Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Replacement Gluten Free Croutons

In my mind, celiac disease is all about experimentation. You experiment with your sensitivities to gluten, food alternatives to previous favorites, and how to tell people about your diet without sounding like a picky health-nut.

My family's most successful food experiment thus far? The Gluten Free Bagel Chips in the Parmesan and Garlic flavor from Glutino

Perfect cruton replacements

I know celiacs who, even with the gluten free diet restrictions, haven't chomped in a salad for months. My story is as opposite as it gets. When I was first diagnosed, salads were the easiest - and safest - lunch or dinner. Now, with more recipes under my belt, I've scaled down my salad obsession, but I still love a good bowl of greens every once in a while. 

That's where Glutino's chips come in. I never would have expected to miss croutons so much after going gluten free, but no matter how many carrots or peppers I placed on my salad, I still longed for the croutons' signature tang and crunch. The chips fill this gap perfectly. 

Each chip is about the size of three or four croutons, so I like to break them up before sprinkling them in my salad. The garlic and cheese powder coating is generous but not overwhelming and they have a great, crunchy texture without being overcooked or too hard to chew. Also, unlike gluten-containing croutons, I've never had a chip become soggy from my salad dressing. The crouton has been reborn, new and wonderfully gluten free!

My yummy salad 

It's not easy to transition to a gluten free diet after enjoying glutinous treats for 17 years. But, with the help of my family, (my mom actually found this delectable treat) and some great alternative foods, I've been able to turn a tolerable diet into a delicious one too! 


What are your favorite gluten free foods? Have you experimented to find alternative goodies? Comment below! 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Celiacs and College Roommate

It's a common nightmare scenario. The popular, blond teenager boarded with the mysteriously sweet loner who, after sixty minutes of suspense, finally strikes in a bloody shower scene. Months ago, when I thought about rooming in college, sometimes I would joke that, with my luck, I'd end up with a psycho. In a million years, though, I never figured that I would be the difficult one.

Celiac disease changed all that.

I didn't realize the challenges that celiacs would pose for rooming until, a few weeks ago, when I caught the school spirit bug and stayed up until midnight to discover my dorm number and roommate. The administration of PLNU laughed at us on Facebook the day later, but the rush of discovering those tiny three numbers and names canceled out any embarrassment. My roommate, who I will call Katie, and I Facebook messaged for a few minutes past midnight, sharing the usual - What's your name? Where do you live? Can you believe we're college freshman? - info. I went to bed smiling, ready to embrace my new housing and housemate.

Behold my glorious dorm!

The next day, when we started texting each other, reality set in. All while my thumbs were flying on the keyboard, I wondered, "How should I tell her? When should I tell her? Should I tell her?" I'm not ashamed of having celiac disease. In fact, I plan on buying a GF or Celiac t-shirt. I'm loving the skull and crossbone look made of wheat. Thing is, though, I don't introduce myself with "I have ceilac disease" in the lead. Their first impression of me should be of a quirky, sarcastic teenage girl, not a chronic illness on legs.

The problem is, not telling Katie before I get to know her isn't an option. We're college roommates. That means we share a small room and a fridge. A microwave. All of which need to be set up before we meet on the first day. Therein lies my problem.

Being my typical self, at first I casually agreed that we could share a fridge. What could it hurt? I thought. Wheat stuff on one side, gluten free on the other. A few weeks later, I had to send The Text. The text that "outed" myself as a celiac and took back my agreement to share the fridge. My stomach felt sick when I typed it. I hadn't even met her and this stupid disease was already making me sound like a back-pedalling freak

Cue the foreboding music...

Two days later, I got The Text back. "Okay. I don't have a clue what that is, but I'm willing to learn and get my own fridge." 

And that text made all the difference. Before celiac disease, I had no idea what gluten was or how to avoid it. I didn't know about cross contamination. So all I can hope for is that the people around me want to learn

Sharing my college living space with someone who eats gluten won't be easy, but I am so blessed to have a roommate who respects my crazy diet

With a little bit of luck and support, maybe having a roommate while eating gluten free won't be so psycho after all. 


Are you guys living on campus at college? What did your roommate say when you told them? Comment below!

Monday, July 29, 2013

French? Italian? Nope, my Food Culture is Gluten Free!

Ethnic wise, I usually call myself a mutt. If I'm feeling funny, I'll say, "Skinny white girl," but otherwise mutt works. What else do you call a mix of Canadian, English, Indian, German, and many other random ethnicities? This didn't - and doesn't - bother me, but sometimes when I scarfed down ethnic foods at my friend's house or the restaurant next door, I wished I had cultural recipes passed down through my family tree

As strange as it sounds, gluten free has become that cultural flair, but I didn't realize how much celiac diagnosis changed my view on food until I helped my mom with dinner tonight. 

I've always been one of those people. Those people who declare that this is the day, week, month or year that they will transform from an expert microwave operator to a cook who can make a five course dinner in half an hour. Or, at least, a cook who can make a delicious dinner not out of a box.

I want to be worthy of an apron like this!


I don't know how the years I've been saying this have flown by so quickly, but suddenly I'm faced with the immobile date of my college orientation with only a "baked potato" on my cooking resume. At least they're gluten free...

