I am a high school teacher, and the other day I was behind a freshman boy in the lunch line. Just like all of the other hungry teenagers, I noticed that he was carrying a plastic blue food tray and patiently waiting his turn to fill up. But, then he veered out of line and the lunch lady met him. It was clear to me this was a practiced routine. Next, she opened up the bottom drawer of the heating rack and pulled out a tinfoil wrapped (looked like it was probably toast) item and a bin of pasta. She scooped casserole onto the young man’s tray and he continued through the line to add fruit and veggie sides on his own.
At that point I figured he must be eating gluten free. So, I asked him if my guess was correct. He affirmed that it was. I then asked him if he had celiac disease, and with a nod and smile he said, “Yes, I do.” Next, he added, “It’s really not that bad; I just have to make some adjustments and pay attention to what I’m eating.”
I admired his postive response, and I then I explained that my sophomore son (who attends a different high school) also has celiac, and watching him get his lunch gave me an idea of what probably happens at my son’s school as well. After I complimented his postive outlook, he jokingly replied, “The worst part is how expensive everything is. My mom complains about it all the time.” At which point we shared a chuckle because I was in agreement on the outrageous cost of eating gluten free.
Let’s take a peek at a short list of price inequity. Shall we?
Does a 10 inch frozen GF pizza really need to average $6 a piece? I mean, Udi cut us some slack here. Even the Aldi brand pizzas are around this much. (And you’ve shaved two inches off the traditional frozen pizza size.What’s up with that? Would the extra 2 inches kill ya?)
Oh, wow! Again, we are at the $6 average a loaf price point. Maybe there’s an up charge because of the added air holes in the bread? Size of the GF loaf in comparison to say a loaf of Wonder Bread: about half. So, we are certainly not paying more for extra slices.
Bun at a Restaurant
Ok, I get it. These are special ordered and the cost has to get passed on to the consumer. I’m not even going to complain about this because, frankly, I’m just happy you serve them. Shout out to Culvers and other GF friendly establishments!
Pretzels, Brownie Mix, Pizza Dough…
Enough said. My grocery budget is busted.
All in all, being gluten free is not cheap, but it is so worth it! A gluten free diet is the ONLY treatment for celiac. And while I needed to vent for a moment about the outrageous prices of GF items, I’m thankful they are easier to find and becoming more commonplace. Here’s hoping the costs go down in time.
I can honestly say I never thought I’d be roasting my own sunflower seeds, let alone harvesting them. But, when my BFF tackled a gardening project this summer and her daughter planted a row of sunflowers, the opportunity for a fun-filled fall project landed in the front seat of my SUV… literally. I stopped at my friend’s house for a late summer afternoon visit, which led to checking out her garden, and then a bag of beans, a box of pickles, a bag of frozen corn (oh.my.gosh. the best corn ever!), and a sunflower head in my vehicle to take home.
Of all the store bought varieties of sunflower seeds that are so yummy to snack on, the ranch ones have always been our favorites. So, for my first attempt at roasting my own seeds, I opted for ranch flavor.
Step #1 Harvest the Seeds
At first, I was a bit intimidated by this huge, decapitated, sunflower head. In fact, I left it sit in the garage for a good week before tackling the project. Eventually, though, I decided I needed to get at this before the squirrels did, so I set to harvesting the seeds. With a little effort, it wasn’t too difficult to dig the seeds from the head. It was a little messy, so I moved to the patio for this step. Rubbing my thumb across the head while digging in a bit, caused them to come out pretty easily.
Step #2 Soak the Seeds
I filled a kitchen pot with water, about 1/4 cup sea salt, and the seeds. I read that soaking the seeds in salt water enhances the taste, and it keeps the seeds from burning when in the oven. The seeds soaked for approximately three hours, and then I laid them out on paper towel to dry a bit. After patting with paper towel, it was time to season.
Step #3 Ranch Seasoning
I mixed 3/4 of a package of Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning mix and 1/4 cup of melted butter in a bowl with the seeds. ( I would adjust the amounts of butter and ranch depending on the number of seeds collected. I had about 3 cups.) Once the seeds were nicely coated, I placed them in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Step #4 Roasting
The seeds roasted for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, and I checked frequently to make sure they weren’t overcooked. I wanted them a nice golden brown, but from previous experiences roasting pumpkin seeds, I knew they would burn quickly. At 12 minutes in, I could tell they were almost done, and an extra three minutes did the trick… perfect.
