Real Talk: When Jokes Have Consequences

The month of May is Celiac Disease Awareness month and is supposed to be a time of education and support. However, lately I’ve been noticing that comedians have selected a new victim to pick on: people that follow gluten-free diets. One of Jimmy Kimmel’s recent Man on the Street style interviews asked people who followed gluten-free diets what gluten is. A simple enough question in theory and yet almost no one was able to answer it. The fact that these people weren’t able to answer what gluten really is, doesn’t bother me, different people have various reasons for avoiding gluten and some might not have done their research. It was Jimmy’s comments that did, like, “maybe gluten just doesn’t exist” and “some people can’t eat gluten because of medical reasons, which I get- it annoys me– but I get it.”

Look, I get it, Jimmy. A joke is just a joke, right? It’s all in the name of fun. Or is it? My problem isn’t that comedians have chosen to focus on making fun of people on gluten-free diets. I wouldn’t choose it, but I also wouldn’t like them to poke ‘fun’ at any group of people. My issue is with the public perception of it. The more people that see these segments (and Jimmy’s alone has 2.5 million views), the more people start to think that being gluten-free isn’t serious. And for some people, I realize that it’s not. I know it’s “trendy” now and the latest health food fad and that’s ok. But for those of us with Celiac disease, it’s something entirely different.

In the past seven months, I’ve been glutenized twice at restaurants. The first time was at Whole Foods, supposedly the mecca of healthy eating. I purchased a soup that said it was gluten-free, read the ingredients list three times and left the store. I specifically chose the soup because I thought it had the least chance of cross-contamination as they have only one ladle per soup. I ate my soup on the way to a movie and within minutes, was throwing up in the bathroom. Tears were streaming down my face and I was screaming from the excruciating pain. I was on the floor of the lobby of the theater and basically had to be carried out to the car and rushed to the Emergency Room. At the ER, it took doctors three doses of very strong medicines to stop the pain. I was dreadfully sick for about a week and almost missed Christmas. But here’s the part that people don’t realize. It took me months for my body to recover. For people with Celiac disease, gluten doesn’t just cause outward symptoms, it’s actually damaging the villi in the small intestine which allows for absorption in the body. Finally, months later, my body slowly started to recover. Then a little while ago it happened again. I am so careful about what I eat and there are very few restaurants that I trust, but there is one Italian restaurant that has a gluten-free menu that has always been safe for me. I ordered plain grilled chicken and vegetables and explained Celiac disease at length to my waitress and told her how extremely sensitive I am to gluten. She said that she understood and would hate for me to get sick on her watch and said she would tell the kitchen.

20-minutes after I ate, I was screaming and crying in pain again.

Now the common thread in both instances was that the meals I purchased did not have gluten in the ingredients. So both reactions were from cross-contamination. If you are new the world of a Celiac, you might not know, but it only takes 1 crumb to make someone with Celiac horribly sick… one single crumb!

And yet if the cooks in the kitchen had watched Jimmy Kimmel or watched and read other numerous comics and jokes on the topic, they might think that someone is making this illness up. That the person they are serving can’t really be that sensitive and it won’t matter if they use the same work area as where the bread was sitting, or use a spoon that was touching wheat noodles to stir a soup or use the same pans that the pasta was just cooked in. It is all really that easy to cross-contaminate and has dire consequences. Every time someone with Celiac disease eats at a restaurant, they’re putting their lives in the hands of the cook. And it’s really scary. It makes it extremely difficult to enjoy a meal without being nervous, both for myself, and as I recently found out, my family too. Everyone just kind of holds their breath and you hope that they took your order seriously. I understand that some people may wonder why people with Celiac go out to eat at all if it’s such a big risk. It’s just that so much of our culture and getting together is meeting for meals that to eliminate that really bars you off from something you used to enjoy. Plus, as much as I enjoy cooking, it’s also really nice to have someone else prepare a meal too.

I can take a joke, but I draw the line when it could be the very thing that compromises someone’s health. Let’s face it, what people hear infiltrates their thoughts and they might find themselves at a party, contaminating the one gluten-free item or in a kitchen rolling their eyes at the thought of taking special care to make sure a dish doesn’t come into contact with gluten. I think that there are far funnier subjects that we can be discussing, rather than someone’s serious illness. Let’s change the conversation.

*This isn’t to say that all restaurants and bakeries don’t take it seriously and I will being doing spotlight posts on some great establishments that do!

Let’s Do Something

Hi lovelies! I hope that you all had a wonderful weekend! It’s the final workweek stretch for some of us, and some of you lucky few might be already on vacation and spending time with family and friends. My weekend was the perfect combo of relaxing and productive and yesterday I finished the grocery shopping for all of the Thanksgiving recipes. As I was walking around the stores, adding items to my cart, I couldn’t help but think of all those who would love to be “stressed” about finding their ingredients in a store. Those who would love to spend hours over the stove in order to produce a meal for their family. Those who would be ecstatic that their family had something to eat, on Thanksgiving and beyond. To me, it just wouldn’t feel right thinking about enjoying a meal with my family without thinking of all of these people. I feel extraordinarily blessed (a post devoted to that coming on Wednesday!) and it’s important for me to share that with others. But I get it- we all have so much going on this time of the year and are swamped with commitments that adding one more thing to our plates seems too daunting. Luckily, supermarkets are making it easier than ever this year. Here are a few of the programs I encountered today and some I discovered online.

