Archive for the ‘Basics of Gluten Free Living’ Category

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of eating Gluten Free

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

The Good: Of course P. F. Chang’s fits in this category when eating out (see previous posting about P. F. Chang’s). When eating at home, a new personal favorite is Udi’s G-Free baked goods.  Udi’s delicious Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls had the following right on the side of their package:

“We’re old-school artisan bakers – we bake for taste and that special joy that comes fresh from our ovens. Our wish is to share that satisfying, made-with-love happiness with others. We hope you enjoy the results. All of our gluten-free baked goods are made in our Colorado gluten-free bakery alongside breads, granolas, bagels and other goodies. All just part of our mission to make gluten-free delicious.”

How cool is that??? Imagine – foods made to be both nutritious and delicious and Gluten Free, too. Yes!!! That is good, really good!!!

Another “really good” is when dear friends and family honor me by recognizing my dietary restriction when planning for a shared meal or event. That makes me feel truly loved!!!

The Bad: All those restaurants that “say” they serve Gluten Free foods, but neglect to mention that their G-Free menu consists only of regular menu items minus the gluten-filled “tasty” part. No thanks!

Another “bad”, in my book, is when I pay to attend an event that includes a meal and the organizers or hosting facility cannot assure me that a Gluten Free meal will be provided for me. When I have paid like every other guest, my meal should be given the same consideration. Just like those who eat vegetarian or kosher, my meal should be delicious and still meet my dietary restrictions.

The Ugly: I was recently treated to a dinner out at a nearby Olive Garden. I had heard they had Gluten Free offerings and looked forward to enjoying their Gluten Free pasta. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. First of all, it took them about 10 minutes to find “the” Gluten Free menu from which I could make a selection. There were six different selections to choose from. One included G-Free pasta and the others were basically meat and vegetables with  little or no seasonings and olive oil. They were “ok”, but at the bottom of the menu was the following statement that just irritated me to no end. It showed how little Olive Garden really care for those of us who must eat Gluten Free. It said,

“Olive Garden created this menu for our gluten intolerant guests. Please be aware that the handcrafted nature of our menu items, variety of procedures in our kitchen, cross-contamination with ingredients containing gluten and our reliance on suppliers may result in variations in the ingredients of these menu items. We therefore make no guarantees regarding the gluten content of these items.”

This sounds to me like they really don’t care enough to establish connections with reliable suppliers or good kitchen procedures such that they can guarantee that I don’t get sick eating their foods, or they are merely trying to “CYA” ;)  in case “something” bad happens.  Aren’t they required by law to guarantee that they will cook meats, for example, to the proper temperature to not make the masses ill?  Why can’t they also guarantee I can dine safely and not suffer horribly for days after eating a meal that was “supposed to be” G-Free? P.F. Chang’s, Uno Chicago Grill, Boston Market, McCormick & Schmick’s, The Palm, and Bone Fish Grill are but a few of the places where I have thoroughly enjoyed a Gluten Free meal without worry whether I would be taking a risk, like at Olive Garden. If these other establishments can do it, Olive Garden could too… if they really wanted to, if they really cared enough about serving well their Gluten Free customers.

Clearly Gluten Free living still requires us to be vigilant in our ever checking labels and making wise choices – for our good health. Just like the bakers at Udi’s, we know eating should be a pleasurable experience both during and following a meal. Gluten Free can be both safe and delicious. I think more restaurants and venues will eventually “get it”; they will understand our dietary restrictions and work to provide us healthy and tasty choices. Some won’t. Those we have the freedom to avoid.

Food – Medicine or Poison?

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

I loved this quote… thought you would, too. It says so much about our daily dietary choices!

The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.
~Dr. Ann Wigmore

G-Free updates, tid-bits, and ‘food for thought’

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Yes, this post is long overdue.  There is much to tell…

In my recent travels, I discovered that Boston Market is yet another “fast food” chain that has a list of their menu’s Gluten Free food offerings. I ordered their chicken and was delighted to discover that I could get chicken gravy to top my side of mashed potatoes. Tasty!

