The Gluten-Free Diet: More than Just Lettuce and Water

Although it does seem like that often, there are plenty of choices out there.  I live on campus and eat in the dining hall, so my options are even more limited, but even within those boundaries, there is always something to eat!

For example, this was my dinner last night:

Looks good, right?  It’s not the best food in the world, but at least I have something.  I got roasted carrots, risotto (there is always some kind of rice–very good option because you can add things into it), honeydew melon (always some sort of fruit available–yum yum), roasted jerk chicken (love when they don’t batter their chicken) and a, yes a slice of beet.  I forgot what beets tasted like so I gave one a try.  I forgot I didn’t like them very much.

Often times, the main line doesn’t have something that I can call an entree, so the salad bar is almost always my second choice.  I load up my salad with carrots, cucumbers, a little bit of cheese, sesame seeds, etc.  For a while I was even on a soybean kick!  There are so many things you can eat if you keep your mind open.  Your meals probably won’t be the same basic components as they used to be, and that’s okay.  Fill up on vegetables, some fruit, a grain of some sort, maybe some meat or fish and call it a day.

I absolutely hate when people see my plate of food on a bad day (aka my only choices are a salad, carrots and dip, fruit and maybe some ice cream).  They think I’m anorexic, vegetarian or some other absurd thing.  No, I swear I’m not starving myself.  Let me explain!  That is how most of my meals go.

I’ll try to keep taking pictures of what I eat to show that your options are plentiful.  And to dispel my favorite line:

“You eat gluten-free?  You can’t eat bread?  I would die!”

4 years and I’m still kickin’…I’d say I’m alright.

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Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know Had Gluten

I remember sitting in the room with my dietitian and the other people in the Celiac class.  There were a grand total of 3 people including myself.  She went through a brief list of foods that we could no longer eat.  Muffins, cookies, pasta, licorice…

HOLD THE PRESSES! LICORICE?! 

Oh, don’t even go there.  Why in God’s name wouldn’t licorice be gluten-free?  Turns out it’s the second ingredient in most licorices.  I have not found a good or comparable gluten-free licorice to this day.  I kinda gave up.

Anyway, that was my biggest shocker.  Hard to believe, but I’m still finding things I didn’t know weren’t gluten-free.  Here is my top 10 list.

1.  Licorice.  You couldn’t tell that this one upset me, could you?  Wheat flour in licorice, come on…

2. Toothpaste.  You put it in your mouth so it should be pretty obvious, but for me it wasn’t.  Always check because even though you don’t swallow toothpaste (at least you shouldn’t be) it’s in your mouth.  There aren’t many that I’ve found, you should still check.

3. Make-up.  I just found this out last week. I haven’t had any problems with my make-up (that I know of), but the gluten still absorbs into you through the pores on your face.  Chapstick is a must to be gluten-free, as well.

4. Soy sauce.  Okay, am I the only one who was surprised how many different soy sauces have wheat in them!?  And do you know how many different things use soy sauce?  It’s ridiculous.  Gluten-free versions (natural or specially gluten-free) are out there, so don’t stress.  Just make sure you always read ingredients of premade things because they CAN contain soy sauce.

5. Imitation crab. Such a bummer, but this one is not gluten-free.  Real crab is gluten-free, though!  I know, I know, it’s not the same comparison, but it’s okay. 🙂

6. Barbecue potato chips.  Why only barbecue flavors?  I have no idea.  But, most, if not all barbecue varieties have wheat flour in their seasoning.  I have recently found that a few brands are, but they don’t say gluten-free right on the bag.  Always always always read the ingredient list on these.

7. French fries.  Now, french fries from restaurants are never trustworthy, but frozen french fries that are sneakily seasoned can and do have wheat.  Go for plain and simple fried potatoes and you’ll be in the clear.  Better yet, make your own!

8. Medicines.  If you haven’t checked this list, do it!  Gluten can sometimes be used as a binding agent in certain pills.  So check the list, find the medicines you use most often and toss out any that you can’t find on the list.  I swear.  RIGHT now.  You’ll regret it later when you’re trying to feel better and the medicine only makes you feel worse.  Or, if there are other people in the house, take a Sharpie and write on the bottle.