Step #5 Eat and Enjoy
All-in-all this was a fun, and not difficult project that resulted in a delicious gluten-free snack. The ranch seasoning was perfect. It would have been easy to simply salt them, if that’s what you prefer. But, I highly recommend the ranch.
Big shout-out to my friend Tracy for the garden tour, all the goodies I brought home, and the idea to roast sunflower seeds. Thanks, girlfriend.
There’s nothing more fun than an old fashioned Griswold family vacation. My family and I stuffed ourselves and our belongings into a mini-van and headed out for an epic road trip to South Carolina.
Observation Number 1
It’s true what they say about Southern hospitality; people in the south are nicer. Maybe it’s a slower pace of life, or a don’t sweat the small stuff attitude that Southerners’ possess, but I was impressed over and over again with the charm and hospitality displayed by pretty much everyone we met when we traveled south from the Midwest to Myrtle Beach.
This was our first family road trip post-celiac, and I was a little apprehensive about how the food situation would play out. We had an 18 hour car ride, which I packed plenty of GF snacks and lunch food for, but I was more concerned about how things would play out once we reached our beach destination. Eating out is challenging enough in our hometown, and I had no idea what to expect in unfamiliar tourist-territory.
To combat my pre-travel worry, I did plenty of research ahead of time: I plotted our route on MapQuest and calculated where we’d likely stop night one of our drive. Next, I Googled “Gluten-Free Restaurants” in Knoxville, TN and in our destination city of Myrtle Beach. I took copious notes, including addresses and phone numbers of places that I thought the family would enjoy. But, in reality we ended up eating at very few of the places I had researched. (Planning ahead still gave me a sense of control over the situation, so I’m happy I did it.)
However, Knoxville was one city that my research came in handy, as we ultimately chose an eatery from my notebook list. After a failed attempt at Chick-fil-A, we ended up eating dinner at a place I had previously found online.
Chick-Fil-A Let Down:
We had always wanted to try a Chick-fil-A, and I had read that they are pretty accommodating to GF diets. This was 13 hours into our road trip, and we were all hungry. The four of us piled into Chick-fil-A with high expectations and hungry bellies. I asked what the gluten-free options were, and everyone stared back at us with blank looks. Then the manager tried to dig through a pile of papers for an allergen list, to no avail. (Note to self: a review from one restaurant in a chain does not equal the service received at all. It’s all about the management and the people who work there.)
Eventually the Chick-fil-A folks determined the waffle fries were GF, which I looked up online to confirm- I wasn’t trusting these guys. And that was the only thing we ordered- one order of waffle fries for a starving 15 year old. Then we proceeded to the next establishment: Sergeant Pepperoni’s.
Sergeant Pepperoni’s renewed my faith that our road trip would turn out well. This place was fantastic, and it too was on my list. The small space was a little crowded when we got there, but the delicious smells pulled us through the hoard of patrons to a booth in the corner of the restaurant. There were signs showcasing gluten-free beer and pizza, so I felt pretty good we had made a solid choice in a restaurant that caters to gluten-free orders.
The waitress was extremely sweet and answered all of our questions about food prep and cross contamination. My son does not have a complicated pizza order: just cheese. Nonetheless, this was one of the best GF cheese pizzas he’d ever had. The crust was a bit thicker than most, and the sauce was fantastic. He enjoyed every bite. The rest of us ordered a non-GF pizza, and that too was amazing. The crust was a hand-tossed thickness, and the sausage and pepperoni combination tasted oh so good. If we lived near Sergeant Pepperoni’s, we’d definitely be regulars.
Our first night in Myrtle Beach we found ourselves at a Ruby Tuesday near our resort; it was connected to the Myrtle Beach Mall. I know this is a chain, but not one we have where we live. It was near closing time when we arrived, but we weren’t rushed by the staff at all. Remember what I said earlier about Southern hospitality? It was certainly evident here.
Our waitress provided a separate GF menu to our son. This was a plus right away. He had an entire menu to look at! There were so many choices to pick from he actually had a hard time choosing. Finally, he ended up with a rack of BBQ ribs and a double order of garlic mashed potatoes. I barely got my camera out in time to take a picture before he devoured it.
When he was done, there was not a morsel of food left. Our waitress talked to us about Midwest weather and we laughed about the chaos caused when a flake of snow hits the pavement in Myrtle Beach. Finally, she told us some attractions we needed to visit before trip’s end. It was a delightful evening. We left full and happy.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
We had never been to a Chipotle before, yet we had heard so many good reviews. Man, were we in for a treat. This particular location was attached to the Coastal Grand Mall.
