How I Live Life to the Fullest While Avoiding Gluten and Other Food Allergens

*This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Mambo Sprouts. The opinions, text and photographs are all mine.*

As of this May, it’s officially been five years since I received my celiac disease diagnosis and had to go gluten free. To say that it took some time to adjust is an understatement; I went from eating a meat-potatoes-processed-foods heavy diet to needing to read the ingredients of everything I ate. 

How to Live Life to the Fullest While Avoiding Gluten and Other Food Allergens

Over the years, though, I’ve learned several tricks and tips that have helped me live a full life while avoiding gluten and other food allergens (as dairy and eggs in large quantities also don’t agree with me). Considering that May is Celiac Awareness Month and Mambo Sprouts’ Free From Month (more details about Mambo Sprouts’ huge #LiveFreeFrom Facebook party, coupons and giveaway(s) later in this post!), I thought now was the perfect time to share the ways I live life to the fullest with dietary restrictions...and hopefully empower you to do the same! 

1. Earn an A in research. 

Whether you’re living with celiac disease, food allergies or another chronic illness that limits your diet, doing adequate research is key to success. When you receive your initial diagnosis, you’ll probably want to spend some time researching what celiac disease, your food allergy, or *fill in the blank* actually is, common symptoms people experience with it, the best course of treatment, etc. 

Even after you’ve adjusted to your dietary restrictions, research will remain a regular part of your life. For instance, when I’m craving a new gluten free snack or thinking about whipping up a gluten free recipe with an ingredient I’ve never used before, I often rely on handy-dandy Google for product reviews, recipe inspiration, gluten free baking tips and more. As I’ve discussed before, I also always research restaurants ahead of time, even if they seem to have a gluten free menu, to make sure that I can eat out gluten free safely. 


How to Live Life to the Fullest While Avoiding Gluten and Other Food Allergens

It’s hard to deny that celiac disease or food allergies often make life much more complicated. No longer can you grab whatever snack you want without scanning the ingredients or walk around town and eat out at whatever restaurant sounds tasty. However, I try to focus on the empowering aspects of research. Research helps me make informed choices about what and where I eat, and can make me feel like I have more control over my chronic illness. I hope that regularly researching food and food choices can make anyone with dietary restrictions feel the same way.

2. Always have some allergy friendly snacking swag in your bag. 

Speaking of snacking, always keeping allergy friendly snacks in your bag pack, car or purse can make living with dietary restrictions a lot easier. After all, there’s nothing worse than getting stuck in town longer than you expect and not being able to find anything safe to eat. 


How to Live Life to the Fullest While Avoiding Gluten and Other Food Allergens

So, when Mambo Sprouts invited me to partner up with them and highlight some of their favorite #LiveFreeFrom brands, I couldn't say no. The goodie box they sent me was full of companies I already know and love and a few new-to-me treats. So what are the tasty allergy friendly snacks I've been keeping in my bag (or freezer) lately? They include: 
  • Enjoy Life Foods granola bars and chocolate, which are free of the top 8 allergens and crazy delicious (you can just take a peek at my Instagram for proof that I'm majorly addicted to Enjoy Life Foods' products)
  • Made Good tree-nut-free granola bars, granola minis (bite-sized crunchy granola balls) and (my personal favorite), top-8-free crispy squares, which are basically healthified versions of rice crispy treats
  • free2b peppermint dark chocolate snack breaks and dark chocolate sunflower cup minis (hello allergy friendly version of a peanut butter cup!), which are both free from the top 12 allergens
  • Back to Nature sea salt and cracked black pepper rice thins, which are certified gluten free and free of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. I love these as a savory snack with avocado! (*Back to Nature does sell other wheat-containing crackers, so be sure to only buy certified gluten free flavors!)
  • perfectlyFree frozen bites (in flavors like orange creme and chocolate mint) and frozen pints (with caramel cafe being my favorite flavor), which are all free of the top 8 allergens as well as artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. The bites and pints have coconut cream as a main ingredient, which makes them all super thick and (as expected) creamy.
How to Live Life to the Fullest While Avoiding Gluten and Other Food Allergens

I always suggest keeping several snacks close at hand so that you have options to choose from. For instance, some days I’m alll about that chocolate and only a gooey sun cup from free2b will do...and other days my stomach craves savory foods like Back to Nature’s rice crackers. If you want to try any of the gluten free snacks I've listed above, this month is also your lucky month since you can find coupons for all these brands by clicking here.

Regardless of what kind of snacks you like, just make sure you have access to at least one when you leave the house. Your stomach - and your mood - will thank you! 

3. Find people who (at least try to) understand what living without gluten and/or other food allergens is like. 

I can honestly say that I would not be as happy living with celiac disease as I am without the support of my friends, family and gluten free community. Having close friends or family members who try to understand what living with dietary restrictions is like - whether by educating themselves on my chronic illness, having gluten free food available when I visit or just not mind when I need special accommodations - is a huge blessing. The more supportive people I have in my life, the less likely I am to feel guilty or like a “burden” because of my dietary needs. 


