Gluten Free Tool Kit

In my family every Saturday is “gluten free shopping day.”  This usually consists of a trip to several different places to stock up on food for the week.  This week we had a special appearance by my 13 year old son Evan who is also now starting on a gluten free diet as we wait for results of his Celiac panel blood test (I will write more about this in a future post.)  We usually hit a local health food store called Good Health, which for a small store has a very large selection of gluten free products.  Sometimes it includes a trip to Whole Foods, but not always, as their selection of gluten free products is not as extensive as Good Health.  The one place that we always go is Allcaneat Bakery, this place has the greatest gluten free prepared meals and baked goods.

What does this have to do with a GF Tool Kit?  Let me tell you.  It never fails that when we are on our shopping trip we always seem to run into someone who is just starting on their own gluten free diet journey.  Getting a gluten insensitivity or Celiac diagnosis can bring on a lot of stress since it is such a major change in your life, and most newbies are just looking for someone to throw them a lifer preserver;  this life preserver comes in the form of information.  I met a young women named Megan on Saturday who had just gotten her diagnosis and was looking for someone to give her some assistance.  So what is a Yoda to do?  This Yoda provided a brain dump of all the information in “his” GF Tool Kit.

Here’s what is inside!!

1. It is great if you have someone who can tell you what products tastes good and what doesn’t.  We have provided that in an earlier post that Jason wrote.

2. Knowledge is power, and the more you understand about your diagnosis and diet the better.  Here are a couple of good books that I think provide a lot of useful information:

3. I also found a few good iPod/iPad apps for eating out:

  • The Gluten Free Registry – finds all the restaurants, bakeries and grocery stores near your location
  • Gluten Freed – has a decent list of places to eat by state
  • Is that Gluten Free - a little expensive but gives you a list of most products in grocery stores and whether they are gluten free

4. The Gluten Free Guide- my nutritionist told me about this book and I could not live without it.  It is called the Gluten Free Shopping Guide.  It has an extensive list of things that are gluten free and includes most local super market chains.  They also update it if products are added or taken off the list.  It can be found here…

5. The Web – there are way too many great sites out there about gluten free living and Celiac disease to list so I will just give the most important one below:

6. I have found that the magazine Living Without has some great articles along with gluten free recipes and resources.

7. Most grocery chains that cater to the gluten free crowd have product lists of all their gluten free products.  Two chains that I know that have them are:

  • Whole Foods
  • Trader Joes (read throughly, some of their things are made in the same plants, cross contamination may happen)

8. A list of Gluten Free Medications, most of us take something even if it is ibuprofen, it is always better to know that you are not going to react to it.

9. A couple of standby restaurants that you know you can go to and get a safe gluten free meal.  Use the The Gluten Free Registry to find local places.  Even though restaurants may not advertise GF, they may have GF – call and ask – you never know.  Mine are:

10. A support system:  this is probably the most important.  Having good friends and family who will help you through this transition make it so much easier to get through.

This is by far not a complete list and there are so many more things that you can have in your tool kit but I thought I would tell you what has helped me.

Hopefully this will help a few more “Megans” come to grips with their new lifestyles…

Take Me Out to the Ball Game…Gluten Free Style!

As I write this post, the Red Sox, my home team, sit in the cellar of the American League East with a record of 2-9,  not such a good start to the season.  A season where they are predicted to win 100 games and make the World Series.  Right now, you might be asking yourself, “When did the Yoda’s change this into a sports blog, I wanted to learn about gluten free living.”  Well we didn’t so don’t worry.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend two Red Sox games this week, unfortunately they lost both games, which is now why they sit in the cellar.  OK, that is enough complaining.

Here is the information that you came here for!

As they are finding that Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance are far more prevalent than they thought, many ball parks that are now offering gluten free options.

