Why gluten-free menus are worthless…

…because very few restaurants educate their staff on gluten and how to protect customers.

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I’d like to say I’ve mastered the art of eating out with celiac disease but that would be a huge lie. I could say I’ve mastered the ability to order my meal but certainly not of educating each and every server I encounter.

We are all too familiar with bad restaurants, especially when it comes to gluten-free. The reviews are all over the internet and we keep speaking out but it seems no one is listening.

A while ago, I wrote a post about successfully eating out gluten-free but the more I experience it, the more I realize we have no control over what we actually eat in a restaurant. You see the reality is some servers will really care about you, take their time with you and make sure you have an amazing meal. But, even a server with the best intentions forgets things and gets busy leaving us with a stomach ache.

The only true way to stay  completely gluten-free is to make all your own meals, all the time. Sounds great right?

We can’t even get companies and the government to regulate ingredients labels so we know what we are consuming, why would we think the restaurant business cares about gluten? And why would we expect them to educate their staff on gluten related issues, even when they offer a gluten-free menu.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – higher end restaurants with chefs not cooks are going to be your best bet. Those places care about bad reviews and bad experiences. Their servers typically make more money and provider a higher quality of service. Please don’t think I’m stereotyping cheap restaurants because I’m sure in our world out there some little chains really know what they are doing and get it right, but the girl working at Taco Hut or The Burger Shack making $7.50/hour are less likely to care about gluten.

I mean how many times have you looked up a place to eat online, selected your option only to get there and find out they don’t carry half the items on the gluten-free menu posted by corporate online?

Or how many times have you eaten out only to have food brought out still with croutons, breadcrumbs or something else incorrect?

Or how many times have you eaten off the gluten-free menu only to poop your pants and have a migraine for 3 days?

It happens. It happens probably more often than we think. But, until the government and FDA take gluten seriously, we can’t expect to be treated the same as someone with a nut allergy.

So, what we can do about this?

Advocate for food label changes. Educate ourselves about menus prior to going to restaurants. Read reviews online to see if people have difficult experiences there. Write reviews about our experiences both positive and negative. Don’t beat yourself up if you get sick after eating out. Learn to cook more gluten free meals at home. And lastly, remember you aren’t the only one going through this….

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Gluten Free Review – Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant

Cooper's Hawk Winery
Cooper’s Hawk Winery

Cooper’s Hawk opened at Easton Town Center in Columbus on Monday this week. Imagine my excitement when I saw they offered a gluten-free menu and my first thought was “I have to try it immediately.”

So by Wednesday, I was eating there for the first time. Check out the size of this gluten-free menu….

They even have 5 gluten-free desert options!

Gluten free menu
Gluten free menu

I told our waitress about my gluten allergy and she made sure the kitchen knew I was there. They brought out the pretzel bread for my dinner date and a gluten-free bun for me to try.

We started with an appetizer of shrimp wrapped in bacon – delicious. The shrimp were large and I easily got 2-3 bites out of them.

Dinner was the pepper jack, bacon cheeseburger – the bun was a little much for me since I already had one when we first got there so I ended up eating the burger naked. There were several sides I could select from and I ended up with Mary’s mashed potatoes.

gluten free cheeseburger
gluten free cheeseburger

I got a gluten-free brownie to take home and shared it with my husband. It was simply delicious. Light, fluffy and moist!

The manager even came out after my meal to make sure everything was ok and I enjoyed my meal. He explained the gluten-free process and that they are very sensitive to cross contamination and pride themselves on making safe gluten-free experiences for their guests.

My new favorite wine
My new favorite wine

After this tasty meal, I decided to bring my family last night to try something new on the menu. They’ve already been to all the places around us to eat so it was a great change for them to try something new.

Last night’s meal blew the lid off of any other gluten-free meal I’ve had at other places. Wildfire Chicago is a close second to this dish.

I decided to try something totally new and went with the short rib risotto and it was best decision I’ve ever made. The meat was tender, moist and fell apart with my fork into the risotto. The sauce was incredible and the truffle oil on top with parmesan shavings tied everything together perfectly.

Short Rib Risotto Cooper's Hawk
Short Rib Risotto Cooper’s Hawk

We ended the meal with some chocolate covered strawberries. They were ok, not the best but then again it’s hard to compete with Godiva strawberries. I just didn’t think they were ripe enough before being covered in the chocolate.

