Eats: Gluten-Free and Vegan Breakfast Ideas (Part 2)

Most people assume that on a gluten-free, plant-based diet you can’t eat much more than fruit, and while I do find breakfast to be difficult to find while on the road, it’s actually quite wonderful when I have access to a kitchen!

One of Chris’ favorite breakfasts is one of the simplest: cereal and milk. Since he avoids refined sugar and I avoid gluten, it can definitely be difficult to find a happy medium. So my Cinnamon Chex would be his Uncle Sam’s Raisin Bran. Rather than have separate cereals, we worked to find a happy medium.

There is quite a variety of gluten-free cereals on the market, and one of our main staples for a LONG time was the various Chex cereals. They are gluten-free, but also contain sugar and BHT, both things we would like to avoid. We tried finding cereals that were naturally sweetened, have no added preservatives, and were lower in sugars, which can be difficult.

Here are some brands that are tried and true in our pantry (please note they are gluten-free and free of refined sugars and chemical additives):

One of our go-to cereal brands is Erewhon, they make organic, gluten-free cereals that are low in sugar and have few ingredients, which is always a huge plus. They make corn flakes (frosted and plain), brown rice crispies, and some varieties even have dried fruit.
Nature’s Path makes a lot of good cereals that even include some healthy fiber, such as Mesa Sunrise, Whole O’s (their version of Cheerios), rice crispies, and Maple or Vanilla Sunrise.  Nature’s Path also makes a variety of cereals called Envirokidz Organic that are very kid-friendly. The only brand I will buy for Chris is the Amazon Frosted Flakes (can’t beat it when there;s only 3 ingredients!), but on a whole they are definitely catered more to children. While I love Gorilla Munch, Panda Puffs and Leapin’ Lemurs, they are definitely more of a treat than a healthy breakfast!

I also make a homemade oat-free granola with Erewhon brown rice cereal using a recipe I found on the Attune Foods website. Chris adores this granola, and has dubbed it “Sweeties”. It’s great to eat with your dairy-free milk of choice or just plain, and as long as it’s sealed well, it will stay crisp and fresh for weeks. It is GREAT for road trips, and I have made quick breakfasts using it with just a banana and peanut butter. It’s even great for a sweet treat as well. I’ve tried different flavorings of extracts (coconut and vanilla are especially good) as well as different kinds of nuts for different results. In the end, they are ALL good, so give this recipe a try! There are also a lot of good gluten-free granola brands such as Udi’s and Glutenfreeda, but they do contain oats and as a celiac I tend to steer clear. Trader Joe’s makes an oat-free granola but I found it to be a bit high in calories and sugar.

While we no longer consume sugar-based cereals, I only feel it’s fair to mention that there are some cereals you can find outside of the organic section, but most of them are definitely chemically-laden sugar bombs with little nutritional value like Fruity or Cocoa Pebbles, Gluten-Free Rice Krispies, or Chocolate, Cinnamon, Honey Nut or Apple Cinnamon Chex. The less sweetened varieties of Chex can usually be found generic, such as corn or rice squares (basically Chex with different labeling), but the second ingredient is usually sugar, and they usually contain BHT or BHA (quote “to maintain freshness”), which are considered harmful food additives. Since Chris is a two-time cancer survivor, we do our best to avoid foods with preservatives these days. So I do recommend that you stick with the more organic cereals with no chemical additives any time you can.

As for hot cereals, I admit I love grits, and as far as my research has showed, they are gluten-free. One of my go-to breakfasts on my last cruise was grits, GF toast and fresh fruit. Be mindful of the manufacturing disclaimer though, if you see it’s been processed in a facility that handles wheat, I would avoid it. I have mainly seen this with generic brands.
I have found that I have an intolerance to oats, which is pretty heartbreaking, so I stopped using them for meals and recipes in the past couple months; if you CAN enjoy oats, I highly recommend Glutenfreeda. They have various flavored oatmeals, such as banana flaxseed, apple cinnamon, and maple raisin. Their ingredients are all-natural too! They have a wonderful consistency and taste great with add-ins, my favorite being a spoonful of peanut butter, or a sprinkling of chia seeds, flaxseeds, or nuts. Eco-Planet also makes a delicious gluten-free, organic multi-grain hot cereal in flavors like apple cinnamon and maple, as well as plain (the consistency is awesome!). As for a heartier cereal, Bob’s Red Mill has a variety of gluten-free hot cereals as well. I haven’t tried any of them, because I usually like things that are quick and on the go, so the slower cooking cereals aren’t in my pantry as a staple.

Cooked quinoa is also great for a hot cereal, and one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is by adding raisins, nuts, a little sweetener of choice, and a spoonful of peanut butter. Once warmed up, add a little dairy-free milk or just enjoy as-is, but it’s a delightful protein-packed breakfast! Quinoa is easy enough to make in a rice cooker and yields plenty of leftovers that keep well in the refrigerator. Trust me, one cup of uncooked quinoa goes a LONG way
As for milk, while Chris is not a practicing vegetarian (but oftentimes eats like one thanks to me!), he stopped using dairy milk several months ago. I encouraged him to try Almond Milk, which was my usual staple; while he was at first quite skeptical, he was immediately hooked and hasn’t looked back. We can’t seem to keep enough almond milk in the house! I’m not picky when it comes to brands, I’ve used Silk, Almond Breeze and Trader Joe’s brands and found them all to be great. The Almond Breeze Coconut Milk is wonderful but very sweet, so I’d recommend it more for desserts (like a rice pudding) than for breakfast. I used to enjoy soy milk but found it didn’t keep as well as I would have liked it to, but there are countless brands that you can choose from, including vanilla and chocolate flavored! Rice milk is also an option, but I always found it to be thin and watery and not to my liking. You can also find dairy-free beverages made from hemp (which I’ve tried and found it to be pretty good!) or coconut milk. The wonderful thing about ANY of these dairy-free milk options is that you can find most of them not only in the cold aisle, but also on store shelves with the dry goods in smaller packaging. This makes it an excellent option for traveling on the road, as long as you have a fridge in your hotel room once it’s opened. They even come in “juice-box” sizes which is very convenient if you’re anything like us and may have more than one destination on a road trip!

Obviously fruit is a great thing to throw into cold cereal, my favorites being the old stand-by of bananas or strawberries, but there are obviously lots of other options you can try, such as blueberries, fresh peaches, raspberries and blackberries. Like a little sweetener? I usually just use a little sprinkling of stevia, but Chris loves honey of all things, which to this day amuses me when I see him putting it on corn flakes. Agave nectar is something I am learning to adopt instead of honey, and I find that a little goes a long way! You can also try a little coconut palm sugar, which is a natural sugar with a brown sugar and caramel taste.

