Friday, December 30, 2016

A College Celiac's Top Gluten Free Snacks for the New Year

This New Year's, what accomplishments from 2016 will you be celebrating? Starting - and kicking butt - at your new job? Putting an old relationship behind you? What about simply surviving the chaos that was, in a lot of ways, 2016?

For this college celiac, 2016 certainly came with plenty of highs, lows and memories. However, if this last year was anything, it was definitely tasty! To help you start 2017 on the right (make that healthy) foot, I thought one more throwback was necessary: a round up of my favorite gluten free products from 2016!

casey the college celiac

So grab a mug of hot cocoa, have a bib handy (in case of any drool), and get ready to explore some of this college celiac's favorite gluten free snacks. Some are sponsored, some are old favorites...but all are 100% delicious, celiac-safe and perfect fuel for 2017!

1. Snack simply with Bare Snacks' banana chips.

I've always been a sucker for sweet and crunchy snacks, and Bare Snacks' range of fruit chips easily checks off both boxes. My personal favorite are their banana chips, which are gluten free, vegan and refined sugar free. If you want an even more "desserty" snack, try their Cinnamon or Cacao varieties.

I love eating these straight from the bag...especially when I was stuck in class (college students, Bare Snacks can make boring courses much more than "barely" tolerable) or busy running errands. They also add a delicious crunch to smoothie bowls or yogurt parfaits. Basically? These chips will keep you from going bananas this new year!

2. Enjoy bagels free of gluten but packed with flavor thanks to Snackin' Free.

As anyone on a gluten free diet (for celiac, gluten intolerance or personal choice) has experienced, finding gluten free bread that doesn't taste like cardboard can feel like searching for the holy grail. Luckily for 2017 snackers, this holy grail has a website full of delicious, paleo options - ranging from bagels to granola to (my family's favorite) BBQ sauce.

casey the college celiac
Finger lickin' good!

For an energy-packed pre-workout snack, try toasting half a cinnamon raisin bagel and topping it with nut butter and sliced banana. Craving an afternoon pick-me-up? Try mixing yogurt with berries, nut butter and Snackin' Free granola (some of the chewiest clusters I've ever tasted) for a sweet yet nutritious treat.

3. Taste (allergy-free) inner peace with Namaste Foods.

I never thought it was a cookie person. Pancakes? Yes please. Cake? Add some So Delicious ice cream and I'm a happy camper. But this past Christmas, Namaste Foods proved me wrong in the most delicious of ways. Their Organic Pumpkin Baking mix can make everything from pancakes to scones to (of course) cookies...and my vegan pumpkin cookies boast only three ingredients!

Whether you like a bite of something sweet before bed or a treat to fuel you through a hard workout, these health(ier) cookies are the perfect choice, all year long. I haven't had a chance to try any of Namaste Foods' other products, but if they're anything like their Organic Pumpkin Mix, you won't even miss the gluten (or any of the other top 8 allergens)!

4. Discover that good things come in small packages with Pipcorn.

So, this 5'2" blogger obviously shows that small packages can have some amazing properties...but if you need more convincing, Pipcorn is the perfect (edible) proof! Pipcorn is a mini popcorn (around half the size of normal!) that's also all natural, gluten free, non-GMO, vegan, and whole grain.

casey the college celiac
Pipcorn + granola = crunchy heaven!

Pipcorn can also fulfill any of your salty, sweet or savory cravings since it comes in five flavors: Sea Salt, Truffle oil, Kettle, Rosemary and, their newest, Chili Lab. For a light snack, Pipcorn is delicious by itself. If you're looking for a heartier post-workout treat, add (protein) nana ice cream, So Delicious yogurt, or chia seed pudding.

5. Dip into delish with Dolci Di Maria's biscotti.

Okay, I'll admit it. 2016 was also the year I became addicted to biscotti. Since I've never drank coffee, I'd never tried biscotti before Dolci Di Maria sent me a sample. Well, I haven't changed my mind about coffee...but biscotti has definitely become my new favorite morning snack.

Dolci di Maria's biscotti is not only gluten and dairy free, but it's also flaky and full of vanilla flavor and chocolate chunks. If you know you have a hard day coming up, this is definitely my suggested snacking fuel!

6. Send your taste buds on an edible vacation with Aloha's Dark Chocolate Coconut bar.

Don't you love it when a snack can double as dessert - in taste, not nutrition? I've tasted a lot of snack bars in my days; I'd say they come with the college student territory. However, Aloha's still sticks out in my mind (and taste buds) as one of the tastiest gluten free options.

casey the college celiac
Just taking a bite of my chocolate bar...

As I shared in my review
, these coconut bar tastes like an addictive combination of granola and bliss balls: although packed with crunchy nuts and seeds, chewy ingredients like maple and rice syrup hold everything together. Considering that these bars lasted less than a week in my kitchen, I'd say they are definitely worth another bite in 2017!

