Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Once Upon a Time: A History of Celiac Disease

As a child, my dad was the king of story telling. Nearly every night, he would tuck my little sister and I into bed and transport us to exotic worlds filled with castles, princesses and even talking dolphins. Today, though, I want to share a different kind of bedtime story.

Whether you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance or a gluten allergy or know children who do, here's the story of celiac disease from the second century AD to now! 

casey the college celiac
From the beginning...
Once upon a time, in a country far away, a man named Artaeus of Cappadocia noticed a mysterious illness striking the people of Greece. Those with it would experience painful tummy aches and Artaeus eventually dubbed them "celiacs." (Ever wonder why celiac disease is spelled "coeliac" in other places around the world? It's because both names were translated from Greek!)

As time passes, celiacs appeared all over the globe. By 1888, though, a doctor named Samuel Gee had a lightbulb moment. He thought the tummy aches were tied to what people ate! Now, we know today that celiacs should follow a gluten free diet, but people didn't know that back then. Instead, doctors like Sidney Hass in 1924 suggested celiacs only eat bananas, sometimes with milk. That sounds a little bananas, but it's true!

casey the college celiac
Maybe my banana ice cream kick wasn't so crazy!
Now, maybe you've heard the story of the sailor chasing after a sneaky whale known as Moby Dick. But Willem Karel Dicke was after a different beast: the exact cause of celiac disease. In 1952, he found it! A few years earlier, Dicke noticed that kids seemed to do better during the war when grains like wheat were in short supply. When the soldiers - and the wheat - came back home, so did their health problems! He later identified gluten as the troublemaker and celiacs now were told to follow a gluten free diet

Wondering where the girls are in celiac history? Enter Margot Shiner from 1956! She came up with the idea of using a "biopsy" - when doctors use a camera to look in your intestines and take a sample - to diagnose celiac disease. 

Now, we know that our DNA and genes are what make us unique. In 1989, though, Ludvig Sollid and his research group discovered the genes that often cause celiac disease: two types of the molecule, histocompatability leukocyte antigen or (HLA). Try saying that five times fast! 

casey the college celiac

Remember getting blood drawn at the doctor's office? In fact, doctors weren't able to look in your blood for signs of celiac disease until 1997. That's when Detlef Schuppan discovered that autoantibodies in people with celiac disease attack tissue's transglutaminase (an enzyme released when gluten passes through the intestines). No wonder gluten hurts!

Despite the work of these awesome researchers, there was a lot about celiac disease we still didn't known by 2000. Alessio Fasano helped fill in the blanks. He found zonulin, a molecule believed to increase the odds of celiac disease. 

You've probably become a gluten free ninja since your diagnosis. In 2010, though, several clinical trials began. Basically, this means researchers are seeing what non-dietary changes could help people with celiac disease. Who knows what celiacs will be able to do - and eat - in the future

casey the college celiac

And celiac disease history is still being made now with you, me and other researchers! The fact is, if you ever feel alone, know that hundreds of thousands of celiacs are out there - today and in the past. So much progress has been made since celiac disease first appeared in history. 

And, because of the hard work of scientists, doctors, parents, friends and celiacs like you, it's now possible to live "happily ever after" with celiac disease. But I won't write "The End" yet because, really, we, and the celiacs before us, are only the beginning

Did anything in celiac disease history surprise you? Any other thoughts? Comment below! 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Tips and Tricks: Cooking with Beets

Now, to get the puns out of the way: it beets me why more people aren't eating more beets! You just can't beet this colorful, nutrient-packed delicious ingredient!

Whew - now that I got that out of my system, it's time to share the tips and tricks I use to get the most out of my beets. Already use them? Then here are some new recipes to try! Never even tried beets before? Here's why you should! 

Casey the College Celiac

First off, why even bother with beets? To put it simply, not only do they add a splash of bright color to every meal, but they're also nutritional powerhouses! According to Nutrition and You, beetroot boasts high levels of vitamin B, iron, manganese, copper and magnesium. It also offers a moderate amount of potassium, plenty of folates and a compound known as glycine betaine, which can lower the levels of homocysteine in the blood. Since high levels of homocysteine can lead to heart disease, stroke and vascular diseases, your heart will love this veggie as much as your taste buds! As a bonus, eating beet greens can also boost your levels of vitamin C, vitamin A and flavonoids (which help prevent lung and oral cavity cancers).

