Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

What a week! I spoke during the online Food Allergy Wellness Summit on a topic close to my heart: Living with food restrictions in college. As a nonfiction writer, I love to research and I read everything available to prepare for this interview. I have enough material to write a book! Well, at least a few blog posts.

I’d like to thank the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Food Allergy Research and Education for providing PDFs of their college-related handouts. Also, my appreciation to Well Amy, Surf Sweets, and Carrie S. Forbes, author of The Everything Gluten Free College Cookbook, for generously donating giveaways for those who signed up to follow this blog. (A little bribery never hurts. Wink, wink.)  Lastly, kudos to Crystal Sabalaske of Cluttershrink for organizing this valuable summit to help families with food allergies and for including me with such an impressive list of speakers.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Last night I grabbed a glass of wine and a Daiya pizza–by the way, the crust has been greatly improved!–and listened to NFCA’s webinar on Gluten-Free Labeling with Tricia Thompson, RD. She’s the dietitian behind Gluten Free Watchdog, which if you aren’t following you should be! I learned so much about the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rules and I’m going back today to re-listen. It’s a lot to digest (pun intended)!

Good News: NFCA will be providing the webinar on their website. so you can listen, too. Check here later today.

On a sad note, this week I also learned a nonprofit task force I’ve co-chaired with a good friend would be ending. For 12 years my friend and I provided support to high-risk pregnant mothers on bed rest in local hospitals. We’d both been on bed rest during our pregnancies, and I delivered a baby 12 weeks early. We were the substitute families for these women whose families weren’t always available (we live in a military community). It’s hard to have the door close on something we believed in so much.

But as the saying goes–when one door closes, another opens. I truly believe helping others with celiac disease, food allergies and EoE is my new calling. This blog is just the start. If you have ideas for how I can do more to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Okay, enough musings–on to a few morsels!

As I’ve mentioned more than a few times here, I react to soy worse than any of my other allergens. So when I saw Soy Allergy Survivor’s helpful one-page soy list I immediately printed it. Because I have so many allergies including corn and dairy which can hide in many, many foods, I always appreciate guides like this one.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Speaking of hidden allergens and labeling, which seems to be a theme this week, a new FDA consumer report, Finding Food Allergens Where They Shouldn’t Be, says the FDA is working to reduce undeclared allergens on labels by:  researching the causes of these errors; working with industry on best practices; and developing new ways to test for the presence of allergens. From September 2009 to September 2012, about one-third of foods reported to FDA as serious health risks involved undisclosed allergens. This is frightening, to say the least. You can help the FDA by reporting  food-allergic reactions to the FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your district. 

I’ll end with a little gossip. Who doesn’t like gossip? A little bird told me that the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference would be held in a different state than Nevada next year. Turns out it’s true! Pop on over to their Facebook page to learn more. If you aren’t familiar with FABlogCon, it’s a wonderful conference and opportunity to connect with the food allergy community and learn from experts. It’s for everyone–not just bloggers.  I, for one, am pretty excited about a new venue in a new state.  Come to think of it Colorado would be an excellent choice . . . hint, hint.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14 first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Cookies from Goldilocks Goodies

An Allergic Foodie Finds a “Just Right” Cookie

It’s not often an allergic foodie gets to eat a treat. Not often at all.

If I’m eating out, a restaurant may offer me sorbet–please no mango or pineapple or I’ll break out in hives–or a bowl of berries. A dessert cup of berries costs more than a pint at the store, so I usually smile sweetly and say, “I’m too full for dessert.”

I am never too full for dessert.

So imagine my happiness when these allergy-friendly cookies arrived on my doorstep!

A Sweet Treat for an Allergic Foodie

They arrived two weeks before my birthday, so I decided to save them for a birthday treat.

This was hard. Really, really hard.

But here’s the thing. Not only do I have celiac disease and allergies to dairy, soy, and corn, I also cannot eat vanilla, nutmeg and guar gum. Oh and yeast seems to be a problem lately. (Actually, yeast has been a problem for a long time, but I have a tiny bit of a problem with denial.)  All these allergens are common in gluten-free and “allergy-friendly” processed baked goods.