7. Get the best of all worlds thanks to Gourmet Gift Baskets.

You didn't think I could end 2016 without one last product review, do you? My Christmas was made extra special this year thanks to a surprise from Gourmet Gift Baskets! I received their "Gluten Free Gift Basket Premium," which includes goodies like:

  • Peanut Brittle by Old Dominion 
  • Organic Dude Ranch Multigrain Chips (which my gluten-lovin' dad and sister devoured within a week)
  • Almond Nougat by Golden BonBon
  • Pineapple, Coconut & Macadamia Orchard Bar by Liberty Orchards (the best mix of crunchy chewy with a tropical twist)
  • Gluten Free Olive Oil & Herb Crackers by Partners
  • Cranberry Pomegranate Clusters by 180 Snacks (in one word: heaven)
  • Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper Baked Potato Sticks by Merrimack Valley Snack Company 

Although this probably isn't the right gift basket for someone with a nut allergy, it's the perfect choice for a foodie wanting to try a bite of everything. Not to mention you'll be stocked in snacks for a couple weeks at least!

casey the college celiac
A gift basket of a gluten free foodie's dreams!

It's impossible to deny that 2016 was full of surprises, whether good, bad or undetermined. However, why not end this year - and start the new year - on a sweeter note with some help from a few delicious, healthy and gluten free snacks? After all, you can't conquer 2017 on an empty stomach!

*I received some of these products in exchange for a review; however, all opinions and thoughts are my own*

*Also found at Pretty Pintastic Party, Saucy Saturdays, Tasty Tuesdays!*

What are some of your favorite snacks from 2016? What snacks do you want to try in 2017? Comment below!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Yearly Review: 16 Times 2016 Felt like the #BestYearEver

Looking back at 2016, it's hard to believe that this New Year's will only mark the end of one year. Considering everything I packed into those 365 days, 2016 seemed never ending. I started my first big job. Experienced my first heartbreak. Moved across the country. And oh, yeah - graduated college, too.

As we all prepare for a fresh start in 2017, though, I wanted to give the amazing parts of 2016 their due credit.

casey the college celiac

So, let's take a trip in my (literary) time machine and explore 16 times 2016 felt like the best year ever! 

1. When I went on four walks during my five-day Thanksgiving break. 

I may not have Jessica Simpson's badass boots, but my sneakers are definitely made for walking...every chance I get! This past Thanksgiving, I stayed at my college apartment - all by myself. I ended up doing tons of yoga, whipping up my favorite gluten free dumpling soup (based off of this recipe), and exploring the sea-side cliffs right by my college. 

It was the most boring, reflective and solitary Thanksgiving I've ever had - but also one of the best

2. Surviving applying to eleven grad schools

Fingers crossed that all of those applications will pay off...but whipping out eleven Personal Statements, online applications, reference letters and more is definitely worth a pat on the back. 

(To any other future grad schools peeps: the struggle is real!) 

3. Learning that processed foods can be part of a healthy diet. 

In the three + years since I was diagnosed with celiac disease, my diet has worn many faces. Meat-heavy paleo. 99% whole foods. Plant based. And now, plant based with more processed foods than ever before.

casey the college celiac
Frosty the (smoothie) snowman!
But you know what? I'm healthier for it - in body and mindset. The truth is, the term "processed foods" covers a wide range of products, and every person needs to experiment to find the diet that fits their individual needs. 

Basically, 2016 was a "you do you" kind of year! 

3. Starting and finishing two books in one day - for fun!

This Christmas was quiet for my family. We opened a few presents, cooked a festive supper and went for a walk in the snow. Besides that, I devoured two library books. Definitely the most I've read (for fun) in one day since college began! 

4. Celebrating my 21st birthday (fashionably late) with my favorite girls. 

So I didn't celebrate my birthday that night (unless going to my night class wearing a 21st-birthday-girl sash counts). We didn't celebrate that month either. But when my roommates and I did finally pick a Friday to dress up and go to Stacked, it was definitely worth the wait!

I mean, what wasn't to like? Cute waiters, my first sip of alcohol, delicious (gluten free) food and a surprise trip to CVS afterwards (where we definitely raised some eyebrows with our outfits). A night just quirky enough to be perfect for me. 

casey the college celiac
A girl's night out!
5. Became addicted to chickpeas

I really don't know how I went 21 years without trying - and falling in love - with chickpeas. But don't worry. I corrected that mistake in 2016, quite thoroughly. 

6. Kicking booty on the GRE

Looking back, I'm kind of amazed I survived July. I visited family in Houston; took a day trip to LA to teach a writing class for Entity Magazine; took the GRE (a test for grad school); attended my dad's retirement ceremony that next day; and started the drive to Colorado three days after. 

But - to unabashedly toot my own horn - I still scored a 92% in Verbal Reasoning and a 99% in Analytical Writing. Boo-yah

7. Ate my way through Disneyland

Because the only thing more magical than Disneyland's decorations is its allergy-friendly food. While there were plenty of delicious eats, I'm still dreaming of the vegetarian enchiladas from Tortilla Jo's

8. Explored my new home in Colorado Springs. 

So far, I've only spent one month (in the summer) and two weeks (in the winter, so far) in Colorado Springs, but I've already made plenty of great memories. Walking through a meadow of sunflowers taller than me. Seeing deer hanging around in our front yard. Surviving a flight into Denver the day a snow storm brought in -10 degree weather. 

casey the college celiac
Sis and snow!
It's definitely taking some adjusting to go from California to Colorado (and a lot of heated blankets and layers, to be honest). But I can't wait to see what beautiful surprises I find next! 

