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Gluten Free for the Holidays

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Gluten Free for the Holidays, and we conjugate our own verbs around here – Glutened

How is it almost Thanksgiving?!?  Really?!

I am the chief cook and bottle washer for Thanksgiving, so fortunately I have the POWER!!

(If you are approximately my age, you will get the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe reference.  If not, enjoy the kitteh at least.)

There is a metric ton of great information being shared out there in the gluten free world about staying safe this holiday season, and making some kick ass recipes while you’re at it.

So here’s a quick and dirty low down on some of the info.

There is definitely more out there that I am not hitting, so be sure to click the links at each of these resources for some more great stuff.

 

You’ll get them at Home for the Holidays, Gluten Free Style.  Be sure to check in over at gfe for the details!

That’s it for now!  Go forth and be healthy, happy, and as wise as you need to be, but cut loose from time to time.

Gluten Free Protein Powder Review: NeoCell Whey Isolate Collagen Sport

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I was very, very skeptical when I first read about this product.  After trying it, reading more, and reading some more, my skepticism is still there, but has been suspended a bit.  Quite a bit.

To explain, let’s talk about protein.

My go-to source for all information protein related is Lyle McDonald.  He has a great website, Body Recomposition, with tons of articles, and he also is the author of several books.  Of which I think I own all of them.  When it came time for me to do some research on the type of protein in NeoCell Whey Isolate Complex Collagen Sport (which I’m getting to) one of the first places I went was to my bookshelf, pulled off The Protein Book and started reading.

I didn’t find what I was looking for.  I had remembered learning in the past that collagen protein was used in a weight loss research study, and that collagen protein was essentially worthless when it came to sparing lean body mass during periods of caloric restriction.  I finally found it, kind of, in Lyle’s Rapid Fat Loss Handbook.

The last chance diet

In the book, Lyle touches on something that was called the Last Chance Diet, which was centered around a liquid collagen protein product only.  Yes, essentially a liquid diet.  This was not the best for health, as Lyle stated, providing “…essentially zero nutrition to the body.”  Collagen is considered an “incomplete” protein, meaning it does not contain all the amino acids, which are considered the building blocks (ie: raw material) with which to repair and build tissue.  It does not contain tryptophan.  However, there are many anecdotal reports of people using collagen supplementation who report improvement in joint pain and skin, hair, and nail condition.

Collagen and vitamin C

Collagen is actually the main component of the connective tissue in our body (ligaments, tendons, etc.) and makes up 25-35% of total body protein content.  You also need adequate Vitamin C in order to synthesize collagen properly.  Let’s remember, the Last Chance folks were getting no supplemental nutrition, and therefore were definitely not getting enough Vitamin C, nor any of the other nutrients necessary to sustain life.

OK, enough on collagen for the moment.  Let’s talk about whey, baby.

Whey protein is likely the most commonly used and favored in sports supplement products.  It is highly bioavailable with all essential amino acids, and in it’s isolate form also has little to no lactose.

In the last installment of his articles on protein quality, Lyle gives the below chart:

FoodProtein ContentDigestibilitySpeedQualityImportant AA*Micro-nutrientsFat ContentFatty Acids
BeefHighHighSlowHighN/AIron, Zinc, B12VariableN/A
ChickenHighHighSlowHighN/AIron, Zinc, B12VariableN/A
PorkHighHighSlowHighN/AN/AVariableN/A
FishHighHighSlowHighTaurine?B12VariableW-3 fish oils
Whole EggModerateHighSlowHighN/AIron, Zinc, B12
If you eat a lot
ModerateN/A
Egg WhiteHighMediumSlowModerateN/AN/ALowN/A
BeansModerateMediumSlow?ModerateN/AN/ALowN/A
Soy BeansModerateMediumSlow?ModerateN/APhytoestrogensModeratePolyunsaturated
NutsModerateMediumSlow?ModerateN/AN/AModeratePolyunsaturated
Whey powderHighHighFastHigh23-25% BCAACalciumLowN/A
Casein PowderHighHighSlowHigh20% BCAACalciumLowN/A
Soy IsolateHighHighFastHighBCAA/GlutaminePhytoestrogensLowN/A
Grains/FruitVery lowLowSlow?LowN/AN/ALowN/A

(reproduced from Bodyrecomposition.com, home of Lyle McDonald.)

 

As you can see, whey protein is pretty much the bees knees all around.  I touched on whey protein very briefly in Gluten and Dairy Free Protein Powder 101.  The interesting thing about whey protein isolate (WARNING!! SPECULATION, EDUCATED GUESSING, AND THEORECTICAL WANKING AHEAD!! This is my opinion only, and you should consult your doctor and registered dietitian about your own personal needs.)  is that the lactose has been removed, so theoretically those with lactose intolerance *should* be able to tolerate it, and there is no casein protein, so theoretically those with casein sensitivity *should* be able to tolerate it, so MAYBE dairy intolerant folks would be able to use a pure, high quality protein isolate.  I’m just sayin’.  Your mileage may vary, and we are all biochemical snowflakes.  Unique, that is.

Anyway.

Neocell whey protein

NeoCell Collagen Sport Whey Isolate ComplexNeocell Whey Protein Isolate Collagen Sport is a combination of hydrolyzed collagen  and whey isolate.