Here are just a few of them with some examples of what they are offering:

  • Citi Field : Hot dog and hamburger on gluten-free bun, gluten-free snacks, gluten-free beer
  • Citizens Bank Park : Hot dog on gluten-free bun, gluten-free beer
  • Coors Field : Hot dog, hamburger and chicken sandwich on gluten-free bun, potato chips, cookies and brownies, gluten-free beer
  • Oriole Park at Camden Yards : Gluten-free crab cake, Asian noodle salad, hummus and vegetables, hot dog and sausage on gluten-free bun, gluten-free beer
  • Turner Field : Grilled sirloin burger served on tapioca-organic rice roll, hot dog on gluten-free bun, potato chips and popcorn, cookies and brownies, gluten-free beer

You will notice that Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, is not on this list.  Needless to say I was a little nervous about what I was going to eat and I didn’t have time to grab something at the house so I knew that I would be hungry.  The park does advertise that they have a selection of gluten free snacks which basically consisted of  a brownie, a chocolate chip cookie and two kinds of chips that are gluten free.

The funniest thing about their gluten free section is the woman who works there who tries to talk you out of anything that you try to buy because they are expensive ($5 for the cookie, $3 for the chips).  I actually asked her jokingly if it was part of her job to talk people out of buying this stuff! 

Since I was a little anxious about not being able to eat, I talked to my “Yoda” Jason about his experiences and he told me that popcorn was OK, and that he has asked for hot dogs and burgers without rolls.  Where I was not thrilled that I had to ask this at the concession stand, I gave it a go anyway.  He was also reminding me to watch out for cross-contamination, of course.

I was lucky enough to find someone from the company that operates the concessions in the park and he explained that asking to have it “your way” was perfectly OK.  He also explained to me that there are concession stands throughout the park that sell only fries so their fryers are dedicated and their french fries are not battered and therefore ok.  When I say they sell only fries I mean they do not prepare chicken fingers or fried dough at that stand.  So things were definitely looking up.

I did order a burger without the bun the first night.  The second night I brought two pieces of Udi’s bread and put the burger on that - very delicious!  I also had french fries, and the best thing was I didn’t have a bad reaction to any of it.  The only bad reaction was from a woman sitting a row in front of me who looked at me a little funny for eating a burger with my fingers (trust me I could not find a fork or knife anywhere, I searched and searched).  So other than that one thing…no problems.  Watch the game lady, not me!

If you go to Fenway, the concession stand I was told about can be found under the bleachers between sections 37-42.  The best way I can describe it is that it is to the left of the “big” men’s room.  Don’t be scared that it says Fried Dough on the sign, they prepare that separately in a different fryer.  So where Fenway Park does not scream “gluten free” there are things availble that you can make gluten free just by asking a couple of questions.

My advice to newbies (like me) who are going to any sporting venue would be to go a little early, take a walk around, survey the situation and see what they have to offer.  They may, like Fenway, have a few gluten free options, but as you walk around you may find many more options that you can make gluten free just by asking.

So its root, root for the the home team, they have to starting winning sometime, don’t they?  I wonder if any of the players are gluten free?

Hitting a Wall– So soon?

My story is a little different than Jason’s.  As I mentioned in my last post, Jason has been living gluten free for quite a while.   I, on the other hand, am just approaching my third month.  I have definitely gotten used to eating gluten free, the texture of the food doesn’t really bother me anymore, and the taste of most things is fine.  I have found a pasta I like, Bi-Aglut corn pasta.  Udi’s makes bread and plain bagels that I love.  I am now a big fan of Mi-Del Chocolate chip cookies.  These are just some of my absolute favorites; of course I could list many more things, but most of them are on Jason’s list from one of our first posts.    So what would I have to complain about?

To be quite honest with you, I feel like I am hitting a wall.  I am starting to miss some of the stuff that I ate before I was diagnosed.  I now understand why people cheat.  Those Pillsbury Bunny cookies for Easter look and smell really, really good.  Worst of all, Twinkies are now in three packs for a limited time only.   We have been so busy that we have not really had the time to try to cook new things.  Being a creature of habit, I find myself eating a lot of the same stuff and right now I am kind of feeling like “how much longer can I keep this up?”  My brain and stomach are screaming “no mas!” We want something different and we want what we used to eat.  Remember the Twinkies, remember the #9 with Crab Rangoon and fried rice, remember (and this hurts the most) the chicken teriyaki from the mall food court.