9. Helping to empower women in every aspects of their lives with my work at Entity Magazine

When I applied for an internship at Entity last summer, I had no idea if it would work. But it did. When they asked me to stay on throughout my last college semester, I didn't know if I could handle the workload. But I did. And when Entity asked me to be their Senior Editor - starting this January - I wasn't sure if I could handle the responsibility. But I know I can. 

People always say that blessings come when least expected. Entity Magazine definitely fits that cliche, but I know it has a ground breaking future. (Check out the articles I've written for Entity here!) 

10. Whole Foods dates. 

If you've never had a "girl's afternoon out" that consists of hitting the Whole Foods hot bar, you're missing out...on tasty food and even better conversation. 

11. Moving past my first heartbreak...and meeting someone new. 

I never mentioned the new person in my life last semester because, honestly, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I hadn't wanted to meet someone else so soon, especially when I only had a month left at school. But I did, and he showed me a lot of what was missing in my first relationship (that I didn't even realize at the time).

casey the college celiac
During our PF Changs dinner...
He showed me that I deserve to be a priority. That my special diet (and lots of teeth brushing) doesn't make me unworthy of love. That my first relationship wasn't my only shot at something "good" - in fact, I may even find something better

I don't regret my first relationship, and I don't regret this second one either. We both knew it would only last that semester, but I also know we'll remain friends for a very long time. 

12. Trying - and loving - tons of new gluten free products. 

It still amazes me sometimes that the little blog I began three years ago now has enough online "oomph" to partner with companies...but I (and my taste buds) wouldn't change a thing! I tried a lot of products I'd never tasted (or heard of) before, like Namaste Foods' baking mixes, Gaslamp Popcorn, Primizie's Ancient Sprouted Grain chips (my roomies are addicted), paleo goodies from Snackin' Free and more! 

I'll do a roundup of my favorite 2016 products soon...but just know that I am so grateful for the companies that create celiac-safe foods, for the bloggers who share my addiction to unique eats and the readers who've helped make all of this possible

13. Experimenting with my workouts. 

I can now say that I'm: a mud runner; a HITT addict (especially with help from the Nike Training Club app); a weight lifter; a hiker; a one-time Orange Theory survivor (not my thang, I must admit); a hot yogi; and a biker. I'm just someone who loves to move and try new ways of doing that...rock climbing, you may be in my (2017) future! 

casey the college celiac
And hiking with friends is always more fun...
14. Realizing I'm so much stronger than I ever imagined. 

All of these amazing things aren't to say that 2016 didn't have some epically sucky points: getting glutened, feeling homesick, having one computer commit suicide only to drown my new one a few weeks later... 

However, I made it through everything - all on my own. For the first time, my parents weren't living 40 minutes away. I couldn't drive home for a weekend of rest, escape to my folks' house for Thanksgiving or rely on my parents to help me pack or navigate the Apple Store. For the first time, I was on my own - and, at the end of the day, I'd give myself a solid B+ for my semester survival

15. Walking around the Broadmoor Hotel with my family, doing nothing but looking at Christmas lights

''Twas the night before Christmas...and instead of cozying up by the fire, my family faced the icy roads and leftover snow to explore the decorated Broadmoor Hotel. The half-frozen lake accented by lit up trees, glowing wooden deer and patches of fresh snow really felt like the 3D definition of "Winter Wonderland." 

casey the college celiac
Home for the holidays!
There's just something magical about walking around at sunset, bundled up in (three) layers and sharing the awe with your loved ones. By the time we got home, I could barely feel my toes - but (watch out: full corniness ahead) the warmth in my heart made up for it. 

16. Looking back and seeing a chaotic, unexpected, awful, amazing, hell of year. 

During my Monthly Reviews, one of my common comments was: I can't wait to survive this month! But now that 2016's twelve months are coming to a close, New Year's seems a bit bittersweet. I definitely don't want to re-live the cross-country drive or the computer chaos. However, I know I'll miss the quiet nights lazing in my dorm bed with friends; the college classes that frustrate as much as challenge me; and the phone calls home as I look at the ocean. 

But, 2016 has proven that, no matter what 2017 holds, I can handle it. I'm living in a new city and starting a new job. I'm flying back to San Diego to "officially" graduate, and hearing back from grad schools. I'm making it up as I go along. 

casey the college celiac
Fingers crossed that 2017 will be as epic as this huge Christmas tree!

At times, 2016 definitely felt like the best year ever. We'll see how 2017 does at being "the best year ever 2.0." 

What were some of your 2016 highlights? Comment below...or tell me by tweeting @collegeceliackc with the hashtag #gfbestyearever! 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Ho Ho Hectic? How to Embrace Rest and Relaxation During the Holidays

The holidays. Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or New Year's, December is packed with plenty of parties, tons of delicious eats and a to-do list that never seems to end.

Unless, that is, you decide to see the holidays through a different light: as a time to embrace rest. It sounds paradoxical, but it's possible...and this gluten free (recently graduated) college celiac is doing her best to make it a reality

What does embracing mindful rest and relaxation during the holidays really mean? 

casey the college celiac

It means...

