Monday, August 3, 2015

Chia Seeds: Tips and Tricks with Mamma Chia

Before I embarked on my gluten free diet thanks to a celiac disease diagnosis, the only "chia" I knew of were the pets with grass for hair. (Anyone whose ever heard of the "Ch-ch-ch-chia" theme song on the chia pet commercials can probably relate to my childhood memories!). The one thing more love-able than plant pets, though? Delicious, nutritious food. And chia seeds prove to be just that.

Chia powered breakfast and attire!
Chia seeds, in a nutshell (food pun intended as usual), are small seeds that will expand and form a gel when combined with liquid. The longer they sit, the thicker a paste the chia seeds will form. Because of this, chia seeds can not only act as egg substitutes in baking, but also as bases for pudding, (oatless) oatmeal, smoothies and dozens of other foodie delights!

Beyond their versatile taste, they also are a powerhouse of nutrients. When compared gram to gram, chia seeds respectively provide more omega-3, antioxidants, calcium, potassium, protein and fiber than salmon, blueberries, milk, bananas, soy beans and flax seeds.  Basically chia seeds prove that good things come in small packages. Very small packages in this case.

Big punch in a small package!
Chia seeds can be purchased dry or already mixed in with a variety of liquids. For instance, one of my favorite pre-packed snacks is a Chia Squeeze by Mamma Chia, which mixes chia seeds with fruit and vegetable juice. I love having both versions on hand. Dry seeds lets someone new to chia sprinkle only a spoonful over yogurt or cereal in the morning, while premixed varieties can be quick, tasty fuel. A chia lover like myself has tried mixing the seeds into any and every kitchen concoction, but I do have a few favorite combos.

First, no bowl of oatless oatmeal is complete without a tablespoon or two of chia seeds mixed in. Not only does it add a crunchy texture, but the chia seeds will also up the oatmeal's staying power. And if you fall head over taste buds for a thick porridge, chia seeds are the key. The ending result? Creamy. Fluffy. And dense enough to fly your spoon as a vertical flag. If you prefer a thinner consistency but still want the nutrition boost, just add more liquid. The more chia seeds you add, the more water or milk will be needed!

A few of my favorite breakfasts...
Anyone who has seen my Instagram also knows that I'm addicted to thick, creamy smoothie bowls every color of the rainbow. What they may not know is that a tablespoon of chia seeds (or a couple spoonful of Mamma Chia's Vitality drink) accompanies the fruit and veggies in my blender. Now that I'm rocking a Vitamix (my self-given reward for surviving two years of college with a 4.0!), I don't bother grinding up my chia seeds before adding them to my smoothie mixture. For those using a less powerful blender, however, you can grind up the seeds in a food processor, coffee grinder or blender. Chia powder + smoothie ingredients = a smoothie bowl true to the "smooth" name!

When I'm craving a snack or a breakfast on-the-go, chia seed pudding (perhaps the most obvious use of chia seeds) win the day. As I mentioned in my coconut milk cheat sheet, chia seed pudding is a creamy, refreshing and protein-packed goodie that can be personalized for each individual. If you want to try making you own, I suggest a liquid to chia seed ratio of 2:1, adding whatever spices, yogurt and fruits desired. Leave it to rest for at least 2 hours (I love leaving it overnight) and presto! Pudding free of gluten, dairy and most other allergens! If I'm feeling lazy or busy, I'll pour a Chia Squeeze in a bowl, throw on some toppings and devour!

And some chia-tastic snacks!
My final favorite chia use? Granola! (What a surprise considering my addiction, right?). I usually add a fourth of a cup of chia seeds to my homemade granola. Not only does it help form clusters, but it also packs a punch of crunch! When I have one laying around, I'll use a Chia Squeeze as the granola base for its fruity taste and, in most flavors, the included vegetable puree. Granola that tastes good and does good - nothing better for this gal!