I have heard from some of you that you are giving the “elimination diet” a try to determine if Gluten might be the underlying cause of your physical ailments. I know it isn’t easy, but it is so worth it to give your body a chance to “heal”. The true test comes when you have been Gluten Free for a few weeks (I recommend at leastfull weeks with absolutely NO gluten). It is then that you can begin to eat Gluten again while watching for how your body reacts. Gluten may not be your only issue, but if you have been 100% Gluten Free for two weeks and you again eat Gluten, you will know if it doesn’t agree with you.
Only when you know how good your body can feel, and how bad Gluten makes you feel when you eat it, can you be seriously committed to staying staying the course for a lifetime of Gluten Free healthy living.

I recently met again with a committee made up of local retirement community residents and their management to discuss progress since our last meeting. Residents there can get meals prepared on site, and yet have had challenges making Gluten Free selections. The management has genuinely become more educated on the seriousness of  Gluten for those who are intolerant and have begun to educate all those who play a role in meal preparation.
One goal is that a symbol be placed on the weekly published “menus” to identify some daily selections as “Gluten Free” and that clearly marked Gluten Free choices and condiments be available throughout the dining facilities. In the mean time, the residents can daily call the dining room ahead of their arrival and make requests for their meals to be made Gluten Free. This does require initiative and persistence at a time when many would like not to have to worry quite so much about simple daily tasks.
If we are blessed to live long enough and to have accumulated the resources enough to reside in one of these independent retirement facilities ourselves… we must consider whether we will be able to make informed decisions there about what we eat and if the facility is able to provide daily Gluten Free meals for us.

Long before that day, we may find ourselves in a hospital or other care facility. The questions begs answering… “Will they be able to provide Gluten Free meals for us when we are not able to make our voice heard or even to make dietary decisions for ourselves?” I know that when I eat Gluten my body reacts violently and should I be in such a place in need of serious healing, even there I need to remain Gluten Free! Any Gluten eaten would be counter-productive to my body’s ability to heal.

I strongly believe we each need to be our own best health advocate, listening to our our body and getting/staying informed on pertinent information that impacts our overall health and general well being. But when we can’t, for whatever reason, I pray we have equipped someone to “stand in the gap” for us. Having been the personal care giver for a loved one failing in health I know how demanding, yet how important, that role can be, no matter the outcome.

Let me wrap up this post on a brighter note… yesterday, oh my!!! I delighted again in a fabulous Gluten Free meal and dessert at a nearby PF Changs. My loved ones treated me there for Mother’s Day. Yes, I know I am truly blessed that they both understand and care about my dietary restriction. I wish the same for each of you living G-Free and healthy!!!

Food intolerance? How does one know for sure???

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

The elimination diet is key to determining any allergy or intolerance to foods. Like Gluten Free Momsense blogger, I, too, noticed a difference almost right away when I first eliminated Gluten from my diet… but even more telling was when Gluten was added back in. She notes,

Some people don’t feel a difference during the elimination phase but do feel terrible when they reintroduce the food. It’s a simple test to do, does not require blood to be drawn or biopsies to be performed but can make a big difference in how you feel!

For her full post on the subject, check out her site.

Gluten Free Crunchmaster Crackers

Monday, March 22nd, 2010
Our Nation's Arbonne 30th Anniversary Celebration

Our Nation's Arbonne 30th Anniversary Celebration

At a reception this past week in Vegas, a friend and colleague was most gracious and kind enough to take into consideration that two of us attending eat Gluten Free. She had a fabulous spread of all kinds of salad fix-ins, fruits, cheese and crackers. The tasty Crunchmaster crackers were enjoyed by everyone!

I thought these were perhaps the best Gluten Free Crackers I’ve ever eaten. The multi-grain oven baked variety were, as their name suggests, crunchy, and the taste – delicious! These would be great alone or served with a variety of Gluten Free spreads and toppings, including cheese and hummus.

Crunchmaster Gluten-Free Crackers

Crunchmaster Gluten-Free Crackers

A visit to their website clearly states their motto: Happy, Healthy & Gluten Free. That is one I can fully endorse, and I am delighted they boldly declare on the front of the box that these are certified Gluten Free. (No having to search the small print.)

I understand Costco has these crackers priced less than traditional stores.

These are a relatively healthy Gluten Free cracker choice: low in sodium (110mg / 15-crackers) containing 2grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and 280mg of Omega-3 per serving, and zero cholesterol.

A quick review: Saying NO to wheat is not enough, and How much, really?

