Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lessons Learned about Gluten Free Products

You can pretty much find almost anything you eat in a GLUTEN FREE version.

Let me caution you - Not all Gluten Free products are made the same and NOT EVERYTHING can be made successfully to be gluten free.

Here is what I learned.

  • Tate's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip cookies = good
  • Refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough I bought on day 1 = good
  • Schar's GF Ciabatta rolls - surprisingly good
  • Udi's GF White bread - perfect for PB and J and Grilled Cheese
  • Barilla Gluten Free pasta - surprisingly good in a soup - although they disintegrated which I should have anticipated - but they made my pasta fagioli very satisfying nonetheless.
  • Schar's Regular rolls = DISGUSTING - this is what I thought Gluten free products would taste like and luckily for me, I had experienced the good tasting stuff first, cause if I had to base my gluten free opinion on these rolls, I would never have made it as far as I have so easily!
  • Kind GF bars - are growing on me. I was never really a "bar" person but given my limited options it's almost become like a treat to me.
  • Amaranth - although it looks like bird food - it's very dense in the good stuff so I figured I'd try it. I have only mixed it with my GF oatmeal and quinoa breakfast bowls so far but I will say it's not awful. It's a bit crunch (I wonder if I cooked it entirely right) but it adds a bit of texture and I didn't want to spit it out when I tried it, so I'll call it a win.

Yet to try but in my house are Schar's Vanilla AND lemon wafers.

I have been very careful to not have any gluten and I have to say I feel good. I think I am sleeping better. I wake up more energized - my energy stays more consistent throughout the day and alot of my thyroid freak out symptoms are going away.

Best of all - I have WAY more patience for the kids - which was my number 1 for attempting this crazy thing anyway. Way less anxiety - no more ringing ears and my brain seems less cloudy - so as of right now I'm calling this a win.

Even though I had to pass on amazing Empanadas and Oreo cookie ice cream cake AND tea from the kids lemonade stand because it had caramel color in it. It's worth it - cause it's working.  :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gluten Detox

Day 6. I'm alive! 

Giving up gluten hasn't been as hard for me as I was anticipating. Granted this morning, I was super stressed out and I really wanted was an Everything Bagel with butter on it - but that craving passed quickly and it wasn't earth shattering.

I have eaten plenty of good foods the past 5 days and do not feel hungry or like I'm "missing out". I figured I would have caved because I was going to be so miserable, blah blah blah but to be honest - the thought hasn't crossed my mind at all.

So here is what I can still have that makes me HAPPY! 

COFFEE!!!!!!!!!! OK - it's a weird thing, I don't think I am actually addicted to caffeine anymore because I'm lucky if I actually finish a full cup a day - however, the ritual of having a cup of coffee in the morning is soothing to me - so I am happy that that can continue. 

I only use half an half - if you use flavored creamers - get out your phone and google it because the flavorings might have gluten in them and you might have to switch to a different creamer - luck for me - that was not a problem. 

I also get to have oatmeal. (Certified gluten free oatmeal that is) This morning it has Craisins, walnuts and maple syrup with a little bit of milk and it's REALLY good! I make a batch at the beginning of the week and store it in the fridge and have oatmeal ready to be heated for a few days.

Steak Kebobs and Zucchini - totally satisfying dinner last night and totally gluten free without having to make any swaps. I used salt, pepper and garlic - which are all gluten free - if you use pre made spice mixes, you might have swap it for a home made version without the gluten.

We always have chocolate in the house, and luckily, plain chocolate is almost always gluten free. I can't have any of the fun cones or sprinkles or lots of toppings, but I still call this a win!