When I was younger, Chia pets held all the magic. They had growing grass for hair after all! Considering I devour at least a couple tablespoons of chia seed a day, though, I think chia seeds are the new magic wands. They're versatile. They're packed with nutrients. And they can help make one killer breakfast or snack. Can you say, "De-de-delicious?"



Have you ever eaten chia seeds? Have you tried any Mamma Chia products? Comment below!







Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gluten Free Food: The Double Standard

As a young girl, I was never shy around food. My parents used to joke that, unlike other families with girls, they had no worries about me or my sister eating enough. I ate a lot, enjoying the surprised look on my waitress's face when she picked up my empty plate. I ate what I felt like. And that was that.

casey the college celiac
Through the years...
Then came celiac disease. A fear of food for a short period of time; a struggle to adapt to my new gluten free diet for a long time. The most recent dietary dilemma hitting me, though? The double standard that plagues anyone who eats a gluten free diet for a medical reason like celiac disease or gluten intolerance. More specifically, the conflicting stereotypes of gluten free as "healthy" and "gross."

Everyone with access to a newspaper, computer or a "hip" friend has seen the influx in gluten free fad diets. Gluten is the devil! Gluten free is healthier. Avoiding gluten will make that extra weight just fall off. (Even the gluten free cookies and cakes, obviously!) During my freshman year of college (which intersected with my struggle to gain weight and heal from celiac damage), many of my new dorm mates would say was, "Wow! I was I had celiac disease so I was skinny like you!" or "At least you have a disease that forces you to eat healthy!"

casey the college celiac
Freshman year!
And though I never said it in quite these words, I often thought, "Screw that. Wanna trade?"

The fact is, my diet has transformed for the better since my diagnosis. Gone is the girl who struggled making a baked potato - instead, I often make three meals and several snacks a day. More veggies and fruits, less processed food, and better qualities of meat. That's what the gluten free diet looks like for me. But, I could just as easily gorge on gluten free brownies, chocolate mug cakes, french fries from a contamination-safe fryer and pizza. It's all free of gluten (the "bad" stuff), right?

casey the college celiac
Gluten free = delicious, but not necessarily healthy!

So when people say I'm a healthy eater because of celiac disease, I want to tell them that's just a misunderstood stereotype. I'm gluten free because of celiac disease. I'm a healthy eater by choice. Just like everyone else.

On the flip side of gluten free food is the "gross" stereotype. The societal mindset that makes me embarrassed to bring gluten free desserts to a school event or, when I do bring them, apologize with a mild shrug. This double standard emerges mainly out of ignorance - people fear (or, in this case, at least stick their tongue out at) what they don't know. And I sure didn't have a clue how a gluten free chicken pot pie really tasted until a year after my diagnosis.

casey the college celiac
The typical "gluten free" faces!
When new people - friends, family, classmates or even strangers - see my food, two reactions usually occur. Sometimes they say, "Wow, that looks really good!" And while I love the praise, I can't help but hear the unspoken ending, "for something gluten free." Other times, it's more blatant with something like, "No offense, but your food doesn't look very good." I usually laugh it off, but that doesn't mean offense isn't slightly taken.

The truth is, I don't need a reminder of how much I'm "missing out" on that soft, crunchy loaf of French bread. I don't need a reminder of how "weird" my new normal food may be. What people do need a reminder of? Not to judge a book - or a gluten free burger - by its cover...err, bun. When I first began to eat my veggie-packed smoothie bowls, my dad often asked, "How is your...concoction today?"

casey the college celiac
The Nutribullet has a new beloved!
Nearly a year later, now he's the one eating - and loving - a smoothie concoction at least once a day.

Gluten free foods, most often, don't taste like their gluten-filled alternatives. If they did, I'd be concerned actually. But they're the only options for my plate. And if my Instagram is good for anything, it's to prove that gluten free isn't a synonym for gross. My gluten-loving family and boyfriend can attest to that.