How can you get beet-er at incorporating beets into your daily menu? (Sorry, pun haters. Couldn't help myself). One of the easiest - and tastiest - ways is through nana ice cream or smoothie bowls

casey the college celiac
Berry beet heaven!
Adding beets is simple. Just chop or slice up some beets, pop them in the freezer and pull them out whenever you're getting your blendin' on. Personally, I love combining beets with mixed berries (as well as my usual sliced zucchini and squash) for a bright pink smoothie that tastes so good, you'll forget all about the hidden veggies! In fact, as long as you include a decent amount of fruit or spices in proportion to the beet, you won't even taste the beet in your breakfast. 

For those who follow a low fodmap diet - as I do - it's also important to not overdo it on the beets. Since its a high fodmap ingredient, I typically only use one or two ice-cube-sized pieces in each of my huuuuuge smoothies. Bonus points: if you buy beets with leaves attached, through them in your smoothie - the fruits' natural sugar will balance the beet greens' slightly bitter taste. 

casey the college celiac
My kind of pie!
Beets also make a delicious, crunchy topping for pizza! When making your usual favorite pie, try cutting thin slices of beet and mixing them with your usual toppings. The beets add a bright burst of pink that, combined with other veggies like squash, zucchini, sweet potato and spinach, can create a rainbow masterpiece. 

I also love that beets can get crispy on pizza as long as they're cut thin and the oven temperature is relatively high. If you're a super beet lover, you can even replace the radish greens in my green sauce - which I often use on pizza instead of tomato sauce or pesto - for beet greens

More of a "toss-it-in-the-oven" and eat kind of chef? Then beets also add an earthy flavor to roasted veggies. As long as you slice them thinly, you can even use my broil method to get crispy beet chips in under twenty minutes. 

casey the college celiac

As for stove top lovers, I often throw beets into my veggie stir frys as well. Not only do they add a pink color, but they also give a hardier bite to more fragile veggies like zucchini and squash

Need even more ideas of what to do with beets? Here are some of my favorites from the blogopshere:

  • Chocolate Beet Muffins - that are also grain and sugar free - from the perpetually talented Julia at The Roasted Root
  • Chocolate Raspberry Beet Pudding - pudding has never been this pink, or this delicious! This is packed with fruit and veggies, and I would probably even leave the extra sweetener out or add a bit of frozen banana instead! 
  • Beetroot Cake Porridge - ever heard, or enjoyed a bowl, of zoats? This is the beetroot version, which is not only vegan, but also loaded with goodies like chopped pecans and blackstrap molasses. Thanks Kyra!
  • Sweet Beet Yogurt Bowl - of course I have to feature a recipe from the HeartBeet Kitchen! If you're craving an easy way to upgrade your yogurt parfait, this is the recipe for you.
  • Broccoli Beet and Kale Brown Rice Bowl - and another recipe from The Roasted Root for you savory lovers. A warm salad has never looked so...pretty!

The fact is that, though beets may seem a little foreboding at first, there are plenty of easy ways to add them into your diet. 

You might even say that vitamin B, iron and magnesium have never looked more be(et)autiful

Do you eat beets? Any tips and tricks of your own? Comment below! 

Friday, June 24, 2016

What Food a Gluten Free Celiac Packs for an Extended Vacation

It's summer - which, for this college celiac, means lots of studying for the GRE, working at an amazing internship three days a week and flying off to visit family in the Lone Star state.

Compared to my short, three-day stay in Disneyland, I'll be rockin' in Texas for two weeks. What gluten free foods am I packing (correction: stuffing) in my suitcase? 

casey the college celiac
Prepare for the 3 T's: Tips and Tricks while Traveling!
Here's a sneak peek at how I make sure this celiac won't go hungry!

1. Immediate necessities 

First of all, you should consider what food you'll need right when you land. Now, your access to a grocery store will vary depending on your destination and arrival time. In my case, I know that I'll be stepping into humidity - I mean Houston - at seven P.M. their time. After a long day of travel, I know that I won't be craving a shopping spree. So, I'm packing:

A dinner that I will most likely eat on the plane, while waiting at the baggage claim or on the way to Grandma's house. It may not look pretty, but this combo is bomb! Basically just mixed greens, lots of leftover roasted veggies, salmon, two kinds of tater (regular and Japanese sweet potato) and avocado. Served with some green beans, it's a dream

casey the college celiac
Excuse the ugly, blurry photo...airplane photography is not my strong suit!
Night snack goodies like half a So Delicious yogurt container, a travel pack of sunbutter, a small container of fruit, and rice cakes.