...focusing less on gifts and more on gratitude. This year has been packed (present pun intended) with huge changes for my family. My dad retired from the Marine Corps after 26 years; my family moved from California to Colorado: I graduated college! The list just goes on and on

So, this year, we're downsizing the presents under the tree. And I like it. There's less stress about finding the "perfect" gift or wondering if you've spent "enough" on your loved ones. There's more reflection on how lucky I am - to have a home, a loving family, a job and so much more

...ridding myself of expectations that I need to get something "done" every day. For the last four months, I've been working nonstop. If I wasn't in class, I was doing grad school apps, working with Entity Magazine, working on the blog or spending time with friends. If you think back to your year, you can probably relate to the busyness. 

I'm spending the last weeks of 2016 differently, though. Instead of productivity, I'm praising living in the present. It's OK to sleep in and get nothing done besides curling up with a good book. It's OK to not be "living it up" with holiday parties and winter adventures like everyone else seems to be on social media. It's OK to be tired...and to give your body to "nothingness" it needs. 

casey the college celiac
What our nights have been looking like!
...allowing myself to reflect and experience any of the (good or bad) emotions that emerge. Have you ever felt so busy that you couldn't even find the time to think about anything but Tasks A to Z? As wonderful as spending time with friends and family during the holidays can be, make sure you set some time aside for just Me, Myself and I. 

2017 is barreling closer, whether you're excited for the new year or desperately holding onto the past. And before you can move on to the next adventures, it's important to recognize how you got there in the first place. Last week, it finally hit me: college - and living next door to my friends, having a set schedule, thriving in an academic "bubble" - was over. And I cried

You may extra pressure to be jolly 24/7 during the holidays, but emotions don't follow a set schedule. Give yourself permission to just feel whatever you need to. That's one holiday gift that everyone deserves to receive. 

casey the college celiac
Missin' that view...
...listening to your body instead of constantly questioning what you need or why you need it. If celiac has taught me anything, it's that the body has an agenda - and a language - all its own. After months of waking up at 7:30 like a rooster on the clock, I'm sleeping until 9 or later. I'm craving sweets and big night snacks, even if I'm not as hungry as usual. I'm a little bit "off" - whether I have finals week burnout, jet lag, Colorado elevation, fibromyalgia or celiac to blame. 

Sound familiar? Maybe you don't want to go to the holiday party you attend every year, or you don't feel like working out as hard as you usually do...even though you "should" with all of the holiday treats coming your way. Spend less time analyzing, diagnosing or trying to "fix" yourself - and more time doing exactly what you truly want. After all, the holidays only come around once a year. If you can't do what your body is craving during the "happiest time of the year," when can you? 

...remembering what the holidays should really be about. Family. Friends. And, most importantly, love - but not just for strangers at the grocery store or the people who make you smile everyday. It's a time to love yourself too by, for instance, giving yourself the rest and reflection you need.  

casey the college celiac
Happy holidays!
Regardless of where you are in the world, what holiday you're celebrating or what traditions your family observes every year, we all have something in common: we're all enveloped in the "most wonderful" - and busiest - time of the year. I hope your Christmas was magical, your New Year's is fabulous and that you're enjoying every last moment of 2016.

Just don't forget to step back, take a breath and give yourself the rest you've definitely earned this year. 

*Also found at Wine'd Down Wednesday, Share Fest!*

Do you find yourself relaxing or being extremely busy during the holidays? Do you struggle with taking time to rest and reflect? Tell me your thoughts! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Secretly Healthy S'mores Smoothie Bowl (Gluten Free, Vegan)

When you think of cuddling with loved ones by the burning fire, holiday treats like hot cacao and s'mores may first come to mind. This Christmas, though, why not have s'mores for breakfast - in the secretly healthy form of a green smoothie?

While boasting your typical s'mores ingredients (like Enjoy Life Foods dark chocolate chips, Schar's honey grahams and marshmallows), this smoothie bowl is also packed with nutrients to keep you healthy and energized the whole holiday season. Though low in calories, carbs and sugar, zucchini offers high amounts of antioxidants, Vitamin C and B and potassium. Banana also pack a nutrition punch of Vitamin B6, manganese and fiber while chia seeds contain six times more calcium than milk and 70% more protein than soy beans. Throw a little turmeric into the mix, and your immune system will be ready to (Christmas) party!

casey the college celiac

Basically, this Secretly Healthy S'mores Smoothie bowl is the best of both worlds: creamy and crunchy, and sweet without putting you on Santa's naughty list

Ready to jump on your own smoothie bowl sleigh? Then start by gathering a few simple ingredients below (for one serving): 

1 small zucchini, chopped and frozen
1/2 ripe banana, chopped and frozen 
Small handful of berries (add more if you want a sweeter smoothie bowl)
Large handful of spinach (fresh or frozen. You can also use whatever other greens you have on hand)
1 tsp of chia seeds (I love the brand MammaChia)
Liberal shake of cinnamon and (optionally) turmeric 
A sprinkle of spirulina powder and nutmeg 
Enough liquid to blend (I use a mix of coconut milk and Numi Organic Tea, Amber Sun flavor) 

Like all of my other smoothie recipes, this one is as easy as layering the ingredients in your blender (for best results, put liquids and spices/chia seeds first, then fruits and veggies) and blending! I've made this in my Vitamix and my parents' Nutribullet, though a strong food processor would probably work as well. I like my smoothie bowls thick like ice cream, so I use as little liquid as possible. If you prefer a more...slurpable smoothie, just add more liquid! 

