In honour of Celiac Awareness Month this May I have a really exciting gluten-free event in the works. You’ll hear it here first! Be sure to follow me on Twitter and this blog to find out all of the wheat-less details!
Imagine if someone told you, as a gluten-free snacker, that there was something delicious, gluten-free, and not terribly unhealthy? Would you get really excited? Because I sure do every time I see popchips in the grocery aisle.
popchips are just that: popped chips. Compared to the traditional fried or baked choices in the chip aisle, popchips provide a guilt-free snacking option that you can enjoy guilt-free.
They have recently announced their new line of popped tortilla chips. Made using stoneground corn masa (the same ingredient in traditional corn tortillas) seasoned with natural ingredients. Nothing artificial. No trans fat. Gluten free. Lower fat and calories. Did I mention they were gluten-free too?
Have you tried popchips and will you be adding the new popped tortillas to your snacking regime?
This is a guest post by Kristen. Kristen can normally be found blogging on her uber-inspiring home renovation and DIY blog, Storefront Life, but I asked her to contribute a piece on her experience adjusting to her recent celiac-diagnosis.
My name is Kristen and I am a Celiac.
I have been gluten free for three months. I feel like I should get a medal for that, or at least a small trophy… three months of gluten free has been a hard road. The thing is, I didn’t want to give up gluten, heck I didn’t even think I had issues with gluten.
Here’s some back story; I had been having problems with my vitamin and nutrient levels for quite some time. I had be fighting (and losing!) a battle with severe iron deficiency anemia for three years. After rounds and rounds of tests, they finally discovered that I had Celiac Disease.
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease wherein your body thinks gluten is the devil, and tries to destroy it. The problem is that your body also destroys everything else around the gluten, which means some pretty heavy damage to the gastrointestinal (GI) system. My body was so badly damaged, that I was unable to absorb any of the vitamins and nutrients from my food. Hence the anemia. I didn’t have any GI symptoms, or any issues with food. Heck I LOVED any and all food. So being diagnosed Celiac, and given the task of eating gluten free for the rest of my life was a bit of a shock, and a huge learning curve.
When you get diagnosed they tell you to eat plain, simple foods. Don’t drink alcohol, don’t go out to eat, give up your social life and cry alone on your sofa every Saturday night (okay, so they didn’t say that last part, but the rest is true.) The problem is, I didn’t want to give up going out with my friends, eating out, and enjoying my food. So I researched, asked a lot of questions, and I have figured out that with a bit of planning, I can still go out with my friends and have a good time.
So here’s Kristen’s (not so scientific) guide to how to be gluten free while maintaining your social life and loving your food.
Liquor: Alcohol that has been distilled (regardless of whether it was originally wheat based) is gluten free. Beer and any malt liquor are not safe, nor is anything that has had gluten ingredients added in after the distilling process. Wine and cider are inherently gluten free as they are fermented fruit (just check that label and make sure gluten wasn’t added in as a flavor). However, I find that if I am exposed to even a bit of gluten and have had some alcohol my reaction to gluten is much stronger. You will find me upchucking in the bushes like a high school kid who drank a bottle of Jäger. So just be careful when it comes to drink.
Now for food: Some genres of food are mostly out of the question (Italian, Chinese etc.) but at any restaurant you can often find at least one thing safe to eat on a menu (even if it’s the salad, which sucks but hey it’s better than starving). Thai, Indian, Mexican and Steakhouses will most likely have quite a few things you can eat. Still beware of stocks, gravies, seasonings, oyster & soy sauce, and anything malted, all of which may contain gluten.
Fast food & chain restaurants: Don’t even bother asking a fast food employee whats gluten free on the menu. They are not apt to have any clue whats in the food they’re making. However, most chains have a nutritional information and allergy guide on their websites. I have a little stack of printed out allergy charts for all the chain restaurants near my office. As much as I’d love to say that I bring my lunch every single day, that just isn’t reality. At least I know that the chilli at Tim Hortons is GF and almost everything from Chiplote (except the flour tortillas) I can safely eat. Check websites ahead of visits, and know whats safe for you.
Dine at smaller restaurants where the chef actually knows what he’s cooking. Most of the time when you tell the waitstaff that you cant eat gluten, they’ll grab the chef and he will come talk to you about the menu. I have had chefs even offer things off menu, that would be safe for me to eat. If you’re making reservations call ahead and let them know that you have dietary restrictions and they will be prepared for your arrival.