It also contains 1,000 mg of L-glutamine.  As I mentioned in my Supplements for the Gluten Free Athlete-Glutamine Edition article, glutamine can assist in healing the gut, which can then absorb nutrition better all the way around.

Jean at Neocell was very kind and sent me samples of the French Vanilla and Belgian Chocolate Powders to try.  Before I get to the taste review though, let’s talk a little more about the ingredients and why this sets this product apart from the collagen protein in the Last Chance group.

Neocell’s big selling point is that this is a “4 in1” product.  It contains whey protein isolate, hydrolyzed collagen peptides, L-glutamine and amino acids, and vitamins and minerals.

From Neocell’s website:

The 4 in 1 Breakdown:

1 – Refuel

Whey Protein Isolate is THE preferred and superior form of protein for athletes. It’s rich in essential and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), necessary especially after strenuous workouts. BCAAs also play a role in the body’s levels of glutathione, an important antioxidant in the immune system. NeoCell’s whey protein isolate is developed using selective ion-exchange technology, which selects the primary functional and nutritional proteins alpha- and beta- lactoglobulins and other protein fractions for a highly effective and bio-active protein.

2 – Recover

Athletes all too often do not supplement their connective tissues in tendons and ligaments until deterioration sets in, resulting in the typical aches and pains of exercise. Super Collagen® 1&3 undergoes an absorption-enhancing process that uses enzyme hydrolyzation. This process yields low molecular weight collagen peptides for maximum bioavailability. Super Collagen® 1&3 is particularly rich in the amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine, and supports recovery, strength, and flexibility of muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

3 – Regenerate

L-Glutamine & Exogenous Amino Acids – Strenuous activity burns through your body’s glutamine supplies, which can push the body to rip glutamine from your muscles if it isn’t coming from your diet. L-glutamine is the most abundant free-form amino acid in skeletal muscle and is crucial in the muscle recovery process. The special chemical structure of L-glutamine makes it the primary amino acid that drives nitrogen into muscle cells for muscle synthesis. Exogenous amino acids overall are important for increase of net muscle protein synthesis.

4 – Replenish

Each serving of Collagen Sport™ provides a good source of daily vitamins and minerals as well as the antioxidant power of Pomegranate extract. Increased activity results in higher oxidation in the body, requiring active individuals to counteract with high quality antioxidants. NeoCell’s pomegranate extract is standardized to 70% ellagic acid, an extraordinary antioxidant that fights cell-damaging free radicals generated during exercise.

Connective tissue and collagen

Jean also sent me some company based information which was an overview of the research on connective tissue and collagen.  I am attaching a copy of that PDF here, for any one who is interested.  Keep in mind this is compiled by The Collagen Research Institute, so they do have an interest in showing the positive results.  That doesn’t negate anything that is stated, I’m just sayin’.  Be aware.

Medline/Pubmed, extracts, and articles

I also did a little looking around on MEDLINE/Pubmed, and after getting frustrated reading articles for which I could only access the abstract and not the full text (reading the full text is important, because many times you can see that perhaps methods used were less than stellar, or the conclusion doesn’t match the actual findings, or the study was funded by a company/entity that has financial interest.  You’d be surprised, research is not near as black and white as it appears to be) I was rescued by Daniel Green (@dgrreen on Twitter) who was so nice and sent me the full text of a paper I was very interested in reading.  (Aside-Daniel is a very smart cookie at Cornell whose advisor is Brian Wansink, the author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, which you really should read if you haven’t already.  Outstanding book.)

The paper that I was so jazzed to read was Effects of whey and fortified collagen hydrosalate protein supplements on nitrogen balance and body composition in older women.  You don’t have to tell me how exciting my life is, I know.

Protein requirements

One very important point I want to make from this paper first though, is that it is suggested that the current RDA of protein which is .8 grams/kg/day may be inadequate to meet the protein needs of older people.  As we grow older, maintaining muscle mass and bone health gets more difficult, so eat your protein!  Also, protein quality becomes less important if protein quantity and food quality is adequate.  For the average person, all this nit picking about the minutiae of protein is a mute point.  It’s even stated in this paper:

Because subjects in our study were provided about half of their dietary protein requirement using high-quality foods, it is possible that this combination (ie, a diet comprised of foods containing sufficient amounts of indispensible amino acids necessary to meet specific protein synthesis needs and a nitrogen-rich collagen supplement necessary to meet nonspecific nitrogen needs) was sufficient to maintain nitrogen balance despite the low PDCAAS of the supplement.

Conflict of interests?

The study was fairly well constructed, using the same small number of subjects (11 women) for both interventions.  They used the Bod Pod to measure body composition, which isn’t fantastic, but not horrible either.  Nitrogen balance is discussed, but it’s not clear if nitrogen balance has a direct relationship to lean tissue, as far as I understand.  ANYWAY-I promise there is a point here-their conclusion was that supplementing with a collagen based supplement was as effective as a whey supplement for maintaining lean body mass.  This is all good stuff.  Now, a caveat.  The study was funded by grant from Medical Nutrition, USA.  They happen to manufacture the collagen based supplement.  I’m just sayin’.

By now, I’m sure you’ve had enough of my lesson on protein.  I know I have.

So what about this Collagen Sport stuff?

There’s a lot of things to like about it.  I like that it is sweetened with xylitol (some people may not like this), obviously, that it is gluten free, and I really do like the idea of combining the protein sources.  I like the fact that the company has been so helpful in answering my questions and providing me with information.

