't give mine its full credit some times. I rant about its shortcomings, push its limits and wish for quicker healing. Yet, the entire time we walked around the museum, I couldn't help but be amazed

The giant head...
I was amazed by the amount of other organisms (most of which we are - happily - oblivious of) that our body hosts and the feet of organs that are stuffed inside our skin. Our smiles were the widest, though, at the Mirror of Heredity, a station that takes your picture and alters your gender and/or race. 

As I stared at the male version of myself, I couldn't help but laugh. Not my most attractive alternative...yet, it was astounding, too, to think of the chances. The chances that I could've been Christopher instead of Casey. The chances that everything would've been so different. I'm happy it isn't. 

Me and my alter ego
Happiness is: gorging at the Ruggles Green with family. When my aunt gave me the mission to find a gluten free friendly restaurant near the Heights to eat at, I chose Ruggles Green for its overflowing local, fresh and GF options. You know you're in a place that takes organic seriously when they have a wall full of dozens of different organic mustard flavors...

For lunch, I tried their turkey burger on a gluten free bun with the quinoa side salad. The turkey burger tasted fresh, fully cooked yet moist. I loved that I could have daiya cheese melted on the top - and could even choose between mozzarella and cheddar cheese. 

Meal one...
As for the bun, it tasted soft and springy and held its own against the (gargantuan) burger. The quinoa side salad was a new experience for me, but the mix of quinoa, cucumber and tomato offered an awesome, slightly fruity crunch. The ticket to happiness, though? The gluten free label on my plate!

We also ate at Ruggles Green for dinner and I downed the salmon salad. It was probably the best salmon I've ever tasted - moist, packed with flavor and spiced in chipotle and honey sauce. The salad greens, shaved carrots and cheese also disappeared quickly. No complaints here!

My salmon dinner!
My favorite happiness? Family. 

All the family

The grandma, uncle and sis!

And all the pictures

Girls day out!
I savored the food that filled my belly and treasured the knowledge that filled my mind, but the people that filled my arms during our visit were the real highlights of my trip. Because, as hard as happiness can be to find, family is always the place to start.

Have you traveled this summer? What are you happy doing? Comment below!

Thursday, July 31, 2014


It's a question that's haunted the human mind for centuries. The mirror asks it of young girls, all flat chests and prebuscent hips. Exhausted new mothers gaze at their babies and shake their heads. Even business men in power suits can't escape the worry: "Am I enough?"

I've sumo-wrestled this issue before: celiac and body image, the struggle for self love. I even thought I vanquished it from my mind - as much as a teenage girl can in this society, anyway. But, during my family vacation to Houston, it's popped up again. Even after a day full of city exploration, thrift store shipping and simple conversation, I can't stop picturing me - the weirdo with celiac disease - as a burden

At the ice cream parlor! (I ate a Microbar)
I've been dreaming of my summer vacation to Houston ever since I incinerated the last final of my freshman year. As a marine brat, I grew up on wheels instead of in grandma's kitchen. So, underneath the skyscrapers and freeway exhaust, Houston has always felt like my one stable home. Hot (Hellfire hot) as it may be. 

So, I walked out of the Houston airport feeling confident about living gluten free in the Lonestar State. Heck, I thought, I survived a road trip from Cali to Colorado. I survived a gluten-oblivious Outback at Utah! I can survive anything! 

Texas ain't got nothin' on me! I thought...
Except, I didn't account for the memories stamped on every street corner from my summer visits as a child. The BBQ stop with the best brisket in town. Sweet Tomatoes, where we'd binge on salad, flat bread and a brownie with soft serve. I started drooling before I even saw the sign for Lenny's, home to my favorite (gluten-filled) chicken salad sandwich

And then there's the stress of planning. Like with the roadtrip, I came fully loaded. Restaurant list? Check. Find me Gluten Free App? Got it. And a suitcase full of special food? Yep, we snuck that through security. And yet, as successful as my eats have been (full reviews of which are coming soon!), some nights I just wanted to curl up and cry because I couldn't have Whataburger with the rest of the family. 

My version of Whataburger…thanks Red Robin!
I know my family loves all of me, even the celiac. They've told me multiple times that they'll take me wherever I need to go to get safe, good food. No questions, no complaints, no worries. Just love. But, I hate forcing them to face the crowds of Chipotle during rush hour because that's all I can eat. I hate cracking open the piggy bank to pay for my special grub

What I hate most, though, is the jealousy that can fill me when I glance at my younger sister. Not only because she can devour fried shrimp and chicken fingers with nary a stomach rumble, but also because I see Hannah growing into such an interesting, intelligent young woman whose life is dominated by random facts, animal obsessions and more books that a retired librarian. A woman whose life doesn't depend on checking the box: "gluten free." 

Always on the look out!
So far, my trip to Houston has been an astounding mix of contrasts. A careful (hungry) child to a planning college student. My pre-diagnosis dining adventures vs my deliberate (and still terrified) gluten free eats. Even my sister and I. 

Yet, one thing hasn't changed: my reflection in the mirror. Staring back at me is the same skinny yet slightly toned, determined girl that I've watched emerge for 18 years. When celiac jumbled my diet, it jumbled my identity as well. Now, food isn't my life, but it's a big part of it. It's my hobby. My health. My hope for healing. And, yes, it is also a rock that can weigh me down. 

I have family behind me!
But as I lay here in bed near midnight after a day of feasting, family, and fun, I nod to myself. Because, celiac or not, I am unique and interesting and unlimited in my own way. Celiac or not, I have the right to eat without worry and the permission to accept others' flexibility when offered. 

Simply put, I am enough. And so are you. 

Do you ever feel like a burden because of your dietary needs? Do you ever think that celiac/food allergies hold you back from your full potential? Comment below! 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

GF Life 24/7 Guest Post: Surviving as College Celiac

Celiac disease has taken this teenager on quite a journey. I've hit the books in college, played pool around an IV in the hospital and, most recently, left gluten free footsteps across the country during a family roadtrip from California to Colorado.

Celiac has taken me to some strange places...
Some of the most exciting steps of my adventure, though, have occured right on this computer screen! Like writing a guest post for Kaila from GF Life 24/7!

Kaila is a fellow celiac and sufferer of food allergies who runs her own blog about surviving in a world dominated by food. She's topping off her summer with a roadtrip from Wyoming to Canada for the Stratford Festival and was nice enough to invite me to fill her digital shoes for a day!

So, without further ado (I love that phrase!), pop on over to Kaila's amazing blog to hear my top 4 tips for present and future college students!

To Kaila's blog we go!