So today I helped my mom make dinner. Meatloaf. One of our favorite dishes since my diagnosis and my family's transition to gluten free. Although I love eating it, this was the first time I saw it on a ceramic platter instead of my plate? Wasn't it just a slab of beef with some spices and ketchup? Apparently not. An actual recipe was needed!

My hands washed and hair pulled back, I waited expectantly for Mom to get out the cookbook. The one from Amazon? Or maybe the Barnes and Noble bargain we discovered three weeks after my diagnosis? Instead, she sat a skinny white binder on the island, papers fluttering around accordion-style when opened. I knew she looked up recipes - I sent some to her for heavens sake - but that she actually printed them out somehow made a big difference.

They went from random recipes found on Tumblr, blogs and About.com to an actual family cookbook, all, of course, gluten free. It's a whimpy cookbook of bad quality printing and questionable sources, but it's a cookbook that we created to reflect the new gluten free lifestyle that has become part of our family

I'm not just a skinny white girl, anymore, or a mutt. I'm all of those plus gluten free. And I hope that, years from now, I can pass down the gluten free recipes my Mom and I have found, adapted, and called our own to my kids

Hopefully, they won't need to be gluten free like I do. Hopefully, by the same stroke of luck that added the term "celiac disease" to my medical file, they will be spared. But, either away, they deserve to know where their mom comes from. And now, I think gluten free food - like the delicious meatloaf I now know how to make - helps spell out my story.

For a copy of this awesome recipe, check out this link!

So good I forgot to take a photo before digging in!


Has your view on food changed since going gluten free? Do you collect your own gluten free recipes? Comment below!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weight and Body Image with Celiac Disease

I lost 15 pounds in two months. I should be excited.

At 5'3" I now tip the scales only at 93 pounds. I should be horrified.

The truth is, since my diagnosis with celiac disease, I've transformed from, as my mother put it, a 106 pound "muscular Barbie" at the peak of soccer season to a skinny minnie and I don't know how I feel about it.

The largest part of myself hates my new, bony body. For most of my life, I devoured everything I could fit inside my mouth and never gained a pound. The surprised gawk of the restaurant staff when they picked up the empty plate that used to house a pound of hamburger and fries was as delicious as the food itself. When I finally passed one hundred pounds my junior year, though, it didn't bother me at all. In fact, I loved it.

At my Homecoming Dance pre-Celiac

Many people associate "thinness" with happiness, but from a lifetime of experience with it, I knew differently. I still cringe at the memory of fifth grade girls discussing my "chicken ankles" in the corner of the class. Not to mention that, with my gained weight, I could finally fill out a pair of jeans! People didn't (constantly, anyway) confuse me for a freshman! I even trained to bump up my weight for soccer season when I transitioned from the under 16 to the under 18 playing bracket.

Because of celiac's lovely hand, in only a few months, all the muscles I worked so hard to tone have disappeared. Goodbye Marilyn Monroe and hello pant-sagging prepubescent Justin Beiber (not) wannabe! Yet, at rare times, a small part of me looks at my slim body in the mirror and thinks, "Yep. That's how, according to everything I see, a teenage girl's body is supposed to look."

At my Prom, two weeks after diagnosis

The fact is, we live in a society that glorifies thinness. The magazines perched on grocery store shelves boast phrases like, "Lose 15 pounds in 30 days!" or "How I Lost Half my Body Weight!" And the odds of seeing a Victoria Secret model that mimics an oak tree instead of a twig? About as likely as me, the celiac, gorging on a gluten-filled buffet.

If anything, my weight loss has shown me that teenage girls are the largest victim pool of this media storm. As I've lost weight, the comments about it have steadily increased. I've noticed, though, that all those who have commented negatively are older, usually my friend's mothers. Considering I've never met either of these mothers before, my low weight is extremely obvious. Despite this, the people who know me best - my friends - haven't said a thing

I could excuse it as politeness or a lack of attention to detail, but we've talked about weight in the past. When they lamented over going from size 0 to size 1 pants, I ranted about the awesomeness of hips and curves. Apparently I'm the only cheerleader for gaining weight close by. Case point: what happens if I mention my desire to gain weight? Instant battlefield with lots of points at their own "fatty areas" and cries that, "You're so lucky!

This skinny jackpot comes with quite a price...

Well, if you must have a chronic illness, apparently since it keeps you skinny, celiac disease is first choice!

The bottom line? It's hard wanting to gain weight in a society obsessed with losing it. It's hard dealing with the conflict between my own healthy image and society's "thin" ideal. But, I'm determined to fight the against the current anyway so I can be not only healthy, but strong. And with the support of other celiacs who are also chugging down the protein drinks, I know I can do it.

A society that causes its people to value an ill, skinny teenage girl over her slightly larger but healthy alter ego? It's the sick one, not us.


*Also found at Runningwithspoon's link party!*



Have any of you struggled with weight before or after diagnosis? Have you experienced similar comments about your weight? Comment below with your stories! I'd love to hear them :)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Gluten Free Dating Site? What?

They say opposites attract. Does that mean I, the gluten-free celiac, will fall in love with a guy who lives off of bread, pasta, and crackers and hates all of the gluten-free alternatives? According to the new gluten free only dating site, Glutenfreesingles.com, apparently not.