Breakfast for the next morning, which features a pre-made and frozen smoothie bowl that I double wrapped and stuffed in my suitcase! (Can you say smoothie addict?) Plus my usual toppings. 

casey the college celiac
My suitcase o' food!
2. Breakfast staples

Now, in my experience, breakfast is the hardest meal of the day when I'm away from home - mainly because *insert a lone tear here* I have to leave my beloved Vitamix behind. I often end up using a verrrrry low speed blender my grandma has, but I also love having these staples in my suitcase:

Buckwheat and rice flakes for oatless oatmeal.

casey the college celiac
Cause how can I not crave this on vacation?
Chia seeds (Mamma Chia for the win!) for oatless oatmeal, smoothies and chia seed pudding.

Spices like turmeric, maca and cacao.

Enjoy Life Trail Mix - crunchy chewy goodness!

Several Health Warrior Chia Bars to eat as snacks or crumble on my oatmeal, smoothies or yogurt.

casey the college celiac
My favorite flavor :)
Coconut flour - for breakfast bakes and/or breakfast cookies.

3. Hard-to-find items 

Now, when you're staying somewhere for a decent amount of time, obviously you can stock up with lots of gluten free food from local grocery stores. Before you leave, I definitely suggest spending a few minutes researching your destination. Any gluten free restaurants nearby? Health stores? Knowing your options will help you know how much to bring. 

casey the college celiac
Randall's Gluten Free aisle...
In my case, I know that there is a Randall's Grocery with decent produce and gluten free options nearby, several Whole Foods Markets (score!), and plenty of delicious restaurants. As a result, I'm only packing some of my favorite foods that can be hard (or pricey) to find. These include:

My homemade granola. I cooked a big batch a few nights before my flight to make sure I had my favorite treat stocked for the first week. By the time I get back, I'll definitely be experiencing granola withdrawal

casey the college celiac
One of my favorites...
Food for Life Rice tortillas, which I love cooking on the stove top to make crunchy chips

Daiya cheese - mainly because I only have half a bag left and I know that I wouldn't finish a whole bag if I bought one there.

The new coconut milk coffee creamers from So Delicious - because I just received some samples the other day and want to use them in my smoothies and oatmeal!

casey the college celiac
My latest experiment subject! ;)
And that's a wrap! I won't lie and say that traveling with celiac is easy, but it does get easier with experience. Now, I expect to tote a decent amount of food with me on any vacation. It's just reality. By accepting that, instead of being embarrassed or anxious over it, I have a less stressful (and equally delicious) trip. 

Because, in my mind? Clothes < food in my vacation priority list. That's what washing machines are for! 

What are some staples you bring with you on extended vacations? Any of the same ones on my list? Comment below! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What Losing Weight Does Not Mean

You step on the scale, nearly holding your breath as you watch the red arrow dance along the plastic face. It lands on a number - a few points lower than usual - and...maybe you celebrate if you're part of the 56 percent of Americans trying to lose weight. Or, if you're like me and the four percent of people trying to gain, you cringe

Either way, weight loss is more than just a number: it's a feeling. It's often the reason we eat like we eat, we move how much we do and we have a good or a bad day. 

casey the college celiac

Recently, though, I've been thinking about what weight loss is not. A few days ago, I read a great article on BlogHer titled, "I've gained weight, so what?" And just like Jes Baker argues that gaining weight isn't the end of the world, losing weight isn't the key to world domination

I know this for a fact. As my friends and family have (lovingly) pointed out, I lost a few pounds after my breakup. I'm skinnier than I like and I'm working to change that. Yet, as I hear comments - of praise or worries - about how "tiny" I am, I want to remind them that weight loss does not mean

- I planned to lose weight. 

- It is the top accomplishment on my personal résumé. In fact, I'd rather have some junk in my trunk. 

- It is a factor that makes me "too small" to lift weights, play soccer or rock some HIIT workouts. That's what lower weights are for! 