For an allergic foodie, the words “No Top 8” does not mean the cookies are “Allergy Friendly.”

Goldilocks Goodies Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip cookies have FIVE ingredients. FIVE!  I didn’t have to scan the package for words like “maltodextrin” or “food starch.”  (Do note, however, if you have a peanut allergy, these aren’t for you.)

So I thought, how can a cookie stay together and taste good with just five ingredients?

I ate one. Okay I ate them all–it was my birthday. OMG, these are so gooooood.  I’m a Vermont girl, so I love the maple syrup flavor. The Himalayan sea salt gives the cookies a grown-up taste. Of course, I don’t know any kids who wouldn’t like them, too.

Lately, my husband has been into eating chocolate bars with almonds and sea salt while I drool, so I am really thrilled to now have something I can moan over and not give him a bite (we have issues; see my last post).

Besides having awesome cookies and other baked goods like Whoopie Pies, Goldilocks Goodies is a really cool small company. Emily Robins, the chief baker and founder, comes from a long line of bakers including her grandmother who singlehandedly rolled out nine pie crusts during harvest season to bake pies for the farm hands. Wow.

A Sweet Treat

Founder and Chief Chef of Goldilocks Goodies Emily Robins (right) with her mother

Emily went gluten free six years ago to help with the symptoms associated with Lyme Disease (celiac disease also runs in the family).  While going gluten free helped her feel better, she couldn’t find a cookie that wasn’t “grainy, too processed, and full of artificial ingredients.”  Like Goldilocks, Emily searched and searched for a cookie that was “just right.” Emily and I have a lot in common.

Discouraged, Emily began baking her own gluten-free cookies. She says, “My passion for baking was started because of my love of eating.”  Did I mention Emily and I have a lot in common?

As an allergic foodie, I believe it’s important for those of us with food restrictions to support the small companies like this one who are dedicated to making food we can eat safely. Without them, there’d be no cookies for an allergic foodie, and that would be sad. Really, really sad.

You can read all about Goldilocks Goodies here. The business is in Lancaster County,  PA but baked goods–did I mention they have WHOOPIE PIES?–can also be found in Virginia, Maryland and the DC area.  Some baked goods can be ordered online, too.

An Allergic Foodie Finds a “Just Right” Cookie originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Brain Fog (or Sometimes I Just Crack Myself Up)

Oh my gosh, sometimes I wonder what in the world is wrong with me. I drive all the way to the north side of town before remembering the store I am going to is on the south side of town. And I’ve been going to the same store for 20 years!

Sometimes I can’t remember what year it is! I’m not joking. I once had to google to see if it was 2013 or 2011.

A few weeks ago I panicked because I thought I missed my good friend’s birthday. It’s February and her birthday is in October.

Brain Fog and Celiac Disease/Food Allergies

I’ve never had a good memory. The fact my husband has a photographic memory is both a blessing and a pain in the butt. Who wants to be reminded of the year, day, and time I slipped into the pool, or rode my bike off the path and into the bushes.  (I’m also a bit clumsy.)

But since developing celiac disease and food allergies, my brain has turned to mush.  Dr. Lawrence Wilson from The Center for Development gives a more educated definition of brain fog :

Brain fog may be described as feelings of mental confusion or lack of mental clarity. It is called brain fog because it can feel like a cloud that reduces your ability to think clearly.  It can cause a person to become forgetful, detached and often discouraged and depressed.  It usually is present most of the time, meaning it does not come and go, although it may become better or worse depending on what a person eats, or one’s state of rest and hydration.

Ah ha! I’ve often thought that since I’ve gotten my celiac and allergies sort of under control, I should be thinking clearer and remembering better. This hasn’t happened. What I do notice is some days are worse than others. Or if you’re the half-full type, some days are better than others.