Weekends are my favorite time to splurge on breakfast, and next time I will get into some of my favorite eats, like quinoa pancakes, tofu scramble and bi-colored oven potatoes. Hopefully you’ll love them just as much as I do!

What are some of your favorite gluten-free cereals?


Eats: Gluten-Free and Vegan Breakfast Ideas (Part 1)

As summer rolls around I realize I will have several months of training and no races, so I decided to start writing more about the dietary aspect of my life, which some will hopefully find very helpful.  Since these entries can be quite lengthy, I will break them into parts. Trust me, it’s for your benefit, as I tend to be long-winded!

We all remember this phrase as children: It’s the commonly repeated mantra of parents and educators nationwide: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You need to replenish your energy after a good night’s rest, and it’s best to try to eat within an hour or two of waking.

This can sometimes seem like a challenge when you have to cut certain foods from your diet.  Having celiac disease makes these options difficult at times from a convenience standpoint. It used to be pretty easy to just grab a bagel, donut or breakfast sandwich on the commute to work, and going to places like the local diner or IHOP you obviously can’t enjoy French Toast or pancakes, and even IHOP’s omelets have WHEAT FLOUR in them (really guys?!?!)! So I think I can possibly enjoy…a pretty unremarkable fruit plate, and even that I would worry about from a celiac point of view because of shared cutlery and surfaces in the prepping area. Sadly, I haven’t been out to breakfast since my diagnosis, which should be no surprise to anyone!

So let’s make it even “harder” by cutting dairy, eggs and meat from the picture. When I decided to switch back to a plant-based (vegan) diet, it certainly did make things a little more difficult in the breakfast category, as the standard American breakfast can oftentimes consist of, you guessed it, meat, dairy and eggs.

People often ask me what I eat for meals (I think they assume I starve or eat twigs and gravel), and I am happy to oblige by giving you a full breakdown of meal and snack ideas in upcoming entries. So let’s start with breakfast, again, the most important meal of the day!

So as I worked on this list, this song by Annie immediately popped in my head: The Breakfast Song

I will say right off the bat that a nice thing about ALL of these breakfast ideas is that any of them are great to consume before a run, I think for some people dairy can really cause some GI distress. These ideas are all easy on the system and can provide fantastic energy for the day ahead.

Fruit smoothies

This is easily one of my go-to breakfast staples for many reasons, and I have one every morning as part of my breakfast on weekdays. I hate admitting this, but I am not the biggest fan of fruit. I am really weird about texture, so if a fruit is too ripe, mushy or has lots of seeds, I sort of shy away from them. So basically, the raw fruits I eat would be apples and bananas and not much else! With a smoothie, everything is healthfully blended and can be consumed on the go. Another plus is if you have fruit that looks like it’s getting overripe, you can freeze it for smoothies for later without wasting them (and I HATE throwing fruit away); this is especially helpful when you have access to a produce market and end up with five pounds of bananas! Another fun thing is you can really play around with flavors, whether it’s with the juice that you use as the liquid or the fruit varieties. I have even used things like peaches, watermelon and frozen grapes.  Some have been hit or miss, and others are definitely a home run!

I have never used anything but fruit juice for a base, I have yet to venture into the almond, rice or soy milk field when it comes to smoothies, as I know some people love smoothies with yogurt and milk. I tend to stick to fruit juice only. I admit I do love to use Trop 50 juices, they come in a variety of flavors, have no added or artificial sugars, and are sweetened with stevia, a natural, calorie-free sweetener I enjoy. My favorite so far has been the Red Orange, and their No Pulp Orange is also a pretty standard staple. I haven’t gotten super adventurous yet, but the Pomegranate Blueberry is another I’ve tried and found it to be great with the correct fruits.

Frozen fruit can be prepped when fresh (simply slice and store in freezer bags), or bought pre-cut and frozen in the grocery store. For someone with a busy schedule like I sometimes have, this is VERY convenient. I love being able to buy frozen peaches and mangos, as they can be very tedious to prepare. Wegman’s and Trader Joe’s has very good prices for their frozen fruits, as does Dole. Dole makes a great mixed fruit bag that you can buy in bulk size that contains strawberries, pineapple, mango and peaches, and it came to around $1.71 a pound, which is quite affordable! I also scored with a huge bag of frozen mango for around $1.61 a pound, which when you break it down is MUCH cheaper than buying whole, fresh mangos since so much of it goes to waste when you prepare it.

I found that putting the juice in the blender first and then adding the fruit seems to work best. I usually only use 8 oz. of juice and then add the fruit. I never really measure the fruit, but try to make sure it doesn’t overwhelm the blender.  If the blender seems stalled, as mine usually does almost every time, it might be a little low on liquid, so I slowly add extra water until it gets a smooth consistency. This can take a few tries and a few proddings with a spoon (make SURE the blender is completely OFF before trying to help get the unblended fruit into the mix!) I always pour it into a reusable cup with a screw-on lid and reusable straw, and these can even be stored in the freezer for a short time if you won’t be using it right away.

I have tried a variety of different mix and match options with smoothies, and I will say my favorite blend-in fruit has to be strawberries, with peaches and bananas tied for a close second place. The orange, strawberry and banana smoothie is by far one of my favorite combos, with orange, peach and strawberry being another winner. Orange, peach and mango is also a wonderful option, and throw in a strawberry or two for some color. Another wonderful surprise is that, yes, you can use watermelon! Frozen watermelon chunks with orange juice, strawberries and blueberries makes for a crisp and colorful smoothie. Can’t you tell I’m a sucker for orange juice as the base? I just have yet to get very adventurous with juices, and I’ve tried things like Pineapple Mango, and found them to be a little strong. One thing I will say is certain fruits do not blend as smoothly as others; I have found raspberries and blackberries to be a bit pulpy and tend to get caught in the straw, which can be a real pain.

Don’t be shy about adding things like chia seed, hempseed or  flaxseed to smoothies for extra nutrients and healthy fats. The only thing I will say is don’t add a lot (a tablespoon is plenty for one serving) and make sure it blends well throughout the mixture or it might just sit in a heavy clump at the bottom.

Smoothies are by far one of the main staples of my breakfast traditions during the week; you easily get a couple servings of fruit in ONE meal, which is pretty great! I also find them to be quite filling and satisfying.