Invite friends to your house rather than heading to theirs for dinner. Most people who aren’t gluten free really don’t understand the breadth of items that contain gluten, what cross contamination means, or how sick it can make you. Its awesome that they want to feed you and that they want to accommodate your special needs, but it’s safer to indicate that its easier to cook GF in your own kitchen. If they really want to contribute you can get them to bring things you know are GF (like the steaks, cheese or wine) or just to give you a hand cooking in your gluten free kitchen.
Keep a Larabar (or three) in your purse at all times: The reality is that sometimes there’s just nothing you can eat. I also recommend getting a gluten ingredient app on your iPhone. I use one called GFShopping, which has an ingredient list with green or red labels. Green is safe to eat, red is not. This is super helpful when you’re roaming the isles of the grocery store unsure what an ingredient is.
So don’t fret, it does involve a bit of work, but you can still have the social life you love, just with a bit of effort.
I’m always looking for new gluten-free tricks and treats to make cooking, snacking, and eating out easier. Just yesterday I discovered that my local bakery has amazing gluten-free treats but I had been avoiding it in order to avoid the treats I’m not allowed to have any more! Imagine going to an event or store where you don’t have to read the labels on everything? Well I’ve found just the opportunity:
Gluten Free Garage is a pop-up market place featuring local merchants, bakeries, and restaurants that cater to gluten-free eating needs. You will be able to enjoy gluten-free food prepared onsite by local chefs, sample and purchase gluten-free food and lifestyle products from vendors, and hear from guest speakers who will speak on their experiences and expertise in gluten-free living and take the chance to chat with local health experts. You can also grab coupons for future #glutenfreegluttony purchases!
Want information about gluten-free living? The Canadian Celiac Association will also be onsite to provide information, resources, and support! Proceeds from all ticket sales ($10 for those aged 12 and up!) go to the Canadian Celiac Association.
Sunday April 28, 2013
10am – 4pm
Artscape Wychwood Barns in the Covered Street Barn
Yesterday, my mom and I met up for some shopping and quality time together. We were looking for a high-value item for my home so we had about 6 different furniture stores on our list. The challenge to find furniture was also on a timeline: we were meeting my dad and brothers for dinner and couldn’t be late (something we do well, especially when we’re together)! When our shopping was slowed by hunger in mid-afternoon we both realized we would need fuel before we could continue.
Normally we would grab something fast in a food court or drive thru to continue with our shopping, but with me eating gluten-free and my mom eating carb-free, snacking on the go presented a bit of a challenge. Granola bars generally aren’t gluten-free and a bag of chips certainly aren’t carb-free.
The solution? One of our stops was a Walmart that also had a small grocery section. We grabbed some of our favourite snacks that pack some serious vitamins and energy and munched on them in the car on our way to the next store. When we found exactly what we were looking for we used all of our extra energy to haul our heavy purchase to the truck. Our quick snack on the go meant we arrived on time for dinner and were ready to eat with the entire family!
What are your favourite gluten-free snacks on the go?
A few weeks ago I flew out to San Francisco for a whirlwind of a work trip. This was my first trip since I’ve started eating gluten-free and I was a bit worried about how I was going to make gluten-free choices in an office with catered lunches, eating on the go, and daily dinner with coworkers where I had no input on restaurant choice.
The first challenge presented itself in the first hour of my trip: breakfast at the airport.
While I would have loved to grab a breakfast sandwich, a bagel, or a delicious pastry from any of the vendors and restaurants at Pearson, I was determined to find a gluten-free option.
While I was taking care of priority #1 at Starbucks, I also grabbed a parfait (granola isn’t gluten-free but Starbucks offers ones with the granola in a separate compartment that I promptly threw away to avoid temptation) and then I grabbed a banana at a sandwich stand near my gate. While the price tag was a bit ridiculous ringing in at $15 in total, it was a small price to pay for a small gluten-free victory while traveling.
Image credit: here.
Just over a year ago I went on a Dishcrawl along King Street West in Toronto. Toronto has such a great food and restaurant culture and it was great to share the experience with a group of new friends! But anyone who is eating gluten-free knows that eating out can be a trying experience. Considering banned foods can include soups, salad dressings, french fries and gravy, sometimes finding something edible can become quite the challenge.