I have NEVER seen anybody in any restaurant so knowledgeable about celiac as the folks working here. As soon as I mentioned “celiac” the young man taking our order and assembling our food washed his hands, changed gloves, and replaced all the utensils with fresh ones. I was so impressed. This was one of the first eating out experiences where I didn’t feel the need to be on edge and explain the importance of not cross-contaminating the food. We ordered burrito bowls, and when we got to the end of the line to pay, the manager came to talk to us; I believe his name was Albert Smith. When he found out it was our first visit to a Chipotle, he comped my son’s entire order. We were so impressed. It was a phenomenal experience. Southern hospitality? I never want to leave.
Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Carrabba’s, believe it or not, is yet another chain we don’t have in our hometown. I’d read so many good GF reviews on other blogs about this restaurant, and we were excited to try it. We ate at the King’s Hwy, Myrtle Beach location, and it was crazy busy when we got there. When we were seated, I asked for a gluten-free menu, and we were told all the GF options were listed with a special icon on the regular menu, which was pretty cool!
Our waitress also had celiac, (what are the odds?) so she was very understanding and conscientious. My son ended up ordering GF Fettuccine Weesie, and when the food arrived, his was cold. No worries, though. We mentioned it to our waitress assuming she’d run it back to the kitchen and put it in the micro. Not the case. The manager came out and said they were making a fresh plate and the meal was comped. We were not expecting that at all. Are you kidding? The second free meal of the trip? Is this a Southern thing? By the way, the second order of pasta came out hot and steaming. Yummy!
Other Odds and Ends In Myrtle
We ordered Domino’s Pizza to the resort one night, which was standard Domino’s pizza. Nothing too much to comment on.
Benito’s Brick Oven Pizza. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, but as usual, the gluten-free cheese pizza was the standard order. To be honest, I didn’t even see this one. But, all reports are that this too was a keeper!
Barefoot Landing, North Myrtle Beach
Barefoot Landing deserves a special accolade. What a fun tourist spot. There are shops, fish to feed, 7D movies, mirror mazes, Bengal tigers, and much more. A person could spend an entire day exploring here; it’s really such a cool place.
There were MANY restaurants that offered GF options, and they looked really good. However, we were not up for a full-out meal, so we opted for Beef Jerky instead. Ha ha, right? Beef jerky? YEP! And, it was so much fun. When we entered the shop, super nice (Southern hospitality?), super outgoing folks offered us sample after sample of the many jerky options- after confirming all but the teriyaki flavors were GF. We had so much fun laughing and nibbling jerky. Eventually, we settled on four varieties to purchase to keep us occupied on the long ride home.
Say what? Hardee’s makes the blog? YES! This was actually a highlight after a stressful morning. We stopped at the Hardee’s in Aynor, SC on our way out of town headed for a straight 18 hour drive home. We weren’t able to make breakfast at the condo like we had in the previous mornings because we had packed everything up to head out early that day. That left us in a conundrum. Where could we get a quick GF breakfast? We decided to give Hardee’s a try. With some online research, I found that their Low-Carb Breakfast Bowls are GF. We were in for such a surprise when we entered. There was a three-man band playing and a group of patrons singing along, tapping their feet, and drinking coffee.
When I asked about the gluten-free breakfast bowl, I was a bit concerned at first because the young lady who took our order didn’t really know what I was talking about: the deer in headlights look. This made me nervous. We’d done so good thus far on the trip, and I didn’t want to ruin it now. She went to get the manager, who must have seen my anxiety with one glance. He immediately said he’d make this order. I watched as he washed his hands, put gloves on, and then cleaned the griddle for a clean cooking surface. I was almost in tears with happiness and relief. He handed me our order and said, “Here you go, Sweetheart. Enjoy.” I love the South!
Overall, I have no complaints on the food front. Our trip was more than wonderful and eating was successful. Thank you to all of these restaurants and food service workers for caring about the needs of your gluten-free patrons. We are so appreciative. There is a level of trust that goes into eating out when you have celiac, and it feels so wonderful to be treated well and be served good food.
With summer in full swing and the days getting shorter, we are savoring every moment of sunshine and campfires. I can’t get enough of summertime weather, and I dread the cold months ahead. So, for now all I can focus on are the fun times left to have this season.
One of my favorite aspects of summer are the smells of charcoal and open fires; this along with all the delicious food that goes with those aromas. Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned cookout?