This week my brain’s been bad. Let’s just say I haven’t been entirely “with it.”  And guess what? My gut has been acting up too!  Because of stupid decisions, such as not identifying all the ingredients in foods I ate out, I’ve been spending a good portion of the day in the bathroom and the other portion on the couch. I have no doubt being “gluten-ed” and probably “soy-ed” has scrambled my brains.

Let me give you an example or two.

Yesterday I had a meeting in an office in downtown Colorado Springs. After I pulled into the parking garage and walked into the building, I suddenly realized I was in the wrong building and heading to the wrong office.  Fortunately, when I googled the directions, I discovered the right office was 23 feet away. I laughed. Sometimes I just crack myself up.

But there’s more. After lunch, I went back to the parking garage. I had absolutely no idea where I’d park my car. Was it on the first floor of the garage, or the second? Was it in the north tower, or the south tower? As I was walking around, discreetly clicking my car door opener, two men asked if I was looking for something.

“My car.” I laughed. They looked at my pitifully. Then they attempted to help, but to no avail.

I had to go back to the ticket booth and retrace my steps while continually pushing the panic button.  Eventually my car alarm sounded. I ignored the glares from the ticket booth lady.

Okay, I know you’re dying for a third example, so here it is.

That same evening I attended a brain-empowering lecture by Katherine Boo at Colorado College. Her book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity was recognized in 2012 as a top-ten book by The New York Times Book Review. (No, I didn’t just recite that from memory; it’s on the book cover.) I bet Katherine Boo has never experienced brain fog a day in her life.

After Boo’s inspiring talk, my friend and I decided to get a gluten-free meal at Croquette’s Bistro. When we got there, I remembered the restaurant wasn’t supposed to open for a few weeks.

So we went across the street to Poor Richard’s, which has a great menu of salads and soups. But my eyes locked onto the words scrawled on the chalkboard: “Gluten-free pizza.”

I ordered a slice, adding roasted red peppers and mushrooms which I knew wouldn’t have soy, gluten or dairy. The pizza came out and I lifted it to my lips and froze. I’d forgotten to say no cheese! I’d been watching all the people around me eating cheese pizza and it still hadn’t occurred to me that I’d forgotten to order correctly.

I’ve been ordering gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free meals for the past five years! How did I forget?

“Well, I guess I’ll just bring it home to Daniel,” I said to my friend who was enjoying her soup. “He’ll have to pick the mushrooms off since he doesn’t like them.”

When I handed the slice to my son later, he raised his eyebrows. My son has a dairy allergy.

Brain Fog (or Sometimes I Just Crack Myself Up) originally appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.

How My Leaky Gut Changed My Life

Before the holidays, my family was in a funk. My oldest son, who graduated from college last May, still hadn’t found a real job. My youngest son, in college, wasn’t getting any responses to dozens of internship applications he sent out. My husband and I were spending our holiday family time fighting with the City of Colorado Springs over a cell tower being erected in the center of our mountain view.

We were all out of sorts.

Then, as the new year approached, I started saying “2014 is going to be a good year.”  I said it over and over again.

And you know what happened?  Oldest got a job on December 31st, in Denver where he wanted to  be.  A week later, youngest got an internship with a big concert promoter in Nashville. Even the cell phone tower has been stopped for now.

The power of positive thinking. I’m no Pollyanna, but I do believe attitude makes a difference.

How My Leaky Gut Changed My Life

Occasionally I’ll get an email from a reader thanking me for my positive take on food allergies and celiac disease. This means a lot to me. You see my upbeat outlook didn’t come overnight. Before diagnoses, I was in a lot of physical pain. Looking back now, I realize I was also depressed, and with each medical procedure and doctor’s visit, my attitude got worse. I don’t think you would have liked me much back then.

The day I was told I had multiple food allergies along with celiac disease was the happiest day I’d had in a few years. How weird does that sound? But it’s true. I finally knew what was wrong with me. If I changed my diet, I would feel like my old self.