When I saw a news article about the site's opening earlier this week, I chuckled and shrugged it off. Anytime I need a new funny story to tell, I always describe the dating site for farmers I learned about, so you could say I'm not the target audience for dating sites. The more I thought about it, though, the more interested I became.

A couple of keyboard clicks later and my attitude started to shift. According to their front page, Glutenfreesingles is a "dating, networking, and informative website where you never have to feel alone, awkward or a burden because you are gluten free." Even better, two women, one with celiac disease and another gluten intolerance, formed the site.

Love and good food? Heaven!
Okay then. My second thought? Go them! Or, more precisely, go us! Gluten free's invasion into the public eye has been slow but steady. It began decades ago with a new understanding of the gluten that destroys the stomach lining of a certain few. Now, gluten free products like Almond Dream Ice Cream and Glutino's Pretzels fill shelves all over the world. Even some of our favorite restaurants offer delicious alternatives to our previous favorite meals. So staking a claim in the industry of computerized Cupids? Score one for us!

Not to mention that sometimes dating while gluten-free does, um, suck. I had the lucky fortune of experiencing my first date a few weeks after diagnosis and it was definitely an experience. I thought ordering popcorn to share at the movie theater would be romantic. The whole accidental-purposeful-touching-hand scenario. It was lucky I didn't see him until a week later because I doubt he'd have found my post-glutened routine of dying on the couch, reviving, and dying again very attractive. My addiction to my phone to look up the gluten-free ice creams at Basket Robins probably broke some dating rules too.

Does this mean my profile will be floating around in Cupid cyberspace? Unless it's for a dare, probably not.

Love doesn't have to be Gluten Free

I consider celiac disease and my gluten free diet as a large part of my identity. When it controls such a large portion of my life, how can I not? I like to think of myself as a much more complex being than my food, though, and I hope whoever I fall in love with is too

After all, what's a clearer sign of true love than choking down a slice of gluten free bread for the first time?


What do you guys think? Would you ever use a gluten free only dating site? Do you consider diet when dating? Comment below!




Friday, July 26, 2013

Favorite Snack 2: Glutino Pretzels

College and late night snacking are synonymous, but, as a celiac, my snacking is more limited then most. When I saw a package of Glutino's Pretzels sitting in my local grocery aisle (the speciality food store, Sprouts), then, you can imagine why, after I secured my booty, jumped up and down in excitement. Even if I can't enjoy the results of late-night burrito runs, at least I can look like a walrus with two pretzels sticking out of my mouth like every other, mature college student

Before I went gluten free, pretzels were my "healthier" alternative to potato chips. I once told my mom I could live off of pretzels and chocolate, and, with these gluten free babies, now that is still true. Glutino has many different options, ranging from pretzel chips to pretzels coated with white chocolate. For my first dip into the realm of Glutino, though, I stuck with the traditional "stick" shaped pretzels. 

YUM!

To the naked eye, the GF pretzels look identical to my past favorites. They have the same light brown color, with the majority of the pretzels being neither under or over cooked, and salt is sprinkled evenly throughout. Curiously, though, these pretzels are much lighter in weight than the regular kind. This gives them an airy taste and a much better crunch than any of the pretzels I've tasted before. 

It won't be easy being gluten free at college. When I heard the word "celiac" applied to me, I thought of my overnight stay at Point Loma Nazarene University with a cringe. I'd gone and watched a movie while munching on fresh popcorn. The girls at my dorm had banned together at one in the morning to bake chocolate chip cookies. Bowls of pretzels and goldfish accented the side tables of the lounge. Basically junk food was everywhere. 

Glutino's pretzels won't fix all these problems but at least I will have some snack to chomp on along with everyone else. Delicious and practical! 


They have received the Casey seal of approval


What are your favorite GF snacks? Have you tried Glutino's pretzels before? Comment below! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Surprise! Sammy's Woodfired Pizza

I promise I'm not addicted. I don't drown all my problems in a sea of gooey cheese and pepperoni. The gluten free pizza, a perfect cheesy circle, just jumped out of no where and I swallowed it down! By, accident, of course.

As crazy as it sounds, that story isn't actually too far off the mark. When we left the house today, my family and I had no plans to experiment with another plate of gluten free pizza. That box was checked and marked from our lovely trip to Legoland only a few days ago. Instead, we were going to explore the Automobile Museum down at Balboa Park.

Everything went according to plan until we turned off the freeway back towards home and my dad mentioned a gluten-free pizza place he heard about. I, the ever-curious celiac, immediately looked up Sammy's Woodfired Pizza on my phone, reading off the items on their extensive menu aloud in the car. A few minutes later, we considered ourselves too covered in drool to drive and u-turned back to the restaurant.

Walking in...dun, dun, dun!

Personally, I would describe Sammy's Woodfired Pizza as a higher end eatery (bearing in mind that my definition of fancy involves the appearance of button-down shirts) whose menu offers more than the name implies. This variety includes tons of gluten free options, from tapas to chicken breasts to pizzas with gluten-free crust. Always the constant, I ordered the same as in Legoland: cheese pizza with pepperoni and green peppers. I was a little concerned when the waitress explained that gluten-filled flour may have air-contact with my pizza, but I've found that 99% of restaurants can't, or won't, guarantee the safety of their gluten free food.