You can only imagine my excitement when I saw that Dishcrawl was hosting a gluten-free crawl in the St. Clair West neighbourhood:
This Dishcrawl will feature gluten-free dishes from 4 different restaurants in the St. Clair West neighbourhood of Toronto on March 6, 2013. Have questions for the chefs or owners? They’ll be there to chat with Dishcrawlers and talk about how they incorporate gluten-free offerings into their menus.
Not only is this perfect for those who have chosen to eat gluten-free, but also for people curious about the types of food that us gluten-haters can eat. I’m sure it could inspire some great dishes for my own kitchen, too!
Care to indulge in a night of true Gluten-Free Gluttony?
Save $20 on your ticket using code “jlblog” when you buy tickets.
One question almost everyone asks when they find out about my new “eating challenge” – that’s what I like to call it – is “what is eating gluten-free?” And to be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what I could and couldn’t be eating when I started out save for the pastas, breads, and doughs (all of my favourite things).
So what is safe to eat? Here is a list of things to absolutely avoid:
- Barley (malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley)
- Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
- Wheat products, including:
- Durum flour
- Graham flour
- Spelt* – this one depends on who you ask. I know lots of gluten-intolerants who eat this, so I eat it occasionally. I don’t seem to react to it like I react to wheat now, so I think it’s safe for me.
Then there are the things that are suggested to avoid, or at least check the ingredients:
- Baked goods including breads, cakes, pies, cookies, crackers
- French fries
- Gravies, salad dressings, sauces (including soy sauce)
- Imitation meat or seafood
- Soups and soup bases
- Oats* – also a tricky one based on some cross-contamination
It’s certainly a long list, and one positive thing about this challenge has been a better awareness of what I am eating and what goes into my food.
A year ago, if you told this girl she would be giving up fresh pastries, pastas, bread, and pizza she would have laughed in your face.
Now, more than 2 months in, I’m beginning to really see the benefits of a gluten-free diet. And while I don’t think I will ever stop missing thick crust doughy pizza or a fresh pastry, I’m trying to manage my cravings.
At the end of last year I tried a 3-day juice cleanse and despite really missing food and the social routines that surround it, I felt absolutely great. When I was done the cleanse and began reintroducing food, I decided to try to avoid gluten as a test to see how I felt. After a few successful weeks (which were way easier than I anticipated), I noticed that I hadn’t felt bloated and I was consistently losing weight, and more importantly, feeling better. After surviving Christmas with my new restrictions, I knew this was something I could adopt consistently.
My Game, My Rules
I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to be celiac or have a gluten intolerance. While eating anything with gluten now makes me quite uncomfortable, I know that I can eat it whenever I want to. I also have a short list of cheats that I can also decide to eliminate at any time. My list of allowable foods include things made with spelt flour (which is on a weird spectrum of gluten-free where some people allow it and others don’t), soy sauce, beer, rye, and whiskey.
In exchange for my cheats, I try not to substitute my favourite gluten-filled foods with gluten-free alternatives. In addition to feeling better, part of this challenge is to eat healthy in general. Eating gluten-free has encouraged me to eat way more fresh fruits and vegetables and protein in the form of meat and nuts. It wouldn’t be eating any healthier if I ate equal amounts of gluten-free pizzas, pastas, and breads!
Despite feeling like this some days (and I can’t imagine how my
personal chef boyfriend feels about it), I am really happy with my decision to eliminate gluten from my diet. I hope to share with you some challenges and frustrations in eating gluten-free, some great recipes, and my own personal story in living gluten-free.
Here are my adventures in gluten-free gluttony.
Have you noticed the new Page in my menu bar? Probably not, it’s pretty new. But it’s there now:
Gluten-Free Gluttony – It’s a new blog topic I’ve started as part of a class in digital strategy that I’m taking right now instructed by Martin Waxman and Eden Spodek. My current blog probably would have sufficed for the project, but I like a challenge and wanted to build a new blog and talk about something that I don’t always get to talk about on here: eating and my new gluten-free diet challenge.
What Can You Expect?
- My personal journey in eating gluten-free including challenges, successes, my thoughts, and how I’m feeling
- New recipes
- Favourite new gluten-free snacks
- Adventures in dining out, travel, and more
- Guest posts from nutritionists, celiacs, and others?
- What not to eat
- Maybe some blogs? We’ll see…
- And some good old fashioned FOOD PRON (gluten-free, of course)