The little girl who ate everything in sight and the celiac teenager whipping up gluten free grub have experienced a lot of changes - not only in diet, but also in perspective towards food. For the first time, I can relate to feeling self conscious about my plate. To having my diet generalized to a "healthy" fad to worrying whether what I'm eating is normal enough.

casey the college celiac
Fueling up for a fun life!
My diet is not here to be judged, over-analyzed or broken down into society's stereotypes. Neither am I.  So I'm going to follow my younger self's advice: eat whatever (celiac-safe) food I like. And enjoy shocking others - not with how much I eat, but how much drool my gluten free food can incite!


*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*


Do you ever feel judged because of your gluten free food? What other gluten free stereotypes do you notice? Comment below!




Monday, July 27, 2015

Coconut Milk: Tips and Tricks

Since my diagnosis, I've gone a long way from the teenager who could barely cook a baked potato. Having limited sources of safe food at college served as one killer motivator to learn how to cook, that's for sure!

Cooks - especially those with celiac disease - are only as good as their kitchen ingredients, however. Which I why (at my mom's suggestion) I'm going to highlight a few of my favorite edible ninja tools in the next few weeks. 

My first favorite cooking ingredient!
And with temperatures rising for summer, what ingredient is a better start than canned coconut milk

Once dairy and I stopped getting along, I tried a rainbow of dairy free milks. Almond. Rice. Flax. Coconut (in the carton). But while I still use Rice for certain baking recipes, the creaminess (and limited ingredients) of canned coconut milk won over my taste buds in the end. 

Tons of dairy free options, as this post explains!
While other dairy free alternatives do offer enriched vitamins or preservatives, coconut milk from the can usually just contains coconut, water and possibly guar gum. I started using coconut milk to easily gain weight thanks to its high calorie and fat content. Now that I've reached a mostly stable weight, I usually buy Sprouts' Lite Coconut Milk instead. Either way, the canned milk is a good source of healthy fats and iron. 

My favorite ways to use it? First of all, it makes for the perfect smoothie bowl or banana ice cream base! I was shocked at how much creamier (and addictive, you've been warned!) my breakfast became by adding only a few tablespoons of coconut milk. To make the addition even easier to smoothies, try pouring and freezing coconut milk into an ice cube tray. Cube o' creaminess in a few hours! 

Super creamy thanks to some coconut milk magic!
Coconut milk also transforms chia seed pudding from a protein packed breakfast to a worthy dessert. My favorite dessert at True Foods Kitchen is their coconut banana chia seed pudding. By using coconut milk as the liquid base, my at-home attempts turned out just as scrumptious

For those walking on more of the savory side, here's a recipe I stumbled upon that turns the typically dairy-packed white pizza into one of this celiac's favorite pizza sauces. By boiling coconut milk (optionally adding a little rice milk too) and lots of spices (oregano, thyme, turmeric and a bit of cayenne), a thick, cheesy-like sauce emerges. Toss it on a gluten free pizza crust (I love the recipe here!), add your favorite toppings and, one oven stay later, a creamy white pizza is born! 

Coconut milk "cheese sauce" hiding under the toppings!
Finding safe, tasty foods as a newly diagnosed celiac can feel like a trip down the rabbit hole. So many options, yet so few familiar choices. That's why, whether canned coconut milk is your individual jam or not, I wanted to share one of the most versatile and tasty tools from my kitchen. 

Cause to me, using canned coconut milk is anything but coo-coo

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*


What is your favorite dairy/non dairy milk to use? What are some of your secret weapons in the kitchen? Comment below! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Canyon Bakehouse Bagels and Brownies!

Since my celiac diagnosis, there have been many big changes. No gluten, obviously. But also no bagels, mini cinnamon ones of which dominated my freshman year of high school. And brownies, to taste like the gluten-filled ones from my childhood, usually take an oven and a bit of time.