Flavors, textures and colors

I tried the vanilla flavor first.  Whenever I review I protein powder, I use a shaker cup and mix with water only, as to get a true idea of flavor and texture.  I was a little surprised to see the vanilla (which smelled awesome when I opened the canister) turn a brown color after I shook it.  It mixed well and easily with no clumps.  I did NOT like the taste the first time I tried it.  I know that with hydrolyzed whey products, masking the bitter taste is a challenge, so I assume with the limited amount of additives and sweeteners in the NeoCell you are actually getting more of the true flavor of the protein.

I took Jean’s advice, and tried mixing it with less water and drinking it immediately after mixing the next time, and it tasted much better.  Also, I much prefer the chocolate flavor, but also will mix it with only a small amount of water (as directed on the canister, actually, of course I didn’t read the directions) and drink it immediately after mixing with very cold water.  Jean shared with me that she will often blend it with frozen bananas.

Given the potential benefits of the protein, I’m willing to have a less than dessert like flavor.  It’s not unpleasant, just “mild” to use Jean’s adjective.  I’ve grown accustomed to some over sweetened and over flavored protein powders, so it is just a question of readjusting expectations.  Like so much in life.  But I digress.   If you are still with me, thanks for reading this massive post!  This turned out to be a monster!

If you are new here and would like to read more information about living a healthy gluten free life, start with Gluten Free and Fit 101.  There are other poorly formatted but well written articles there 😉


References:

My new Kindle Gluten Free ebooks!

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I’ve finally consolidated my rambling a bit.

Well, a bit.  But it is pretty well consolidated.

Last year, I put together a system called “7 Quick Start Tips for Living a Healthy Gluten Free Fit Life.”  A mouthful, I know, but I wanted to really describe what it was all about.  It’s a ebook (PDF) and audio (mp3) collection of worksheets, quizzes, tips, tricks, ideas, and “not really recipes.” Feedback has been great, but I wanted to make it available to more people.  After I got my Kindle, I fell in love with it.  For real, if you don’t have one, consider it.  There’s a new even less expensive model coming out.  And Christmas is coming.

So, I reformatted things and split it up into 2 manuals, and just made the information (written only, no audios) available for the Kindle.


The 7 Quick Start Tips guide is full of just that-tips for you that are easy to implement and do immediately. It is a quick, easy read.

The Tips for Healthy Gluten Free Cooking guide includes, well, tips for eating and cooking well gluten free, and also “not really recipes” to learn methods of cooking that are quick, easy, and healthy.

If you’d like to show your support for Gluten Free Fitness and grab some great info at the same time, go on over to Amazon and grab your copy!

Oh, and the best part?  They’re only $3.99 each.

I really, really want to get this information to as many people as is electronically and humanly possible.  There are so many who I know feel overwhelmed when faced with a celiac or gluten intolerance diagnosis, and I want to help make it easier to swallow.  (HA!! Really bad pun.)

If you like the information, feel free to write a short review, I’d appreciate it.  If you don’t like it, feel free to shoot me an email: erin@glutenfreefitness.com.  I’m always open to constructive feedback.


Here are the links:

Meanwhile, for more free information make sure to check out Gluten Free and Fit 101 to get started.

A Tale of 3 Gluten Free Protein Bars: 22 Days Nutrition, Luna Protein, and Quest

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If you’ve been here at all, you know I’m a fan of real food, real, whole, naturally gluten free food. In fact, I think it’s the easiest way to eat a gluten free diet.

I also am a fan of making my own protein bars.   And there’s a plethora of naturally gluten free easy snacks you can eat.

But sometimes, you need or want a shelf stable, premade, small meal or snack.  That’s when a store bought protein bar can come in handy.

Gluten free protein bars

I’ve eaten a lot of protein bars in my time, both prior to learning I had celiac disease and after.  After celiac (AC) the challenge has  been to find a true gluten free protein bar.  There really were very few up until recently.  I’ve already reviewed several here, my favorites being VixiBars and ZingBars.  And now, we have 3 more contenders.  And my new hands down favorite.   (Full disclosure: The 22 Days and Luna bars were provided to me free of charge for review purposes.  As always, this in no way influenced my review.)

A general comment about protein/snack bars: if you are keeping one in your bag or car for “emergencies” remember that a chocolate/yogurt coated bar WILL MELT and make a damn mess!!  (Yes, this is experience talking 😉

First, 22 Days Nutrition Bars:
  • 22 Days bars are vegetarian/vegan, and the protein they use is is hemp and rice.  This is a bonus to the dairy sensitive, and obviously to vegans.
  • I like the idea of 22 Days, I like that they are gluten, HFCS, and soy free.
  • I like that I can read and understand the short ingredient list.
  • I did not like that the protein content was a bit low in my opinion, at 10-11 grams per bar.
  • I did not like that the texture was very dry, in my opinion.
  • Out of the 3 flavors I tried, the only one I remotely liked was the Daily Mocha Mantra.  Again, everyone’s tastebuds are different, so your mileage may vary.
22 Days Daily Mocha Mantra Nutrition Facts label

22 Days Daily Mocha Mantra Nutrition Facts label

Next, Luna Bars new line of gluten free Protein Bars:
  • As some of you may know, Luna Bars were NOT gluten free in the past.  Here is the information that is on Luna’s website:

    At the beginning of 2011 we started to transition all LUNA Protein flavors to be gluten free. To do this, Clif Bar & Company has looked at all aspects of making our bars. Our ingredient suppliers have confirmed that all ingredients are gluten free, so they contain no gluten from wheat, rye or barley. The location where we make our food is capable of making a gluten free food and we test our finished products to confirm that they are gluten free.  Our newest flavors, Mint Chocolate Chip and Chocolate, are all labeled gluten free.  As of March 2011, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cookie Dough, and Chocolate Cherry Almond transitioned to be gluten free, as well. You can tell if your LUNA Protein bar is gluten free by looking at the packaging.