- Proof that my value as a person has skyrocketed 

- I've lost progress in my celiac health journey. Yes, my body is physically smaller, but it still feels so much stronger

- I enjoy comments on my size. If you're not at your ideal weight, it stings a little if people mention you're still wearing a little baby fat. The reverse is also true

What does weight loss mean? I took in less calories than I burned, causing me to lose weight. Boom. That's it

casey the college celiac
Something like that!
Except that's not how society and the media typically sees it. Whether celebrities are too fat or too thin, a magazine will call out that woman - or man - for their "transgression." And, honestly, it's hard to love your body when you look in the mirror and see something "wrong" - by your standards or society's. 

But the fact is, weight does not define me. It impacts me in the clothes I wear, how often I eat and how it feels to hug me. It impacts others through any worries over me and any assumptions they make based on my exterior package of skin and bone and curves. 

casey the college celiac
After our Father's Day yoga date!
Yet, like Jes Baker says, change is life. Change is good. Change is growth. When I say that I want to gain weight back, I don't mean that I'm craving to return to the girl I was a year ago. Since then, I've experienced my first heartbreak, my first job, my first paid publication, dozens of insanely delicious meals, and handfuls of special memories - from Disneyland to Father's Day yoga - that I would never trade away. 

Key words: I experienced. Not my body or my weight, but the girl behind the window dressing. The same differentiation applies to you, too.

I can't claim that I've come to love my pancake butt or skinny Minnie arms, but I'm trying. And the first step of that is realizing that because bodies change, the way we love them must change too. At a heavier weight, I loved the strength in my legs when bike riding. At this lighter weight, I can love the surprise on others' faces as I kick butt in a hot yoga class. And, as my body continues to change, I'll continue to find new ways and traits of it to love. 

casey the college celiac

Because, in the end, one part never changes: me. And that girl - the strong, funny, creative, determined inner self - deserves to be loved no matter what. As do your inner girl or boy. 

What does weight loss (or gain) not mean to you? How do you love yourself with a changing body? Comment below! 

Monday, June 20, 2016

You are Enough: Working with a Chronic Illness

I like to think I'm pretty normal. I'm a twenty something college student, I binge Netflix like nobody's business and food is one of my best friends. But, every once in a while, I can't ignore what's not "normal" about me: in particular, my celiac disease and fibromyalgia.

The fact is, as much as I've learnt to cope and thrive with chronic illnesses, sometimes I can't help but feel disadvantaged by them. Especially as I've ventured into my first 9 to 5 job

casey the college celiac
With one of my first pay checks...
The doubts started small at first. Like most celiacs can probably relate to, I worried about the food aspect of working. Since I'm in the office during the time I eat at least two meals, I knew I'd have to rock a cooler full of gluten free goodies instead of a business briefcase

In the end, my coworkers and boss have been more than accommodating. We have a mini fridge I store my (lunch box enclosed) food in and the freedom to eat whenever we're hungry. No one has commented about my green smoothie bowls I tote for brunch - even though they're not exactly typical office eats. 

casey the college celiac
In my huge, portable bowls!
But I haven't been able to shake the worry: "Am I enough?" 

Am I doing enough even though I can only come into the office two times a week? I thought I'd vanquished most of my fibromyalgia symptoms, but the extreme fatigue that comes from waking up two hours earlier than usual and driving 30 minutes to 1 hr in traffic to and from work proved me wrong

Am I social enough when I can't attend most outside events? I only work in-office Monday and Tuesday, and most activities occur later in the week. Besides the obvious commute challenge and my busy schedule (GRE studying to the death!), the socials often involve food. And, while I'd be fine bringing my own meals, sometimes I wonder if it's worth it. 

casey the college celiac
GRE that I'm also studying during lunch breaks at work!
Am I "easy" enough when a lunch with my boss takes more planning than it would with anyone else? When people you admire offer to take you out to lunch, it feels awkward to not be able to say "yes" to any of their favorite eateries. Even though I know celiac disease is not my fault, I feel bad for being the "complicated" employee. 

Will I be enough for future jobs? If I'm struggling, growing and doubting this much in a part time internship, what will happen when I work full time

Honestly, I don't know all the answers. In my working journey, I've barely left home - and I know I have plenty of experiences, adventures and surprises to come. But what I do know - and what anyone with chronic illnesses should keep telling themselves - is this:

My medical "weaknesses" can also be my strengths. 