Recently, I was inspired to collect gluten-free campfire recipes from a post that I shared on social media that originated from Canyon Gluten Free Bakehouse. Check out their website link for GF recipes and coupons The post asked readers to share their favorite open fire recipes. Pictured below is a traditional s’more we made using Gluten-Free Things graham crackers… so GOOD!
The collection of recipes on the Canyon Gluten Free Bakehouse Facebook post was creative and inspiring. Below are a few of my favorites:
Alyssa’s Banana S’mores
Slice a banana and place it in tinfoil with chocolate and marshmallow. Cook until “melted and goey.”
Jennifer’s Foil Packet Dinners
Place GF sausage, potatoes, and onions in foil. Cook on fire and serve on Canyon Gluten Free Bakehouse Rosemary Focaccia Bread.
Meg’s Pudgie or Pizza Pies
You’ll need a pudgie pie maker for these. If you don’t have one, you can pick it up relatively inexpensively on Amazon.
Savory: Use GF bread as the base and fill with pizza sauce, cheese, and any other pizza topping you desire. Cook over the flames until outside is toasted and inside is melty.
Sweet: Use GF bread as the base and fill with canned pie filling. (You could even dunk these in frosting…YUM!)
If you want to make more than one pie at a time, Amazon also sells double pie makers, I mean who wants to wait?
And, as Nicole reminds, classic grilled cheese sandwiches are delish in pudgie pie makers too!
Linda’s Apple & Ham Foil Meal
Place sliced Granny Smith apples, onions, and ham in foil along with a mixture of brown sugar and mustard. Cook on hot coals until done. Serve with a side of Canyon Bake House Bread.
Ross’ Hawaiian Marinated Chicken Packets
Place chicken breast chunks, sweet onion slices, and pineapple in foil packets and cook on the fire.
Becky’s Gourmet S’mores
Mi-Del gluten-free ginger snap cookies, Dandies all-natural marshmallows, and Dove dark chocolate with ginger.
You’ll need these for marshmallow cooking perfection: Kimberly’s Sweet Potato’s
Place a sweet potato in foil with cinnamon and coconut oil, grill until done. I sure appreciated all these ideas for campfire cooking. I can’t wait to try them. I’m hopeful you’ll enjoy them too. Happy summer!
“Positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you.” -annonymous
One Year Later
It was just one year ago that the celiac journey began for us- one year ago that I began documenting our story in this blog. After 14 years of chronic pain for my son that had been undiagnosed and misdignosed, we were finally on the road to uncovering the root cause of his health issues. We had seen rheumatologists, physical therapists, podiatrists, and ER doctors through the years, and finally our family doctor did a simple blood test to illuminate the path that would lead to a celiac diagnosis. After more blood work, a visit with a pediatric gastroenterologist, and a colonoscopy we had the answers we were looking for: celiac.
I think back to this time last summer, and I can remember all the feelings associated with this diagnosis. There was definitely a bitter-sweetness to it. On one hand, there was a sense of loss for all the changes that were about to take place in my teenage son’s life. And, in contrast, there was an overwhelming sense of relief; finally we had an answer and better yet a solution: a gluten-free diet. Yet, as a parent I struggled to find a balance. I wrote about that struggle in a post called No Apologies for a Parent’s Love. Many other parents connected with these sentiments, and I found comfort in that.
Today, we are in a state of no longer thinking about the diagnosis. We’ve worked through the change, and eating gluten-free is now a way of life. There are very few moments spent in consternation over the adjustments it took to rid gluten from our lives. It takes pre-planning, conscientious and caring friends, family, coaches, teachers, and a good attitude, but all-in-all life is “normal”- if there is such a thing for a busy family of two teens! Normal is a relative term, and I wouldn’t want anything but our version of it.
Since last summer, my son has grown 6 inches and gone up 2 1/2 shoe sizes. His body pain is now an appropriate amount for a student-athlete. He’s sore because of physical activity not in pain without cause. It’s clear the vitamin deficiencies he had been suffering from have resolved themselves with his new diet, as evidenced by a half foot height gain. Additionally, the blood test follow-ups confirmed that he’s on the road to healing: vitamin levels in the green, thyroid issues resolved, and gluten antibodies gone. Success.
I’m thrilled that my son can do all the things he loves, and that he is a positive kid who accepted this challenge head on.
The silver lining, so to speak, really does exist. I have seen my son take control of his health and advocate for himself. He’s learned at a young age how important this is. Also, we’ve made new friends: John and Mary from Gluten Free Things, Cat from Gluten-Free Homemade, and many others. I’ve learned so much about health and nutrition, and I’m learning to cook many new and delicious things. And, I recognize how blessed we are to have such a support network of family and friends. There are many positives.