Of course, when I realized how many foods contain dairy, soy and gluten, a lot of tears were shed, even a tantrum or two. I’m not going to pretend it was easy. But today, I feel like my leaky gut changed my life for the better.  Here are a few reasons why:

• When my youngest started getting sick from gluten and my oldest started reacting severely to dairy, I knew exactly how to help them.

• I’m a good cook. Not Cybele Pascal caliber, but I can find my way around a kitchen now. No more meals from boxes (except for Amy’s dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free mac and cheese!).

• I avoid fast-food like it’s the flu. Oh how I wish I could take back those Taco Bell meals between hockey practices. What was I thinking?

• I buy mostly organic and shop the outside aisles of grocery stores (with an occasional trip down the gluten-free aisle).

• If it weren’t for food allergies and celiac disease, I’d never had tasted quinoa, or thickened a sauce with rice flour, or discovered coconut yogurt, or drank almond milk, or splurged on 25-year-old balsamic, or made noodles out of zucchini.

• I found my voice. When my kids were little, I authored two parenting/healthcare books, but I’d been struggling for years to find another topic to write about. Enter food allergies and celiac disease and I can’t stop writing.

• Finally, I met you. Before blogging, I thought I was the only person in the universe who developed food allergies as an adult. Boy was I wrong. Because of you, my dear readers, I never feel alone. I hope you feel the same.

How have food allergies or celiac disease positively impacted your life?

Should Allergies and Intolerances be linked together?

Angry Dude Fires Back About Food Allergy/Intolerance Term

When I recently posted about what restaurants did wrong in 2013, folks in the allergy/celiac community flooded my inbox with their own horror stories.

Did I hear from anyone in the food industry? Nope. Not a peep.

However, Dine Aware, a company that trains and certifies restaurants in understanding and addressing special dietary needs, sent me their new video. Thrilled to see a company making a difference for those of us with food allergies, intolerances, celiac disease and other eating issues, I tweeted this last Saturday evening:

Within minutes I got an unexpected response from an angry dude in the UK.

Tell me that FAI doesn’t stand for Food Allergy Intolerance . . . not  to get on my high horse but shit like that is the reason people don’t take allergies seriously.

Huh? It took me a while to figure out what Angry Dude was so worked up about. (Words of wisdom: Do not debate on Twitter when you are cooking dinner and late for a hockey game.)

Apparently, Angry Dude doesn’t like Dine Aware’s use of the term FAI.

Referring to allergies and intolerances as one and the same makes me angry, which I assume fai stands 4 . . . I think making up dodgy acronyms for anything just sounds a bit twee/lame :-/  . . . what’s going to get a sterner message across to the food/service industry?   . . . “You can kill me” or “you might make me feel rough for 3 or 4 days”?

Yikes! According to Angry Dude, we have to tell restaurants we will die to get them to leave off the cheese or the breadcrumbs or the __________ (fill in your allergy or intolerance here).

Though Angry Dude said he has food intolerances himself, I got the impression he didn’t think intolerances were on an even playing field as life-threatening allergies. I’ve run into people like him before. And not to get on my high horse, but . . . even though my allergies and my kids’ intolerances won’t kill us, we deserve to eat in restaurants and in campus cafeterias without getting sick! My oldest son’s intolerance to dairy won’t kill him, but a reaction will make him horribly sick and he’ll probably miss a day of work. Eating a smidgen of soy will cause my esophagus to painfully constrict, making me feel like I’m choking. A couple croutons in a salad won’t kill my youngest son or me, but gluten will wreak havoc on our bodies and can cause serious consequences, possibly death, in the longterm.

I told Angry Dude as much.

He held his ground. The term FAI watered down the message to restaurants and would be sneered at, he claimed.

Giving myself a few days to calm down, I re-watched the video this morning. Three woman–a young professional whose social life is impacted because she can’t eat out, one who lost a daughter to anaphylaxis, another who feels anxious to eat in restaurants–speak eloquently and clearly. Those of us with dietary restrictions worry when we eat out; a Dine Aware “seal of approval” would give us the confidence to frequent restaurants. Good for the food industry, good for the consumer.