I do have one comment about the restaurant – we had reservations at 7:30pm. While we didn’t wait longer than 5 minutes for our table, imagine our confusion when they were quoting people a 2-3 hour wait for a table and then there were at least 10-15 empty tables in the dining room when we were seated. Maybe it was lack of staff, but it was strange in my book.

You can find my review online at www.findmeglutenfree.com so I suggest you check it out and add your own!

The easiest gluten free chili recipe ever!

Gluten-Free Chili Recipe
Gluten-Free Chili Recipe

Everyone loves a great chili on a cold winter day or to celebrate the big game, but what do you do when all of the seasoning packets contain wheat? Well, I’ve tried several and finally found one that tastes great and helped me make a delicious gluten-free chili that can be eaten right away or frozen for the next time you need a warm, wholesome meal.

I wanted something super easy that I could just throw in the pot and wait for it to finish. That is exactly what I got with this recipe! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Here is my recipe for super easy gluten free chili

What you need:

1-2lbs grass fed ground beef

2 cans or the equivalent of fresh kidney beans

2 cans of gluten free fire roasted tomatoes

1 can of gluten free tomato sauce

1 onion

1 green pepper

1 gluten free chili sauce packet like Hol Grain Gluten Free Seasoning

How do you make this deliciousness? So. Easy.

Brown the beef in a pan and then transfer to a large soup pot or crock pot

Cut up the pepper and onion to the size you like – I prefer the pieces smaller

Put the beef, kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, onion, pepper and sauce packet into the pan together

Wait for about 3-4 hours on low heat and then devour

The smell alone in your house is enough to make you drool!

Want to fancy it up? Add some bacon, hot sauce, hot peppers, sour cream, garlic, more veggies, cheese, gluten free crackers!

Wildfire Chicago: Gluten Free Review (hint.. go here!)

While we were in Chicago for the Celiac Awareness Tour, we decided to stay an extra night and spend some time in the city. After a little research on a few different apps and websites – both Yelp and FindMeGlutenFree recommended Wildfire for dinner.

I’m notorious for making reservations before we go anywhere because I am so impatient and hate waiting in a crowded little area for a table. So I frequently use Opentable.com to secure a seat before leaving the house. The only times available were 5:15pm or 9:30pm. We decided on 5pm because we hadn’t really eaten lunch due to being at the convention.

When we got there, I asked for the gluten free menu. Everyone was very accommodating – Check out this gluten free menu!!

Wildfire gluten Free Menu
Wildfire gluten Free Menu

Are you kidding me? Was I dreaming? I hit the gluten free Chicago jack  pot. Since we were there and they had this great menu – we were definitely going to try some stuff.

One of the things I miss is being able to order an appetizer occasionally. All of them are usually fried but I really enjoy having a snack before my meal comes.

We decided to try the baked goat cheese. OMG – it came with gluten free pita chips that were to die for.

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Wilefire baked cheese and gluten free pita chips
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All Gone!

After looking at the menu – we both decided on a nice juicy cheeseburger on a gluten free bun. How often do I get this? Never so I certainly was going to go for it! Aaron even decided on a gluten free burger with me! They were delicious. The bun tasted great. The burger was delicious with no gluten filled fillers – cooked to perfection!

Wildfire Gluten Free Burger
Wildfire Gluten Free Burger

Then we shared sides of a sweet potato and a twice baked potato. Totally fantastic as well. Enough for 3 people each!

Wildfire double baked potato
Wildfire double baked potato
Wildfire Sweet Potato
Wildfire Sweet Potato

The entire time we were dining – our waitress continued to come back and make sure everything was ok. If I had a question about something, she checked with the chef or the manager and came back to tell me what she found out. I’ve never felt so safe dining out! There needs to be way more gluten free menu restaurants like Wildfire!!

During the meal I enjoyed some wine and they even brought out a gluten free (hot and fresh) bun to eat while Aaron had his regular bread!

I give Wildfire Chicago – 2 HUGE gluten free thumbs up and highly recommend it for someone gluten free looking to eat a delicious meal in Chicago!!

His and Hers bread. lol
His and Hers bread. lol
My 4 new friends.
My 4 new friends.

 

 

Food Addiction? What is wrong with us? Changing the way we think about food.

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I posted on Facebook yesterday what foods people missed most from their gluten free lifestyle. The purpose of this post was to see what types of food I could play around with or find as a great substitution for what everyone was missing.

54 People commented on my post and the comments as I read through them disturbed me. I completely understand that we miss bread, pretzels, beer etc but some of the things that people wanted to have so desperately are part of the problem in society.