I think, for the most part, I worry about food more than my son. He’s pretty much got things under control. He’s a self advocate, and this has made me incredibly proud. I am impressed with his maturity.
He explains his autoimmune disease to people and tells them what he can and can’t eat. He knows which GF school lunches are keepers and which ones are on the no fly list- those are cold lunch days. When he has a question about something, he snaps a picture and sends it to me for confirmation before eating. I know for a fact it’s not always easy, and there are times he’s hungry and simply can’t eat with his buddies, but he has not complained one time. I am so proud of him.
I’m looking forward to finding more gluten-free gems this coming year, whether it’s a restaurant that caters to dietary restrictions, a new recipe, a delicious product, or a new friend I’m excited for it all. And, I can’t wait to share it with you. We are thankful for health and family. We’ve got this under control.
May, as many know, is celiac disease awareness month. As this month comes to an end, I though it prudent to take a peek backwards at the history of celiac. How far have we come in our understanding of this disease?
The Origins of Celiac Disease:
Evidence of celiac disease dates back to the 2nd century. Although the cause of celiac symptoms wasn’t yet identified, scientific evidence of the disease, through skeleton remains, can be traced back to the first century AD. An archaeological discovery of a young woman, approximately 18-20 years old, gives credence to celiac dating back to this era. This woman showed signs of “failure to thrive and malnutrition” (Celiac Support Association). Additionally, scientists found evidence of HLA-DQ2.5, which according to the Journal of Biomedical Science, is molecular typing present in those predisposed to celiac disease.
What is the origin of the term “celiac” ?
The early Greeks are famous for being the first doctors and historians in ancient history. One such Greek from 250 AD, Aretaeus of Cappadocia, documented in his writings evidence of an unnamed disease. He wrote about patients who suffered from malabsorption and diarrhea (UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases). These patients were referred to in writing as “koliakos” which meant “suffering in the bowels” (Celiac Support Association). Translated to English, we have the term “celiac” or in Europe, “coeliac”, which is what the disease has come to be known as today. The history of this disease is baffling as we look at the incredible timeline of the scientists who “figured it out”.
1924– an American pediatrician, doctor Sidney Hass, determined that carbohydrates were the root cause of symptoms for celiac patients (UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases). He treated these children with the “banana diet”.
1930s– Dr. William Dicke, a Dutch pediatrician, observed that children during WWII, who had a shortage of bread to consume, showed improved symptoms when eating less wheat. This strengthened Dr. Hass’ findings (UCLA Division of Digestive Health). In 1952, Dicke concluded celiac is caused by wheat protein, not carbohydrates, and he was the first to suggest a gluten-free diet (Celiac.com).
1950s– Following Dr. Dicke’s famous thesis examining his observations and conclusions that wheat protein was to blame for celiac, Margo Shiner, a ped-gastroenterologist, developed a biopsy technique to examine the small intestine of adolescent patients and observe pathological changes. (JPGN)
1964– Anti-gliadin antibodies were discovered (UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases). Gliadin is a part of the protein found in gluten, and the immune systems of patients with celiac disease develop antibodies to attack this protein (KidsHealth).
May being devoted to Celiac Awareness attests to the fact that there is an effort to educate the public about this disease. Scientists and health professionals began the journey of understanding celiac thousands of years ago, and that journey continues today. There are countless doctors and other professionals searching for potential treatments for patients in the future.
One such institution is the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. They, and others, are tirelessly searching for a cure while providing educational opportunities to the public. To read more about celiac disease, check out this FACT SHEET. A research team at the Chicago Celiac Disease Center, led by Dr. Bana Jabri, has made it their ultimate goal to CURE CELIAC DISEASE. To read the research and learn more about the mission, visit their page.
There are currently clinical trials underway for those interested and able to participate. Click here to read more CLINICAL TRIALS (Beyond Celiac)
As we near the end of May, I want to take a moment to thank all who contribute their time, talents, and energy into learning, educating, and supporting the celiac cause. I’m excited to see what the future will bring. Meanwhile, keep on keeping on as we travel this road together.
Mother’s Day, is a day set aside to honor the most important women in our lives and an opportunity to spend time with those we love. According to the History Channel, the celebration of Mother’s Day can be traced back to the Greeks and Romans who held celebrations honoring the mother goddesses. In America, Mother’s Day as we’ve come to know it, was adopted in 1914 as an official holiday after Anna Jarvis came up with the concept in 1908. She would later denounce the commercialization of the holiday, however, and try to have it removed from the calendar.