  • Sprouts & Whole Foods Grab N’ Give Program

As you can see in the above, Sprouts is making it incredibly easy to give this season. You simply choose a pre-packed bag that you would like to donate. The bags come at a handful of different pricepoints (the one’s I saw were between $9-$20) and you can see on the receipt of the bag what items are being donated. I have to admit- I was a little picky about which bag I chose. I wanted one that contained staples for a healthy meal but one that would also feel like a little more of a treat or something special. They make it so easy too since they can take care of the donation for you!

At Whole Foods, you pick the meal you would like to donate- Breakfast ($5), Lunch ($10), Dinner ($10) or a day of meals ($25). All you have to do is add the amount to your total when checking out and Whole Foods will pack a healthy meal for a family and a local food bank (each store is partnered with local organizations) will come and pick up the meals for the families!

  • Ralph’s Bringing Hope to the Table

Ralphs grocery stores are offering two opportunities to help those less fortunate over the holidays. First, there will be collection canisters at checkstands for you to give your spare change. If you rarely have change or cash like I do, you can use a scan card that comes in $1, $3, or $5 denominations to add to your bill. This money will go to local food banks and Feeding America. Note: As I was researching this, I read that Ralphs donated 1 million pounds of perishable food to Southern California food banks this year which amounts to about 850,000 meals! Pretty incredible!

  • Safeway Help Us End Hunger Food Drive

Safeway has a similar format as Sprout’s program in that from now until December 25, you can buy a bag of pre-packaged food for a needy family for only $10. Even more amazing, it’s reported that each bag will provide 7-8 meals for a hungry family, an amount that so many of us spend on lunch! This past weekend, NBC Bay Area actually partnered with this program and on Saturday, an incredible 26,929 bags of food were purchased! It’s amazing to see this support but it’s important to keep the momentum up through the rest of the holiday season!

So get out there and while you are shopping to feed your family, consider making a donation to feed another family as well. Hunger in America exists for over 50 million people- that’s 1 in 6 people. Let’s do something about it together.

Question:

-Know of any great programs at your grocery store?

Mamma Chia Review + GIVEAWAY!

Hi lovelies! Happy Wednesday! Thank you for all your great comments on my post about going dairy free. Today I have a special foodie finds post to tell you about… Mamma Chia drinks!

A few weeks ago, when I went to Whole Foods to grab lunch, I saw someone giving out samples of Mamma Chia to try. Never one to pass up free samples, I immediately walked over to the table and started trying some of the flavors. This stuff is delicious! It comes in four flavors: Cherry Lime, Raspberry Passion, Blackberry Hibiscus and my personal favorite, Cranberry Lemonade.

The drink is lightly sweetened and is the perfect consistency. Also, as someone who takes her vitamins in gummy form (hey, they’re adult gummy vitamins) I have a hard time getting Omega-3s in my diet. Mamma Chia totally takes care of that and each bottle has 2000 mg Omega-3 plus 10 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein for only 110 calories! Plus this gluten-free, vegan drink is naturally energizing and is perfect before a workout or during that dreaded 3-pm work slump.

Want to try the chia goodness for yourself? Enter my giveaway! THREE winners will receive 2 VIP coupons for free Mamma Chia drinks (sold here) and 3 coupons for future purchases. And to sweeten the deal even more, I’ll be throwing in some of my favorite foodie finds in a care package for the winner.

How to Enter:

1. Leave a comment telling me which flavor you would like to try.

For Additional Entries:

(Please leave a separate comment below for each additional entry!)

1. Like Mamma Chia on Facebook

2. Follow me on twitter and tweet “Hoping to win some @Mammachia1 from @EmilyatGGG first #giveaway! http://wp.me/p1xugt-81”

Giveaway winners will be announced next Monday, September 5th!

Is Dairy Free the Way to Be?

Hi lovelies! I hope that you all had a great Monday! I had planned on going to yoga class last night, but decided that grocery shopping was more important. So, off to Whole Foods I went… Remember that gift card? Well this is how I used it:

This is what $90 at Whole Foods can buy you...

As I mentioned, I used this shopping trip as a bit of a splurge since I had a $50 gift card. I bought things I don’t usually buy like goji berries, Tera’s whey protein powder, and yes, lots of bars. I usually try not to eat so many bars, but I have been finding myself starving during late nights at work and need to keep something in my purse for those times. What you also might notice, is the theme in my purchases: soy yogurt, almond milk yogurt, coconut milk yogurt, coconut milk, almond milk and coconut milk ice creams! This week, I’m going dairy free for the week to see if I have a lactose allergy.

For at least the past 6 years, I have had an issue with full fat or 2% milk. As the only time I really have milk is in my coffee, this was a problem when I went out to coffee shops.  I used to always order nonfat lattes (ok, if you must know my order was a Grande Skinny Vanilla Latte with 2 pumps of sugar free vanilla, extra hot) but sometimes the baristas mess up. While that is understandable, I have endured many eye rolls and incredulous responses when I politely inform that the milk they have used is not nonfat. For me, it was never only a calorie thing, rather, that after drinking it I would end up feeling sick.

Fast forward to the past couple of weeks and I have been finding myself with horrible stomach aches and GI issues. I’ve been to enough doctors in the past to know that it isn’t something else and I’m pretty sure that it is coming from my diet. So this week, I’m going dairy free to see if I start to feel better. To be honest, I’m pretty bummed about not having my daily Greek yogurt or my splash of nonfat milk in my Americano or my beloved frozen yogurt but I want to figure this out, once and for all! Luckily, there are so many great dairy replacements on the market, I’m excited to try a bunch and report back!

Questions:

-Are you vegan/have you gone dairy free?

-Have you ever had lactose issues?

-What’s your Starbucks order?

P.S. Look out for my first ever GIVEAWAY tomorrow!!