Until Canyon Bakehouse released its new gluten free bagels and brownies, just in time for summer. Available as both Plain Bagels and Everything Bagels, the bagels are all made of whole grains and free of additives, soy, dairy, nuts or GMOs. The brownies boast a similarly clean ingredient list.

The goodies have arrived!
For my review, I received a sample package of Everything Bagels and Brownies. Which, unfortunately arrived the day after I left for my Texas vacation. Never fear, though! My parents stuck them in the freezer until I returned and moved them to the kitchen counter to defrost. Within 24 hours I had a fresh batch of soft baked goods ready for tasting! In my mind, this makes the bagels and brownies the perfect treats to keep in the freezer and defrost when the mood strikes - if you aren't always in the mood anyway!

When I first saw the bagels, I was surprised by two factors. First, the size: they're huge and can definitely hold their own against gluten rivals! Second, the smell. The shipping box smelled like Eau de Bagel after its trip to California! A small warning: for those who aren't a big fan of onion and garlic (like me, sadly!), these Everything Bagels do pack an olfactory punch.

Told you the bagels are big!

Whatever their size and smell, I am a big fan of the bagels' texture. Springy and soft in the middle, seeded (with poppy, sunflower and sesame seeds) and crunchy on the exterior. My sister (a proud gluten-eater) agreed to help me taste test, and thought it tasted just like a "regular" bagel, though perhaps a bit more dense. I think I'd enjoy the Plain Bagels more, but for those craving a unique and powerfully seasoned bagel, this flavor offers "everything" they need!

My favorite product, I'll admit, is the brownies! Both in shape, size and texture, they remind me of the gluten-filled brownie bites that I would often eat as a child. (And I know a certain Grandma of mine, though she eats gluten, would adore these!) The brownies are a decent size - ideal for a treat that will fill the tummy but not the jeans! - and combine crunchy, chewy, and crumbly textures into one delicious bite.

Can you tell I was a bit excited?
I also love how the chocolate flavor tastes distinct, but not overwhelming. I tried my brownies alone as dessert, but also dressed them up with coconut yogurt, granola, sunflower butter and berries for a late night snack. Either way, the brownies impressed me for a pre-made dessert and, if I ever had to buy brownies for an allergy-friendly school function, this would be my first choice. 'Cause what's better than a dessert that kids and teens and adults, gluten and gluten-free eaters, enjoy alike?

I've already loved Canyon Bakehouse for its bread, which my Mom eats for lunch everyday and I splurge on in a Thanksgiving green bean casserole. With their bagels and brownies, Canyon Bakehouse has done it again. Soft and dense texture. Enough spiced and chocolate flavor to mimic gluten-filled cousins. I doubt I'd eat these products on a daily basis - but for a splurge, a pre-celiac craving or even a meal that looks just like my boyfriends' on a picnic date, I know what bagels and brownies I'd go for.

Polka dots, bagels and big brownie mugs!
Thanks Canyon Bakehouse for bringing a couple old favorite treats back in reach for this celiac!


*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link love!*


Would you be a Plain or Everything Bagel fan? What's your favorite pre-made gluten free dessert you've tried so far? Comment below!




Monday, July 20, 2015

National Girlfriends' Day: Health Tips

Every day is a holiday we don't know about. This is true on a literal - I mean, who knew that July 24th is National Drive Thru Day - and a metaphorical level. This August 1st, however, I know exactly what I'll be celebrating: the CDC's National Girlfriends' Day, which emphasizes the power of friendship on health.

A snapshot from the CDC!
Now, "health" is a highly personalized and slippery subject. And that's why the support of a girlfriend can be so important. And why I choose to break down "health" into six ways I challenge and am challenged to live better every day.

Help one another through hard times. Perhaps even more challenging than physical is mental health. Sometimes it's just a bad day ending in frustrated tears, other times it can be bigger problems like the death of a loved one or a medical diagnosis. My freshman year of college, both fell right onto my lap as I battled complications from celiac disease at the same time as my grandfather suddenly passed away. At the time, I wasn't even healthy enough to fly to Texas for his funeral service.