For our family, Mother’s Day has always been a special day to spend together. In previous years, we have gathered for a Mother’s Day brunch buffet at a local restaurant. This was a nice option because there was no planning involved on the part of the host, there was always a good variety of food, and there was no clean up after. Since a celiac diagnosis, however, eating at a buffet is no longer a safe option for my son. So, we decided to do our own version of the buffet at home.
I volunteered to host this party. To be honest, I love an excuse to have the entire family over! I adore family get-togethers, and it gives me an excuse to bring out my favorite serving dishes. But, being a busy household with two teenage kids, we are always on the go, so I wanted to streamline the cooking as much as possible.
My husband and I decided on a lot of make ahead dishes so we could do the majority of the prep the day before, go to my son’s soccer games the morning of, and get home in time to serve a hot meal for the family.
As it turned out, the weather was a perfect sunny day, and it was one of the best Mother’s Days I can recall. The kids (and some adults who will be quite sore tomorrow) jumped on the trampoline, the grandpas and my husband played sheep’s head, and the rest of us relaxed on the deck after eating a delicious meal. It was truly a beautiful day.
Here’s the menu we decided on: (Served buffet style)
Grilled Chicken (My husband’s contribution- he’s a grill master! Love you, honey!) We kept it warming in the Nesco so it was ready to eat when guests arrived. Worked perfect.
Ham (My husband made this the night before. We sliced it and kept it warm in a crock pot filled with 7-up. ) I forgot to take a pic of this before we devoured it.
Taco Dip and Chips (This easy appetizer was a featured recipe awhile back.)
Potato Salad (Courtesy of my wonderful mother-in-law)
Fresh Fruit (Thank you, Mom!)
Creamy Cucumbers (Another shout out to Mom.)
Veggie Plate (Hollie, my awesome sister-in-law brought this.) Like the ham, I missed taking a picture of this. Veggies are always so pretty with their varied colors.
Deviled Eggs (I’m giggling as I look at this picture because there’s one missing. I wonder who got that one?)
Pumpkin Bars (My mother-in-law crafted these delicious GF goodies! They are everyone’s favorite dessert!)
Deciding to eat at home instead of going out gave us more time to spend together, and I loved it. Wishing every a great day, delicious food, and the love of family!
Surviving a Celiac Diagnosis: The Bittersweet Truth:
7 Things You Should Know
Being diagnosed with celiac is both terrifying and hopeful. It’s terrifying in the sense that your world as you know it is about to be uprooted. Things you used to take for granted, like grabbing Subway on a busy night, family celebrations at the Pizza Ranch, or attending a cook-out, will not be like they used to be. There are a lot of things to learn and hurdles to overcome as you adjust to your new lifestyle. However, there’s also hope and perhaps an amount of satisfaction in being able to dive into the cause of your discomfort and the realization that by changing your diet you can alleviate the negative effects of untreated celiac. It can be a gift to finally have a diagnosis for symptoms that may have been plaguing you for years, perhaps a lifetime. And, now that you know what you’re dealing with, you can move forward in accepting your diagnosis.
Through a lot of reading, especially personal stories on blogs such as this, and education through our GI doctor and other medical resources, we managed to accept and find ways to live a gluten-free life that didn’t impede our daily activities and adventures.
What We Learned Through Reflection:
Mourn: It’s okay to let out your frustrations if you need to. You need to let go of how things were and move forward to how things will be. And, this can be cathartic.
Don’t Dwell: Once you’ve had your share of orneriness and tears, you need to let it go. If there was an audiotrack accompanying this article, Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” would be playing. After you’ve mourned the loss of how things used to be, you need to look forward and accept things for what they are.
Get Family & Friends on Board: Honestly, support from family and friends can be the most influential factor in transitioning into this new lifestyle. First and foremost, the people closest to you need to understand the nuances of this disease and help educate others. You’ll need these trusted individuals to help you field questions of what can and can’t be eaten and to be conscientious of your needs at social gatherings that involve food. “No, aunt Edna. Tommy can’t eat the pasta dish you made. Let me explain why.”