  • Luna Bars use soy as their protein source.  For me, this is a downer.  I prefer to not use soy protein.  These bars also had the longest ingredient list of these 3 bar brands.
  • I tried 3 flavors.  I liked only one, the Chocolate Peanut Butter.  The others tasted very artificially flavored and had a funny aftertaste to me.  I expected to love the Cookie Dough and was really disappointed in that one.
  • Again, in my opinion these were skinny on protein at 12 grams.  This all depends on what you shoot for as your daily protein intake.  For me, as an active, weight training athlete, I generally shoot for at least 1 gram per pound of body weight.
Last, but certainly not least, and my new favorite: Quest Bars:

  • Quest now has 5 flavors in their line up.  I had tried the Peanut Butter and Vanilla Almond in the past, and they were good but not great.  They have just added 3 new flavors, and now they are great.  In fact, the Chocolate Brownie is on auto-ship to my house.  Not lying.  My husband and I both really enjoy them, and a bar is now my “dessert” on a regular basis.
  • According my taste buds, here’s my listing from most to least favorite (although I thought they were all good) Chocolate Brownie, Apple Pie, Peanut Butter, Mixed Berry, Vanilla Almond.  I did hear there is a Chocolate Peanut Butter coming soon…
  • Ingredient list for the Chocolate Brownie: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate), Isomalto-Oligosaccharide* (100% Natural Prebiotic Fiber), Almonds, Cocoa, Water, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Lo Han Guo, Sucralose.
  • Here’s the low down on the ingredients that may look unfamiliar:
    • Isomalto-Oligosaccharide: In order for Quest Bars to be usable as a complete meal, we wanted to ensure that they contained enough fiber to really matter. Almost every ounce of carbohydrate in our bars comes from fiber, which will keep your insulin levels low and your stomach satisfied. Fiber has been shown to do many things such as controlling hunger, improving digestive health and preventing certain diseases. IMO is a 100% natural fiber derived from plant sources that is very similar to the better known chicory root fiber. The two fiber sources are almost identical in taste, feel and texture but with one minor exception: IMO does not cause any intestinal upset whatsoever even for people with very sensitive stomachs. We use it to make sure that Quest bars can be complete meals for use whenever you want something convenient.
    • Lo Han Guo: A natural herb that’s been used as a sweetener in China for over 1,000 years. It only takes a TINY amount as it’s 300 times sweeter than sugar.
  • They do use some sucralose, which is the one thing I would change if I could.  I have heard that they are working on removing this as well.
  • Quest Bars all have 20 grams of protein.  That’s what I’m talking about.
There you go!  Have you tried any of these?  What is your favorite/least favorite brand/flavor?

PureFit Gluten and Dairy Free Nutrition Bars Review

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No Wheat, No Gluten, No Dairy

Such is the tagline for PureFit Nutrition Bars.  I was contacted by Robb Dorf, owner and creator of the Pure Fit line, to take a look at the bars and give them a taste.  Robb graciously provided samples of the bars for this review.

First, a bit about what is in, and not in, these bars.

PureFit definitely gets points for being aware of food sensitive consumers.  The bars are:

Kosher-certified and vegan-approved… do not contain dairy, wheat, or gluten, and will not melt in their packaging. PureFit works diligently to provide high-quality, award-winning nutrition bars without artificial ingredients, sugar alcohols or common allergens, including milk, wheat or gluten.

However, they have one big ingredient which many are sensitive to-and that is soy.

Ingredients

The ingredient list for the Berry Almond crunch Bar: Soy protein isolate, ground almonds, brown rice syrup, Energy Smart™ (fruit juice, natural grain dextrins), Energy Blend (fructose, natural extract of chicory, dextrose) soy crisp (soy protein isolate, rice flour, calcium carbonate), agave nectar, soynuts, soy flour, textured soy flour, natural raspberry flavored fruit [(sugar, raspberry juice, raspberry extract) cranberries], almonds, inulin, raspberries, natural flavors. Manufactured in a plant that ALSO processes milk, egg and peanuts.

Too much concentrated soy?

Not a horrific ingredient list, in fact, not bad at all.  However, I am concerned about the amount of concentrated soy products.  I personally am sensitive to concentrated soy.  (To complete this review I spared my stomach and simply took a couple small bites of each flavor, spreading the testing out over an extended period of time.)

However, I can tolerate naturally occurring soy (think edamame, and gluten free tamari) just fine.  The amount of actual soy ingested from those items is significantly less that what you would find in a soy milk or soy protein product.  This is definitely an area where your mileage may vary.

Concentrated soy is quite the controversial ingredient.  You can find many instances of soy lovers and soy haters.