casey the college celiac
The most important topping...
Next, pour your smoothie in a bowl (bonus points for a festive container!) and place it in the freezer while you get the toppings ready. For the s'mores toppings, simply gather some chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and crumbled chunks of gluten free graham crackers (like those from Schar or Snackin' Free). If you want to keep the whole bowl vegan, remember to find vegan crackers and marshmallows as well! For an extra festive bowl, you can add goodies like:
  • Strawberries cut in the shapes of hearts, trees or a snowman 
  • Extra fruit like blueberries, pomegranate seeds or banana
  • Trail mix or dried fruit...use goji berries for a punch of red that would make Santa proud! 
  • A chocolate or maca magic shell using cacao or maca powder with a little melted coconut oil 
  • Holiday treats like Christmas cookies 
If you're craving a hot/cold combo, you could even create your own s'mores, warm them up in the microwave until the chocolate melts, and then plop them right on top of your smoothie! 

As always, feel free to experiment with this recipe until you make it your own. Try adding other holiday flavors like pumpkin spice or vanilla; switching the dark chocolate for white; or even adding even more veggies like celery, parsnip, squash, or broccoli (as long as you have a high powered blender and include enough sweet fruits, you won't even taste these!). 

casey the college celiac
All the toppings...
When you think of Christmas, smoothies might not be the first food you crave...especially if you're surrounded by snow like I am! However, this smoothie bowl is proof that your diet can be naughty and nice this holiday season. Who knows. Maybe Santa will replace his milk and cookies with cookie-topped green smoothies this year! 

What's your favorite treat during the holidays? Do you ever try to "healthify" your favorite goodies? If so, how? Comment below! 

Monday, December 19, 2016

12 Tips for Gluten Free Air Travel During the Holidays

''Tis the season...for holiday travel! While Christmas might trigger images of sugarplum fairies and presents under the tree, the holiday of the season is also one of the busiest times for airports. And one of their customers this year? Your favorite (recently graduated) college celiac, of course!

This past weekend, I had the unique adventure of flying from San Diego to Denver, Colorado...of course on the one day that a snow storm hit (bringing temperatures down to a cozy -4 degrees). In the spirit of the season, though, I thought I'd give some gluten free air travel tips in the form of a famous Christmas carol. (And, to be honest, my 12 hours of travel certainly felt like 12 days!)

casey the college celiac

So, without further delay, here's a gluten free traveler's 12 Days of Christmas

1. On the first day of Christmas, a savvy celiac packed...two large suitcases, a backpack and a soft cooler. 

I'd love to say that I'm the kind of girl who can fly across the country with only a carry-on for company. But, while I may be low maintenance, celiac definitely isn't. So pack as much as you think you need, and don't feel guilty. I ended up splitting my bags between food and other life necessities (like clothes to survive a Colorado winter!), and every inch of space was put to good use!

2. On the second day of Christmas, a savvy celiac packed...a deconstructed brunch with all of her favorite things. 

So what did I pack in that small cooler of mine? First of all, I basically used it as my "carry-on" along with my backpack. Between those two, I brought a spread of my favorite (airport friendly) breakfast items, including:

  • Oatless Oatmeal Crunchy Clusters. If you've ever had your oatmeal turned away because it contains too much liquid, this recipe is a gluten free traveler's best friend! I simply made it the night before and stored it in a plastic container with strawberries and one banana
  • Enjoy Life Trail Mix. Whether you can't tolerate nuts, you want to accommodate flight passengers with allergies or you just want a delicious snack, you can't go wrong with this trail mix. When I have it on hand, I eat some of it every day. It's a tasty smoothie topper, and an even better snack on a plane
  • Mini baked pancakes. Since I knew my oatless oatmeal clusters wouldn't hold me over as long as a smoothie usually does, I made some mini pancakes the night before my flight. These are winners for snacks or breakfast. 
  • Homemade granola. You didn't think I'd forget my favorite part of breakfast, right? The truth is, flying is freakin' stressful, so comfort food is a must. Snacky comfort food that's also portable? Even better! 
Basically, I'm sharing my breakfast spread to show you that you can still enjoy a healthy, homemade gluten free spread in an airport. And with Einstein Bagels only a few feet away from my gate, I was very happy to have my own treat on-hand!

casey the college celiac
The ugly and the pretty shots!
3. On the third day of Christmas, a savvy celiac packed...a print-out of research on airport eats.

Even if you have your bags stuffed with enough Christmas treats to make Santa jealous, it doesn't hurt to do a little research beforehand. After all, mistakes happen: you forget your food at home, it gets taken away by security or you're just hungrier than you expect. 

In my case, I simply spent a few minutes looking up the gluten free options at Denver International Airport. While I didn't get the chance to try it, an Udi's Cafe and Bar apparently offers some pre-packed and upon-order gluten free meals. I also spotted some gluten free snacks - like Purely Elizabeth Granola and different types of snack bars - at various food shops in the airport. When you have a back-up plan already in mind, you can take surprises (like flight many flying this last weekend probably experienced) in stride. 