I do realize, too, that there are a lot of healthy vegan protein shakes on the market, but I find them to be a bit heavy, and I find pure fruit to be much more of a refreshing and simple way to start my day. I will likely review a few shakes in upcoming entries, which I find to be an efficient way to replenish protein after a long run or race, but for the average work morning I don’t think I need to be loading up on extra protein!

Gluten-free toast or a frozen waffle with nut butters, Earth Balance spread or jelly

There are a variety of gluten-free breads on the market, but most contain dairy and/or eggs. Besides making my own in my bread machine (I use Bob’s Red Mill mixes and veganize the recipe, which I will be happy to share another time), I found a couple other products that are gluten-free and vegan:

Ener-G brand English muffins: I absolutely love these English muffins. They are hearty enough where half of one is sufficient, so a four pack can last longer than a week as long as you store them in the refrigerator once opened. Not only are they excellent for breakfast, but they are great for a base for a quick homemade pizza or open-faced sandwiches. I can find these at my local Giant, but their store locator can help you find them in your neck of the woods. I can’t recommend this product enough. It’s just nice to find a gluten-free bread that isn’t overly dry and toasts well.

Ener-G also makes sliced breads as well, perfect for sandwiches, and their tapioca rolls are a staple in my refrigerator for veggie burgers and sandwiches. Yup, I’ve even made breakfast sandwiches with them. Not only are their products wheat and gluten-free, but they are free of a multitude of major allergens, such as dairy, tree-nuts and peanuts, to name a few.

Another company I will mention if you are gluten-intolerant is Food for Life. They make a variety of vegan, gluten-free breads, tortillas, crackers and English muffins. They use all-natural, organic, non-GMO  ingredients and truly do provide an amazing variety of products. The only downside is they also manufacture other products that contain wheat, such as their popular Ezekial Bread. This disclaimer is printed on some of their packaging (“This product is processed and packaged in a facility that also processes wheat…”) and is something for people with celiac disease to take very seriously. When perusing their selections, make sure you inspect the packaging for the disclaimer, some, but not all, may contain this warning. I can usually find their products in the freezer section of most grocery stores.

Trader Joe’s Wheat Free Toaster Waffles: Careful with these in your toaster as the edges tend to burn! But they are low in sugar and half a serving (one waffle) is perfect. Another vegan alternative if they are in your neck of the woods is Wegman’s Gluten Free Homestyle Waffles (and they also come in blueberry), equally good and affordable. Both the TJ’s and Wegman’s brand are less than $2.00 for a box of 8 any time I’ve seen them in stores. The Wegman’s brand does contain sugar as an ingredient, which Chris tends to shy away from, but we will buy them in a pinch (the sugar content is still quite low, only 4 grams for 2 waffles). The TJ’s brand uses evaporated cane sugar as well as fruit juice sweeteners.

If you use your toaster oven in the workplace, make sure you use a toaster bag or aluminum foil. NEVER, EVER place your gluten-free food directly on the surface, as I can guarantee someone else used it for their bagels, pizza, or other gluten-filled fare. Also, gluten-free breads tend to scorch quickly if you don’t keep an eye on them, I’ve ruined MANY waffles by walking away and assuming the toaster would do it’s job. Trust me, it can happen in the blink of an eye.

Obviously any nut butters will be gluten-free and vegetarian, except I would avoid anything like Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, as it’s a gluten-filled disaster, or Nutella, which, while delicious, contains dairy and loads of extra sugar. I’ve tried plenty of brands of peanut butter but my go-to is still Trader Joe’s creamy salted natural peanut butter; it has by far the best texture and flavor and never lasts long in my house.  Trader Joe’s also makes an incredible raw unsalted creamy almond butter, but it’s difficult to find as it’s usually in limited supply and runs out fast. If you REALLY want a treat, I cannot recommend Peanut Butter and Company brand peanut butter, who makes certified gluten-free and vegan products. Their peanut butters come in a TEN different flavors, and trust me, I’ve tried them all. My absolute favorite is Mighty Maple, which is obviously AMAZING on a gluten-free waffle!

Earth Balance spread is a vegan butter substitute that I have adopted for many recipes, and also goes great on toast! It’s non-GMO certified and has no trans fats. On a side note, Earth Balance also makes a wonderful coconut peanut spread that goes great on toast! Who would guess that coconut and peanut butter would go so well together? Definitely a match made in heaven!

I don’t consume jelly or jam much these days, but my husband still likes it once in a while. We try to find all-natural brands that aren’t loaded with sugar, such as Wegman’s Organic fruit spread (the first ingredient is actually FRUIT), and sometimes he loves just a simple all-natural apple butter from the local orchard.

Sometimes it’s fun to throw some raisins on top of your toast or waffle for additional sweetness, and sometimes I have even sprinkled some chia seeds on top. A drizzle of maple syrup is also a nice way to add some flavor to nut butters, and it’s best to put it on the bread before adding the nut butter so it soaks into the bread instead of running off the top and onto the plate (or your hand, both of which have happened to me often).

So that is Part One of my gluten-free and vegan breakfast ideas post. Again, long-winded, right? But hopefully helpful. I’ve only scratched the surface on breakfasts and will get more into it in a future entry. Next time we’ll get into some more fun stuff, like cereals and pancakes! I promise it isn’t all sweet stuff, but sometimes my non-sweet options can be a little interesting and not standard breakfast fare.

Much more to come!

State # 11 Rhode Island Dread (and in the end, fears unfounded)


Rhode Island was the next state I was to run in my 2013 race calendar. The historic city of Providence was easy enough to get to by train for a quick weekend, and during a good time of year for a race. Rhode Island has a mere handful of races, and with Newport being in October, one of the busier marathon months, I decided to run the spring race in mid-May.

I tend to do something runners call “weather-stalking” the week before a race, sort of keeping an eye on the forecast to see how the weekend would pan out. The forecast looked grim, 60% chance of rain, thunderstorms, and high winds. There was no chance I was going to bail out on this race, the train tickets were paid for, and I had already deferred the race from 2012. I wanted to finally get this state under my belt for good, so if I had to run in the rain, so be it. I also had been suffering from pretty terrible sinus headaches that I tend to get during overcast, rainy and windy days due to air pressure, and nothing can usually stop them from happening and no amount of rest, caffeine, and OTC pain relief can stop it. It just has to run its course. I had a feeling it was going to be a rough weekend if the weather didn’t improve!