As was indicated in the allergen statement, the bars are processed on shared equipment, but not with gluten containing items.

Let’s move on to the taste.

Robb sent me a sample kit, which is also available for purchase if you want to give the flavors a try.  The flavors are: Granola Crunch, Peanut Butter Crunch, Berry Almond Crunch, Chocolate Brownie, and Almond Crunch.  Believe it or not, the one I liked the least was Brownie Crunch.  Shocking, I know, as I am a confessed chocoholic.  All the flavors were a bit chalky in texture.  The Peanut Butter Crunch was the one I liked the most, and the Almond Crunch and Granola shared a very close second.  The Berry and Brownie just had too much of an artificial flavor for me to really get around.  They all required a hefty sip of water to chew and swallow.  They did have a nice crunch and chew texture.

Overall, I think these are a decent option.  The fact that they do not melt makes them good for “emergency” stash, like in your car glove compartment or in a natural disaster preparedness kit.  For that same reason they would be good fuel for outdoor sports.

However, for me personally these will not become part of my ordinary rotation.  Soy protein does not have a place in my diet.  It’s certainly a personal opinion, preference, and tolerance level.  My friend Kim at Gluten Free is Life also reviewed these bars, and she and her family were fans.  Just goes to show, what will work for one of us will not work for all of us, so keep an open mind whenever reading reviews of products.

Wish list

If there is a nutritional supplement company out there listening, here is my wish list for a protein bar:

  • Gluten free
  • Uses whey protein in some bars, and a gemma or rice protein in others for a dairy free option
  • Uses chicory root and/or stevia to sweeten
  • No sugar alcohols, no soy, no artificial sweeteners
  • At least 20 grams of protein per bar
  • Fat source of coconut
  • Low to moderate carbohydrate count

I know, a tall order.  So far the closest I’ve seen is in the Quest Bar. I’ll do a full review of them in the future.  I am very curious to see what their new flavor will be.  In the meantime, you can always make your own protein bars and control the ingredients and nutrition profile completely.

And if you want more, Gluten Free and Fit 101 has a lot more reading on living healthy and gluten free.

If you have tried the Pure Fit bars, I’d love to hear your feedback!  Also, if you’d like to weigh in on the soy controversy, feel free to comment below!


The Most Important Meal of the Day: Gluten Free Brinner

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Yes, that’s right.  Brinner.

Just in case you have not seen this fine piece of film, I hereby share with you the clip from the notoriously funny show, “Scrubs.”  It’s totally worth the 40 seconds.

My friends Kim and Kim (funnily enough, and no I did not plan that) at Cook IT Allergy Free and Gluten Free is Life are also big fans of brinner.  What’s not to like, really?  In the days before my celiac diagnosis, after a stressful day at work I would sometimes go out with some of my fellow therapists for pancakes aka “breakfast for dinner.” Same thing.  Hence: brinner.

Now that I am a gluten avoider, and also a bit more aware of the impact that those carb and sugar heavy meals (pancakes, ya’ll) had on my physiology and my physique, my perspective on brinner choices has evolved.

But not my love of brinner.

It’s kind of hard to beat brinner.

You have many choices when it comes to preparing a gluten free, nutritious brinner.  And really, who’s rules say that “breakfast” foods have to be eaten in the morning anyhow.  Really.

Here’s a short, totally-not-all-inclusive list of some ideas for a celiac or gluten sensitive friendly brinner:

OK, so now on to my particular brinner.  This was a kind-of-a-frittata version of my egg bake.  I used Al Fresco Chicken Sausage and here’s why.  There’s an old joke that sausage means “we don’t know what’s in it either,” but that’s not the case with these babies.  This is the ingredient list on the Sun Dried Tomato, which is the type I use the most.

  • SKINLESS CHICKEN MEAT
  • WATER
  • SEASONING (SALT, TURBINADO SUGAR, SPICES, TOMATO POWDER, DEHYDRATED ONION & GARLIC, PAPRIKA, BASIL, NATURAL FLAVOR)
  • DICED TOMATOES,SUNDRIED TOMATOES (UNSULFURED)
  • NATURAL PORK CASING.

Nice!  All recognizable as food by my great grandmother.  No nitrates, nitrites, or gluten.  And they are already cooked.

Check out my frittata egg bake recipe here.

What’s your favorite brinner?  Hit it up in the comments and share your ideas!

How to Eat Safely & Gluten Free Anywhere (Even Without a Gluten Free Menu)

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This past week I had to travel for work.  This is something I do not have to do very often, just a few times a year.  I was gone Tuesday through Friday, so 4 days of being unable to prepare my own food.

The thought of that can be a little scary for us celiacs sometimes.  I can be a bit of a control freak under the best of situations, but when you take away the power for me to prepare my own food and put my health and well being into a strangers hands, it makes me a little squirrely.

But just a little.

Here’s why

I have learned over the years (I think it’s 7 years or so, I lose track on a regular basis) that I have been gluten free I have eaten many, many times in restaurants without a dedicated gluten free menu.  Of course it is always nice when a gluten free menu is available.  It gives a sense of security.

To me though, I think it is important for us to not get complacent just because a restaurant has a gluten free menu.  There may be a gluten free menu, but that does not necessarily mean that YOUR server/chef/etc. is familiar with what serving a celiac entails.

And so it is up to us to always educate, in a very kind, compassionate, understanding, yet firm, manner.