Familiarize Yourself with Local GF Grocery Offerings: We no longer make a shopping trip to just one grocer like we used to. Now we make several trips to several different vendors. Our favorite GF bread is Schar’s. And, Walmart sells this bread significantly cheaper than the store we used to do the majority of our shopping at. Likewise, Udi’s pizzas are a favorite go-to in our house, and Target sells these at a more reasonable cost than the grocer. If you don’t mind ordering online, there can be huge cost savings there as well. You’ll need to shop around, and expect sticker shock at first. In time, you’ll find the products you love and the places to buy them. Don’t hesitate to stock up on non-perishables and freezer friendly foods to cut down on your shopping trips. You’ll find that one store carries a favorite brand or item of one thing, and another store has something else you love. You probably won’t find all your favorites at the same place- bottom line, get used to planning your shopping trips.
Understand Eating Out Can be a Chore: Just because a restaurant has a gluten-free menu, that doesn’t necessarily make it safe for celiac patients. At first, we were under the impression that all gluten-free offerings would be safe to eat. This is not correct. As a consumer, you really need to do your research. Read restaurant reviews, talk to the waitstaff, talk to the chef, or call the manager ahead of time. Ask the questions that at first may make you feel awkward. It’s your health, and you need to take the initiative in making sure what you eat is safe. There are many restaurants that do cater to the precise needs of celiacs: avoiding cross contamination & educating their staff. However, this should not be an assumed practice. You need to ask! Once you find a celiac safe place, let others know about it and continue to frequent those places with your business.
Learn to Carry Snacks and Pack Meals: Many times, there simply will not be any options that are safe to eat. Learn to carry GF protein bars with you. Keep snacks easily accessible. And, when going to a party, understand it’s probably safer (and easier on everyone) if you just pack your own meal. (At least bring GF bread or buns.)
Cook More: There are a plethora of fantastic GF recipes available on blogs and Pinterest. When you cook your own food, you know exactly how it was made and what ingredients were used. Chances are, if you had a favorite meal pre-celiac, you can make a very similar (maybe even better version) post-celiac. You will have to get used to some new ingredients, and if you’re in a home that is not completely GF, you’ll have to work out a gluten-free zone for food, utensils, and kitchen appliances. (Get your own toaster, for sure!) Here’s the bonus: you’ll probably end up with a much healthier diet than you previously had.
I sincerely hope this helps as you begin your gluten-free life!
Central Wisconsin’s home to Artisan Food and Craft Beer, the Red Eye Brewing Company in Wausau, Wisconsin is a one-of-a-kind establishment that features a gluten-free menu alongside its non-GF signature dishes and brews.
The building itself, with its industrial facade, almost resembles a warehouse from the outside. It’s located off the beaten path in the downtown area, which is fitting for a restaurant as unique as this one.
The Red Eye’s popularity is evident on a Friday night, as the parking lot is overflowing and customers are elbow-to-elbow waiting to be seated. But, with a full bar and eclectic setting, the wait time doesn’t deter the crowd. Customers are immediately greeted at the host station with friendly faces and enthusiastic “welcomes”. The most predominate decor: bicycles. They are even hanging from the ceiling.
The other appealing aspect of this business is the fresh ingredients sourced locally. This summer my parents and I had the absolute best carrot cake we have ever eaten, and it was made from local farm fresh ingredients. This simply can’t be beat.
From my perspective, however, the most special aspect of the Red Eye is its gluten-free menu. The menu boasts of unique appetizers, indulgent main dishes, pizzas, and even dessert. With this option, there is something delicious for everyone.
Gluten-free indulgence: if you’re not counting calories, Red Eye is a must! This place is a local favorite and tends to be a very busy place. This is a favorite date night spot for me and my husband (who loves the micro brews and Moscow mules).
On this particular evening we were celebrating our daughter’s first day at her new job at The Clay House. Our dining began with Mushroom Merlot, which is pan roasted mushrooms, roasted garlic, vidalia onions, herb goat cheese and merlot reduction served with tortilla chips. This appetizer could be a meal in itself.
For the main course, I ordered the GF Chicken Mac-n-Cheese. I have to go on the record and say this is truly the best Mac-n-Cheese ever. It’s made with GF pasta, Nueske’s bacon, green onion and tomatoes. Our daughter ordered the Margherita Pizza, and it did not disappoint. The crust is Schroeter’s (from Milwaukee, WI): gluten and dairy free.
I’m always looking for a place my son, who has celiac disease, can go to and order from a menu that has more than just a bunless burger. The Red Eye is one of those places in Central Wisconsin. He can get a variety of gourmet burgers made from grass-fed beef and served on Udi’s buns, or steak, pizza, or pasta. Additionally, when you tell the waitstaff he has celiac disease, it doesn’t take a twenty minute dissertation on our part to explain what that is, which is such a relief.