While I can't give any details away, don't be surprised to see plenty of health related articles on when it goes live in July. Perhaps my diseases do keep me from being "normal" - but they also give me a unique perspective to share. 

casey the college celiac
Celiac perspective is free with celiac swag...
You can build work friendships in the office too. 

When I'm working in the office, it's easy to get close to the other girls - mainly because there's lots of workers and limited office space! Sure, I'm bummed and worried sometimes when everyone attends a social event that I - schedule or health wise - can't. But I make sure to hear all about it the next work day. And I try to chat and have fun even as we're typing away in the office. 

I can be more than enough in what I can control

I can't change my gluten free diet or fibro fatigue - but I can make sure I work to be the best employee possible. When I'm in the office, I knock out my assignments. When I'm working from home, I'm equally dedicated. I'm more than my medical diagnosis - and my creativity, determination and work ethic is more than enough

casey the college celiac
Like a goofball...
And when I'm enough in so many different ways, I'm worth a little extra work. Heck, I know I'm probably worrying about my celiac complications more than my boss ever has of is. 

And when I start believing I'm enough - no "in spite of" or "even though" qualifiers in sight - I'll find a job that fits all of me. 

After all, it's already happened once. I feel so extremely blessed to be part of Entity. Besides the commute, it really is my dream job: using my love of writing to promote and assist female empowerment. Sure, I'll never be a "normal" worker - but you aren't hired to be average

casey the college celiac

You're hired to be extraordinary

*Also found at Wine'd Down Wednesday*

Do you ever have doubts about being "enough" at your job? What medical challenges have you faced while working? Comment below! 

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Best Celiac-Related Dad-isms for Father's Day

Dads say the darndest things, don't they? Or at least mine does. To celebrate Father's Day this year, I thought I'd share some of the best celiac-related Dad-isms that have occurred in my family...and probably in yours too!

casey the college celiac
As we posed on a mountain of course...
About Food

1. Looking at my smoothie bowl breakfast: "What makes it"

2. Still watching me eat my smoothie bowl: "Enjoying your...mixture, there?"

3. *Makes dozens of silly faces at my smoothies* *Now he makes his own* Casey world domination part 1. 

casey the college celiac smoothie bowl vegan
Not to mention faces when I'm photographing...
4. When I discovered that, during our road trip to Colorado Springs, we'd be stopping by one of top rated gluten free restaurants in the US. "You're more excited about the food than the move to Colorado." Guilty. 

5. When we found free samples of a gluten free Acai drink after the Mud Run 5K: "Take one...or two...or three, one for Hannah and I technically..."

About Celiac 

6. After reading up on Gluten Dude's blog: "Do you feel like home is a safe place?"

7. When talking about possible restaurants: "So, it's gluten free...but is it celiac safe." (The real question for every celiac of course!)

casey the college celiac
In the end, no nose ring for me...
8. When I was crying over the idea of returning to college while rocking a feeding tube: "Dye your hair pink, get your nose pierced if you want!"

9. After I finally gained back some of weight I lost from celiac disease: "Call the presses - Casey's got her butt back!"

About Life

10. After my (ex) boyfriend and I broke up: "You'll find someone else. You have a few...quirks, but you have a lot to offer." Ahh, thanks dad!

casey the college celiac father family
Snaps through the years...
My house has definitely enjoyed some interesting celiac-related conversations and plenty of memorable one-liners! I'm always so grateful to have such a supportive, awesome (and often hilarious) dad to look up to - and the memories I've made I've made with him will last even longer than these favorite Dad-isms! 

Do you have favorite celiac-related Dad-isms? I'd love to hear them! Comment below! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Disneyland's Best Gluten Free Food

People say it's the happiest place on Earth...but no happy day is complete without a delicious gluten free meal, right? I decided to find out for myself when my family visited Disneyland for a few days last week.

How can a celiac make sure their meals are just as magical as the scenery? And where can you find the best gluten free grub? Here are my favorite Disneyland finds!

casey the college celiac
Can you tell we were excited?
Tortilla Jo's:

My mom and I packed enough food so that we would only dine out for dinner each day. By 3:30 on the day we arrived, though, we were already starving - so we decided to throw a fiesta for our taste buds at Tortilla Jo's. 