The Cox Rhode Races marathon took place on Mother’s Day, and I felt awful knowing I was going to be away and unable to see my mom. I decided to dedicate this race to her, and made a sign to wear during the race. I decided to laminate it to keep it dry, and would give it to her next time I saw her. Yup, even back then I was ornery and full of fire, but my mom looks so beautiful and happy in this picture. Even looking at it now brings me a lot of joy.

I also got a brand new F*ck Cancer patch for my Maniac singlet, which was pretty darned cute.

 In order to maximize my time in Providence, I decided we would head down overnight on Amtrak. D. was again my travel partner in crime, and Chris dropped us off at the station around 11:30 at night for the overnight train. Long story short, the ride was pretty horrible, very little sleep was had, and we arrived at 7 AM feeling pretty exhausted and worn out from a long and uncomfortable night. Luckily we didn’t have much of a walk to get from the station to the hotel to drop off our bags.

The hotel, the Providence Biltmore, was very accommodating to our super early check-in, which was a very nice surprise after an extremely harrowing and annoying night. We managed to have breakfast in the room and get cleaned up, and since we were fairly wired, we figured we would enjoy what we could while the weather stayed dry. The clouds were very overcast and winds were picking up, but it was still warm. We walked around historic Providence and then took a bus to the Roger Williams Zoo, which was a real treat for us. The zoo wasn’t crowded, the animals were happy to pose for pics, and we had a great time. Right as we were ready to leave, the rain and 20+ mph winds started, and didn’t let up at all for the rest of the afternoon.

Seemed like a good time to go to the expo for packet pick-up, so we braved the elements and trudged through the rain (luckily we had umbrellas) to the Omni hotel to grab my race bib and shirt. The expo was fairly small but nice. I had to laugh when asked what size shirt I wanted; when I replied “The smallest one you have” the best they could do was a medium. *sigh* It looked like it would fit Chris better than me (almost fit like a nightshirt!), but I have to take what I could get.

At the expo, I got motioned over by a vendor on my way out. I’ll be honest, I don’t like getting roped into buying things at expos, but Brenda at RooSport totally sold me on her product. It was a pouch that was clipped to your running shorts via a powerful magnet that could fit gels, keys and even a cell phone; for $20 I will say it was one of the best running purchases I ever made, and happily will endorse this product with zero prodding from them. I ran the race with the RooSport the next day and NEVER even knew it was there. With belts I often had chafing, they never fit my waist without lots of adjusting and shifting, and I often even got scratched from the foil gel packet corners when they were inserted into the belt loops. But with the RooSport I had none of those issues, and ran the race with ease.

Back at the hotel we attempted to crash, but to no avail for me. I am a super light sleeper, and the walls of the historic Biltmore were paper thin. Doors constantly opened and closed, conversations could be heard in the hallway, and  I even ( yes this is true) heard someone PEEING in the room next to us. *sigh* I slept maybe an hour and a half. D. was much luckier and slept much better than I did, it might have helped that the bed was SUPER comfy.

I was happy to see that there was a PF Chang’s right by the hotel, and have had excellent luck with them in the past with gluten-free meals. Their servers have been very, very knowledgeable about their gluten-free  menu, and have been very accommodating to do what they can to make meat-filled meals vegetarian for me. My experience that night was very good, with no gluten mishaps, and I felt fairly well carb-loaded for Sunday’s race as I tried to get to sleep that night.

Race morning

Rain, rain and more rain. Overcast skies. No sun in sight. That was what greeted me as I opened the curtains to check the race start area. I still had a headache and felt very out of sorts with having gotten so little sleep. I had a feeling this race would be fairly disastrous.
By the time we left the hotel to walk to the start, the rain had eased.  The most noticeable thing about this race over any other, and with good reason, was the increased police presence around the start area. Police, dogs, and fully decked out officers with semi-automatic weapons quietly patrolled the area. I was a little taken aback, but knew the reason. It was a mere month ago that the finish line of the Boston marathon was bombed, and Providence was less than an hour away. I was glad to see that they took the slightest possibility of a threat seriously. In fact, here is a news story all about the increased security:

I found the 9:00 minute mile corral and managed to jump in minutes before the start.  And right as the race was about to start, the showers started up again. *sigh* It was going to be a long morning. We started the race and carefully rain the streets that were slick with fresh rain. The streets were very pitted and full of holes and puddles, so I felt as if half the time I was looking more at my feet than at the crowd and the course. The thing I noticed immediately when we started the race was how incredibly achy my muscles felt. The first three miles my legs (especially my hamstrings) just burned. I don’t think I was dehydrated by any means, but had walked quite a bit yesterday (and Providence is a fairly hilly city); that, combined with severe lack of sleep, were likely contributing factors.

Eventually the burning in my legs ceased once I got warmed up, and the miles passed with ease. I kept a fairly steady 9:20 pace throughout the first half. I wanted to ensure an easy recovery for my next race that was in four weeks, so I didn’t want to attack this course with everything I had.

Providence has some very hilly streets, almost San Francisco-caliper, but the race more or less exited the downtown area by the State House and headed south where the hills were a little more kind. Yes, there were definitely hills, but nothing as steep as some of those hills by Benefit Street!   The unfortunate thing about this race is that it didn’t go past some of the more historical sections of Providence, and wasn’t especially scenic. Sure there were sections that were very lush and green, other sections went along the water where we saw boats in the harbor, but many miles were simply commercial or residential. That being said, it was still an enjoyable race simply because the participants were really a great group.

I met a few Maniacs and 50-staters along the way, and one of the most memorable runners was a 14-year old girl named Natalie. I saw she came to a walk around mile 16, and would kick back into gear with a run, and went back and forth between intervals. Another runner talked to her to encourage her, and we marveled at how young she was and how determined she was to finish. I ran alongside her for a while and she asked me some questions about marathons, told me about her training program, and I was just really impressed by how well she was doing. When all was said and done I had to check her results….the little spitfire finished just a few minutes after me. She definitely is made of that steel that only can be defined by completing a marathon and I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw her again at a race. Natalie, you ROCK.

Another runner, I never got her name, ran past around Mile 19 and shouted out “Tattooed girls run faster! Keep it up girl!” and I saw she had a half sleeve tattoo.  We passed each other back and forth in the final miles and she kept shouting out encouragement to me, which to this day still makes me smile. In fact, I saw a guy later on the course with a sleeve and shouted out the same encouragement and it made him break out into a grin. Tattooed runners united!