9.  Play dough.  I suppose this is only important if you have a small child with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, but I’m almost 20 and I still would like to play with play-doh every now and then.  It’s a good stress reliever, okay?

10.  Alcohol.  Obviously, beer: not a good thing for Celiacs.  But, many other alcoholic beverages are malt-based.  Do your research.  Lots of companies are coming out with gluten-free beers and ciders, so it’s getting better.  I’m not 21 until next year, so hopefully there will be some more options between now and then. 😉

Shut Up and Smile

This week has been one of those weeks, ya know?  So much homework…so much work…so little time.  I was listening to some music tonight to relax a little and this song came on.  Maybe we should all take a hint.

“All we need is love and gluten-free beer and old school metal and holiday cheer.”

Just like the song says, it’s not the end of the world.  It’s something we can all deal with (eating gluten-free I mean ;)).

Although I’m dying for a cure just as much as the next person, it’s not too bad.  I don’t have to take 5 shots of insulin a day like my older brother or sit for 2 1/2 hours every month and a half getting an infusion like my younger brother.  So we swap out some semolina spaghetti for corn spaghetti.  No biggie, right?

I think iTunes can tell that I’m writing a post right now.  The next thing that came on was this:

“They won’t leave me alone
There’s things they all want to know
I’m paranoid of all the people I meet
Why are they talking to me?
And why can’t anyone see?

I just want to live.”

This reminds me of my favorite thing I get asked.  “You can’t eat bread!? Oh my god, I would DIE.”  No, no. Trust me, you wouldn’t.  I’m still standing here alive talking to you, so I think you would be fine…

I could do without the emotions

I personally think that becoming gluten-free gives more emotional problems than anything else.  For me, switching over to gluten-free really wasn’t that hard; the emotions that came with it is really what threw me for a loop.  The number on the scale did drop slightly…yeah, I know, who wouldn’t complain about that? But that was probably the only thing I was happy about.

Like I said in my about page, I had so many ups and downs dealing with this disease, it wasn’t even funny.  I started off being insanely anemic, to the point where I didn’t want to get up off of the couch and do a thing, which is kind of what jump started the quest of being diagnosed.  I got the blood work for the Celiac panel back and I had one or two positive antibodies, but I never thought I would ever be diagnosed with anything bad.

“It says one of the symptoms is osteoporosis!  Obviously I don’t have that, so there’s no way I have Celiac,” I specifically remember telling one of my friends.  A couple days later, bam.  So much for that thought.

I was so excited to start a healthier lifestyle when I was first diagnosed…then I found out that chips, candy, etc. are still mostly gluten-free.  For anyone who doesn’t know me, I love candy.  No, that doesn’t even begin to describe me.  I am a candy FANATIC.  Thank goodness I love fruits or I’d be a mess.

One of the things that made me the most depressed right after the diagnosis was that I couldn’t eat bread.  Back then (this is only 4 years ago, mind you) there were little to no gluten-free breads.  I brought a lovely peanut butter sandwich in my school lunch one day on a nice piece of dense, dry, rice bread.  Mmmmm.  I bit into it and it sucked all of the spit out of my mouth.  All of my friends at the lunch table started to make fun of my nasty bread.  I didn’t mind that part because they were right–it was awful.  Then they started to bang it on the table to prove how dense it was.  Okay, we get the picture… Then the conversation kept going…

“Wait!  You can’t eat cake!  Oh my god, your wedding isn’t even going to have cake.  That sucks sooo bad.  How are you gonna have a wedding with no cake?!”

Although I didn’t say anything to them, when I went home, I cried.  I could have cake at my wedding, right?  Is there anything I’ll be able to eat ever again?  I cried and cried many times.  No bread, no noodles, no cake, cookies, bagels..the list goes on.

Eventually, I found a quote while I was researching for a speech on what?  You guessed it, Celiac Disease.

It was something along the lines of, “if God came to me and told me I had to be diagnosed with any disease in the world, I would choose Celiac Disease.”

Sleep on that one.  Think of how fortunate you are to have Celiac Disease instead of cancer, heart disease, or any other illness that could lead to death.  All we have to do is change our food habits around.  We do have things to eat, and it sure isn’t the end of the world.  Sometimes, gluten-free food is even better than “normal” food. 🙂