The acronym FAI doesn’t make the message less effective.  I hold my ground, Angry Dude.

Angry Dude Fires Back About Food Allergy/Intolerance Term originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

An Allergic Foodie: What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

An Allergic Foodie’s Top-Ten List

Whittling down my worst restaurant experiences in 2013 wasn’t easy. This says a lot about the restaurant industry not meeting the needs of those of us who require extra help ordering off a menu and some special food prep back in the kitchen.  Here’s hoping 2014 will bring more attentiveness from wait staff, restaurant owners and managers, and chefs!

Drumroll, please . . . 

10.  Halfway through eating our gluten-free meals, the waiter says to my son and me, “The stewed peaches were cooked with flour—that’s why we served them on the side.”   —Urban Grub, Nashville, TN

9.  After clearly explaining my allergies—no gluten, dairy, soy, corn—the waitress returns to the table and says, “Is it okay to cook in butter?” (To be fair, the chef did come to my table later to confirm my allergies.)  —Craftwood Inn, Manitou Springs, CO

8.  The “gluten-free” oysters are delivered with saltines on top. When I explain I cannot have any wheat touching any food due to extreme sensitivity, the waitress says, “We’ll just take them off then.” (The oysters came back from the kitchen way too fast so I didn’t eat them.) The Famous, Colorado Springs, CO

An Allergic Foodie: What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

 7.  I order a salad sans the cheese, croutons and candied walnuts and ask to substitute veggies for all the ingredients I can’t eat. I am charged extra for the veggies. –Every Panera Bread I’ve eaten in and most chain restaurants

6.  I order an Iced Coffee at McDonald’s. I explain I have allergies and therefore do not want cream or flavoring. The cashier charges me for an Iced Latte. I ask her to charge me for a regular coffee because that is what I get–a regular coffee with ice. The manager says they can’t do that. –-A McDonald’s somewhere on the highway between Kansas and Georgia

5.  After ordering a dairy-free sauce, I rave over the delicious gluten-free pasta and veggies. “It’s the cream that makes it taste good,” says the waiter.Eden Inn, Positano, Italy (This really happened in 2012, but it still haunts me!)

4.  The waitress, who says she has extensive allergies herself, arrives with my salad topped with cheese. I tell her the kitchen made a mistake and send it back. She leaves, turns back, and says, “Well, the dressing has cheese in it, too. Does that mean you don’t want the dressing?” Walter’s Bistro, Colorado Springs, CO

3.  Finding ordering difficult and not confident in the waiter’s understanding, I ask to speak to the chef. I am told the chef is too busy to leave the kitchen. Too many restaurants to list

Restaurants and Food Allergies

2.   During the last bite of my gluten-free and diary-free salad, I bite into a big chunk of blue cheese.  Seasons 52, Kansas City, MO

 1.  Watching a basketball game with my husband at a local sports bar, I’m excited when the bartender hands me a large gluten-free menu. I ask about the first item on the menu: Buffalo chicken wings. “Oh, you don’t want those,” she says. “They’re cooked with all the other fried foods.”  Then why are they on the gluten-free menu? “Some people just like to think they’re eating gluten-free.” Flatirons American Bar and Grill, Colorado Springs, CO

Related Posts from An Allergic Foodie

Working Together to Avoid an Allergic Reaction

Get Rid of Tipping? Those with Food Allergies Will Suffer

Food Allergies: Don’t Let Your Guard Down

What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013: An Allergic Foodie’s Top-Ten List originally appeared at www.adventruresofanallergicfoodie.com.

Got Food Allergies? New Infographic Helps Food Allergic Folks

This infographic describing symptoms, prevention and treatment of food allergies comes from Sticky Jewelry, makers of medical ID jewelry.There have been way too many heartbreaking deaths related to food allergies this past year. The more we share information about food allergies, the more people we can help.  Let’s spread the word in 2014.

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