In the final miles of the race I ran alongside a Massachusetts native named Bridget. We kept pace for a long time together, talked about races we had run. She was running her 13th marathon, and was actually a spectator at Boston and told me of her experience. None of her friends were hurt that day, thankfully, but it was still sobering to listen to her tale. She was easy-going and very friendly, and really helped the miles pass with ease.
This race I noticed that I felt pretty good throughout; I had a hand-held water bottle and could breeze through all the stops.  I did stop twice to ask if I could fill my bottle, and the volunteers were happy to allow me to help myself.  It seemed like they actually appreciated my extra effort to carry my own water. Toward the end of the race there were a few nasty steep hills that forced me to a walk, but only for maybe 30-45 seconds. Another plus was that I had been taking much needed supplements for iron, B12 and D; my last visit to the GI specialist (a week or so after Shamrock) included a review of my bloodwork where some of the numbers were dismal, so I think supplementing those essential vitamins helped substantially as well.

I don’t think I ever hit the wall, I never felt like quitting, and never hated the experience. A complete turnaround from Shamrock, and my finish time was proof that despite the hills and conditions, I performed much better this time around.

Crossing the finish line for my fourteenth marathon was a great feeling. I loved the medal and felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment. medal

The one downside was that the finish line spread was a gluten-lover’s paradise: boxes and boxes of fresh pizza and bagels awaited the finishers, but I was fortunate to see a huge box of bananas. Don’t mind if I do…*yoink*. I did “cheat” on my no-sugar rule that day and have a Gatorade; my body was covered in salt, despite my efforts to maintain hydration, and I needed to replenish those nutrients and electrolytes STAT.

The banana was about all I could handle until we were able to get lunch late that afternoon. While I would have loved a nap, my stomach was throwing a temper tantrum, growling incessantly.  Thank goodness an UNO’s Chicago Grill was nearby, where I got a cheese-free gluten-free pizza piled high with veggies, salad and plenty of Woodchuck Cider.

It was a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the afternoon as the skies cleared and a breeze kicked out the humidity.  Since we were heading home that night on a late train, we had the Biltmore hold our bags and went to see a movie; we decided to check out Jurassic park in 3D. I wanted to make sure I picked a movie that, if I fell asleep during, I wouldn’t regret missing! It was definitely a lot of fun.

Race Results
Finish Time: 4:10:56
Overall Place: 618/1267

Sex Place: 240/616
Division Place: 77/186

Before I know it, my next state to conquer will be arriving, by running the Ann Arbor Marathon in Michigan. My first week of recovery proved to be successful and I already feel strong enough to tackle another marathon. It’s a good feeling to know I have this kind of drive within me.

Next stop: Ann Arbor June 9, 2013!

Some Reflections on My Two-Year Gluten-Free Anniversary

April 28th marked the day that I officially was diagnosed with celiac disease and went gluten-free. It was my two-year anniversary as a celiac, and it’s amazing how much I have grown in those two years.

In the initial months, I had a quick crash-course in gluten-free living. I had pantries to clear, food to donate, and shelves to stock with all new food. I constantly scoured books and the internet to ensure I was well-schooled in all I needed to know to ensure to stay healthy. In the early months I relied a LOT on pre-packaged foods, which were quite expensive (two small pre-made pizza crusts were around $6.49, a 6-pack of English muffins around $5.59). I found myself constantly hungry and binging a LOT simply because my body was at its lowest weight and malnourished from lack of nutrient absorption. Most of the foods I consumed were still very high-carb and grain-based though: cookies, bagels, rice cakes, English muffins, pretzels, pasta, and GF breads. I still wasn’t very keen on cross-contamination issues and unfortunately still managed to gluten myself several times in one month, especially since I didn’t want Chris to be on a GF diet also since it was all so expensive.  I still ate plenty of sugar-filled indulgences, like ice cream, cookies, cake, etc. As long as a label read “gluten-free” it was a free-for-all with no regard to what I was putting into my body, whether it was refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or various chemicals and preservatives.

Fast-forward two years, and I feel like I have grown a lot, and still continue to learn:

Our home is now gluten-free in order to avoid cross-contamination. It took many glutenings to realize that it was too difficult to attempt to prepare two separate meals, and this is the easiest way to avoid it. Luckily Chris is right on board with the diet and loves it! I’m very lucky to have someone like him who never complains, if anything I’m one that will lament a recipe gone awry.

I’ve learned to love and embrace healthy fats, something I always shunned in the past because low-fat living used to be touted so much as the way to stay lean. We love avocados beyond the guacamole stage, and we put them into our meals all the time. We easily go through 4-6 avocados in a week. Nuts, nut butters and homemade hummus are all daily facets of our diet, and extra –virgin olive oil is a major staple as well.

I’ve learned to cut corners on the cost of gluten-free living simply by rolling up my sleeves and making my own food, and now make my own hummus, pesto, bread, vegan burgers, and other foods. For a fraction of the cost I can make 12 vegan burgers and pay less than half what I would pay for a box of 4 frozen ones. Eating out and ordering take-out is something that is a very rare treat when we used to eat out at least once a week minimum.

I’ve learned to love quinoa, a valuable protein source that’s gluten-free and can be used for any meal (even breakfast, it’s excellent with some cinnamon, raisins, and nuts), added to soups, and as a base for vegan burgers.

I’ve learned to think outside the normal American diet. Sometimes my breakfasts consist of a fruit smoothie and veggies and hummus, something I never would have gone for in the beginning. In a pinch, I’ve eaten peanut butter on a banana with a side of white rice in the airport. As long as I can realize that “non-breakfast foods” in the American diet CAN indeed make a good breakfast, it’s not difficult to find meals at all.

I’ve learned to love fruit beyond bananas, apples and grapes; I never was a fan of berries (I think I’m a texture person and always had a hard time with eating raw berries) but now I load up on them, freeze them, and blend them into a smoothie. I might not be eating tons of raw fruit, but with the smoothies I am still getting those awesome nutrients for an early morning boost!

I’ve learned to always be prepared, whether it’s a Lara bar and a bag of almonds in my purse or glove box in my car, it’s best to never go somewhere without SOMETHING lest you have no options. At Universal Studios I ended up buying a bag of peanut M&Ms as my sustenance for the ENTIRE DAY when there were no options beyond very overpriced fruit (a small cup of cut watermelon was around $7.00). Now I know to always bring my own food as a safeguard.

I’ve learned to live without refined sugar, chemical artificial sweeteners and HFCS. In the past not a day would go by without a sweet at lunchtime and dinner. I would get incredibly cranky without it! But within a matter of weeks I have been able to rid myself of the sugar addiction and noticed massive differences in my mood and overall health.