This trip took me to Annapolis, Maryland.  There are quite a few gluten free friendly establishments in Annapolis, as I discovered when doing my pre-trip research.  But-I was on a business trip, without a car, and my dining options were limited to what was close as well as acceptable to my companions.  There were also meals in which the locations were pre chosen for our whole group.

Not to worry, I come armed with a boatload of patience and education.

Here are 5 tips to make sure you can always get a safe, gluten free meal:

1) If possible, call ahead.  If that is not possible, make your needs known as quickly as possible upon arriving at the restaurant.

Example: dinner one night was at a Japanese steakhouse .  The meal was to be done around a hibachi table, where the chef is also the entertainment.  Good times, but a celiacs nightmare.  I did get the number for the restaurant to call ahead but didn’t have time during the day.  When we arrived, I spoke to the gentleman at the front desk and explained the situation, specifically mentioning that soy sauce was unsafe to come into contact with my food.   After exclaiming “soy sauce is in everything!” which made me a bit nervous, he said he would speak with the chefs.  We discussed the possibility of my food being prepared separately in the back on a dedicated clean flat top with clean utensils.  He explained to me that one cream sauce would be safe, but the ginger sauce/salad dressing was not.  Obviously fried rice was out of the question since it is prepared with soy sauce, but since I am mostly grain free I skipped rice entirely.  (Steamed rice would be perfectly safe.)  Once seated, I explained again to the server the situation, and also mentioned to her that I had discussed it with the other gentleman.  I saw them confer before she went into the back with my order.  When she returned, she assured me that my food was being prepared in the back in a dedicated area, and that it would be prepared without any soy sauce or other sauces potentially containing soy sauce.  I was able to enjoy the hibachi show with my colleagues, and enjoyed a perfectly safe meal.

2) Choose naturally gluten free items as much as possible.

Look for meat, poultry, fish or vegetable dishes that appear to be gluten free on the menu. Salads with a grilled protein source, or a steak are my go to options.  Even if it appears to be naturally gluten free, alert your server of your needs and ask questions.  If a salad, always ask exactly what is on the salad as not to be surprised with fried (in a shared fryer) onion strings on top of your salad.  Soups are often thickened with flour or may have a wheat containing base, and require questioning the chef.  While in Annapolis we went to the Ram’s Head Tavern for dinner.  It was absolutely freezing there, and hot soup sounded wonderful.  I asked the server about 2 soups that sounded possibly gluten free, and she was able to ask the chef.  One was not safe, but the black bean soup was, and I was able to warm up a bit.  (The naturally gluten free glass of wine helped as well.)  I had a Greek salad with grilled chicken added for a flavorful and safe main course.  I also made sure there was nothing added to the chicken prior to grilling, so keep that in mind.  A piece of nicely prepared and seasoned protein, some potatoes, and veggies can make a spectacular, safe, healthy, and naturally gluten free meal.

3) Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions

Restaurants want you to have a safe meal.  They don’t want anyone to be sick and give a bad report of them, regardless of the reason.  Do not be shy.  Make your needs known, but of course in a kind and understanding manner.  Don’t show up at their busiest time and insist on custom made meals that are completely off the menu.  Be reasonable, and they will be reasonable back and keep you safe.

4) Don’t be afraid to use a script or a dining card

Especially if you are new to this whole gluten free thing, don’t be afraid to make yourself a little cheat sheet or hand over a dining card, like the ones made by Triumph Dining.  Those can be especially helpful if you have a potential language barrier, as they are printed with the language of whatever ethnic cuisine is in question.  You don’t want to forget to address cross contamination issues because you only focused on the ingredients.  If you think you may miss something, write it down.

5) Be friendly, courteous, and clear in your directions and needs

People will always want to help you more if you are nice.  The old adage “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is an old adage for a reason.  It’s true.  People can help you more easily if you are clear about your needs.  Answer any question they have clearly, completely, and nicely.  Humor never hurts either.  Most servers will remember someone who is kind and funny.

After being fed well and safely, express your appreciation

This will help not just you, but the others who come after you.  Tip well.  If it is a local spot, frequent it to express your appreciation.  It’s a win-win, as you now have set the standard for a safe meal and are giving the restaurant more business.  Submit a review on Yelp, Tripadvisor, or your restaurant search engine of choice.  These are keys to restaurant business these days.

Don’t be afraid to travel.  Go, eat well, and eat safely.

What are your best tips for dining out safely?  Please share them in the comments!

ABC News-Really? The disappointing news piece and the Gluten Free Fit opinion

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Nightline, an ABC news show, aired an episode last week where they discussed the gluten free diet, celiac disease, and living with celiac disease.

Personally, I thought this particular piece was pretty terrible.

Kind of horrific, in fact.

Before I go any further into my rant, here is the piece so you can watch for yourself.  It was titled “Is Gluten Free Good?”