When I took my first bite out of my pizza, I knew it was worth the very slight risk. The crust was thin, but had an excellent crunch without being overcooked. My favorite part of the pizza was definitely the oregano, which was sprinkled lightly throughout the sauce. It gave another element of taste to the tomato sauce, resulting in a richer, more herbal flavor.

It's. So. Beautiful!

The only slightly negative aspect of my pizza was the green peppers, which were not added early enough in the cooking process for my taste. As a result, instead of being cooked into the pizza, they instead sat on top. The pizza also tasted more buttery, which meant I felt full after three smallish slices. Overall, though, I felt my second venture in the world of gluten free pizza ended in success!

As amazing as the food tasted, though, I enjoyed the "surprise" aspect of the meal even more. Since my diagnosis, every meal I've eaten out has been carefully planned and logistically balanced. Is it safe? What choices will I have? What are the reviews? These questions, like celiac disease itself, are just another new aspect of my normal routine.

As I've hinted at during my past articles, I believe these steps, no matter how annoying, are for the best. Today, though, I loved walking inside a random restaurant and picking something good to eat like any other teenage girl. 

Perhaps the real surprise was learning that, even with celiac disease, surprises are still possible


What is your routine with eating out? Do you have a favorite restaurant? 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Celiac Disease and Identity

Whenever I find myself crying over some aspect of celiac disease (I can't eat that muffin! I'm tired! My blog is messed up!) I always wonder why. What's really causing me to cry? Yes, it sucks to give up some of my favorite food. And I've already ranted about my lack of energy.

Really, though, out of the millions of awful diseases lurking throughout the world, I didn't draw too bad a card. If I follow my diet, celiac disease isn't fatal. And, as the months have passed, I've found decent (and even delicious) gluten free food alternatives to my favorite munchies. 

After another meltdown last night, though, I think I finally have the answer. The problem isn't that celiac disease is forcing me to change my lifestyle. The problem is that it's changing me

I remember walking through the grocery store one day looking for gluten-free soup, which is nearly impossible, and searching for that magical green phrase, "Gluten free." How funny is it, I thought, that something I never noticed or cared about before now runs my entire life? How crazy is it that those two words now form the basis of my being?

"Gluten Free" is the newest "Where's Waldo?"

After all, what makes up a person's identity

Maybe it's a favorite food? Prior to diagnosis, I munched on an apple with peanut butter for my "last request" each night before bed. My parents used to tease me that I'd never need a doctor considering how many apples I devoured in a week. Because of the acidic nature of apples, I haven't had one since my diagnosis, even when our apple trees started dropping clusters of green fruit. I've moved onto fresh grapes and strawberries as my number one snacks. 

Perhaps appearance plays a bigger role? I've always been small at 5'3" and, at my highest weight, 106 pounds during soccer season. Two months later, I've lost 15 pounds of fat and muscle. When I look in the mirror, I see a near-copy of my scrawny eighth grade self. What happened to the muscles and curves I've learned to call my own for years?

Celiac disease's golden touch even affects hobbies and personality. Though I plan to lace up those running shoes again, for now I swim more than I run. As for personality, like I mentioned earlier, I've become assertive enough to discuss my dietary needs with strangers. Not to mention that my desire to be prepared has magnified ten times over. 

The list of tweaks never end. No matter how hard I may try to hold onto my old self, I must accept that celiac disease has transformed me.

I am still stronger than ever!

This certainly isn't always a bad thing. Because of celiac disease, I have embraced new hobbies like blogging, new favorite foods, and a more independent outlook on life. I am more observant of the food I put in my body and more understanding of those with food allergies than ever before. Beyond that, I have a community to belong to, beyond that of a teenage girl taking on the world. Celiacs are sprinkled around the globe, but together we are a family with the same struggles and the same strengths.

I am not the same person I was, but that's okay. Everyone changes with age and experience. Celiac disease just triggered my transformation a bit early.

So when celiac disease gives me a hard time, I'm going to grin and bear it. What is a few growing pains when I have a whole life to look forward to?

What do you think forms a person's identity? Has an illness affected yours? 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gluten Free at Legoland

When amusement parks come into mind, first thoughts usually revolve around the rides, the entertainment and, of course, the deliciously unhealthy pounds of food. After all, what's an amusement park ride without worrying about that pizza and fries making a reappearance?

With so many tempting foods available and tons of demanding customers to feed, going to any amusement park on a gluten free diet sounds risky. Celiac disease should never stop you from doing anything you put your mind to, though, amusement parks included. As I touched on a few articles ago, we are lucky enough to live in an age where industries are accommodating people with dietary needs like us. 

I was super surprised when I looked up all of the gluten free options in Legoland (remember...go Internet!). Not only do they have gluten free fries and burger buns (no need to smuggle some in!), but people gluten-free can also munch on a Japanese chicken stir fry or indulge in some sauce-free barbecue chicken. When my mom and I saw that the Pizza and Pasta Buffet offers gluten free options, we knew that was our top pick. We hadn't eaten pizza from a restaurant since my diagnosis and a girl can only go for so long until she starts having cheesy heaven withdrawals. 

We hoped this would save the day...