I can’t tell you how many times in the past week or so that I have almost mistakenly bit into things that were not gluten free, in fact I almost just ate a piece of a Bunny cookie that was stuck on my finger a few minutes ago.

Oh how easy it would be to just say to myself “come on, what is one non-gluten free meal going to do to you?  Really Bill, just go ahead and have just one Twinkie”….STOP!!!!

A few things that you should know about this yoda:

  1. I knew that I would hit a wall sooner or later- I didn’t think it was going to be this soon, but I fully expected it to happen.
  2. I am not going to cheat- I have Celiac disease, even the littlest bit of gluten can make me very sick and could reverse the healing of the villi in my intestines (I know, TMI)
  3. I am not even going to be less diligent about cross contamination; I will still ask all the questions that I need to ask to maintain my strict diet.

I am looking at this “Wall Hitting” as a challenge. I am challenging myself to find the time to cook different things, find new recipes to try, look for different restaurants that I can try, and keep on the course that I have been undertaking successfully for the last three months.

So, if you find yourself careening towards that wall at a great rate of speed, step on the brakes and make sure that you remember why you are taking this course of action in the first place.  Take a breath and realize how much better you feel.

Mebo likes Nebo (I know bad)

What an amazing experience my wife and I had at Nebo last night.  We had an early reservation so the restaurant was not that crowded and went in specifically because we heard they had an amazing gluten free menu.  Everything that we heard was correct.  We enjoyed heated olives, a caprese salad that was amazing and my wife had the tagliatelle cappesante, which was pasta with a cheese sauce and seared scallops.  I had their gluten free pasta with bolognese sauce.  I need to tell you the pasta was al dente and the sauce I could eat with a spoon (in fact I did).  It was so good I ordered one to take home for another time.  The best part of the evening was meeting Carla, one of the two sister owners, she was such a hoot and really cares about making sure that you have a safe GFree experience. I must say Brava to the ladies at Nebo…it really is a great place for the gluten free.

Ordering..He’s allergic to Gluten

Shortly after diagnosis I went to a small local joint in Cambridge called Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage to have dinner with my wife.  When I say small I’m talking in terms of physical size; not in popularity, this place has been in the movies (most recently the “Social Network,”) and in the news with a recent visit from Shaq and is one of the most popular places to eat in Harvard Square.

I have to admit I was a little nervous, as this place does not advertise a Gluten Free Menu and I had only eaten at one other “non-safe” place and not had the best experience.

Non-safe is my term so don’t read too much into it; in my crazy mind if the place does not have a dedicated Gluten Free menu it is a “non-safe” place and requires a little extra planning and a lot more questioning.  For example; PF Changs = safe, Boston Market = safe, Texas Roadhouse = non-safe, and Bartley’s = non-safe; remember these is strictly ratings by Bill, not endorsed by any of the Gluten Free associations or society’s.

So when we sat down I started asking questions, I planned on getting a turkey dinner,  no stuffing, mashed potatoes with no gravy and the vegetable of the day.  I asked, does the chef add anything to the mashed potatoes? (consequently I found out they add non-dairy creamer to make the potatoes smoother, which is gluten free by the way). I wanted to know if they added a sauce on the vegetables. Nope, just steamed carrots with a little sugar.  Being a former server myself, I know that this type of questioning can grate on you because you have a million things that you have to do and in this case your main concern is not my intestines. So being on the other side you start to get even a little more anxious…but the server we had that night was great, she answered all the questions and told me not to worry.

That’s where it gets a little hairy, at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage the custom is that they yell out your order to the line (the cooks).  Ok I can deal with that until I hear her scream “Ordering…He’s allergic to gluten.”  Now as I said Bartley’s is small and the other thing about Bartley’s is that it is uber busy all the time so there had to be at least 50 people in this small restaurant at the time that she was yelling my life story to the masses.