Tortilla Jo's is located in Downtown Disney, which makes it very convenient for people who are staying at any of the Disney hotels. While it - like most Disney restaurants - becomes a madhouse after 5, when we walked in at 3:30, Tortilla Jo's was nice and nearly empty

tortilla jo's casey the college celiac
Who can say no to that lit up sombrero?
Though I forgot to take a picture of the menu (food blogger fail), you can see all of the options on Disney's website. One part I loved? Gluten free options are indicated right on the regular menu! Some of the meals that sounded best to me included tacos, enchiladas of various types (from veggie to chicken), soups and combo plates. 

Since my server didn't seem extremely knowledgeable about celiac disease, I asked to speak to one of the chefs. When he came out, he confirmed that the chips and salsa were gluten free and fried in a separate fryer (score!), and said that my top choice - veggie enchiladas with cilantro rice and black beans but no cheese - would  have no chance to touch gluten. He did warn me that the red rice, which is offered with some dishes, uses a paste that could contain minute traces of gluten - so avoid that!

tortilla jo's casey the college celiac
Heaven right there!
My mom, also gluten free, ended up ordering a chicken enchilada and chicken taco with white rice (instead of red) and sauteed veggies rather than black beans. The gluten-eaters were equally excited for their chicken enchiladas with rice, beans and sweet corn

Probably because the restaurant wasn't busy at the time, our food emerged after only 15-20 minutes. (Not that we minded - their chips tasted light and not greasy while the salsa was spicy without setting your taste buds on fire). When our food arrived, the plates were steaming hot and we immediately dug in. 

casey the college celiac tortilla jo's
All the chips!
Honestly? This is one of the best meals - and definitely the best Mexican meal - I've eaten since my celiac diagnosis. The beans were creamy while the rice tasted fluffy and super fresh thanks to the cilantro. As for the enchiladas, I was in heaven! The sauteed vegetables - a mixture of squash, zucchini, tomato and corn - tasted soft without being mushy. The red sauce gave my taste buds a little kick of spice and the corn tortilla tied all of the ingredients together

My family equally loved their dishes. My mom enjoyed that her green sauce wasn't spicy and the restaurant obviously used very high quality chicken. My dad and sister gushed over the corn - which they said tasted creamy and sweet, like it had just been scraped off the cob. Overall, we all agreed that the food tasted super fresh and light. 

casey the college celiac
My re-purposed leftovers...
And, when we ate our leftover enchiladas the next night, they tasted even better than the first time - a true stamp of a delicious meal.  
Flo's V8 Cafe:

The next night at Disneyland, I wanted to eat a home-style meal. I'd read many positive reviews online about the new Flo's V8 Cafe in Cars Land, so I dragged the family there around 3:30 on Thursday. 

At first glance, Flo's V8 Cafe is charming. It's decorated like an old gas station and diner with plenty of classic touches like old car parts framed in the wall, black and white checkerboard and fiesta ware dishes. When we walked in, there wasn't a line for food - but by the time we ordered, plenty of people were drooling over the menu behind us! 

flo's v8 cafe casey the college celiac
Going back in time!
When we reached the check out counter, I told the server I had celiac disease and she immediately gave me an allergen-friendly menu to look at. Though I failed (again) to photograph it - I blame my extreme hunger - Flo's offers several gluten free, dairy free, soy free and nut free choices. Some that stick out in my mind are roast beef sandwiches on a gluten free bun, ribs, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies and a quarter roasted chicken. 

My mom and I each ordered a quarter roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and roasted veggies. The server asked if we would like to speak to the chef and I eagerly said yes. He appeared only a few minutes later, confirmed that our choice was already 99% gluten free - he would just not add a chicken sauce on the top - and said he would personally oversee our orders. 

casey the college celiac
Our food appeared only 5-10 minutes later, along with the roast beef sandwich and turkey club that my sister and dad ordered. First of all, the chicken dish was the perfect serving size for one hungry diner! The mashed potatoes tasted rich, but not overwhelmingly so, and I loved the pieces of potato skin mixed in. As for the steamed veggies, I - of course - enjoyed the mix of cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. 

When it comes to chicken, I can be pretty picky. I don't like dry chicken or one that is extremely fatty. Flo's was neither - it tasted juicy, offered plenty of white meat and boasted a fresh, home cooked flavor. My dad and sister also devoured their sandwiches and sides - a good plain meal after all the rich treats we'd been eating!