On this lunchtime visit, our appetizer was the Grilled Shrimp Skewers. Oh. My. Gosh. These were the most delicious things ever. After finishing the order, I think we were both wishing we would have ordered two of the appetizers as our meal. The shrimp are marinated for 24 hours in a charmoula mixture and then grilled and served over a bed of arugula- one shrimp per skewer. There is a lemon aioli dipping sauce. These shrimp had the most amazing flavor, and served warm and tender from the grill, we both enjoyed them tremendously.
For our main course, my son ordered a made-to-order, plain ole cheese pizza. Even though there are many specialty options to choose, he was in the mood for a cheese pizza. I shared this with him, and I can tell you the crust was fantastic, and the sauce was sweet and tangy: a perfect marinara. There wasn’t a bite left.
I ordered the Hummus Plate. This came with roasted red pepper hummus, castevetrano olives, roma tomatoes, red onions, feta, and tortilla chips. LOVED IT. The ingredients were fresh and delicious. I couldn’t finish it all, so I happily brought the leftovers home for later.
If you’re looking for a fun night out, a family dinner, or a date night, I encourage you to check out the Red Eye. Please feel free to leave comments regarding your experiences too.
Jenny- The Gluten Free Tribune & Teena (frequent GFT contributor)
With “gluten-free” labels adhered to many products, restaurants touting their “gluten-free” menus, and full aisles of supermarkets dedicated to the cause, one might assume, it’s easy going gluten-free.
If you choose to eat gluten-free because it makes you feel healthier, you notice less digestive distress eating sans gluten, or it’s easier for you to maintain a healthy weight by following a gluten restriction, then yes, going gluten-free is probably not too hard.
However, if you eat gluten-free because you have celiac disease then, my friend, the answer to the question is a resounding no. It is most definitely not easy to be gluten-free.
What Gluten-Free Means for Celiacs:
For celiacs, eating gluten-free is a mandated prescription for an autoimmune disease that left untreated will wreak havoc on one’s body. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to a host of other undesirable ailments: vitamin deficiencies, osteoporosis, or even cancer.
Yet, to the undiscerning observer, one might still question how following a gluten-free lifestyle can be so difficult when there seems to be boundless choices for nourishment. Well, the answer is that when you don’t suffer from celiac disease and there are only gluten-rich food choices available, you can “cheat” on your diet for a day, a week, or whenever, and you won’t suffer the devastating autoimmune consequences of being “glutened”.
This is why celiac sufferers are always on edge when invited out for a meal, or to a friend’ s home for a dinner party, or, heaven forbid, an overnight trip somewhere. Eating is a chore that requires keen concentration and attention to details. Unlike someone who eats gluten-free for the other reasons previously mentioned, (which by the way are all personal choices and shouldn’t be judged) a celiac must be leery of each ingredient and the specifics of how GF food has been prepared. To top that off, there are the social ramifications and worries of being known as a “picky eater” by those who don’t understand the seriousness of the disease.
It’s Not That Funny
There are so many off-handed, careless jabs thrown around nowadays regarding the gluten-free diet. Whether it’s an internet meme or an insensitive political comment, these serve to diminish the seriousness of celiac disease in those who have no choice but to follow a strict gluten-free diet. This attitude spreads into the general public and saturates the consciousness of even the most well-meaning but ill-informed people. For someone who doesn’t suffer from celiac or personally know someone who does, it’s all too easy to be nonchalant or even dismissive when hearing the words “gluten-free diet”. Many people in the general public think that eliminating gluten means no pizza, bread, or beer. But, the reality is that it is so much more complex than this. Did you know that someone with celiac cannot even eat French fries made in the same oil as a breaded chicken patty. So, while the fries may be GF, they are contaminated from the cooking oil. If a crouton is on a GF bed of greens, the entire salad has been contaminated, even if the morsel of dried bread has been picked off. Not so easy, is it?
Time to Educate the Public!
If more people knew about this disease, there would be many more diagnosed and lives could be so much healthier. It’s estimated by the Chicago Celiac Disease Center that approximately 3 million Americans have celiac disease, many of whom do not know they have it. These people suffer from a variety of physical ailments that they cannot pinpoint to a cause. They are slowly poisoning themselves by what they consume, and sadly they don’t even know it. Furthermore, if more people were educated about this disease, they wouldn’t dismiss a person who eats “gluten-free” as participating in a glam Hollywood fad; instead, they would take the time to find out if the person has celiac disease and have empathy for the difficulty involved in maintaining a 100% GF lifestyle while also balancing the social implications of this diease.
So, the answer is NO. It’s not easy being gluten-free.