4. On the fourth day of Christmas, a savvy celiac packed...a dinner for later in case of delays.

Speaking of delays, it's also a good idea to pack another meal (either lunch or dinner depending on your flight time) in case the airport madness takes longer than you expect. I ended up chowing down on my leftover Chipotle while waiting at the baggage claim...and finishing it off while camping out on the airport floor and waiting for my ride

casey the college celiac
Real life eats...
Not my most Instagram worthy moment, but this meal did the trick

5. On the fifth day of Christmas, a savvy celiac packed...a plastic bag for ice cubes.

And how should you keep your dinner cold hours after you first pack it? First of all, you might want to choose a vegan or vegetarian option so you don't have to worry about keeping meat cold. If you have a Chipotle craving the night before, though, and end up with a chicken burrito bowl, here are some of the tricks I learned: 

  • Put your food in the freezer about an hour to an hour and a half before you leave for the airport. For my Chipotle, I simply sealed it tight in a plastic bag, and popped it in the freezer. Seven hours later, it was perfectly defrosted and still cold. 
  • Use frozen food as an ice pack. Since regular ice packs aren't allowed through security, use bags of frozen veggies or bagged frozen meats. I used a bag of frozen Daiya cheese!
  • Bring a small plastic bag, and after you go through security, ask (or pay) a restaurant to fill it with ice. You can also pull a Casey and ask for a cup of ice along with your water during your flight
While you may need to get a little more creative, you can definitely keep your food safe to eat hours later! (Even if you don't have the Colorado winter to help). 

6. On the sixth day of Christmas, a savvy celiac packed...charcoal pills in case of an upset stomach. 

I don't know about you, but I've noticed that stress and changes in routine are the top two irritants for my stomach - and travel causes both of them. I can't move, eat, drink or stretch like I usually do, so I make sure I have my favorite medicines in case my tummy needs a boost. If you struggle with gas or are worried about possible cross contamination with airport food, charcoal pills are one possible option. While you need to carefully time when you take them (since they can interfere with absorbing medicines or food), these pills have helped me when my stomach isn't behaving. 

7. On the seventh day of Christmas, a savvy celiac packed...way more snacks than needed.

Is it just me or does traveling make you extra hungry? Whether because of the stress, the time change or the constant munching of people around me, snacks and I were best friends on Saturday...which is why you should always throw one more bar in your backpack than you'll probably need. Some of my favorite snacks, besides the ones I've mentioned earlier, include: Health Warrior chia bars, raw or dried fruits, roasted veggies, and the usual crunchy addictions like cereal or rice cakes. 

casey the college celiac
Years ago, I remember our plane being delayed two hours and pigging out on the extra PB&J sandwiches my mom had packed "just in case." Let's just say that I always try to be my mom in this scenario - and not our fellow passengers, who looked like they'd kill for a bite! 

8. On the eighth day of Christmas, a savvy celiac to use on lots of water

One of the hardest parts of traveling, in my opinion, is staying hydrated. My pet peeve is having to constantly ask my seat partners to move so I can make my way to the airplane bathroom...but getting a headache from dehydration can be even worse! 

While you may not want to chug water like your life depends on it, make sure to always have some liquid on hand. Because the only thing worse than flying is flying and feeling cruddy while you do. 

9. On the ninth day of Christmas, a savvy celiac packed...a checked off shopping list sent to Mom. 

Because - of course - my first requirement after getting home, hugging the family and taking a shower is enjoying some food! To keep your arrival as calm as possible, ask your hosts to have a few of your dietary staples on hand. Not only will you be too tired after the flight to go to the store, but you'll probably also want to stay close by and catch up with your hosts after you arrive. 

10. On the tenth day of Christmas, a savvy celiac packed...a suitcase with a few staple cooking items

Another secret weapon to a relaxing first day (back at home or on vacation)? Pack your suitcase with a few of your favorite foods, too. For instance, my suitcase included a few random purple potatoes, a ripe avocado and Food for Life brown rice tortillas. With these, I knew I could quickly whip up dinner (or lunch the next day). 

casey the college celiac
The usual suitcase sneak peek...
You might especially want to bring specialty items that are harder to find. For instance, I brought my beloved jar of Kalot Superfood's White Chocolate Strawberry Cashew Butter from my Whole Foods in San Diego. Whether you're staying home for awhile or just visiting for the holidays, less time scouting local specialty stores equals more time with friends and family!

11. On the eleventh day of Christmas, a savvy celiac packed...plenty of (gluten free) reading for the flight.

Okay, okay. Maybe my reading wasn't entirely gluten free. (As much as I love reading blogs and new recipes, my mystery sweet tooth had been denied for the months I was crazy busy with school!) However, you should always remember to bring a little entertainment with you to the airport. If you want to explore the celiac side of literature, you have plenty of options, like: 
12. On the twelfth day of Christmas, a savvy celiac understanding that travels may not go perfectly as planned, but that's OK.

The truth is, no matter how much you plan, your travels may not go perfectly. Like many people, my plane was delayed (though luckily only for half an hour. Anyone traveling to Chicago, you have my sympathy and best wishes!). Because of a snow storm, the roads were also too icy for my parents to drive and pick me up from Denver, so I waited for a 6:30 shuttle to Colorado Springs instead. By the time I got home around 9 that night, I was beyond exhausted...

...but so happy to be home for the holidays (and for good until grad school)! And proud that I survived packing up my apartment and flying back alone, not to mention facing -4 degree weather with limited access to winter gear. It wasn't my most enjoyable travel experience, but I know all my preparation made it 10 times better than it could've been! 

casey the college celiac
My first view of Colorado snow...
After all, traveling during the holidays isn't easy - and traveling with dietary restrictions can further complicate your trip. However, with a lot of practice and these twelve tips, you'll be caroling all the way home.