I’ve learned to love the taste of food on its own without tons of condiments. I was a voracious ketchup fiend, I loved BBQ sauce and honey mustard and pretty much any condiment I could find. Chris on the other hand always just wanted olive oil on his salads and just a little salt or pepper on things like roasted potatoes. He always felt food should be appreciated exactly as it is without slathering lots of dressing and condiments all over everything, and I have learned to adopt his approach.

I’ve learned to embrace my old ways of appreciating and respecting animal life, and have again adopted a vegan diet. Last year I read an article about Scott Jurek, a vegan ultra-runner, and it inspired me to go vegan for maybe 2 weeks and the diet simply didn’t stick. Recently I noticed that on days where I ate a vegan diet I actually felt much better than I did on days I consumed meat, dairy and eggs, and decided it was worth a try to get back into this lifestyle. I had to do a lot of soul-searching as of late, because for a long time I had simply desensitized myself to factory farming and what it entailed. I realized it was a win-win situation, not only would I physically feel better, but from a spiritual standpoint I think I also feel a sense of contentment that I am not harming my animal friends with my dietary choices.

I’ve learned to finally stop feeling sorry for myself. When I was first diagnosed with celiac I went through a barrage of temper tantrums, thinking of all the things in life I’d never get to eat again or experience. I resented “how easy” everyone else around me seemed to have it since food is something I think many of us easily take for granted. Then I realized how lucky I was to finally be diagnosed with celiac and be on the road to healing my body. My problems are so miniscule, so first-world, that I feel ashamed to ever complain about things that at the end of the day don’t matter. Having celiac is something I have learned to live with, and while it’s definitely a challenge even two years later, it’s something I finally have a handle on, and I finally feel comfortable coping with it and hope I can help others feel the same way. I have so many other good things in my life, too many to count, and the idea of feeling sorry for myself for having an auto-immune disease just doesn’t seem worth it anymore.

I’ve learned that life does not revolve around food. I feel as an American that we live in a VERY food-centric society. Food is a part of almost any social gathering, food is a focus of our daily lives and something we look forward to enjoying. I love food, but I also love the fact that it is not my first priority in life. My choices can sometimes be limited, and I have to simply accept and be grateful for what I am able to enjoy. In the end, it’s a relief that food doesn’t have a huge hold on me like it used to, but is sort of an afterthought sometimes.
I’ve learned to be grateful that I DO have so many choices. People seem aghast at the thought of me throwing up so many roadblocks with food: no dairy, no gluten, no eggs, no sugar, no meat. What on earth DO I eat then? Surprisingly, I still have a multitude of choices, and food tastes so much better knowing that I’m putting whole, unprocessed fuel into my body. I’m lucky  I live in a country where I have so many choices and gluten-free options are becoming more and more prevalent. The fact that I have access to supermarkets with entire gluten-free SECTIONS is such an incredible blessing, and I have also found myself helping others scouring the shelves with lots of questions. I absolutely LOVE being able to help others adapt to this lifestyle, don’t let the tattoos scare you. I assure you I’m harmless and want nothing more than to help.

A moment of thanks for my loved ones

I’ve read a lot of stories about people who were diagnosed with celiac that had very little support from friends and family; I’ve even read stories of marriages falling apart over it (which, to me, is completely absurd). Teens and children get teased and shunned, siblings, parents and friends don’t “get it” or think “it’s all in your head” and continue to blatantly expose their celiac family member to gluten with no regard to their health or safety. Some of them had no support system but from their online community, and felt ostracized from those who should have loved and accepted them the most.

I wanted to take this moment to say thank you to all of the friends and family that have gone the extra mile to make sure I am safe.  Thank you for never questioning my diagnosis, or scoffing at me having such a strict diet. Thank you for being so selfless when it came to picking places to go out for meals, you’ve always said “Whatever you want, whatever is best for you.” and you meant it without a trace a snark. Thank you for always making me separate gluten-free desserts, and taking cross contamination concerns so seriously. Thank you for bringing me GF treats on a whim, thank you for always being a good host with so many options, and if I have to bring my own food, you’ve never taken offense. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, because without you all, I think this transition would have been much, much harder.

I have to admit, when I was first diagnosed with celiac, I perused a lot of message boards and online support communities to see what I could learn, and to see what others like me had to endure. In the end I abandoned going to these sites simply because there was a LOT of complaining going on, lots of self-pity and anger, lots of “woe-is-me-my-life-sucks” sentiments. I realized I was a stronger person than that, and I was not going to allow the negativity to feed my soul. I looked at all I had accomplished within two years, and wanted to share with everyone that “Life is GOOD, even with celiac.” I’ve run 9 marathons since my diagnosis, and the race calendar keeps filling up. I’m healthier and stronger physically AND mentally, and think it just takes some time to adjust before I could find those strengths within me.

If you are celebrating your OWN gluten-free anniversary, take the time out to think about the things you’ve learned and the people in your life that have supported you.

Also, if you had to make a drastic change in your own life, what are some things you’ve learned in your journey?

Food Rx (It’s Good for What Ails Ya!)

Before I was diagnosed with celiac, I suffered quite a bit, which I had disclosed in prior blog entries. I assumed stomach pain was just par for the course after every meal and was simply used to it.  But it wasn’t just the digestive issues that plagued me:  I used to have horrible eczema, and as a child was teased quite often for being “contagious with a skin disease”. I also suffered often from terrible headaches and chronic sciatic nerve pain. On top of taking lots of ibuprofen, I was seeing a chiropractor THREE times a week but to no avail, nothing seemed to ease the horrible throbbing pain that seemed to plague me 24/7. I assumed that the rest of my life I would just have to endure pain no matter what I tried, and that was a bleak thought indeed.

Post celiac-diagnosis, it was like a whole new chapter in my life was opening for me, and I could actually move forward pain-free, happy and healthy. While it eased the usual pain-after-every-meal issue, I also noticed that my eczema that had plagued me my entire life gradually disappeared, even from my elbows (my biggest trouble spot as an adult), and the only time it ever cropped up was from being accidentally glutened. But despite the positive changes, I still had plenty of sciatic nerve pain and headaches quite often. My digestive issues still were causing me some strife: I still suffered from bloating, terrible irregularity (I know, TMI right?) and lower GI pain quite often, even when eating a strict GF diet. My GI specialist ran tests, ultrasounds and X-rays, and found nothing to cause any red flags. It was frustrating to say the least.