I recently spoke to an Ohio State University group called CHAARG -Changing Health, Attitudes, and Actions to Recreate Girls – They came to Bexa Body Fitness for a group fitness sampler and a little seminar on healthy eating in college. I spoke to them a lot about food options and ways to make better choices when eating on campus.

I can’t emphasize to people enough at my fitness studio:

  • If the ingredients look like they should be on a shampoo bottle you probably shouldn’t be consuming them.
  • There is nothing FRESH about Subway – Their lettuce is out of a bag and their meat is as processed as you can get. The sandwich is entirely bread and why do you always smell when you leave there?
  • I’ve never met anyone in my life that told me they were addicted to carrots, sweet potatoes or steak. I do however on a daily basis meet people that can’t give up artificial sweetener, diet coke, candy, sugary coffee drinks etc. What does that tell you about those foods and how they are reacting in your body? Your brain is addicted to these substances and no one seems to think this is a problem.

The list of foods people missed goes something like this:  Pizza, biscuits, donuts, pie crust, pizza, flour tortillas, bread, pizza, twizzlers, crackers, hot dogs, Subway, Arby’s, pizza, McDonald’s, funnel cake, Ciabatta bread and so on….

ON TOP OF THIS – I see an incredible amount of children and teenagers also addicted to these foods.

I believe that when people think of food addictions, they think of the television shows on TLC about people being cut out of houses or Extreme Makeover Weight Loss edition. But, we are all addicted to food in some capacity. Some people are able to handle it better than others but very few people recognize the problem/trend in our society.

Our society pushes low fat, low sugar, no fat, no sugar, low cholesterol and anything else with “low” or “no” in the front of it.

Do you know how those things get to be that way? They pump the foods filled with chemicals and fillers so they taste great and food us into believing they are healthy or good for us. They aren’t. Our brains are so fooled and duped into thinking all food should taste this way that eating a nice whole meal of protein, potatoes and veggies is like eating cardboard.

All of us that can’t eat these other foods and desperately long for them are proving my point. We are just replacing these junky gluten filled foods with junky gluten free foods. While it is fine once in a while, it is not ok all the time. Moderation is key but when options are so limited, I’m finding it much easier to go overboard on gluten free foods.

I’m absolutely not saying that I don’t fall into this trap. There are certain things I know I miss desperately and would love to have again. There are foods filled with gluten and gluten free that I know I can’t keep in our house because I won’t be able to keep my hands off them.

But I understand now how all this affects my brain chemistry. I realize how screwed up our society is to see that eating “I can’t believe it’s not butter” is better than eating regular butter. Do the research. Butter won’t kill you but I’m pretty sure whatever the hell is in that fake butter will.

We are the fortunate ones. We can’t eat that crap or we get sick. We are the ones that have the opportunity to heal our bodies and wean ourselves from the stuff we once knew.

If you get anything from this post, it might just be the 3 bullet  points I posted above and you might just think of a shampoo bottle next time you check out ingredients!

But I challenge you to think about these things the next time you are longing for a brownie or piece of pizza.

 

Kroger Grocery Store making BIG Gluten Free Changes in 2013!

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Kroger!

Today I had the pleasure of being one of the guest speakers for the Kroger Natural Foods Summit in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was invited to tell me story and give their store managers/buyers some insight on gluten allergies and celiac disease.

It was exciting to find out some great things they have planned for 2013!

Gluten Free Tags
Gluten Free Tags

First they plan on introducing many more of these gluten-free tags under the foods on the shelves. They have some already but it never did seem consistent throughout the store. These are great because they allow you to quickly identify the gluten-free options on the shelves! You will see them in some of their stores already but their main focus is to help consumers find the foods they need.

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Lots of Gluten Free Foods

Depending on which Kroger store you go to, you will find many options on gluten-free foods. The problem with their stores is the foods are all over the stores making it harder to shop there and time-consuming. They said the second most common question beside “where is the restroom?” is “where is your gluten-free section.” Well, guess what! They are taking note of that and working to find a better solution for all of us.

Whether it is a dedicated natural foods section with all the gluten-free items or a store map indicating where things can be found, they are focusing their energy on making our shopping experience better.

They also want to be able to provide a large selection of items at the lowest possible prices for their consumers. Now that’s what I’m talking about!! They are very motivated in bringing all of our favorite brands into their stores to help all of us shop easier.

I told them the easier it is for us to shop there, the more money and customers they will be getting because us gluten-free peeps are some loyal, loyal fans!