When we walked in, the manager immediately met with us after we told the server that my mom (who went gluten free with me) and I needed gluten free pizzas and pasta. He outlined the cooking process on our food to limit contamination, including a new pot of boiling water as well as opening a fresh can of sauce and cheese. All we had to do was wait

My dad and sister were already eating and said the regular food (pizza, pasta, bread sticks) tasted great. When I asked the manager about the salad bar, he offered to open a fresh bag of lettuce and brought two salads with all the gluten free toppings for my mom and I to eat while we waited. The salads were fairly large in size and the ingredients tasted extremely fresh. The manager even served us with gloves, which made me feel even more confident about the food. 

It was prettier before I started eating...

It took a little bit (twenty to twenty five minutes) to get our pizza and pasta but they were definitely worth the wait. First, we dug into the pizza. Like most gluten free pizzas, the crust was very thin. They toasted it perfectly though giving the crust a nice crunch without being too hard. 

YUM!

One nice thing about ordering the pizza instead of eating from the buffet was our ability to specialize the toppings. We settled on a simple pepperoni and green pepper combo, which tasted heavenly. The peppers kept the pizza from becoming too chewy and the pepperoni was well dispersed throughout the entire pizza. Mom and I ended up devouring one pizza together and I have no regrets

Then we ate the pasta, which was good but didn't outshine the pizza, in my opinion. I'm not a huge pasta person, but  the elbow noodles had a great texture, being neither rubbery or overcooked. 

This is one serving...

You could definitely taste the potato base of the pasta, but the meat sauce counterbalanced it nicely. If you do special order it, though, I recommend splitting because we ordered two and didn't put a big dent in either bowl. The best part about the Pizza and Pasta Buffet, though, was its central location. While my mom and I waited for our special order, the rest of my family ate and then rode the rollercoaster a few feet away. While I can't guarantee your stomach's health with this plan, it worked out great for us.

Besides meals, Legoland also has a variety of gluten free desserts. Instead of sorbet, we decided to be daring and try out some of Granny's Apple Fries. The line was super long when we got there, but after tasting them we knew why! The "fries" are composed of deep-fried green apple slices dusted with Cinnamon, and served with a dollup of whipped cream.

So good!
Although I usually don't like fruit-oriented desserts, I had to admit that these were extremely good for a gluten-free snack. Unlike other fried foods, the "fries" retained a satisfying crunch and the Cinnamon was abundant without being clumpy or overwhelming. I especially liked the whipped cream, which added a smooth texture that fit well with the fries. The only thing better, we decided, would be some apple fries with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

When we first talked about going to Legoland, I was worried celiacs would hold me back. That is definitely not the case! I have to thank the lovely Legoland staff who adjusted their menu to fit people like me, and my delicious gluten-free pizza and apples definitely made my trip even better!

If these amazing food options didn't exist, though, it wouldn't be the end of the world. After two months of my diet, I feel confident in my ability to provide for myself. Because of celiac disease, I know several new recipes, can analyze an item's ingredients in thirty seconds flat, and am able to talk to authority figures about my dietary needs without worry.

Celiac disease has accelerated my individuality, and, at this point, I'm just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up and equal Legoland's amazing gluten free food choices!

What was your first amusement park after diagnosis? Comment below!

Favorite Snack 1: Think Thin Protein Bars

Life revolves around food. We can wear the "health conscious" mindset and try to deny it, but the sun rises and sets around sustenance. Breakfast, lunch, dinner...but perhaps, most important, the snacks that keep us motivated and energized throughout the day. After being diagnosed with celiac disease, however, it seems like snacks may be canceled out. What can we eat that's prepared and ready, but not entirely unhealthy?

Well, although I've certainly had my share of product failures, I've found a few snacks that will certainly be part of the 15 pounds of snacks I'll carry around in my backpack all through college. This will be my first snack review, but more will come!

I'm a fruit person, so when hungry I usually reach for berries, grapes, and apples first. If those can't satisfy me, though, I love to munch on Think Thin Protein Bars. Not all of the flavors are gluten free, but there is a plethora of flavors that are, ranging Chocolate Fudge to Creamy Peanut Butter.

So many choices...so little time

I've tried half a dozen of the flavors so far, but Brownie Crunch is my favorite. It has a delicious chocolatey flavor without being overpowering. And while the name may suggest otherwise, the dense texture of the bar downplays the sweetness of the chocolate enough that it doesn't taste like a decadant dessert.

For a snack, I usually only eat half of a bar at a time, but they can easily act as a meal in a pinch. When I went to hang out with friends at the beach, for example, I ended up having a Chocolate Covered Strawberries bar for lunch when I couldn't find any GF restaurant cheap or nearby.

If you don't take to the slightly chemical taste of these bars, though, the Think Thin Crunch Bars may fit your palete perfectly. Although the bar ingredients vary, they all have assorted nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc) drizzled with honey. Except for the naked original, most are accompanied by chocolate or dried fruit.

Talk about YUM!

Usually, I'm not a nut person, but the sweetness of the honey perfectly counterbalances the base's nutty taste. I also love the nut's crunchiness combined with the gooiness of the honey every time I bite into one of the bars. My favorites include Crunch Blueberry Mixed Nuts, or, when my sweet tooth is screaming, Crunch Chocolate Dipped Nuts.