All the throwbacks...
And that's where my girlfriends came in. My mom kept up my spirits though long phone calls and a little tough love. The girls at my dorm hugged me like they knew me for years, not weeks, and even spent an evening down at the cliffs to pray for my grandfather. And my best gal pals - Kendall especially - filled my life with (gluten free) food and local adventures and constant motivation. Everyone faces different challenges, but sassy sidekicks can improve most struggles.

Eat what makes you and your body happy. As I've learned to eat healthier by exploring the world of naturally gluten free foods (avocados, sweet potatoes, and salmon I'm looking at you!), I've enjoyed sharing my recipes even more. Whether that means on my blog, with my parents, or with friends in college, I like showing that healthy eating doesn't have to mean boring.

A few of my favorites!
But, as the battle over the universal benefits of a gluten free diet has shown, humans aren't designed to follow the same menu. This means that me, the celiac, rocks a completely different diet than my sister, gluten-r-us. And that's OK. My newest understanding of health means that everyone can be healthy while living off of different foods. So while I'm thrilled that my mom is trying out smoothies for the first time (a new, consistent love of mine), I don't force my meals on her or anyone else. A true girlfriend inspires healthier eating choices (plus a few treats!), but doesn't push that veggie mac and cheese down her friends' throats!

Attend your doctors' visits. I'll admit, I've attended more doctors' appointments at 19 years old than should be fair. A hospitalization for celiac complications, check ups on my weight, scans for bone density and celiac antibody blood tests. And, not surprisingly, hospitals are not one of my favorite places. But, my friends and family keep me accountable. The same way I hope I can for all of my girlfriends.

'Cause when it comes to ignoring the appropriate doctors' visits for your age group, ignorance really isn't bliss.. As this Roadmap to Health from Oscar Health insurance company* shows, acting as empowered women taking control over their health is the way to go!


To see a close up, click here!
Listen and learn from others. Some people hate hearing stories from their parents or grandparents, but I was never one of those people. And I hope more people are on my side, especially when it comes to learning about a family's health history and tips. From my grandma, I know the dangers of sun cancer. From my mom, the triumphs and trials of living with fibromyalgia.

And from me, I hope others will learn about celiac disease. What are the symptoms, how to get tested, how to survive once diagnosed, and how to thrive with it as a college student. Opposite to common thought, girlfriends gossip about more than boys, clothes, and food (the latter of which is always a favorite topic of mine). And that chitchat - this blog post and Oscar Insurance's check up outline - could even save or lengthen a life.

All ears?
Tackle the gym together. Some of my favorite memories from freshman year are hitting the weight room with my gals and kicking butt at group workouts. I never mind going to the gym alone, but I do work twice as hard when I see a friend rockin' her new Nikes next to me. Plus, the laughs must count as an extra ab workout, right?

When I want to catch up with friends, my first suggestion usually involves going for a walk. Whether its a long hike down a lake trail or a simple jaunt around my college campus, it exercises the jaw and the legs. And you never know. Moving from the typical "let's have lunch" routine could spark a new motivation to hit the gym. Either way, friends + movement = smiles (and maybe a few selfies!) nearly any way its done.

Walks, hikes, and trampolines!
Have fun! Stress can be just as unhealthy as an unbalanced diet or lack of exercise, so having girlfriends who aren't afraid of a little relaxation never hurts. One of the most important factors of being healthy is realizing that you man (or "woman") the controls. As I've written before, sometimes it seems like the body doesn't want to listen. Sometimes I've wondered if health is really within my control when a decently healthy life couldn't prevent celiac disease from breaking my body for a year post-diagnosis.

But, this National Girlfriends' Day and every week after, I'm celebrating my own empowerment. Celebrating how the encouragement of a friend can impact a life. How, by watching my eats and exercise and yearly check ups, I can keep smiling for years to come. And how its up to us - both as individuals and friends - to ensure those girls' nights stay on the calendar.