How to Live Life to the Fullest While Avoiding Gluten and Other Food Allergens

However, there’s also something extremely special about connecting with people who really “get” what you’re going through because they have the same limitations. I’ve felt extremely lucky to connect with celiac, food allergy and chronic illness warriors from all over the world through my blog, but you can also build connections through Facebook groups, other online support groups and even epic Twitter or Facebook parties, like the one I’m inviting you to at the bottom of this post (so keep scrolling!). 

4. Embrace experimentation in the kitchen. 

Learning how to cook allergy friendly can be intimidating. After all, it’s hard enough to make a delicious meal when you can use Top 8 allergens like wheat, dairy and eggs! However, I am living proof that adjusting to gluten free (plus vegan, nut free, etc.) cooking is totally possible. Five years ago, I could barely cook boxed Mac and cheese and a microwaved baked potato. Now, I cook full meals at least once (sometimes multiple) times a day. 


How to Live Life to the Fullest While Avoiding Gluten and Other Food Allergens

What was the biggest behavior that helped me adjust to allergy friendly cooking and baking? Mainly, just getting in the kitchen and trying everything out! Realize that not every meal you cook will turn out great the first time (trust me - there are countless “failed” recipes that never reach the blog), and that certain allergy friendly foods - like bread - are harder to master than others. Thankfully, there are a lot of delicious and easy gluten free baking mixes and cooking kits available nowadays, and you can find tons of allergy friendly recipes on sites like Mambo Sprouts and the companies I've mentioned above!

5. Don’t be afraid to try new (allergy friendly) products or foods. 

As I’ve shared before, I actually eat a more diverse diet now that I have celiac disease than I did before my celiac diagnosis. Why? My new dietary restrictions forced me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to get more adventurous with my food!

For example, I never tried beets, pomegranate, spaghetti squash, avocado and countless other foods before I received my celiac diagnosis. Beyond naturally gluten free foods, I’ve also gotten more adventurous with premade foods and snacks. For instance, Made Good's crispy squares actually contain six different kinds of hidden vegetables, which probably would’ve scared me away pre-celiac. Similarly, I likely never would’ve tasted the cold, creamy goodness that is perfectlyFree’s coconut milk frozen bites - not to mention the addictively creamy rice milk chocolate bar from Enjoy Life Foods - without needing to avoid large quantities of dairy.

How to Live Life to the Fullest While Avoiding Gluten and Other Food Allergens

So when you are ready to explore allergy friendly processed foods and snacks, I’d encourage you to be a little adventurous and try new-to-you foods. After all, the only way to expand your limited diet and find delicious replacements to old favorites is by trial-and-error...and if you need a few safe places to start, I can attest that free2b, Enjoy Life Foods, Back to Nature, perfectlyFree and Made Good are tasty places to start. 

6. Celebrate your allergy friendly wins...like by attending an epic allergy friendly Facebook party!

Living with celiac disease, food allergies and/or another chronic illness that limits your diet can be challenging...which makes the “wins” you experience even more worthy of celebration. I have no shame about doing a happy dance in my kitchen when I nail a new recipe or taste something that’s gluten free and finger-lickin’-good, and I encourage you to have the same amount of good-spirited fun with your allergy friendly wins. 

If you need a little help celebrating your allergy friendly life this month, I also know of a Facebook party coming up that can help! As part of their #LiveFreeFrom month, Mambo Sprouts is holding an epic Facebook party on May 24, 2018 from 3:00 pm to 3:45 pm EST. The party will feature with special guests Robyn O’Brien from http://www.allergykids.com/ and Dave Bloom from https://snacksafely.com/. Plus, you'll have the chance to win allergy friendly goodies from the companies featured in this post throughout the party, so be sure to visit Mambo Sprout's Facebook page on May 24 at 3:00 PM to join in on all the fun.

How to Live Life to the Fullest While Avoiding Gluten and Other Food Allergens

Celiac awareness and food allergy awareness (and the months that celebrate them) are obviously so much more than just reviews of the tastiest allergy friendly products on the market. However, if these five years of gluten free living have taught me anything, it’s that applying the tips I’ve listed above and finding safe products that actually taste delicious makes living with a restricted diet a lot more enjoyable. 

My biggest hope? That this post will help you think of new ways you can live to the fullest even while eating a diet free of certain allergens...and that you’ve even discovered some tips I didn’t mention that make #LiveFreeFrom gluten and/or other food allergens even easier! 

Like this post? Tweet me some love by clicking here: "Eating #allergyfriendly just got a whole lot easier! Read this #celiac's top tips for living life to the fullest while avoiding #foodallergens + links to #glutenfree coupons & #giveaways from @mambosprouts --> http://bit.ly/2KkVGaa #LiveFreeFrom"

*I received free products and monetary compensation from Mambo Sprouts in return for spreading the word about #LiveFreeFrom month. However, all photographs and opinions are my own, and I only partner with and promote companies whose products I love and believe in. Thank you for supporting what supports Casey the College Celiac!*



What food allergens do you regularly #LiveFreeFrom? What are your top tips for still living life to the fullest? Tell me in the comments!

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