The blueberries are well spread throughout the clumps of nuts and taste surprisingly natural instead of preserved. As for the chocolate, while it's thinly spread enough to not overtake the nuts, you definitely taste it with every bite.

I hope you all find snacks that I like as much as these bars, and don't be afraid to give them a try! Finding great gluten-free food is a challenge (I personally shop at the specialty food store, Sprouts), but once found, they remain delicious for life.


What's your favorite snack? Comment below!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Celiacs and the College Cafeteria

There are mixed feelings about college cafeterias. Some view them as a symbol of new found freedom and adulthood, a place where they can eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Others worry about the Freshman 15 lurking inside the serving plates. For a celiac, though, it is a literal nightmare full of cross contamination and gluten-filled temptations.

Today, though, I decided to face this monster head-on when I explored all the crooks and crannies of Point Loma Nazarene University through the eyes of a celiac

Where to first?

Since I live only half an hour away from campus, I've visited PLNU multiple times, but this was my first visit since my diagnosis. When I entered the kitchen on my first visit, "Stairway to Heaven" might as well have played in the background for how excited I was about the food options. Pizza, hamburgers, spaghetti, Japanese...just about every food imaginable lay on stainless steal counters. Not to mention all the desserts, varying from baked goods to self-serve ice cream. 

When I entered the cafeteria today, it was a bittersweet moment. Excitement over my future personified in the place I'd be spending so much time in come September; sadness that my situation has changed enough that I can no longer enjoy every piece of deliciousness emerging from the kitchen. I settled on a mood of curiosity, scanning the dining areas and food court with quick glances.

In my last post, I mentioned the importance of utilizing the Internet, and I took my own advice regarding the PLNU kitchen. After researching online, I already knew that my school boasts a "gluten free zone" where the food is guaranteed free of contamination. Because summer has driven most students back home, though, the kitchen wasn't organized as usual and the gluten-free zone wasn't set up

But, I sucked up any feelings of anxiety and after telling one of the super-nice employees about my gluten-free diet, he pointed out the corner where it usually exists. Score! I wanted to put a sticky note on it saying, "Casey's Corner: Don't Touch," but I decided to at least mimic the maturity of a proper incoming college freshman and resist. 

What really excited me, though, was a poster on the wall of the cafeteria. In my excitement, I forgot to take a picture but I remember it well. Titled "Gluten Free," it listed a background of gluten, symptoms of gluten intolerance, and explained the rules of preparing gluten-free food. 

As much as celiac disease sucks sometimes, I feel incredibly lucky that I was diagnosed now instead of ten years ago. Now, a majority of waiters are familiar with serving "gluten free" food. Now, the public is more well informed about food allergies. And, as I discovered during my visit, now colleges are accommodating students with celiac disease so everyone can have the full "college experience."

Celebrate PLNU! And gluten free food! :D

Does this mean that 3/4th of my backpack won't consist of foods and snacks? Not really, but I'm pumped to dig into a lunch made in the PLNU cafeteria like every other college kid. Apparently every intestine is created equal

Are any of you gluten-free in college? Anyone heard of PLNU before? Comment below!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

How to Eat Socially with Celiacs

A big part of the teenage experience revolves around food: pizza parties, greasy French fries, and midnight runs to Denny's. So cutting all this out because of celiacs? Yep it can make teenage life a little difficult. 

Social butterflies with celiacs can still thrive though, especially if they learn from the experiences and mistakes of others. I hope to add my knowledge to this bracket, listing five of the biggest lessons I've figured out these last two months. I hope they will help make someone's adjustment period even better than mine. 

1. First, ALWAYS have a snack with you. My car is stuffed with enough rice cakes and energy bars to feed a hobo for a month but at least I know food is always on hand.

This can be annoying at times. When I went to meet a group of incoming PLNU freshman at the beach, my mom and I packed a small cooler full of fruit, sandwiches, and other snacks. My cheeks flushed bright red when I dragged it into one of the girl's houses and she said, "Oh wow. Um that's a whole, um cooler."


All of these - plus energy bars - are great GF snack options!

It sucked singling myself out by bringing my own food, but not eating dinner because of my GF diet would have been even worse. At least then I could munch on a sandwich and strawberries while everyone ate their burgers, compared to starving alone.

2. Secondly, don't eat food with gluten! This may seem like a simple, obvious tip but when you are surrounded by temptations, it can be hard to resist that one bite of heaven. 

This Saturday I attended my first birthday party since diagnosis. When I arrived and saw the picnic table weighed down by goodies, I knew this was going to be hard. Two (the party was for a pair of twins) types of cake, one cookies and cream and the other snickers. Ice cream cake. And pizza. Not to mention all of the other party favors I spied from my peripheral vision. 

Besides the delicious food, temptation also occurs in the form of awkwardness. I mentioned it in the tip before, but what's hardest about being gluten free is being different. And in the teenage years where conformity is rampant, this is exactly what most kids try to avoid. 

At the birthday party, for example, after we sang Happy Birthday, I had to step out of line and watch my friends cut their own large slices of cake. The discrepancy was even more obvious after the serving: I looked like a health nut with a few grapes rolling around my plate while my friends gorged on sweets. Talk about torture. 


So close yet so far!

