To all those new to the gluten-free world: You can do it!

Happy and healthy in the kitchen

Happy and healthy in the kitchen

Taking on a strict gluten-free diet can be scary and this fear can keep us from our ultimate health. For the first few years of my diagnosis while I was in my early 20s I was overwhelmed by the idea of being 100% gluten-free. It was too hard. Too time consuming. Too confusing. Too isolating. Too restricting. Too much missing out on good stuff! It wasn’t until I continued to be sick and learn more that I realized enough was enough. My illness was real, I was slowly seriously damaging my body and I needed to take care of my self because no one else would.

Talking to a friend of a friend today and motivating her to take the steps to start a gluten-free diet to treat her health problems and get tested for celiac disease reminded me of all those fears from years ago. Fear is normal but focusing on your health and little steps will get you through it.

My tips on how to start a gluten-free diet  and deal with the fear of the unknown (for those who need to be strict in their diet and exposure to gluten):

  1. Read and learn as much as you can. Many doctors and even gastroenterologists don’t know a lot about celiac disease or the effects of gluten on inflammation and auto immune diseases. It was through my own research I learned that my terrible canker sores were a sign of celiac disease. There are lots of website about celiac disease and healthy eating. A few of my faves are Gluten Is my Bitch, My New Roots and Oh She Glows. I have also found my local library has a lot of gluten-free cookbooks. Before buying I like to check them out to make sure they are worth the purchase. I love this cookbook “It’s All Good” by Gwyneth Paltrow because it’s a “secret” gluten-free cookbook filled with healthy and pretty simple recipes that happen to be gluten-free. It features lots of clean recipes and ideas for flavourful and good for you food.
  2. You will make mistakes and it’s ok. One thing that was hard for my mom and I who are perfectionists: not realizing the hidden sources of gluten. We often felt defeated but it’s a learning process. Don’t feel bad about making mistakes just learn from them and keep moving towards a gluten-free life! My friend tried to make me a gluten-free feast this past weekend and then realized the cooking spray he used had flour in it!?!? He felt so bad but it happens and that’s how you learn what to avoid. We just whipped up something else for me to eat and it was no biggie at all!
  3. Take this as an opportunity to make positive changes.  A gluten-free diet done right is healthier and I now follow a much much healthier diet than I did when I was a 20 year old student living off of bagels and diet cokes.  The limited choices available for eating out of the house has forced me to learn how prepare meals and be organized about packing lunches and snacks.
  4. RELAX. Let’s not forget about stress and how it can worsen digestive symptoms and your overall health. Exercising, meditating, journaling  etc. are good ways to reduce stress. When I have been gluten poisoned but not in my I can hardly get out of bed stage, I find a light run sometimes helps my symptoms and helps lessen the pain. Stressing about gluten only complicates things for your digestive system.
  5. If you don’t know how to cook it is never too late to slowly learn the basics. If you don’t already cook start with learning how to make an easy salad dressing, stir fry, omelette, soup and pasta dish. You don’t need to become an amazing cook but being healthy and gluten-free is a lot easier if you can make a few things at home in your safe kitchen and pack some lunches for work. And speaking about safe kitchens I am currently lucky to live alone but if you share yours with someone who eats a lot of bread they need to slowly learn how to keep the kitchen gluten-free friendly for you. Also- don’t go kissing people who have just eaten a huge sandwich or chugged a pint! Sounds ridiculous but if your aren’t using the same toaster as one that has had bread in it you shouldn’t be kissing someone who just ate a bunch of it.
  6. Focus on the foods you love that are already gluten-free. Mine are: potatoes, rice, seafood, goat cheese, eggs, greens, chocolate and wine. Focus on all the good stuff and things you can make to replace the stuff you are missing. Nachos, home made french fries, most meat dishes have always been gluten-free. This is helpful when eating out, which is where most of my panic still comes from. I try to avoid eating at restaurants that have no clue what gluten-free is or think it’s in normal rice and potatoes. My friends have gotten great at accommodating my diet and those few times I have to go somewhere I am not sure about, for example for a birthday, I will call in advance, check the menu and talk to the manager and if I’m still not sure I will just have a glass of wine. You aren’t being picky you are making sure you are not made seriously ill for the next few days/weeks.
  7. Tell the haters to shut-up, in a nice way. There will still be a few people that don’t get it and will tell you to just eat bread or it’s all in your head and just ignore them. People who love you will slowly learn with you and help you out with your new lifestyle. My friends pick me up new products and love trying new gluten-free recipes but this didn’t happen over night. The important people in your life will learn not to double dip in the shared containers. Peanut butter, butter, jam, mayo, cheese etc. And you will learn to always serve yourself first at a group meal before bread gets into and all over everything. When I go away for the weekend with friends and or people I don’t live with I will write my name in bold marker on the top of containers I want to keep gluten-free and tell everyone that they can use them but cannot double dip any utensils that have been used on or near bread products.
  8. Now is the best time ever to be gluten-free! There has never been more certified gluten-free products. They are almost everywhere. Always read your labels and when you are uncertain check online and or call the company.

Yes it can be overwhelming to drastically change your diet but feeling healthy feeds so good. More specifically not feeling like I was being slowly poisoned to death was the biggest push to continue following a strict diet. Not spending my life lying in a ball, running to the bathroom or staying home having a date with the washroom is to this day the reason I will never ever ever eat gluten again on purpose!

You can do it! Good luck and feel free to send me questions!