I tell you at that point I wanted to crawl under the table, I felt that every pair of eyes were trained on me and they were all talking about my food allergy.  How snifty!! (this is a word that my son tells me means sexy and nifty and seemed appropriate to use here.)  But as I was under the table I started to think …

  • Her yelling meant that everyone on that line who touched my food knew to be careful because if they weren’t they were playing with someone’s health.  (Not that any chef in their right mind would ever trick a gluten free person into eating gluten.  That’s crazy… and I think as they would say in the olden days; he should be boiled in his own oil.)
  • This is not about who I am as a person, my diet does not define me, I have to think I am so much more than just a guy who can’t eat food with gluten (well at least I hope I am)

When we started this blog we decided it was important to let people know the trials and tribulations of having “by diet” to be a little different. We wanted to convey the truth of someone who has lived this life for quite a while and someone who was just beginning the journey.

Life is not always going to be as easy as it was, you are going to have to question more, you are going to have to plan more and going out to eat is going to make you more anxious. But in the end it is worth it, because you are taking responsibility for your own health and making it work for you.

So as Jason so aptly put it earlier in the week “It’s not who I am…It’s just how I have to eat!”

What up With That?

You must understand that I am not the healthier eater of the two Yodas…before my diagnosis, it was Strawberry Pop Tarts and Lays potato chips for breakfast.  So, I was  so excited to hear that Kelloggs was coming out with Gluten Free Rice Krispies.  That was until I found out that they were going to be made with whole grain brown rice!!  What up with that?

I have a personal Gluten Free Chef…and it isn’t my wife????

…And to be honest with you she’s OK with it.

Time is just not something that I think anyone has a lot of these days.  Especially with two teenage boys who go to school miles away from our home and a wife who works full-time.  So when I was diagnosed I thought OK, I will go out and buy whatever I can get my hands on and my wife and I can start baking/cooking gluten free, WRONG!!!

With limited time, there never seems to be those few extra minutes to try to figure out how to make the best GFree brownies, or how to work with GFree flour, never mind sit down and create a gluten free meal plan for the week.  Therefore, I have relied on a lot of gluten free prepackaged food from one of my favorite local places Allcaneat Foods.  (I promise to review them sometime in the near future-they’re awesome and if you’re in the area you need to check them out).  I must also confess that I believed that once I was diagnosed that we (my wife and boys) were in this alone. I thought we would deal with this as a family, much like we did when our youngest son was diagnosed with a milk protein allergy as a baby and a red dye allergy as a toddler.  We weren’t thinking about all the supporting cast members in our journey.

In my case, people like my sister who saw GFree bread and boxed Mac & Cheese; and picked them up for me.  Or my mother-in-law who instantly started thinking about how my favorite meals at her house could be adjusted to make them GFree.  And, of course, my Mom (you may remember from an earlier post I told you I am kind of a mama’s boy) who immediately went online to look for GFree cookbooks and magazines.  She even spent a whole afternoon watching GFree day on QVC and was texting me the whole time asking if I wanted her to buy this or that!

apple-pie-ck-709820-l But I think everyone (yup that includes my wife and my Mother!) pales in comparison to who I now refer to as “my personal gluten free chef.”  For the sake of protecting the innocent we’ll just call her Eliot.  Eliot is one of our family’s closest friends and she has been more “into” my diet than me.  On one of my first visits to her house, I was greeted with boneless chicken breaded with mash potato flakes accompanied with white rice, so yummy.  Another time it was GFree risotto and for dessert GFree brownies made with sour cream to make them super moist.  Most recently it was a homemade apple pie, completely gluten free!  This put me right over the top and provided the muse to write this post.  On top of all this, she has a list of items containing gluten on her refrigerator so that when we are planning our next “pizza night” she can make sure there is always something there just for me-and yes she even found a local place that has GFree pizza!  She always has a new type of cracker for me to try along with her homemade hummus that is gluten free for me to snack on.