What are your tips for traveling while gluten free? Have you ever flown during the holidays? Comment below! 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Saying Goodbye to College and Hello to New Beginnings

How do you really say goodbye to the college that has been your home for three and a half years? To the friends who've made everyday - even the awful ones - feel like Christmas? To the teachers who've transformed into mentors, role models and even peers?

Honestly, I don't really know - but today is officially the end of this celiac's undergrad career. And, as excited as I am to fly home to Colorado tomorrow afternoon, I can't help but cry over everything that I'm leaving behind. 

casey the college celiac

Yet, if I've learned one thing from my entire college experience, it's that endings are the start of new adventures. 

The end of a "normal" freshman year - thanks to a hospital stay and a super fashionable feeding tube - was the start of thriving with celiac disease. 

The end of receiving meals from my college cafeteria was the start of too many tasty kitchen experiments to count. 

The end of my first relationship was the beginning of stronger relationships with people who I know will always be just a call away. 

The end of my life in Poway, California is the start of snowy hikes and gorgeous views and gluten free bistros in Colorado Springs.

casey the college celiac
A few minutes from our CO home...
And, just like those endings, I know the end of college will bring the start of new memories

So what is next for this (graduated) college celiac?

Savoring time with my family in our new Colorado home - and devouring plenty of homemade Christmas cookies along the way. 

Accepting an (almost) full-time position at Entity Magazine as Senior Editor

Waiting to hear back from grad schools...any well wishes or luck you can send me would be appreciated!

Returning to PLNU in January to officially walk, receive my diploma and graduate

Dream of where I'll be by this time next year! What state will I be living in? What new friends will I have made? What's my latest snacking addiction? All to be determined!

casey the college celiac
This will probably be my definition of winter fashion...
Even though I've learned enough to graduate college (with a 4.0 I may add - I think I earned a little bragging after how hard I worked for that!), I know I still have plenty to learn. I don't know how well I'm going to adjust to post-graduation life - or to Colorado's freezing winter temperatures!

But I know I have so many people to thank for how far I've come. My parents, who never failed to support me - even when things went horribly wrong. My sister, who I've watched bloom into a college sophomore. My friends - Meghan, Chris, Hannah, Sarah, Natalie, and far too many others to name - who love me whether I'm a hilarious hot mess or, well, just a mess

And, you, readers. You've read my story since I started college to the day I'm walking out of class for the last time. Don't worry - the blog will keep on keepin' on, and a name change is one future possibility (either before or after grad school). 

Until then, I suppose I'm writing all to say more than just goodbye to my undergrad journey. I'm writing it to say hello to all of the surprises that are to come. 

casey the college celiac
Me livin' it up by the ocean as a storm was coming...
I'm sure there's an analogy in there somewhere!
Because, sometimes, "hello" is the most accurate "goodbye." 

*Also found at Dare to Share!*

Do you have any big life changes coming up? What endings have turned into beginnings for you? Tell me below! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

22 Instant Happiness Fixes For the Holidays

Even though the smell of Christmas cookies and the echoes of joyful caroling may fill the air, the holidays aren't always packed with cheer. There are presents to buy, parties to attend and, in the case of students everywhere, a killer last week of finals to survive. With all of the busyness and stress that the holidays can bring, it's understandable to not feel Santa-Clause-level "jolly" 24/7.

How can you get back into the Christmas spirit – with limited time, inspiration and money? With some help from Entity Magazine (where I act as Senior Editor and this article first appeared), here are 22 instant happiness fixes that will make you feel like you can run the world, BeyoncĂ© style.

casey the college celiac

1. Throw a solo dance party.

Blast some Taylor Swift or Katy Perry and dance away those worries – but if you’re in the office (or your college dorm room), you might want to close your door and blinds first.

2. Cuddle up with a furry friend.

Not only does petting a dog or cat lower blood pressure and stress hormones like cortisol, but Psychology Today also reports that it raises oxytocin (AKA, the happiness hormone).

3. Drink it off with water.

Before you reach for that glass of wine (or another cup of coffee, for my college peeps!) consider if you’ve enjoyed at least eight glasses (or half of your body weight in ounces) of water that day. According to the Journal of Nutrition, dehydration can make women pessimistic. It doesn’t hurt that your body will feel better for it too!

(And if you need an easy way to "detox" during the holidays, use my favorite trick: starting the day with a glass of warm lemon water and apple cider vinegar.)

4. Get outside!

Whether you’re moping at home or hiding in a cubicle, sometimes a little vitamin D can offer a dose of happiness to brighten your day. Not to mention that a change in scenery can also help change your negative thoughts.

casey the college celiac
Or combine furry friends with walking!
One of the easiest - and, in my opinion, most enjoyable - ways to get outside is taking a walk. Whether you want to start the day off with a morning hike or end the night by a peaceful stroll to look at Christmas lights, walkin' the walk may help you talk the (cheerful) talk!

5. Make a mental or physical gratitude list.

According to a study by the University of California, people who think of five things that make they happy each day boosted their overall happiness and even improved their health. Psychology Today suggests blowing a kiss to the universe … but if lists are more your thang, try that!