BAKED GOODS - AS long as they are home made with gluten free flours and substitutes OR made from bakeries that specialize in Gluten Free - but still -  A TOTAL WIN! This will force me to control what is in our baked goods and will also mean we will eat A LOT LESS of them;)

We already tried pre-packaged Gluten free break and bake cookies and I'm going to be honest - you wouldn't have known they were "different"  (except for the price tag of course)

PIZZA - I already bought a GF crust mix. Yes, I will have to mix it and let it rise and it will be "hard" compared to the pre-made ready to go chemical filled stuff that you just take out of the fridge but it will be pizza and it will be in my belly and that makes me happy. Some places offer GF pizza too so you do have the option to eat out as well:)

Ciabatta Bread!!!!  OK- I found this at my grocery store - but I was kind of freaked out by the fact that it has a shelf life of MONTHS in it's current form. (not frozen)
But - it's freaking ciabatta and although it probably won't be AS good as what I normally eat with olive oil, tomatoes and mozarella I will TAKE IT HAPPILY once I have that first craving.

SO - in a nutshell - Gluten free really is not that bad as long as you make sure you are eating REAL FOOD and not just the pre-packaged GF stuff. Although, rest assured, I bought about 4 different kinds of cookies and crackers to try so that if I felt like I wanted something sweet or whatever - I'd have the options there that were safe for this detox.

Now - here's the bad part - pimples. Apparently my body is detoxing in the form of huge, adolescent pimples - you know, the ones that freaking HURT! Yeah - so there's that. But other than that, that is the ONLY negative to this whole detox thing. 

I don't know if it's a mental thing or what - but I will say that I am not as tired in the afternoons and I do feel like I have way more patience with my littles than I did before. (which was one of my HUGE motivating factors for this whole thing) I am not as overwhelmed, and my ears haven't rung for days. 

I'm going to keep tracking this to see if it continues and to see if any other positive things come from it. 

My skin is still REALLY dry as is my hair. But it's only been a few days so I'm eager to see what I feel like in another week! 

It feels kind of like a huge success just to know that I have been able to stay on top of this already for 6 days. Lame I know, but I'm telling you, I have no willpower - I have been known to switch the team I'm rooting for in the middle of the game because I just have no ability to commit. So for me - 6 days of having to do this alone all while keeping my family happy with their regular diet - is an accomplishment. So yay me:)

Monday, July 21, 2014

How to Start Gluten Free

So - here it is - My first 4 days of trial and error and trying to figure out how to be "Gluten Free".

  • Lesson number 1- I still don't know what gluten really is, I mean I kinda get it- but I do know this - that bastard is in EVERYTHING.
    •  I'm not exaggerating people - it's not just flour in your bread. It comes in all shapes and sizes and hidden forms and hidden places .
  • My first 2 days I went to all the grocery stores around me and checked out their specialty sections to see what was available - talk about overwhelming - but I think it was a good exercise to prepare me for food prep moving on.
  • I bought a few staples to get me started
    • New Cutting boards
    • New cooking utensils 
    • I threw out my wooden cooking spoons to avoid contamination just in case
    • Udi's Gluten Free White Bread (surprisingly I found this to be delicious) and had both a  PB & J sandwich (made with my personal peanut butter jar - it has MOMMY written all over it) AND a grilled cheese the next day
    • Tate's Glute Free Chocolate Chip cookies (note, not all Tates cookies are GF. I grabbed the double chocolate ones assuming they were GF and had to take them back for the Chocolate chip ones) These were also very good albeit - EXPENSIVE
    • Fruits and Vegetables - if you can grow it, it's gluten free so I even broke down and got celery to have with peanut butter as snacks
    • Gluten free crackers (and cheddar cheese for protein-ish) snacks
    • Pamela's GF Flour (thank you dear Anastasia for the reccomendation)
    • Kind Bars - The Dark Chocolate Chunk with Quinoa are my current go to
    • Almonds, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, raising and Ghirardlli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate to make my own trail mix (it took about 5 minutes this morning to confirm that this chocolate was in fact, Gluten Free)
    • Gluten Free Pancake Mix
    • Various types of gluten free rice (quinoa, rice based)

I survived a day at the beach with my nut/raisin mix, apples, and PB&J on gluten free bread. On the way home, my family had McDonalds and I just drank my water.(grumble) For dinner that night, we had tacos made with Gluten Free Seasoning mix and corn tortillas that were deemed Gluten Free after looking it up during my trip to the grocery store. All in all, it was a fine day.