Laughs all around!
Cause spending Fridays happy and laughing with friends? Now that's what makes staying healthy worth it.


*Oscar Health currently offers insurance plans in New York and New Jersey and soon in Texas and California

What does "healthy" mean to you? How do your friends help you be healthy? Comment below!


Friday, July 17, 2015

Berry Coconut Granola

Everyone has their own relaxation routines. For some, it's laughing to their favorite comedy on TV after work. Others exemplify the too true fact that "stressed" spelled backwards reads "dessert." For this girl, exercise and baking are my two favorite respites.

Combine a fridge full of ripe blueberries, a granola addict in need of a new flavor for her weekly fix, and summer hours with time in the kitchen to kill, and I had everyone in the family drooling over the oven's new berriful fragrance.

Blueberries win the spotlight in this one!
With inflammation-fighting turmeric, healthy fats (and delicious flavor) from coconut oil, flour and flakes, hidden veggies from my favorite shredded zucchini, and antioxidant-packed blueberries, this granola not only tastes good, but does good for you.

And, being gluten free, paleo, vegan, and low fodmap, it is also the perfect recipe for nearly any kind of eater. Meaning there's no reason to not raid the nearest fridge and pantry, grab some cooking supplies and get your granola on!

(Can you guess the celiac-safe nut and seed source I love?)
Ingredients:

Dry:

1 1/2 cups of buckwheat groats
1 1/2 cups of favorite puffed cereal (I used a mix of puffed rice and puffed amaranth)
2 1/4 cups of mixed seeds or nuts (I used pumpkin and sunflower seeds and cashews)
1/2 cup of chia seeds
1/3 cup of cacao nibs
1/4 cup of coconut flakes
1/4 cup of banana chips (or other dried fruit)
2 TBSP cacao powder
2 TBSP cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1 TBSP coconut flour

Wet:

1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (or water)
3 TBSP of coconut oil (or alternate baking oil)
1 small zucchini, shredded
2 ripe mashed bananas
2/3 cup blueberries (either fresh and mashed/pureed, or frozen, defrosted and mashed)


Begin by preheating your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, the granola baking is as easy as measuring, mixing and making your mouth water! First pour pour all of your dry ingredients into a bowl. Then move onto the wet components. For best results, mash (or defrost and then mash) your bananas and blueberries in a separate bowl before adding them to the rest of the mix. If you like your granola smooth rather than having chunks of fruit, you can also puree the bananas and berries in a blender.

Netflix, of course, amps up the relaxation factor!
Next, work off some of the granola you will (inevitably) devour by grating a zucchini directly over your mixing bowl. You could probably replace the zucchini with sweet potato or an extra banana, but I love the addition of veggies (which you can't even taste!) and chewy texture. Once the zucchini is shredded, add in the liquids. The unbaked granola should already be rather wet from the fruits and veggies, so you can adjust the amount of liquid to your desired texture.

Finally, transfer the unbaked goodie into several baking sheets (I used three lined with parchment paper), either pressing it down firmly with a spatula for denser clumps or leaving it loose for a smaller clusters. Toss your pans into the oven and wait for your edible perfume to start filling the kitchen. I baked my pans for 40 minutes, turning halfway through, but feel free to cook until the granola gains your desired crunch factor. For the best clumps, let the granola cool for at least two hours before breaking apart the sheets and storing.

The ultimate clusters!
As for how to eat your finished product? Choices really are limitless! I love it on top of my famous smoothie bowls for breakfast and sprinkled (okay, more like dumped!) over my coconut yogurt for a late night snack. You can even eat it back the handful while running errands or use it as breakfast cereal.

Any way, any time, is always "berry" delicious.