Jolly Holiday's Bakery and Cafe: 

My research had also shown that Jolly Holiday offers some gluten free pastries - so, of course, Mom and I had to check out the options. I was pleased to see that they offered pre-packaged goodies (including a blueberry muffin, fudge brownie and chocolate chip cookie) from OMG It's Gluten Free. While I would've definitely enjoyed freshly baked goods, I appreciated their work to prevent cross contamination

casey the college celiac
A few of our finds...
In the end, we bought one of each - a true YOLO moment - but have only tried the blueberry muffin so far. My mom enjoyed it for breakfast our last day at Disneyland. I'd apologize for the poor photo quality - but, considering it was 6 A.M. and we were all walking zombies, I'm pretty proud I snapped one at all!

According to my Mom, the muffin tasted extremely moist, which was nicely juxtaposed with the crunchy sugar crystals sprinkled on top. She also enjoyed the large blueberries dispersed throughout and that the muffin tasted dense, but still fluffy

Marceline's Confectionery 

When my dad suggested we check out the pastry and chocolate store in Downtown Disney, I didn't expect to find any gluten free options. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Disney has apparently enlisted the help of two of my favorite companies - Wow Baking Company and Enjoy Life Foods - to offer allergen free Disney treats. 

casey the college celiac
All the cookies!
In terms of the Wow cookies, Disney offers two flavors: chocolate chip and lemon burst. My dad, although a gluten eater, snacked on these throughout our stay. As with the non-Disney versions, the cookies were soft, sweet but not sickeningly so, and the perfect size for a small treat. 

As for the Enjoy Life Food offerings, I found products ranging from chocolate to individually packed cookies to snack bars to trail mix. As usual, all options were free of the top either allergens. Although I didn't buy any (mainly because I already had non-Disney equivalents in my suitcase), I love that Disney is working with Enjoy Life to let kids with allergies experience the same (sugary) Disney magic. 

casey the college celiac
Enjoying life is easy at Disney! ;)
It's also worth noting that I saw these same bars and bags of trail mix for sale at a shop near Grizzly River Run in Disneyland. Just don't feed them to the Bears!

Part of the Disney magic during our visit was definitely finding foods that were celiac safe and delicious. Everyone deserves to eat safely when enjoying the happiest place on Earth - and I hope these reviews and recommendations will help you do just that!

*Also found at Flaunt it Friday and Running with Spoons!*

Have you gone to Disneyland with food allergies or celiac disease? Where are your favorite eats? Comment below!

Monday, June 13, 2016

5 Traveling Life Lessons from Celiac Disease

What is your favorite souvenir from a trip? A decorated mug to start your mornings off right? A bag of Asian spices from the local market near your hotel? After spending three days at Disneyland with my family, I bought several items to remember our trip by (like a Route 66 spoon!). But the most valuable souvenir?

Realizing how much celiac disease has taught me about traveling

casey the college celiac
Climbing that travelin' mountain!
Because, while traveling with food allergies or celiac disease isn't a walk in the (Disneyland) park, it teaches you five lessons that every traveler should know. 

1. Plan ahead - but not too much. 

When you are traveling with some kind of limitation, whether it's dietary needs, time, money or mobility, it's easy to become addicted to your itinerary. After all, if you can schedule a day full of museums, food, fitness classes, movies and local sightseeing - all without leaving your computer chair - why not?

casey the college celiac
Asking the hard questions...(a photo from our first Disneyland)
Simply put: because plans don't always occur like you anticipate. Maybe you saved money by booking tours in advance, but what if you underestimate the jet lag and sleep through your appointment? Or, in my case, I remember planning in detail the gluten free restaurants we could eat at in Disney World. But, when my choice had an hour wait, or didn't sound appealing on that particular day, my family and I were out of luck! Cue family drama

This time, when we traveled to Disneyland, I did some light research. I noted a handful of restaurants that offered gluten free food and food that the rest of my family would enjoy. My mom and I also packed some food for lunches (so we only dined out for dinner) and extra food in case a restaurant didn't work out. Instead of planning out the exact rides/parks/times of each day, we made a game plan each morning and went with the flow. 

casey the college celiac
A few snapshots...
In the end, we had a fantastic vacation - food definitely included - and we all felt much less stressed this time around! 