In the end though, I had an awesome time with my friends. They were actually more concerned about my food struggles than I was. And in the big picture, what is a couple slices (or a plateful, more likely) of cake when I have an amazing group of friends by my side?

As I always tell myself, that isn't a piece of chocolate cake. It's a bomb waiting to detonate in your intestines. And people aren't going to be impressed with your dancing moves if you are feeling cruddy from those cookies anyway. When in doubt, eat before going to an event. Less appetite = less temptation. 

3. On a similar note, don't be embarrassed to deny food or ask for clarification. It's not our fault that gluten destroys our stomach lining, just like it's not my fault that I need help reaching items on the top shelf. We deal with the deck we are given.

Since I was diagnosed a week before prom (with graduation activities still to come), I've eaten out with my friends multiple times. Sometimes I just hate it. I hate how I'm always glued to my phone, looking up the restaurant's gluten free options and reviews online. I hate having to ask the waiter a million questions about contamination while my friends already finished their one sentence orders of "a burger and fries." 

But since I refuse to give up social eating with my friends, these are the steps I must take in order to not pay the price later. If you go the right places, you may even meet people in the same situation as you. My waiter at Outback Steakhouse (which has awesome GF options I'll blog about later) told me right away that his best friend was just diagnosed with celiacs at 40. If you ever feel alone with celiacs, just go to a GF friendly restaurant. 

4. Internet. Use it. If you are newly diagnosed, the Internet is a great source of information about celiacs disease so you can better understand your body and know how to explain it to others. 

What I use it for more, though, is looking up the GF options of every restaurant before I visit whenever possible. You can wait and ask your server when you sit down, but they may be uninformed or busy. Entering with a game plan or list of possibilities lessens the chance of ordering something with gluten or having nothing to eat. 

I've eaten out with friends before, but this Thursday was new for me because I entered Chicken Pie Diner with the goal to actually eat. Not sneak in my own lunch, not pick at lettuce while waiting for my friends and I to hop off to our next activity. 

Thanks to the Internet (and a phone call to the manager), I knew my options and felt safe ordering food. The salad was mediocre but the feeling of not being glutened after eating at a proper restaurant? Delicious

5. Finally, surround yourself with support. I'm so grateful for my kick-butt family and awesomely understanding friends who have helped me adjust to a life with celiac disease and gluten free. Love you guys - I couldn't do any of this without you! 


My lovely parents and me

What are some of your tips? Who are you grateful for? Comment below! 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Ice Cream Review

Since I discussed yesterday about how I cheered myself up with ice cream, I decided that sharing my experiences with finding the perfect scoop of icy goodness would make a great follow up post.

Personally, my "sweet tooth" came in bulk so losing easy access to postmeal sweets has pained me more than cutting out any other gluten-containing foods. "My muffins?" I remember thinking. "I have to give up my muffins?" Ice cream, then, stepped in as my main dessert, at least for the early months when inexperience prevented me from making my own baked goods.

When I began to experience issues with dairy, though, as is common with many celiacs during the period of intestinal healing, the search for great ice cream became more difficult.

First came So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream. Brave soul that I be, I started out with Cookie Dough.

Overall, it was as delicious as the name. It had a very creamy texture that was impressively close to ice cream without the use of milk and I groaned when I hit the cookie dough, which is spread generously enough that you can get a glob of it with every bite. Finding cookie dough ice cream that is gluten free is hard enough, not to mention finding one this tasty!

The only downside, which was actually a deal breaker for me, was the coconut base. Despite the cookie dough flavor, the coconut taste remained prominent. If you don't mind the flavor of coconut, this is definitely a great ice cream choice for you.

What I ended up finding as my "perfect" dairy free, gluten free ice cream, though, is the Almond Dream Ice Cream line. I started out with chocolate, but now my two favorite flavors are Mint Chocolate Chip and Toffee Almond Fudge.



All of the flavors have an extremely smooth and creamy consistency, much like So Delicious, but without the distracting coconut aftertaste. Although the chocolate doesn't taste like regular chocolate ice cream, after a few times of eating it, I adapted to the different flavor that is still quite chocolatey enough to be enjoyable.

What I really love though are the two new flavors. Mint Chocolate Chip tastes exactly like mint chocolate chip ice cream with a wonderful minty bite and a great amount of chocolate chips. The Toffee Almond Fudge tastes similarly to a coffee-flavored ice cream, but fudge layers mixed with the slight crunch of tiny pieces of almond create a light chocolate flavor that is tasty without being overpowering.

I wish you all luck in re-discovering your favorite desserts. As I am extremely happy to know first hand, food doesn't need to contain gluten to be super tasty! If you ever are thirsting for a tasty gluten-free, dairy free treat check out Almond Dream or So Delicious! Personally, I bought these at Sprouts, but check out the gluten-free store options in your area!

What is your favorite gluten-free treat? Comment below!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pity Parties

When I made this blog I promised myself I would share all of my experiences with celiac disease, good or bad.

This morning fit into the second category. 'Cause sometimes having a chronic disease you know...sucks

I knew something was wrong when I started bawling -- and I mean an extra large order of tears with snot on the side -- over a small glitch with my computer. 



Frustration. Stress. Annoyance at the nausea and acid that refuse to leave after two months on the diet. I even have gluten free shampoo and lipstick for goodness sake! 