The first step was just me being there to educate them on celiac disease and what it means to be “gluten-free.” Only a couple of people in the audience heard of celiac disease or knew what it was.

I give Kroger 2 huge gluten-free thumbs up for taking the initiative to help their customers and make our lives even better (and easier).

And I want to thank all of them for enjoying my “crap my pants” stories!!

What suggestions do you have for grocery stores that I can emphasize as I continue my speaking engagements all over the place??

My speaker tag!
My speaker tag!

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty Little Celiac 30-Day Gluten Free Fitness Challenge!!

30 Day Gluten Free Challenge
30 Day Gluten Free Challenge

Since I started blogging on September 1st, I realized I wanted to share my experiences with the world. I wanted to build a community around the celiac/gluten free stigma and let people know they aren’t alone.

My experiences are no different than anyone else, I’m just okay with sharing them online for all to see!!

Fast forward to October 17th – my website has had over 13,000 hits and thousands of engaged people looking for answers and help to their gluten related problems and support for what was happening.

During this time, I’ve also allowed blogging get the best of me. Sure, I’ll eat that! Sure, I’ll try this! Why yes, I would love to try this dessert because I can blog about it.

I love you guys and this community, but I’ve gotta take this slower because I’m starting to really feel gross. I’m not eating whole foods or the things I preach to my personal training clients, but I am trying endless amounts of processed gluten free foods to share with you and let you know what’s worth the money and what isn’t.

I will still do these things but not quite to the extent I’ve allowed myself!! I’m out of control.

And, thus the 30-day challenge begins.

October 22 will be 30 days from Thanksgiving.

The day we all eat, eat, eat until our stomach hurts.

October 1st I wrote a blog post saying it would start and it did (ok a little).

October 22nd I will get back into healthy habits and make wonderful changes to my body. I’ve done it before and I’ve done it again.

If you read my bio, you already know I went through my own transformation in 2009 and ended up a fitness expert and entrepreneur.

When I asked my husband if he thought I looked fat, his response was “no, but your body composition is different.”

I used to be a lean, mean, strong machine.

Now I’m a mediocre, fluffy, weakling.

The funny thing about this is that I haven’t gained any weight but my body looks completely different.

Fitness Tip: If you aren’t doing measurements along with weight tracking – you will be extremely frustrated.

Many of you said on social media you were with me and I’m going to hold you to that – so here is what we are going to do!

What is the 30 Day Challenge?

You will get from me a gluten free menu for the next 30 days. There will be whole foods and very limited processed snacks. It is not designed to be a culinary dream menu, it is designed to fuel your body. That’s what we have to remember, food is fuel. We are basically going to do a whole food detox. No junk. No pop. No artificial sweeteners. No fast food. Just whole foods.

You will also get a 30 day workout plan that can be done anywhere. Outside. Inside. The Gym.

I am going to make a Facebook Group that we can all use to talk to each other, post comments and be supportive to one another. People can post recipes and things they learned along the way and I might even throw in some bonus workouts and video workouts too!

**There are dairy and nut options on the plan, modify as you may**

On October 21st – I will send out the plan to everyone that follows the directions below!

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If you want to enter the 30-day challenge, here is what needs to happen:

  1. You send me an email by Saturday October 20th
  • Pictures in fitness clothes with something dated – like a newspaper or magazine – front, back and side
  • Height and Weight
  • Measurements: Chest below your breasts, waist at your belly button, hips at the widest part

At the end of the 30 days, you are going to send me an email with the exact same information as the first one!!

The person that loses the most weight and inches will be the winner of the Pretty Little Celiac 30 day challenge!!

What will you win?

1 year subscription to 11Athletics Magazine

An entry to a Celiac Awareness Tour that will be in or around your area in 2013

The Essential Gluten Free Grocery Guide by Triumph Books

A Pretty Little Celiac T-Shirt

2 Bags of Udi’s granola

Gluten Free Food Labels by Sweet Ali’s Bakery

And a 1 on 1 Skype or Phone Call Session for 30 minutes with Me!!!

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My Celiac Rant of the Month – Be Strong my PLC’s!

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I’m working away today at Starbucks and am writing a wonderful little eBook for you guys about getting started going gluten free and I started thinking more and more about what a negative social stigma there is associated with a gluten allergy.

When we tell restaurants Aaron suffers from a tree nut allergy, the go above and beyond to make sure he is safe. But when I tell people I have a gluten allergy, it isn’t taken as seriously. Do they think just because I don’t get hives and my symptoms are different, the allergy isn’t as important?