2. Food is part of the experience, so embrace it! 

Speaking of food, don't forget to enjoy local eats. As two great recent posts by Sweat Like A Pig explain, trying foods from different cultures and locations can form some of the sweetest (or most savory 😉  ) travel memories. Don't let your food allergies, weight concerns or celiac disease steal that experience away. 

Food was definitely one of the highlights in my Disneyland trip (as those who follow me on Instagram know!). As I'll share later this week, I not only found celiac safe meals, but also the tastiest restaurant meals I've eaten since my diagnosis. Part of the Disney magic really was walking into a Mexican restaurant and realizing I can eat the chips and salsa instead of only watching my family devour the bowl. I felt normal - and truly immersed in the full "travel" experience. 

True, making food a safe and delicious experience while traveling takes some planning - but the memories (and satisfied bellies) are totally worth it. Especially if you enjoy a dish - like my veggie enchiladas from Tortilla Jo's - that you can't get easily at home!

3. Expect the worst to have the best time. 

You've probably dreamt of this vacation or traveling opportunity for weeks, months or even years. You've done the research, you've drooled over the local food and you're ready for the time of your life! Just don't let high expectations rob you of an imperfect, but still fun time. 

casey the college celiac
Smiling while being eaten alive? Sometimes traveling is a lot like that!
How to travel with a realistic perspective? Look up tourist statistics to see how busy your destination will likely be, prepare (mentally and otherwise) for worst case scenarios like stolen wallets or missed flights and make a bucket list of the activities that will make or break your trip

When it came to Disneyland, my family and I expected chaos. It's summer. It's near graduation. And death by strollers is a real possibility. By starting our trip with the expectation that lines would be long and restaurants could be crazy, we were pleasantly surprised when we found rides with 30 minute wait times or less and enjoyed two fabulous gluten free meals. 

casey the college celiac
On the new cars ride!
We also set a realistic itinerary: we only wanted to hit a handful of our favorite rides, would eat at odd hours (dinner around 3:30) and would escape to the hotel during peek park times. In the end, not doing everything and having low expectations turned our trip into one of the best Disney adventures yet! 

4. Do what you love, not what others say you should.

Need more help creating your ideal itinerary? Besides narrowing down a few activities you must do, make sure you're doing what you want instead of what others suggest. Sure, seeing Niagara Falls is probably an amazing experience. Sure, most sites probably recommend stopping by if you're in the area. But if you live near waterfalls and know Niagara Falls will be packed, is that activity really worthy of your bucket list? 

casey the college celiac
Our waterfall! ;)
The bottom line is to follow your own interests when traveling. For a foodie, maybe eating at four restaurants a day is the dream. For an athlete, the perfect trip could include climbing a mountain and skiing down it afterward. My family and I certainly didn't hit all of the "must see" rides and locations in Disneyland - but we left with no regrets

Happiness is an intensely personal decision and condition. To find happiness while traveling, your chosen activities should be equally personal and unique

5. Realize that you'll learn something with every travel experience - and look forward to finding out what! 

Whether you've traveled all over the world or barely left your house, traveling teaches you something. Before my celiac diagnosis, it taught me the value of family time, spontaneity and adventure. Now, it confirms the same lessons - along with an emphasis on planning and individuality. 

casey the college celiac
Riding Ferris wheel < holding Ferris wheel!
This last trip to Disneyland certainly went smoother than any other post-celiac traveling experience. We had food, but found local choices at Disney. We were prepared, but not overly paranoid. Yet, I know that my two-week trip to Houston in a few weeks from now will school me once again. I'll forget something, bring too much of something else or stress over some aspect of traveling that doesn't even matter in the long run. 

Rather than that unknown lesson scaring me like it used to, though, I'm excited. I'm excited for surprises, changes in schedule and unexpected challenges. I'm ready to see what knowledge I'll bring back from Texas to use on future trips. And I'm ready to grow, not only as a traveler, but also as a person. 

casey the college celiac
Being goofy while traveling doesn't hurt either...
Because these lessons from celiac disease extend to more than just traveling. They apply to the biggest journey possible: life.

So the next time you're discouraged about not finding the perfect momento of your trip, smile and remember: you're bringing back more than a necklace made in China but bought in England. You're bringing back lessons that can make each future trip just a little bit easier, a little bit more enjoyable and a lot more rewarding. 

What has celiac disease taught you about traveling? Any traveling tips or life lessons? Comment below!