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

A friend recently shared her excitement that some of her favorite seasoning mixes contained no wheat. Knowing she is trying to better understand her Gluten sensitivities, I reminded her that there are folks who do have a wheat allergy, but the Gluten intolerance is not an allergy and Gluten is found in more than just wheat. It is always best to ask whether a product is Gluten Free, not merely Wheat Free.

For clarification, I referred her back to my Basic Category post on Wednesday, Jan. 24th entitled, “What is Gluten”.

A second question routinely arises when discussing Gluten intolerance… “Surely a ‘little bit” can’t hurt?”, but the answer is, in fact, that even the smallest amount of Gluten can hurt you.

To quote Shauna James Ahern (Gluten Free Girl/p63), “An eighth of a teaspoon of gluten can make us sick for days.”

In her book, The G Free Diet, A Gluten-Free Survival Guide, Elisabeth Hasselbeck states:

“Exactly how much gluten would it take to trigger symptoms? “A slice of bread has about two and a half grams of gluten,” explains Dr. Green. “Most people with celiac disease have an inflammatory reaction and symptoms with one hundred milligrams,” or about one-twenty-fifth of a slice, which is much less than a single bite.” (p. 49)

This should help to clear up those issues once and for all and also help to better explain why cross contamination is such an important issue.

We must remain vigilant!!!

Our Gluten Free Community

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Those of us who share a commitment to living Gluten Free are community, and I am blessed over and over again with info freely shared.

I was visiting my favorite Whole Foods Store in a nearby city today. As I stood in front of the frozen Gluten Free section, a sweet, generous gal offered up that the frozen pizza crust that I was looking at was really good. We began talking and she mentioned there is a store in Wisconsin that is completely Gluten Free. Good news… we can all order from them online at www.food4celiacs.com.

She also recommended the Schär brand Gluten Free foods, and noted they can even be found in Walmart Superstores.

I feel I found a new friend today.   :)

I offer my heartfelt thanks to all of you who freely share from your Gluten Free experiences to benefit others!!!

Living with…

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Instead of thinking about what it is that I now live ‘without’, I prefer to think about all I get to live with…

I get to enjoy delicious foods… old and new favorites.

I live with renewed health (no longer suffering from symptoms associated with Gluten intolerance), renewed energy, renewed joy for living, renewed taste for food, renewed  mobility (without joint pain and inflammation).

However, for those making the adjustment to Gluten Free living, it is often a process of learning what they must live without. There is a magazine completely dedicated to helping people with allergies and food sensitivities to make the adjustment. You can subscribe to the magazine and receive 6 issues each year or you can visit them online (www.livingwithout.com ). Those on Facebook can become a fan and check out their new Gluten Free forum.

It is important to know that we are not alone in our living Gluten Free. There are many resources available. Please feel free to leave a comment recommending your favorite Gluten Free resources.

It is great to be back to living life to its fullest… with joy and thanksgiving!

The hidden danger of cross contamination

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

When I first went Gluten Free, I didn’t think cross contamination was an issue for me. Surely my Gluten issues weren’t “that bad”.

I had read in Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s book, “The G Free Diet, A Gluten-Free Survival Guide” that she had her own toaster. Her husband had his in which he put regular bread items to be toasted, but she could not toast her Gluten Free bread in it or it made her ill. Cross contamination was the culprit.

I was thrilled when I first learned that all the meal ingredients at Chipotle were Gluten Free except the flour tortillas. I could simply order a bowl instead of a burrito, right? It wasn’t until I realized that sometimes I could eat Gluten free items in my “bowl” at Chipotle and feel “fine” and other times the same meal made me ill, that the issue of cross contamination became real for me. Now, when I get to the front of the line at Chipotle, I tell them I eat Gluten Free and the server changes gloves before beginning to prepare my meal. Furthermore, they use a clean utensil when adding an item to my bowl. (If the server is new and uninformed, I explain the process to them.) Such a simple thing makes all the difference.