🙂

Gluten-Free Product Review: Sabatasso’s Gluten-Free Pizza

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My mom picked me up these Sabatasso’s Pizzas at Costco. The price is right at $12 for 2 pizzas. Almost unheard of in the gluten-free world. And while the price is right thankfully the taste was just as good. For frozen pizzas these are great. It’s a simple cheese pizza and would make a great base for all sorts of toppings. While I try to stay away from pre-packaged food this is a good option when you are in a rush, just pop it in the oven. It also made the perfect late night snack after a night out. Even celiacs need unhealthy pizza at 2 am!

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Gluten-Free Passover Dinner

Toasting friends and a great gluten-free seder.

Toasting friends and a great gluten-free Passover dinner

The title of this blog comes from my friends and family who are my GFBFFs (gluten-free best friends forever). I am very blessed with a group of friends who are very accommodating to the fact that I have celiac disease and constantly go out of their way to assure I can eat safely whether it be at one of their homes or when we are out.

This was on display this past week when my friend invited us all over for a Passover dinner that was 95% gluten-free and 100% vegetarian. I always find it easier when cooking for a group to keep the meal 100% gluten-free or at least to keep the non gluten-free items completely separate, in this case we prepared the glutenous part of the meal in a different area and served it separately. Here are some ideas to help make your next Passover more gluten-free friendly.

On the menu:

Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup: We used a gluten-free mix and added garlic, onion, carrot and celery to the broth.

Vegetable Latkes made with potato starch and “matzo meal” made from gf kosher for passover crackers: we didn’t really use a recipe. We grated carrot, zucchini and onion in a food processor, removed the excess liquid and combined the veggies with eggs, potato starch and the crackers (which had been pulsed pulsed in a blender). Then we fried them in oil. It was that easy.

Flourless chocolate cookies: http://food52.com/recipes/19209-divine-gluten-free-chocolate-cookies-no-seriously These were delicious and according to the hostess easy to make. A great anytime gluten-free recipe.

Prepping Dinner

Two of my GFBFFs Prepping Dinner

Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup

Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup

Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup Mix

Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup Mix

Gluten-Free Kosher for Passover Crackers

Gluten-Free Kosher for Passover Crackers

Gluten-Free Veggie Latkes made with zucchini, carrot and onion

Gluten-Free Veggie Latkes made with zucchini, carrot and onion

Flourless Cookies

Flourless Cookies

Gluten-Free Travel: Tips on how to travel without getting poisoned

Traveling in Turkey: at least coffee is gluten-free.

Traveling in Turkey: at least coffee is gluten-free.

I needed to escape this winter and took a last minute trip to Cuba with my mom. All-inclusives in Cuba are not known for their great food so you can imagine the gluten-free situation. They definitely did their best to accommodate my diet but as expected I ate a lot of fish, rice and snacks from home.

This trip inspired me to share my gluten-free travel tips.

Gluten-Free Travel Tips:

  • Always bring some real food onto the plane with you (particularly important if it will be a long flight). Never trust that a plane or train will provide you with a gluten-free meal. I am averaging about a 20% success rate in the gluten-free meal department, with the “meal” being even remotely edible about 40% of the time when it does arrive. Those two percentages combined gives us some pretty bad odds. Here is some news: people with celiac disease do not eat stale rice cakes with jam for breakfast. SHOCKER! Basically always bring some great food with you and you can be pleasantly surprised if an edible meal comes your way, which is much better than the alternative of being a crazy crangry person “But your airline confirmed 3 times that they would have a gluten-free meal!!”… Now I order my gf meal and when they say they don’t have it bla, bla, bla and I will get a $25 credit on my next booking I can block it all out and reach for my fresh meal in my carry on!
  • Snacks, snacks, snacks!!! Always make sure to pack your favorite snacks. Crackers, granola, nuts and Larabars are my faves. While traveling for a few weeks in Turkey my crackers traveled well and were a great starchy option to pull out when we were served cheeses. Granola and nuts are perfect to snack on or throw in yogurt. And Larabars are a must for the bottom of your bag when you realize you can’t eat a thing on the menu. Always bring more snacks than you think you need, your non-gf travel partners will want some snacks too. In Cuba there weren’t any desserts I could eat so that pack of gluten-free chocolates from home was essential.
    Quick list: granola/protein bars, granola, pretzels, crackers, dried fruit, nuts, miso soup packets, protein or meal replacement powder (ex: Vega), chocolate…
  • Print out a gluten-free travel cards in almost any language. This website has cards that explain gluten-free food preparation in 54 languages! I have used these cards in Turkey, Cuba, Costa Rica and Croatia.
  • Do your research. Before going to Turkey I researched gluten-free options and found out that it wasn’t super well known and that most of the rice dishes had barley. Knowing what foods to avoid and printing out some maps to gluten-free restaurants made the trip a lot easier.
  • Relax! While traveling with an allergy can definitely be f***ing annoying it’s definitely not the worst. You’re on vacation! Focus on the amazing parts of discovering somewhere new, it will help you forget that you can’t eat that croissant/baklava etc. It definitely helps to be prepared, both physically and mentally, with snacks and the knowledge that you will have days where you eat only apples, wine, and Larabars. C’est la vie. Note: This last tip is important but doesn’t really apply as well if you are  traveling for work. I will admit that traveling for work is not my favorite from a gluten-free perspective. Not having a access to a kitchen for a week while working long hours  and not knowing where to eat safely can definitely be downer.

Have any tips you want to share?

Gluten-free breakfast in Turkey with crackers brought from home.

Gluten-free breakfast in Turkey with crackers brought from home.

A Larabar is a beach bag essential!

A Larabar is a beach bag essential!

At least mojitos are gluten-free...

At least mojitos are gluten-free…