6. Text a friend.

Even if you don’t get an immediately reply, sometimes venting to someone about your no good, horrible, rotten day (kudos to anyone who know’s the reference) is all you need.

7. Eat your favorite snack or meal.

You’ve heard about comfort food...why not indulge in your favorite snack or meal for a dose of (edible) happiness? If you want to save room for Christmas cookies later in the year, try stashing sweet but relatively healthy food (like granola bars, fruit, yogurt with granola or a throwback to Mom’s classic PB&J) nearby. And dark chocolate, of course.

casey the college celiac
Just a girl and her granola

8. Find some happy people.

While that co-worker whose always peppy at seven in the morning might seem annoying at times, she might be just the person you need to cheer up. According to Greatist, happy, calm people make their positivity contagious.

9. Get organized.

An organized house means an organized head … or, at the very least, you keep yourself busy and focus on something besides your bad day.

10. Sniff some joy.

You might have noticed that lavender and vanilla are common scents for soaps, perfumes and body oils. It’s not just a love for flowers and baking; in fact, Psychology Today reports that lavender has been shown to boost a woman’s mood, lower anxiety and reduce physical pain. As for vanilla, besides reminding you of your favorite cupcake flavor, it is often used in aromatherapy to increase happiness.

11. Get down...into downward dog.

Yoga is often praised for its physical – stretching and strengthening – benefits, as well as its mental ones. Not only could taking a few minutes to meditate clear your mind, but yoga could also help release any physical tension.

You might even be surprised what feelings a yoga session brings up. If you're not sure why you're feeling down in the dumps, a session on the mat could help you find the root of the problem...and bring you that much closer to moving past it.

casey the college celiac

12. Nap it out.

Remember babysitting kids who wouldn’t stop crying until after their nap? Sorry, but you’re not that much different. Redbook reports that 10 to 30 minute naps boost people’s short-term mood, alertness and productivity. It’s hard to frown when you’re kicking butt at office assignments or chores around the house!

13. Visit the Wimpy Goat on YouTube.

I dare you to watch (with sound) this seven-second video and not crack a grin at the end. (In fact, when anyone in my family is having a rough day, we run this video on repeat.) Watch the video and then conquer the world with the wimpy goat’s determination!

14. Lighten up...your room.

According to Psychology Today, a dark room might literally contribute to a dark mindset. So why not see if you can make your room – and your day – a little brighter? (Though Princeton Theological Seminary’s advice to buy “happy light bulbs” – 60 or 100 watt daylight bulbs – may not be necessary.)

15. Ask for a hug.

Maybe not from your boss or your teacher...but friends, family, roommates and cute guys should be fair game.

casey the college celiac
All the hugs!
16. Go green - with colors anyway.

According to Greatist, the color green symbolizes happiness (maybe Gatsby really was onto something?) and can trigger happy feelings. Rock a green jacket, add a new Leprechaun-inspired computer screen saver or even put a green apple on your desk. Soon, others might be green with envy over your good mood.

17. Root through a memory box.

Your memory box might be a beat-up cardboard box filled with old letters, high school essays, post-it-notes – anything that makes you grin. If you’re not a big clutter person, try creating a “happy” folder on your computer to store old emails from friends, pictures of special moments or bookmarks of your favorite uplifting articles. Then, when you’re feeling down, you can just click your frown away!

18. Make somebody's day.

If you think karma is about as real as the tooth fairy, you may want to check out the study from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (and maybe apologize for calling your parents cheap). According to Redbook, when people do three acts of kindness, depressive symptoms decrease by 94 percent. Tipping that cute barista never felt so good.

19. Get movin' and groovin'.

When you’re having a “Carrie”-worthy bad day, you might feel tempted to skip your three o’clock date at the gym. Strap on your sneakers instead! A Penn State study found that people tend to feel excited and enthusiastic when they exercise. If you exercise regularly, increasing the intensity of your workout may provide an extra mood boost.

casey the college celiac
That post-run photo!
Don't limit yourselves to the same workouts either. You never know how much fun - and empowering - experimenting with challenges like a Mud Run 5K or a hike up Potato Chip Rock can be!

20. Tackle the small tasks.

Life feeling overwhelming? Then take a tip from “The Happiness Project” and, if you can finish a project in one minute or less, do it! You’ll be relieved to check something of your to-do list and, even if you don’t finish any other chores, you accomplished something!

21. Build a blanket fort.

Or, to be simpler, climb under a soft blanket (though a blanket fort may be worth the effort to set it up). As Greatist explains, research has shown that snuggling under the covers can make people more relaxed and flexible. Apparently, humans are wired to feel better when touching soft surfaces … and you thought “security blankets” were just a phase.

22. Realize that you might not be happy all the time, and that's OK!

Now, of course we all want a quick fix to turn our bad days into the best days ever! But sometimes, bad things happen – family members pass away, relationships break up and you really can’t believe Christmas dinner ended in a shouting match. Experience those unhappy emotions, cry if needed and move on. With these tips in hand, a happier tomorrow - and a jollier holiday season - is almost guaranteed.

*Although I wrote this post, it first appeared at Entity Magazine. Check out my other Entity articles here!*

*Also found at Wow Me Wednesday, RunningWithSpoons, Let's Get Real, Saucy Saturdays!*

What is your favorite "happiness fix"? Do you get stressed around the holidays! Tell me below!