You are probably saying to yourself, you are so lucky to have an Eliot in your life, and how I wish I had an Eliot too.  And that is exactly my point-I had no idea when I was diagnosed that I would have the supporting cast members I now have to help me figure my way through this new GFree world in which I now find myself.  But, as I am learning to navigate my new GFree existence; I have found that the people who love me really are willing to go the extra mile so that I continue happily on my “crazy” diet.

Just take a good look around and you will find that you too have this support system waiting to help you in any way they can.  And lastly my hope for you is that you too will find yourself an Eliot in your life.

 

 

One of these things is not like the other…

Not sure if everyone remembers the song from Sesame Street where they had three things that were alike and one that was different. If not, here’s a link to see it…

This is a bit like what I feel like living gluten free in a predominantly gluten world (don’t get me wrong, things are much easier for me than they were for Jason when he began his diet, starting with the fact that I had a personal Yoda to guide me through what was good and what was not so great). There are still many challenges that I, as a GF-er have to contend with on a day to day basis in all areas of of my life:

Home: I am the only GF person in my home, so I have to think about my own dinner and sometimes what my family is going to have for dinner too. My bride will eat GF with me most of the time, but my boys have to be tricked into it. We don’t do that too often, but it is a little easier with pancakes or PF Changs takeout. Children also don’t have the bandwidth to understand that your life is different. For example, I recently purchased a bunch of ready to heat and eat food that I use primarily for lunch and dinner. When I asked one of my boys (I don’t remember which one, and they aren’t confessing) to put the food in the freezer for me, well…it never got there instead it was sitting on the floor – defrosted and wrecked. I was livid, not just ecause it was a waste of money, but I had to rethink my menu for the rest of the week because I had just lost three days of food. It is more expensive to eat this way and more time consuming as there are two parts of the family to buy for.

But you know what…it’s ok!!

Work: Recently I was told that I have killed the “going out for lunch trips” in my office. I know they were kidding and I wanted to know how “I”, who now brings his lunch everyday, killed this. They told me it was because they felt bad that I couldn’t go. I told them I could go but it just required a little prior notice and planning. So I think they understand a little better now. Jason has told me countless stories of traveling at work as well. He finds himself eating Subway salads when everyone else is getting a nice big sub. While there is nothing wrong with Subway salads (they are tasty), there’s more to life than salad. As a side note, Subway is testing GF bread at some of their locations in Texas, unfortunately a far trip for either of us.

But you know what…it’s ok!!

Friends: Recently I received an invitation to a friend’s house for dinner, which never affected me before, but now it is a little different. You ask yourself so many questions:

  • Do I tell them about my diet and expect them to cook for me?randy2
  • Do I bring my own, and if I do will that offend them?
  • Do I show up with no prior notification and play with my food?

This is very different from what I used to be like, and very different from most of the people in my life.

But you know what…it’s ok!!

Why do I keep saying that, because it is Ok that I am different, it is ok that I have these different needs than my family, friends and co-workers. Why, because the other option is NOT OK. The other option is being sick, malnourished, and in my case having 20-30 apthous ulcers (canker sores) in my mouth at any given time. This was my reaction to Celiacs…Not fun, trust me!!

So one of these things may not be like the other, but that thing (ME) is finally healthy!!! So, what I am trying to let people know, is not to spend time feeling isolated, take the time to plan and enjoy your new found health. Don’t be afraid to tell people about the new you and don’t be afraid if they don’t know what to do. You can’t control other’s reactions, but you can control your diet and yourself.

It’s Well Worth It!!

You could have at least bought me dinner first! – A lesson on GF overload.

We told you that Gluten Free Yodas was a place where we would be open and honest about our experiences. Well this one will show you that we were not kidding!

I want to remind you that I am the gluten free newbie of the two yodas. I have only been free of the evil gluten (ok so that may be a little harsh) for a little over a month now. Where there have been so many great things about being gluten free there is one huge thing that you may not think about (but you will now)…your bowels.

As a newly gluten free person you immediately go out and purchase all the essentials. While all that stuff is amazing, it really does not have a whole lot of fiber in it. Let’s just say for the record I am not a nutritionist… just backed up.

In my case, before I was diagnosed, I was going all the time…no problem!