Clearly, eating Gluten Free is more than eating foods that are Gluten Free. It also means the food must be prepared in a way that does not allow it to come in contact with Gluten in the process. Hmmm…

It means we must be vigilant about not allowing double dipping of anything not Gluten Free. It requires the use of cutting boards that do not have Gluten-crumbs trapped in surface cuts.
If an ice cream scoop has touched an ice cream cone or ice creams that contain Gluten, you won’t want it scooping your serving of Gluten Free ice cream.
You don’t want to use the same spatula to flip your Gluten Free bread and cheese sandwich on the griddle as you use to flip the non-Gluten Free grilled cheese your husband or children enjoy. You don’t even want your Gluten Free grilled cheese sandwich to grill in the same spot on the griddle (or even on the same griddle) as non-Gluten Free sandwiches. You also don’t want to use the same knife to cut your Gluten Free sandwich in half as was used to cut non-Gluten Free sandwiches. Really!

At home, we should have control over cross contamination concerns. It helps to have the support of our family, but we have to first arm them with information. After every use, utensils, dishes, and pans need to be thoroughly cleaned. Some go so far as to have duplicates of these items in their kitchen for their exclusive, Gluten Free use.

Gluten Free Rolled Oats

Gluten Free Rolled Oats

I am often asked if oats are gluten free. There seems to be a controversy regarding oats. Many are processed or stored in facilities that also process or store wheat which can lead to cross contamination. It is for that reason that I read all labels carefully. Thankfully, there are oats that are labeled Gluten Free. Those are the ones I buy. (Note this bag is only half full. They really taste good!)

It does need to be said, though, that we must remain vigilant in reading labels because manufacturing processes and ‘recipes’ are constantly changing.

Restaurants that have informed management, chefs, and wait-staff take our concerns seriously when preparing our gluten free meals. One bite is often enough to tell us if a mistake has been made, and they want a repeat customer.

We have to be willing to speak up for ourselves. We need to be assertive, determined, and clear for our own well being, but also to help raise awareness of the issue. I love how Shauna James Ahern puts it in her book, “Gluten-Free Girl.” She says,

“Every instance of cross-contamination that brings me down for days makes me remember how I have suffered and how many people are suffering that same way now. I come out of those instances even more resolved to stand up for myself.” (p 64)

Here’s to Gluten-Free healthy living!!!

Going against the grain

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Sometimes  it feels like I am going against the flow of traffic… walking to the beat of a different drummer. Everywhere I go, people around me eat whatever they want without concern for what’s in the foods they eat.

It is now generally accepted that around 75% of the American population have issues with Gluten. Most of those are undiagnosed. I wonder how many even know what Gluten is or what it could be doing to them. I wonder if they have any idea how much better they could feel if they removed it from their diet. It is somewhat challenging to “go against the grain” in life, but it is nothing new to me.

After college, instead of pursuing my chosen field,  I became a military wife and followed my husband around the world. We arrived in places previously unknown to us where we knew no one. We set up house, settled in, made friends, and purposed to delight in where we had been temporarily planted. Some find it hard, if not impossible, to enjoy that way of life. We counted it a privilege over and over again. We moved 10 times in 15 years. It was wonderful!!!

It was his medical retirement that caused us to settle down in the state from which we began our journey after college. Two and a half years later he passed away from his inoperable brain tumor. I was a widow at 39 years old. That was not the “norm” among my peers. I home schooled my two boys from Kindergarten through college (with only one minor exception), and that was not the norm, either (especially in those days).

I remarried after having been a widow for two and a half years. Before my boys graduated high school, I began my home based business with Arbonne instead of going back to work in a traditional “job”. Perhaps going against the grain has always been the norm for me?

As I eat out and about and request Gluten Free menus and meals, I get lots of questions about Gluten issues. While I am currently  the “oddity”, I fully expect that will change in the near future. Restaurants, especially those with chefs, are more understanding and accommodating. (Check out the “Gluten Free Restaurant Awareness Program” and “Gluten Free Registry” links in the More Gluten Free on the Web section in the left hand column.) Local grocery stores are widening their selection of Gluten Free foods and it is especially nice when the Gluten Free items are placed together in one aisle of the store. I am thankful to have arrived at this issue at such a time as this.

We each have strengths, gifts, and talents and things that make us unique. It is “OK” to eat the way we were designed to eat. Diabetics have to watch their sugars and carbs, those with food allergies also watch what they eat. There are worse things in life than having to eat healthy as we are careful about food choices!

We can own the whole world, but if we don’t have our health, we can’t fully enjoy it.
Healthy living is the ultimate goal, even if we have to go against the grain!