Day 2 was a little harder because I was unusually hungry - so I went to the store and did more research and stocked up on MORE fruits and veggies.
  • Here are things I found Gluten in over the weekend that surprised me
    • Gatorade
    • Oatmeal (unless it's certified Gluten Free)
    • Oikos cucumber and dill dip
    • Onion dip
    • Some corn chips
    • Flavorings - like all flavorings (more on that later)
    • Anything that has Caramel coloring (adios Starbucks)
    • Spice mixes
    • Drink mixes (goodbye NesQuik)
    • Medicines & vitamins
    • Some flavored Ice Creams
    • Some flavored rice cakes
    • Some Microwave Popcorn
    • Things that say "What Free"
All in all, it hasn't been that bad to be honest. Yes, I have to cook more and prep more but I should be doing that anyway. My life for the next few weeks will be label reading and internet research and I will probably avoid eating out as there is no way to guarantee I won't get cross contamination (and during the first 2 months I want to make sure I can really test the Gluten Free/Thyroid connection completely so don't want to risk it) The bummer is that seriously, before I put anything in my mouth - I have to stop and google to see if it's gluten free (regular M&M's are) 

I now have to think about every single thing I eat. I was most surprised when I wanted to grab some pre-made Guacamole and pre-made veggie dips and realized I had to research some of the hard to pronounce ingredients. Boo to the fact that Gluten finds it's way into everything. I mean, Gatorade and Nesquik? REALLY?? Veggie dips made with yogurt? Sigh - it'll be plain carrots for me until I can find a way to make safe onion dip.

It's ok - it's forcing me to be in control and I am kind of excited at the prospect of eliminating all this crap from my body. I mean, the fact that there is potentially some sort of wheat in drinks and dips makes it hit home for me how UN-foody the food we eat really is.

I wish you luck is you are starting this adventure too and hope that some of my lessons will help you get started as I find it incredibly overwhelming at first. Lucky for me I have a FB family that's helping me along! Anyone have favorite snacks they'd like to add to my list - comment below of FB me:)

Also - I highly suggest you DON'T take your kids with you to the grocery store when you are trying to figure this all out at first. Although adorable - it was tough to read labels with them asking me every 5 seconds if everything they could see had gluten in it.  It was funny however to see how when things they love to eat came up in conversation - they clarified that they still can, in fact, eat gluten - therefore Oreo's and goldfish are not off limits for them. It's sweet! And so far they are pretty supportive because I'm not forcing them into it too.


Friday, July 18, 2014

I'm going Gluten Free

UGH! Those are words I thought would NEVER come out of my mouth. I have been "trying" to give up meat for years - and all it takes is someone mentioning a cheeseburger and I forget all about how much the thought of eating animals disgust me and I chow down happily. #willpowerfail

But, the last year has been hard on me. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis almost 3 years ago and after a year of feeling like absolute crap all the time- I felt great for about 6 months once my medicine started to "kick in". Most doctors will tell you that if you have a thyroid problem - it's no big deal and all you have to do is take a pill for the rest of your life and you will be fine. Yay for those people. That is not the case for me. I have a full blown, miserable, multiple side effects autoimmune reaction to my Hashimotos and my body is basically attacking itself all the time. It's not pleasant and it's invisible - which makes it tricky.

You see, I don't "look" sick. You can't run tests and see what's wrong. I just feel different things all the time, hives, dry skin (I'm talkin' like Sahara desert skin that no amount of expensive face lotion tames), acne, stomach issues, weight gain and weight loss, random gnarly hives, depression, ridiculous mood swings (my poor husband), inability to think straight, confusion, anxiety, insomnia, night sweats, exhaustion no matter how much you slept. did I mention the mood swings and general just brain fog.

This disease is no joke. I had a good doctor (lucky me) who I always used to joke might die before I saw him next (he was super duper old) - well, thankfully he hasn't died - but he did retire with NO warning to me. The new doctor that took over his patients is a moron. The office he worked at is a disaster - so I thought - that's fine - I'll just find a new doctor.