While I was eating a strict gluten-free diet, I won’t lie, it was still riddled with processed and high sugar foods. I ate somewhat healthy, but had PLENTY of days where I loaded my menu with high fat and high sugar treats, high fructose corn syrup, and other heavily processed foods with ingredients I couldn’t even pronounce. When checking labels it never went beyond cross-contamination issues with manufacturing and gluten-free ingredients. I figured hey, as long as it was gluten-free, it worked for my needs. Everything else was fair game!

When Chris and I decided to go on a refined sugar detox back in March, I noticed that slowly my sciatic nerve pain and headaches ceased substantially. I had read that sugar causes inflammation in the body, and assumed that eliminating refined sugar and HFCS obviously was doing me far more good than harm. Granted, the initial stages of detox were tough, but we overcame them within a week and never looked back.

Weeks after we started the sugar detox, I ran the Shamrock Marathon, and decided to eat an ovo-vegetarian diet for that week before the race in order to avoid any issues with irregularity and other digestive issues on race weekend. I still ate eggs, and after the race was over I had Greek yogurt in a couple of my meals, and still I noticed that I had some GI issues that cropped up, especially after I put dairy back into my diet. It was especially noticeable when I had made a vegetarian dinner for Chris and I the Monday after the race, and added a side of sour cream to the meal. I was up all night with horrible GI pain and bloating.

That incident sort of sealed the deal for me, I had to research vegan diets a little and see if I could actually do this diet as a celiac and thrive. I know when most people read the word vegan there is usually an immediate eye roll, but to be honest, I have always found that to be very annoying when people are vocal about someone else’s diet. After all, how does what I eat affect ANYONE? As long as I provide for my own needs I would never be militant, aggressive or pushy. What works for one won’t always work for another, so I would never push a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle on anyone, but I know for me it makes me feel good in many ways: I have always loved animals and felt a lot of inner conflict as a carnivore (even as a child I had my misgivings and anxiety about eating animals, and once even refused to eat lamb…I was like Lisa Simpson!); I have always had ethical concerns regarding factory farming, plus I know vegetarianism is good for the environment, as well as one’s health!  For me, it makes sense, for another, it may be one of those “Give me meat or give me death” scenarios.

Adopting a vegan diet was actually far easier than I thought with some homework, and I noticed that almost, like magic, that a clean vegan diet was really benefiting me better than any diet ever had. My irregularity and gas pains (I know, I know, TMI) disappeared and my body was running like clockwork for the FIRST TIME IN YEARS. It was almost frightening! My skin had cleared. My headaches, even on high barometric pressure days, were gone. My sciatica…it’s so minimal that I don’t even notice it most days, when in the past I was taking Advil ALL DAY LONG to cut down on the throbbing pain. Even my afternoon fatigue and the naps that I seemed to ALWAYS need (or I couldn’t function), were no longer a necessity. My body was thriving in many ways I didn’t ever notice before.

Chris was certainly accepting of whatever I needed to do as long as I felt better, but requested we still have meat once in a while for his meals, and I absolutely had no issue with this! After all, I was a vegetarian for 10 years prior to my diagnosis and was used to making him separate meals once in a while, but he is so used to eating vegetarian for most meals he doesn’t even miss it at all. Sure, he loves a good steak once in a while, but he doesn’t need it in his daily meals.

As for the usual question of “How do you get your protein and nutrients?”, well, I can definitely approach it in another entry, but I do take several supplements that my doctor insisted I take after checking my bloodwork (PRE-vegan diet by the way) and noticing I was very low in iron, B12 and D. So I do take them in order to make sure those essential nutrients are met. I know it sort of goes against the whole “don’t feed your needs with pharmaceuticals” thing, but certain nutrients are harder to obtain naturally on a vegan diet (especially B12) and this option is far more appealing to me than the consequences I ran into before adopting the lifestyle.

This entry is not about being a vegan by any means. In fact, I can’t even call myself one since I still use honey and have plenty of leather and wool goods in my closet.  The main point of this entry is this: when you suffer ailments that can’t be explained by medical testing, no matter how big or small, examine your diet. There are methods I have heard about like elimination diets that can help you pinpoint what might be causing your issues, whether it’s nightshade vegetables, corn, coconut, etc. But even before that, seriously examine your food sources: is your food made of five or less ingredients? Is it made of ingredients with names that you can’t pronounce and loaded with preservatives and chemical additives? In my experience, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, healthy fats, and grains are the best sources for a healthy diet. I’ve even found ways to make it more economical by simply rolling up my sleeves and working a little harder by making my own homemade granola, hummus, bread, pesto and vegan burgers. Sure it takes a little work, but it truly is a fraction of the cost of store-bought by FAR. Plus you know exactly what you are getting because your hard work went into it! I find it to be truly rewarding AND delicious.

Don’t get me wrong, of course issues like environment, genetics and other variables can override diet and lifestyle no matter how hard you try. Chris’ cancer is a perfect example of this. He has to continue taking meds for the rest of his life and no matter how clean his lifestyle. But he also feels that he can help combat future cancer growth by living a clean lifestyle, and once he is in remission we are hoping he will permanently STAY in remission.
But, sometimes all it takes is a little self-examination of your habits. You may surprise yourself when you see that all you need is a dietary overhaul. I can certainly attest to this and it has been working for me.

Have you noticed any positive changes in your own health once you’ve changed your diet?

P.S. Just as a note, Chris underwent his surgical procedure on April 2, had some cancerous nodes removed, and recovered well from the surgery. Next step will be meeting with an oncologist to discuss treatment, and hopefully once he goes through that, he will be in permanent remission.

No Gluten? No Sugar? No Meat? What DO You Eat? Believe It or Not, PLENTY.

Since late April of 2011 I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I had to quickly adjust my diet to conform to a gluten-free lifestyle, and thankfully I was still able to have plenty of my old favorites: chocolate chip M&M cookies, cupcakes piled high with icing, ice cream, peanut butter cups…there was PLENTY I could eat and enjoy and I had no shortage of treats as long as I could find them gluten-free. Training for marathons was a breeze as long as I had plenty of carbs, and gluten-free carbs are plentiful if you know how to find them. Life doesn’t stop at bread and pasta, there’s lots of various options for gluten-free carb-loading!

Fast forward almost two years later. Chris is diagnosed with cancer for a second time, which was a devastating blow. We have no idea what could have caused the recurrence, but started seriously analyzing our dietary lifestyle. What could have caused the growth? What could have fueled the cancer? Are we to blame, or was it simply “bad luck“? Was I lazy in how I focused on our diets? We still ate things like French fries, processed foods, and plenty of sugary treats in the evenings for dessert. Chris still loaded his morning coffee with sugar, and had the occasional donut or non-GF treat outside of the home. While there is no definitive answer as to what caused the cancer to return, we decided that we needed to find ways to be proactive and combat it.