So I cried. I mentally yelled. And that's okay

Fact is, you're allowed to have a pity party every once in a while. You're allowed to be sad and yell at the world for not being able to enjoy the hot piece of pizza or banana split others take for granted. 

Even for the biggest optimist, life isn't a permanent bucket of sunshine and any illness, celiacs included, increases the possibility of rain. 

But don't forget to enjoy what you can still partake in, food or otherwise. To kill my funk, I trapped my mom in a giant bearhug, watched TV with my sister, and did a cannon ball in our swimming pool. 

And my favorite gluten free, dairy free ice cream might have been involved.

Ice Cream = Happiness 

Just remember, especially in the beginning months after diagnosis or diet change, tears are acceptable as long as smiles are too


Did anyone else have trouble dealing with their diagnosis? What's your favorite pick-me-up? Comment below! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hope for the Exercise Junkie

I want to run. I want to wake up in the morning with my muscles poised and ready for a hard workout. My body, however, has other ideas.

Like sleeping, lounging, and basically exerting the least energy possible. My body has given the reins to celiac disease and trapped my exercise-junkie-brain inside. 

Before my diagnosis, I never stopped moving. I ran, I played soccer, and I always exercised at least half an hour each day. I had muscles, curves, strength. Two months and ten pounds later, not so much. On some days, this lack of strength and energy makes me want to break down and cry. 

One of my more ninja moments six months ago

I can deal with the diet change. I can even deal with the stomach acid and nausea. But you take away my energy, my key to a sweat- soaked daily therapy session, that is just plain wrong

BUT! 

But, like everything Celiac disease throws at us, we can handle it. We become expert linguists on the new language of our body. We compromise, exchanging cardio and running for yoga and swim. And slowly, I believe, the strength and energy will return, if only we let it happen at its own time. 

For me, yesterday was a big step in the right direction. Actually, a lot of steps, which added up to an 8 mile hike with my friends up to the famous Potato Chip Rock. 

Sitting on the famous Potato Chip Rock!

Today, the day after, my whole lower body is cursing the hike. Legs, check! Thighs, check! Butt - don't even ask. 
Yet, even as I cringe, I can't help but smile. I did that. I walked those miles in this new body of mine and I survived

I still have a long way to go, no question, but, this hike gives me hope

Hope that my celiac and exercise junkie will end up sharing my body just fine.

Have you guys had similar issues? What is (was) your biggest challenge with celiacs? Comments welcome! :)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Up Side

Probably the best part of celiacs so far is the motivation it's given my mom and I to experiment with food. After all, if you're already eating pricey cardboard how much worse could it get? (I jest: once you find the right brand, gluten free can taste even better than "regular").

One of the experiments that has actually worked (unlike our first attempt at chicken noodle soup - not so yummy) is the omelette. Could I have cooked this before my diagnosis? Heck yeah! Did I have the motivation to do so with sandwiches and cereals at my fingertips? Heck no! 

I'm still getting my appetite back so I start with one egg, mixed with lactose free milk. 


Then I add my ingredients, which for me are cut up pieces of ham, spinach, green pepper and cheese because I like to eat my omelette for lunch. Cooking something delicious for lunch makes me miss my old sandwiches and chips a lot less


A few minutes in the pan and poof! An omelette is formed! 


So I made an omelette. Big deal right? People who have no problem with gluten make them every day! For me though omelets give me hope that more of my experiments will also turn out finger-lickin' good

When you first hear celiacs and gluten free, your mind, like mine, may immediately go to all of the meals that need to be cut out or changed.

 Thing is, it's okay to start small and make that damn omelette you always gave up on and turned into scrambled eggs. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

About Me

Hello everyone!

The name's Casey and I am an incoming freshman to Point Loma Nazarene University, home of the sealions.

Beyond figuring out my schedule, classes and friends, I also have to explore the world of gluten-free after being diagnosed with celiacs two months ago.

Before I start welcoming you into my life as a college celiac, here's my story:

Me with my PLNU shirt and lots of wind

I've always had some health problems, but two months ago I knew something was wrong. I was never hungry and when I was, nausea hit me soon after eating. As the pounds I didn't have to lose steadily came off, my parents became more worried. We made tons of doctor's appointments, visited with one gastroenterologist and I gave vials of blood for testing. A few weeks and one endoscopy later, and I officially joined the celiac family.

When I first learned the news, I didn't know what to think. Change my diet? Go gluten free - easy peasy, is what I first thought. Two months of unfulfilled cravings, shopping cart experiments and lots of Internet searches later, I now know that easy is definitely not the case. And while I'm determined to continue my diet and healing in college, I know resisting the temptation of college junkfood won't be easy either.

So why am I documenting all of my random thoughts? Mainly because when I feel frustrated after bringing my own snacks and declining that pizza and cake during a party, I can't find any blogs to turn to. Sure, tons exist containing recipes, product reviews, and fitness advice, but only a handful show the social side of celiacs - what living with this disease is actually like. 

With this blog, I hope to find friends in all ages of life who suffer the same issues and provide an open ear for anyone wanting to vent. I also want to show that being a celiac doesn't kill any chance of a social life in college - it just makes things a little more interesting.