  • They start off with touting all the celebrities that are on a gluten free diet, and then of course, Chelsea Clinton’s gluten free wedding cake.  It’s portrayed as a fad diet right off the bat.
  • Celiac disease isn’t even mentioned until almost 2 minutes into the 6 minute clip.
  • Elisabeth Hasselbeck is pictured in front of a freezer, stating that this is where all her food comes from.  WHAT?! Are you kidding me right now?!  No mention whatsoever of ANY naturally gluten free food.  You’d think that there is no life, or even eating, without pasta.
  • She also states that she believes in “replacing” foods in a gluten free diet, not eliminating them.  I would agree with this if by saying replace, she meant replacing refined flour items with fruits, vegetables, all the naturally gluten free bounty that nature avails us.  But no.  She was talking about replacing gluten breads and pastas with gluten free substitutes.  Hence the need to stand in front of the freezer, and not in the produce section.  In my article on my top 5 choices of gluten free carbohydrate sources, not one of them is found in a freezer.
  • E.H. also encourages people to adopt a gluten free diet without any kind of medical testing.
  • Dr. Green (bless his heart) mentions that there are no benefits for those without celiac disease to go gluten free, and that there is no weight loss guarantee on a gluten free diet, as we all know.  I even did a 5 part series of posts about weight issues and the gluten free diet.  You can eat a crappy nutrition yet calorie dense gluten free diet just as easily as you can on a “regular” diet.
  • However, they also indicate that a gluten free diet can be dangerous.  WHAT?!?  Dr. Green actually says, and I quote “a gluten free diet is not entirely healthy.”  I will give him a little slack, in the sense that if someone is only eating refined and processed gluten free crap, that they will receive even less nutrition than the standard American crap diet.  This is true.  BUT (and this is a big but, people, really big, the biggest butt of them all[ intentional]) a gluten free diet can also be incredibly healthy. You have to look at the big picture!  Eat naturally gluten free real food.  Meats, fish, poultry, veggies, fruits, dairy (if you can tolerate it, another can of worms for another day,) nuts/seeds, oils, nut butters, rice, potato, etc.  There is a BOUNTY of naturally gluten free foods.   I GUARANTEE that a gluten free diet can be extremely healthy.  I GUARANTEE that you will get plenty of fiber if you just eat some damn VEGGIES!!
  • Dr. Green mentions calcium deficiency.  Many people, not just those with celiac disease or that are on a gluten free diet, have calcium deficiency.  He also doesn’t mention that many of those diagnosed with celiac disease are also intolerant to dairy, and thus must find alternative sources of calcium in their diets.  Or that the damage done to the villi often causes impaired nutrient absorption and therefore, deficiency.  I covered this in Common Nutrient Absorption Issues in Celiac Disease and What to Do About It.

Overall, I was incredibly disappointed.  There has been so many great news pieces done on celiac disease and gluten intolerance lately that this was like a kick in the teeth.  This was a wonderful opportunity for education and discussion on the beauty of naturally gluten free food, on the importance of eating “real food,” how you CAN get nutrition in your diet, how celiac disease is underdiagnosed, and it wasn’t that at all.

I understand it was only a short segment, and that editing is done to the Nth degree, and that what ended up in the final cut may not have been Dr. Green’s intention at all.  But the implication that a gluten free diet is inherently unhealthy really,really, ticks me off.

As always, it’s the choices you make in the QUALITY of your food that matter, not just the gluten or gluten free status.

OK, I’m going to jump down off my soapbox and give you guys the floor.  What did you think?

And, if you’re new here and didn’t get turned off by my little rant, go ahead and check out Gluten Free and Fit 101 for tips on how to get going on a HEALTHY gluten free diet.

See, you can tell I’m upset.  That’s a lot of caps 😉

Intermittent Fasting: Not Nearly as Scary as it Sounds

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It’s OK.  Don’t click away yet.  There’s nothing to be afraid of, I promise.

Fasting.

Didja jump out of your chair a little bit? That just doesn’t sounds good, does it?

Here’s the facts

Fasting by definition: to abstain from food, to eat sparingly or abstain from some food.

I think we’ve all done some form or fashion of fasting at some point in out lives.

Sleep much?  Yup, that’s a fast.  Ever have to have surgery?  You had to fast prior to the surgery.

Spend the day really busy running around, working on the house, or outdoors?  Fast.

Now, these are unintentional for the most part, but they are in fact, fasts.  You’ve already done them!  Less scary already, right?

So why do I care about fasting at all?

As many of you know, I am a fitness enthusiast and have competed in figure shows in the past.  It’s been fun, for the most part.  The commonly accepted eating pattern in this type of fitness circles is that eating small meals every few hours is the best way to maintain a healthy metabolism and lose weight if needed.

For years, I followed that idea, eating 5 or 6 times a day, feeling certain that my tiny little muscles would fall off if I didn’t eat exactly every 3.2 hours, or that my blood sugar would plummet and I’d fall into a brain fog, or that (oh noes!) my body would go into the dreaded starvation mode.

Horrors, all.  So I was a good girl and packed my meals ahead of time, toted a cooler, and revolved my life around my meals.  To others, it looked as if I was very dedicated, but more than a little weird, and maybe even a bit fanatical.

Over the past 2-3 years or so, research began coming to light that there really is no advantage to eating so frequently at all.

But I was so accustomed to eating this way, I thought it was the only way.  The truth is, I was too scared (read:wimp) to try anything different to see.  Plus, I was working in an office where I was stuck at a computer all day, sitting, and used the meals as an excuse to get up.  I also knew that boredom would be an issue, and at least with having meals so often it kept me from mindless snacking.

Intermittent fasting

I had been reading more information about intermittent fasting.  There was a very smart dude, Martin Berkhan, who was posting really intelligent content as well as awesome success stories.  My friend JC has used Martin’s intermittent fasting protocol (aka Leangains) and had great success with it.