Why are people afraid to tell the waiter or chef they suffer from a FOOD ALLERGY? It is the restaurants responsibility to ensure people dining in their establishment have a safe meal. I’m not embarrassed explaining my needs because I don’t want to get sick or have continued long term damage due to this illness.

It’s not a diet just because Miley Cyrus said she got skinny when she went gluten free. It is a lifestyle and a lifelong disease for many people struggling with celiac and gluten intolerance’s around the world.

Dining at places like Wildfire in Chicago really made me believe there is hope out there for other establishments to follow suit and make everyone feel welcome.

YOU ARE NOT AN OUTSIDER just because you have a food allergy. You are a human being.

Would you feel guilty if you had any other “normalized” allergy or handicap where you needed extra assistance?

If you broke you leg and needed special seating arrangements, would you feel bad asking for them?

It is our right as a consumer to be safe.

It is our right as a human being to be able to go out to eat with ridicule or feeling like no one understands.

If I want to go somewhere that is educated on gluten over and over again – that is my choice. And I usually end up spending a lot of money there AND recommending them to everyone I know along with writing a positive review on here for all of you to see. But restaurants and food establishments need to know there is a need, there is a desire that their clients want these things or they will never change.

There are times where I don’t have the best experience. That is OK too if after they were notified of the problem, they apologized and made up for it.

Don’t let these places or your friends/family steam roll you into thinking you are weird, a hypochondriac or shouldn’t be treated like anyone else.

We all have to take a united stand to let people know this isn’t a fad, it’s not a celebrity diet and it is a serious, life threatening food allergy and auto-immune disease.

Stand up for yourself. Stand up for those around you suffering from the same problems!

Share sites like this that promote positivity and confidence.

Don’t let other people think they are alone in this journey, because they aren’t!

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15 Things NOT to say to someone with celiac or gluten intolerance…

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For those of us with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, we’ve all heard comments that make our skin crawl. I compiled a list of the top 15 things you should never say to someone about gluten or celiac!!

  1. Can you eat anything….?
  2. Are you sure you can’t just have a little bite to try it? This is really good, you’re missing out.
  3. Well, if you can’t go there to eat, where can you go?
  4. It’s not like eating a little gluten will kill you…
  5. I would just die if I had that allergy. I would probably just keep eating gluten. I could never give up….
  6. Any statement that starts with “My doctor told me…”
  7. Any statement that starts with “I read on the internet…”
  8. How can a food allergy cause that many symptoms for that long? That doesn’t seem right.
  9. Can’t you just drink a lot of water and flush it out when you eat gluten?
  10. Can’t you just take a Benadryl after you eat bread and then not have a reaction?
  11. Maybe I’ll try going on a gluten free diet. I heard you lose a lot of weight.
  12. I just heard Miley Cyrus got really skinny going gluten free, is that why you aren’t eating gluten?
  13. Your spouse must really hate the fact that you can’t eat gluten.
  14. Seems like you have to give up a lot for a minor food allergy.
  15. So, will you ever be able to eat gluten again?

Do you have a comment that is made to you frequently about gluten or celiac?

Post it below so we can all have a laugh and know we aren’t the only ones!

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Gluten Free Review: Red Robin – Yummy Yum Yum

Red Robin Gluten Free Bun
Red Robin Gluten Free Bun

Today my husband and I ran the 2012 Hell Run at Buckeye Lake in Ohio to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary. Our in-laws even came out to watch the event and they grabbed some great pictures. We were starved after the event and decided to head back towards our house. I saw on Find Me Gluten Free that Red Robin had gluten free menu and after some internet searching found that they even have a gluten free bun!

This trip was not healthy by any means but I figured we just did this 5k right with obstacles so I decided to indulge in a gluten free cheeseburger. After all, I have to try it for all of you right?

This was a GREAT cheeseburger. Not only did they give me the gluten free bun but they cooked the french fries completely separate so they wouldn’t be contaminated with the other fried gluteny stuff. This was so exciting! I don’t think I’ve had french fries in months. The bun was fluffy and big, the burger was juicy and it hit the spot perfect. My husband even got a gluten free bun and shared my fries, which he enjoyed as well!

Best part is not feeling sick or bloated after my meal. 2 meals in a row – out in public – without getting sick! WooHoo

Highly recommended! They were very sensitive to my celiac disease and gluten free needs.

*Although I do smell like a stinky, greasy, oniony burger – even after showing and playing in the mud*

Red Robin Gluten Free Burger
Red Robin Gluten Free Burger