Just a few of my favorite ways...
I'm no professional at relaxing. Just ask my parents, boyfriend or college roommates and that will be clear. When I do need a little extra help to put my feet up - and rocket my taste buds - baking is always a good choice. Especially when the relaxation process means I have delicious snacks, breakfast toppers, and desserts fresh out the oven a couple hours after!


*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*

What's your favorite late night snack? How do you like to relax? Comment below!




Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How to Choose a Restaurant Tasty for Everyone

A celiac walks into a restaurant...and, depending on the name, it can be the start of a very good or very bad joke. Food always dominates the social scene, but as one grows older, the tie becomes even more apparent. After all, as teenagers in college, what else are we supposed to do when hunger strikes at midnight?

Besides go get donuts...
Now that I'm preparing to embark on my junior year in college, however, I'd like to say I've learned more than information from my text books. I'm finally mastering how to choose a restaurant that is gluten free friendly, but still tasty for every member of the party. Let the (advice) party begin!

1. First, consider cost and location parameters. Even though the gluten free fad diet has increased the likelihood of GF options, the ones that do exist can still leave a hole in the typical wallet. (Outback with your delicious BBQ chicken and Thunder Down Under, I'm looking at you). So, I always make sure I consider who I'll be dining with. And, since the answer usually involves fellow students, that means I focus more on cheaper chains like Chipotle or Chick Fil A. And if the boy happens to have a gift card to California Pizza Kitchen? You bet I'll try some of their celiac-safe pepperoni pie!

A few favorites...
Besides an overly expensive meal, nothing can plummet team morale like an unexpectedly long car drive. Though this celiac will usually travel, when embarking on a double date or day trip with friends, twenty to thirty minutes away from our school is a good cap. And having a delicious meal to look forward to (and recover from) always helps!

2. Next, ask about taste preferences. Unless you're dating a guy like mine who professes to love nearly every food group, most friends will have their own cravings to fulfill. So, when I start planning a lunch or dinner, I like to find several restaurants we can choose from. Malls are usually a great place for this strategy since they can offer a wide variety of GF friendly eats in a limited space.

Food + friends = forever fun
When in doubt, pick restaurants with a big menu that fits your friends' usual taste buds. For my college friends, that means places with burgers, pizza, or burritos. If I find someplace with all three? Let's just say it'd probably become a new favorite.

3. To make your search even easier, use apps to narrow down your options and read reviews. I'm addicted to Find Me Gluten Free for my IPhone and, when visiting new locations, I often fire it up out of pure curiosity. Yelp can also be helpful when searching for nearby gluten free friendly eats.

My two secret weapons!
Whatever app used, reading reviews is a smart move before dining. Not only can this help eliminate places that are gluten free but not celiac friendly, but it can also reveal locations of chain restaurants to avoid. As I've mentioned before, I love my local Outback for its educated and careful staff, but have struggled at other locations. Reviews shouldn't be depended on 100%, but they certainly can't hurt!

4. If not 100% sure of gluten free options after researching the restaurant, visit their online site and/or call ahead. When I was first diagnosed, I hated calling a restaurant before visiting. Celiac disease is hard enough to explain in person, not to mention over the phone

Phone or possibly groan in pain, basically...
Now, though, the phone is always my friend. Nothing is worse than walking into a restaurant expecting everyone to know about the gluten free menu posted online and being met with blank stares. And nothing makes me more excited to go eat than the worker who happened to pick up the phone knowing about celiac disease, proper cooking precautions and offered GF dishes! 

5. Finally, eat and enjoy! 

Going out to eat as a celiac with friends or family usually has its challenges. Extra time spent summarizing celiac to servers, waiting for the "special" meal, and examining the finished product. But, the more I've gotten used to my new normal, the more fun has returned to dining out. 

Lots of eats and lots of smiles!
Because, while the food is obviously important, the company is even more so. And by following a few simple tips to choose an optimal restaurant, a celiac can focus less on the first and more on the latter. 



How do you choose restaurants that leave everyone happy? Any favorites? Comment below!