Then, the heavens opened up, and angels sang.

OK, not quite.

But, I did change jobs, and I now work from home in a more mentally stimulating and rewarding position.  This allows me to have more flexibility in my meal times, and also I have set up a treadmill desk, so I am walking slowly instead of sitting on my butt all day.

(Side note-there are many different types of intermittent fasting out there, because intermittent fasting is just alternating periods of eating with periods of not eating.  JC covers them, so I am not going to here, and for my purposes we will be discussing Leangains specifically.  Also, there are many different viewpoints on WHY intermittent fasting could be positive, varying from ancestral eating patterns, to mental acuity, to life extension.  I will be focusing on the mental and body composition aspects only.  For now, at least.)

Mental relationship with food

I had noticed that my mental relationship with food wasn’t the best.  Because of the spacing of my meals, I was always thinking about when my next meal was, what I would be eating, where I would be, if I had to pack food, etc. and so on.  To be fair, I still believe in keeping a healthy snack with you if needed, and packing/making your own food whenever needed, but that is because you have control over the quality and composition of your food that way, not because I feel like I have to eat or something very bad will happen.

When I changed jobs, I decided there was no time like the present to try a new meal pattern as well.

So I read Martin’s entire blog (not even kidding) and set up a meal plan for myself based on his Leangains guide.

I also utilize the fasted training protocol since I exercise in the morning.

My personal feeding window is 10AM to 8PM.

Fasting results

Here’s a quick and dirty summary of what I noticed in myself since I started eating this way:

  • I used to think I HAD to eat breakfast very soon upon waking, because I woke up hungry.  I’ve learned that is really not the case, that we adapt to whatever patterns we use.  If I feel hungry now early in the morning, it goes away quickly.
  • I was always hungry before.  Even though (or because) I ate often, I never felt full and always had a low level of hunger, even when eating at a maintenance calorie level.  Now, instead of eating 6 small meals a day, I eat 4 larger meals, and have a much greater sense of satiety (fullness.)
  • I was obsessed with food.  Now, I realize that there will be no negative implications if I go a bit longer without eating, and my life does not revolve around my meals.  If we want to go out, or do something, we go, and I don’t panic if I don’t have a meal packed.
  • I can get away with eating a little more without a negative consequence on body composition.  Now, I also started my desk-walking, so can’t really differentiate what is making the difference here.  Obviously the walking is burning some extra calories.  There is some yet to be fleshed out indications that intermittent fasting can have positive effects on body composition, all other factors being equal though.
  • I can maintain a body composition and weight that I am very happy with quite easily, without obsessing.

I just recently consulted with Martin to try a recomposition/fat loss phase-that is, fat loss with muscle gain (hopefully.)  This is notoriously difficult to achieve, and being female, muscle building is tough enough.   I’m giving it a good go though, so we’ll see what happens.

Bottom line on intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can be a very easy, non stressful method of maintaining or improving your weight, body composition, or mental relationship with food.  It is not for everyone, just as nothing works for everybody.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Remember, intermittent fasting is simply meal pattern timing, and you can put any type of eating in there.

Have you tried intermittent fasting?

Gluten Free Fitness in the Media: New Free Resources Available

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I recently partnered with the good folks at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness to create a few more awesome resources for the gluten free and celiac community.

The NFCA is always updating their site with new and cool information and events, so make sure to check back in often.

  • The first new resource is an on-demand version of the live webinar that I presented entitled “The Gluten-Free Effect on Athletes: Improving Performance Through Diet” Click here and scroll down until you see that title, then you can choose to watch the webinar or download the PDF of the Power Point presentation.  Also on that page is a downloadable guide to the gluten free status of some commonly found sports supplements and energy/protein bars.  (As always, that was correct and current at that time, but always double check and read labels.  Things change.)  There’s also some homemade protein bar recipes and the short version of the Q&A.  I ran out of time to address all the great questions that were submitted, but will do that on an upcoming episode of the Gluten Free Fitness and Wellness Podcast.
  • The second new resource is a Media Planet insert that was in the Chicago Tribune.  It’s 8 pages and full of great info.  On page 5, athletics and celiac disease is discussed, and that’s where I come in.  Check out the whole insert, good stuff abounds, and you’ll see some familiar faces and names.  Click here for the insert.
  • The third resource is a patient handout that was developed for and published in the Advance Magazine for Physical Therapists.  It’s a one page sheet with the basics of celiac disease, how celiac disease can affect performance, and some gluten free snack ideas.  It’s a handy way to introduce people to celiac disease if they haven’t a clue, and will be useful to educate family members as well.  Click here for the handout.
All of these are excellent places to start if you have been newly diagnosed, or are looking for easy to understand information to share with family members.

If you are kicking around on here for a while, you’ll want to check out Gluten Free and Fit 101, where I’ve compiled posts that I think would be most helpful to those starting on a gluten free diet, or those who have been eating gluten free, but are ready to kick up their nutritional know how and health status to the next level.

If you have checked out any of these resources, I’d love to hear your thoughts!  What did you like, what did you feel was missing, what other information do you think would be helpful?  Myself and the NFCA are always listening and ready to provide education for the celiac and gluten free community that they want to see, hear, and learn.

Go forth and learn!  Or teach!