Not so much the case now that I’m on a strict gluten free diet… not going….big problem! I definitely am eating better, with more fruits and vegetables but probably not the right ones for getting the fiber my body needs.

So here it goes… About a week ago I noticed that I was having to go the bathroom all the time, day and night (just #1). The frequency and urgency was brutal. I talked to my wife and we thought maybe a Kidney infection or UTI (urinary tract infection).

Some of the benefits of a gluten free lifestyle is more energy and stamina, which increases your activity level (let’s just stop there). I promised my wife I wouldn’t let this slip, but I guess I just did.

So I made an appointment to go get all this checked out, but as my luck would have it my MALE doctor was not available. I was just going to see the doctor in the Urgent care clinic (which ended up being a pretty young female doctor). I figured that was fine, leave a urine sample, get a prescription, and I would be on my way. If only it was that easy – the test came back negative and the doctor tells me if the problem is not in the front, it is probably in the back. WHAT ‘BACK’?

I am now going to tell you 10 words a man never wants to hear a female doctor say, “I am going to have to massage your prostate for a bit“. I knew immediately this was not good…, and what the heck is a “bit”!!

Over the next “bit” I was poked and probed in the most private of areas (remember it was not in the front). But alas we had a diagnosis… an infection of the prostate caused by constipation… constipation caused by my new GF diet – yikes!.

Now the kicker is I had to give another specimen before I left which at first I could not provide. So, being the last patient of the day in a clinic with just a few workers left there, the doctor says, “Do I need to go back in there again?” To which I promptly replied, “not unless you buy me dinner first!”

So, Cipro for 2-4 weeks and increasing my fiber intake and I should be back to normal.

To all you newbies out there, remember the following:

1. Be sure to find sources of fiber in your gluten free diet – this can come from fruits and veggies – many of which are gluten free

2. Increase your water, decrease your caffeine – yes, water is gluten free too!

3. Supplement if necessary

And, of course, before you do any of these check with your health care provider first. You don’t want to increase one thing and decrease another!

Like I said earlier, this may have not been the first thing on your mind…but it will be now!

Shhh!, please don’t tell anyone that I am reading the Elisabeth Hasselbeck book!!

So you’re not sure who Elisabeth Hasselbeck is…well I will tell you. She was on Survivor, Australian Outback, went to Boston College where she met her husband, retired quarterback Tim Hasselbeck. But she is best known for her hosting duties on the daily talk show the View, where she has had numerous spats with many guests. I am not going to tell you them all here, but go ahead and YouTube them and you will find them all.

So when I was diagnosed I wanted a good book, well there are many, many, many books pertaining to Celiac Disease, Gluten Free cooking and Gluten Free Living. So you ask how did I end up with the Elisabeth Hasselbeck book, I blame my mother. She mentioned it to me and being a little bit of a momma’s boy (which guy isn’t) I told her I would look at it. Well when I did I found that it was pretty good and answered a bunch of questions that I had.

The G-Free Diet, A Gluten Free Survival Guide is written by Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Dr. Peter Green is a great book for someone who has no idea what gluten even is. Through her own story she talks about how she found out about her diagnosis and how she was not listened to at first until she found someone who dug deep enough to find the correct diagnosis (which I can sympathize with because the same thing happened to me).

I like the way that the authors explain what the allergy is and let people know that it is not a death sentence, even with the fact that you can’t eat bread, and that there are many great things to make and eat. The book calls itself a survival guide and it is just that - with information about, traveling, going to parties, living with a family that is not gluten free among other topics. The one part of the book that was a little lost on me, was a whole chapter on makeup (not sure this Yoda needs makeup, could use some hair but a good foundation…not so much). The book also contains recipes for some easy to make dishes, I have not made anything yet, I am still negotiating a second Gluten Free shelf in the kitchen cabinets.

So if you are newly diagnosed or just want to know a little bit more about Celiac Disease of living a Gluten Free the G-Free Diet is a pretty great book. So you know what, tell everyone that I am reading the Elisabeth Hasselbeck book and in fact go buy one for yourself.

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