We learned that there could be a direct connection with refined sugar consumption and cancer growth. We also did a lot of research on what is going on with our food supply in general. To be honest, a lot of BAD stuff lingers in the average American diet. Trans-fats, refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, pink slime, chemicals and hormones in our meat, and food additives with names we can‘t even pronounce derived from things we DON’T even want to know about. In short, lots of garbage, and cancer absolutely LOVES garbage. It’s like a sewer rat that can plague our bodies and thrive easily if we continue to feed it. It‘s no wonder that obesity is at all all-time high, and that cancer is still running rampant like a kid in a candy store.

Weeks ago we decided it was time to change our diet, change our lifestyle, and fight this cancer a little harder. Some people thought eating gluten-free was hard enough, but try throwing no refined sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, and as little meat as possible into the mix. The very prospect had me stressed out and overwhelmed. It seemed like it would be harder than ever!

Surprisingly, it wasn’t!

Sure you go through sugar withdrawal: crankiness, insomnia, brain fog, exhaustion and cravings. But that only lasted maybe a week.  We cleared our cabinets of all the processed garbage and loaded them with more natural forms of sugar like honey, coconut palm sugar and agave syrup. We did a little more label reading when grocery shopping, if sugar is one of the ingredients, it gets put back on the shelf. This usually meant buying more cereals from the organic section and making more of our own staples at home. I have a simple coconut granola recipe that I make once a week, and we absolutely love it. We eat a lot more fresh produce and much less refined and pre-packaged foods, and are really starting to reap the benefits. We’ve both tightened the notches on our belts a little bit without even trying, and I have noticed my sciatic nerve pain has been slim to none, and this may be due to the fact that sugar increases inflammation (according to numerous studies).

So how can this be done? There are definitely tricks to making sure you have ample amount of variety in a diet of this caliper:

1) Access to a good produce market and farmer‘s market. Boy, do we not have any problems with that! I can spend $20.00 and bring home pounds and pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit. Most of our recipes involve lots of fresh vegetables, and I can buy things like a huge 40-ounce baby of baby spinach for around $4.00.  In springtime most towns have farmer’s markets that last until late fall, take advantage of them and see what they have to offer! If you think you can’t get through the produce fast enough, many vegetables can easily be frozen for later use, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach. Fruits can also be frozen to make into smoothies. Never a need to have things go to waste!

2) Brainstorm and make a list of meal ideas. I had no idea how we would eat less meat since it seemed to be such a presence in our diet, and started working on vegetarian meal ideas, and ultimately it really seemed like the sky was the limit! We had tons of options, and even could include condiments into the mix for flavor and ethnic flair. Places like Wegman’s have lots of different sauces for meals like curry, Italian, Asian stir fries, etc. and many of them are very low or free of refined sugar as well as gluten-free.

3) The less ingredients, the better the meal! One of Chris’ absolute favorite meals: a handful of gluten-free pasta, with lots of sautéed spinach, tomatoes, broccoli and asparagus, throw in a little olive oil, Italian seasoning, and a side of homemade gluten-free bread and olive oil, as well as maybe an extra veggie side, and you have a vegetarian feast made for a king. Another favorite is simply beans and rice with salsa verde and fresh avocado sliced on top, and a side of roasted veggies to make an awesome vegan dinner with loads of healthy fats.

4) Desserts are still something we enjoy, but instead of things like ice cream or candy, we’ll have homemade gluten-free granola with almond milk, or one of my favorites is just a rice cake with honey and almond butter (might as well throw on a few banana slices while you‘re at it).  It’s absolutely delicious! Even a good mandarin orange is a perfect dessert with the right amount of natural sweetness. Some nights we forgo dessert entirely, but when we do have it, we are very satisfied with the more natural choices. The cravings for hot fudge sundaes and chocolate candy are long gone, and I am sure we are doing our bodies and waistlines a favor.

5) Don’t shy away from healthy fat! Back in the 90’s, the way to stay healthy and lose weight was the constant promotion of low-fat living. The less fat the better, and you could make lots of different recipes with little to no fat, but plenty of sugar. Now researchers are realizing more and more that fat is NOT the problem, but sugar! Our main sources of fat are fresh avocado (try slicing one of top of a veggie egg-white omelet, it gives a flavor that’s incredible) and olive oil, and in the past while I used to be very nervous about generously using olive oil and other fats, I now realize that fat is NOT the enemy! The best fats to use are vegetable-based fats, so we usually stick to extra virgin olive oil, avocados, extra virgin coconut oil (gives some incredible flavor to baking recipes) and nut butters. I no longer pour the oil off the top of a jar natural peanut or almond butter, but stir it up and embrace the fat that I once shunned.

6) Be prepared to eat out a LOT less, and cook a lot more. Roll up your sleeves, because this lifestyle usually means a lot more cooking and food prep. I pack all of our breakfasts and lunches every morning before work, and dinners are also enjoyed at home 99% of the time. Unfortunately this is due more to the celiac disease, as cross-contamination is a concept that most restaurants with gluten-free options still aren’t quite grasping.  But cooking more at home means you have complete control as to what goes into the recipes, and that is a satisfying feeling.

Cutting sugar from our diets has truly been a positive change for both of us. We no longer have cravings for unhealthy desserts and sugar laden coffee drinks and cereals. Natural food tastes BETTER than ever, and this is coming from someone who has lost some of the use of his salivary glands from prior cancer treatment. A fresh mandarin orange is like eating a handful of sunshine. Fresh avocado has an incredible taste that we can’t even describe, but I think we are both officially becoming avocado junkies!

In the past when I met people who first learned I had celiac, they would ask “What can you EAT then?” and I’d respond with a grin “Nothing.” or “Not much.” In terms of the typical American diet of fast food and pre-packaged quick fixes, yes, this is true.

Then cut out sugar. It cuts your convenient choices down even more.  You definitely have to spend a lot more time in the kitchen with food prep and planning. You have to take more trips to the produce market and spend a little more time label reading.

But in the end, look at the benefits you reap. You eat clean, whole foods. Food tastes better. You feel more energetic once your body detoxes itself of what it’s depended on for so long: junk.

Treat your body right, and it will treat you right. It’s something you have to work on together as a team.  Give it a try sometime, you might just like it.

If you have any further suggestions, comments or recipes, feel free to comment!

Happy eating!