This is the task of a lifetime. Doctors who know all about thyroids are few and far between. Most of them won't listen to you - or assume you are making up your symptoms - (how do you make up 6 straight weeks of visible hives??? )

To make a long story short - during one of my major thyroid freakouts (these are those fun days that group together where my body just does everything in it's power to defeat me - migraines, confusion, emotions all over the place, irritability, exhaustion, anxiety, insomnia, no appetite) I tried to find a new doctor. I ended up in tears in the office of the first one. (I had forgotten my insurance card because my brain wasn't working and they were very rude to me and refused to see me - I literally sat in my car and cried like I was 16 and my boyfriend has just broken up with me) The next one - the lady clearly had no idea what she was talking about as she asked the same questions 5 times and wasn't listening to me at all. She did take blood though and at my follow up visit she basically told me that I will eventually get thyroid cancer, but it's no big deal, but maybe I won't get it so nevermind and my medicine doesn't need to be adjusted but then again, maybe we should try taking less and that I should go see a therapist because there was nothing wrong with my bloodwork. All in about a minutes time. After that, I tried to get my prescription filled from her and she forgot who I was and how much I should be taking and it took 3 weeks for me to FINALLY get the prescription filled.

This brings me to today. I still don't feel great. I know that this is not how I'm meant to feel. I will not accept that this normal is my new normal. So - after doing initial research and  finding research that backs up the initial research and joining support groups on FB -  I have decided to suck it up and go Gluten Free. Apparently Gluten is very similar to what makes up your thyroid - so when you have the "bad" kind of Hashimotos - Gluten can make your body go insane. At this point, I decided it was at least SOMETHING that could help. Something I could do on my own and something that lots of others said have helped them immensely with all of my other autoimmune symptoms and flare ups.

So - today was day 1. Gluten Free. Here's the kicker - you can't just kind of go Gluten free - the way some "vegetarians still" eat chicken - you have to eliminate it completely so that your system doesn't get contaminated. Because it's not an immediate stomach churning, vomiting reaction - cross contamination for me would be bad. I have to get rid of this shit completely.

That means, new cutting boards, and cooking utensils for me. That means I have to watch my beauty products to see which have Gluten. (isn't it weird that gluten is in beauty products) Thanks to my wonderful FB family - I already have some amazing products in my pantry to help me deal with feeling left out or unable to snack. I have new flour, snacks, bread, about 3 pounds of nuts and 2 pounds of fresh fruit and veggies. So far, so good. It wasn't so bad. I ate all day - and didn't feel like I was really missing out.

The hard part will be contamination. Making sure I don't lick my fingers after putting my kids food on their plates. No more eating out for convenience because I run the risk of getting cross contamination at most restaurants.

Goodbye regular bread, crackers, bagels, salty snack foods, breadcrumbs, cookies, cakes, regular apple pies, oats, cous cous, flour tortillas and just about every other convenience - bad for you food out there.

Hello nuts and veggies and fruits and proteins and KIND bars and Tates gluten free cookies, and Nuthins crackers and gluten free tortilla chips, and new flours and quinoa, and seeds and gluten free pancake mix so we can still have breakfast on Sundays as a family. (good thing I like this stuff anyway and it's REAL food anyway- so super bonus)

This will be a journey. I will blog about it sporadically and let you know how I'm doing. I will be learning a lot and hope to share some of that here because I find it overwhelming just starting from scratch trying to figure out what has gluten - cause the answer is  just about everything.

Goodbye Gluten - I'm not sure if I will miss you. I'll let you know in about 45 days when I've given my body enough time to recover from the damage you might be doing to it - from what I'm reading - once that day comes when I will wake up and just feel RIGHT again - I will never look back and miss the gluten that made me feel so sick. Here's hoping that day comes sooner than later cause seriously - my willpower sucks.

Wish me luck!

P.s. I promise to try hard not to be annoying about it and will supply my own food when we are together - but please understand that this is not a joke to me. I really do need to cut it out completely - so if you get sick of me saying I can't eat that - just think about the fact that I can't eat cheesy bread, apple pie, regular cookies, bread, brownies, McDonalds French Fries, girl scout cookies and more. This is not something I am going into lightly:)