October 23, 2016

If It’s Paleo, It’s Gluten-Free

paleoIf it’s Paleo, it’s gluten-free so go ahead and give it a try! I have been stuck at my office literally watching concrete dry for the past 4 hours. Yes, I knew in advance concrete would have to set up. No, I didn’t realize things would go exactly like they went, so the snacks I brought weren’t enough. Now, I’m starving.

I need to find some food that’s quick, close, and microwaveable. The neighborhood store has Tastefully Plated® frozen Paleo meals. I think I’ll give one a try. The sausage & egg scramble with cauliflower grits sounds interesting. It has 21 grams of protein and 280 calories. Not only is it gluten-free, this selection is also milk free.
Now that I’ve removed the meal from the box, I finally understand the Tastefully Plated branding. Each meal comes seated on a white plastic plate that has been vacuum sealed with plastic. The plate is a step up from most frozen meal packaging. The problem is, when you shrinkwrap sausage, eggs, and cauliflower grits, the result looks a whole lot like a regurgitated meal on the plate and that’s not too appetizing.

Knowing that we eat with our eyes first, perhaps the viewing window in the boxes isn’t such a great idea. The plate is the unique part, and it isn’t even visible when the meal is in the box. Perhaps the die-cut in the box could just show the edge of the plate and feature a photo of the food. Looking at the product in the store, I kept wondering why it said Tastefully Plated when it looked like something I may have plated a couple of times after a late night of drinking too much Scotch.

I will confess that I’m not a frequent purchaser of frozen entrees or meals, so in a sense I’m comparing this frozen meal to my memory of a home or restaurant cooked version of it. I was recently reminded how widely quality can vary. On a Thursday afternoon, I grabbed some scrambled eggs at a racetrack snack bar that had limited gluten-free choices. That night, I stayed at an old resort hotel. The building was beautiful, but the room was showing its age. The next morning, I ordered room service scrambled eggs and bacon thinking they’d be a repeat of the previous day’s meal. Boy was I wrong. The eggs were light, but firm and unbelievably good even after sitting under a metal cover. 

In fact, there was no comparison between the racetrack meal and the hotel meal. The hotel, in spite of its deteriorating decor, fuzzy TV reception, and questionable plumbing still can deliver an incredible egg. It is possible that the difference is that those eggs are cooked on site rather than being rewarmed on site.

I mention this to say that while it would probably be more fair to compare a frozen entree only to another frozen entree, that’s not what happens in my real life, so it’s not what’s happening here. This frozen Paleo meal was passable. The sausage seemed a bit more bland than my usual brand. The eggs were fine, but not full of flavor. The cauliflower grits, were watery and lacking substance.

The meal wasn’t so bad that I’d say I’ll never eat it again, but it wasn’t good enough for me to remember to choose it again on purpose. Perhaps I’d be more pleased with the braised beef with chipotle sweet potatoes & broccoli, or the grilled chicken breast with plantains & petite green beans. I like those food combinations.

I am grateful that these Paleo meals exist. They got me out of a jam without having to resort to frozen gluten-free pizza, mac & cheese, or tacos. And they offer other interesting combinations like braised pork with roasted potatoes, mango chutney, and salsa verde; cajun style shrimp with root vegetables, corn relish & plantains; and sweet potato hash with scrambled eggs and chicken apple sausage.

Paleo Tastefully Plated meals are appropriate for anyone who follows a gluten-free diet. With that being said, I can only see buying these when I’m in a jam.

So, what’s the takeaway? Perhaps this: anything that’s Paleo is, by definition, gluten-free! Anything that’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet compliant is, by definition, gluten-free. Anything that’s gluten-free may or may not be Paleo or SCD compliant.

If it’s any of the three, it can be tasty – especially when it’s made with love in your kitchen.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


October 18, 2016

Halloween Treats Don’t Have to be Candy

pumpkinsHalloween treats don’t have to be candy! When I was growing up, favorite Halloween treats included caramel apples, candy apples, and popcorn balls. While these are sweet treats, they’re not candy. As we grew to be wary of our neighbors, homemade Halloween treats gave way to packaged candy that could be examined for tampering. Gradually, the packaging shifted from bulk packed candy corn to small individual packages.

The nutrition information labels for individually packaged Halloween candy is most often contained on the outer bag, not the individual packages. For the gluten-free or allergic trick-or-treater, this means extra research. A few years ago, a quick trip to the website of Nestle or Mars would generate easily accessible ingredient information. Now, you’ll find the following generic statement on the Nestlé site:
“To help you make informed choices, major allergens including ingredients containing gluten are labeled on foods even when present in small quantities.
In case of gluten intolerance, before buying a food product, check systematically the ingredients list.”

Mars provides a PDF of its Policy on Allergen Labeling: http://www.mms.com/us/legal/allergen.html.

These labeling policies make sense, but they also make it more difficult to determine what to let your child eat the minute he comes home with a pail full of individually packaged M&M®s, Nerds®, SweetTARTS®, BUTTERFINGER®, or CRUNCH® bars.

Why not help your gluten-free neighbors and friends enjoy the holiday by providing non-candy treats?

I may have mentioned before that some of the most popular Halloween treats I’ve provided haven’t been candy. One year the favorites were pennies and Michael Jackson spiral memo pads. The same kids came back with their friends two and three times that year. The past few years, I’ve mixed packages of KOOL-AID in with candy. Invariably, the KOOL-AID has inspired the most excitement. Non-candy treats stand out as novel and some provide the added benefit of reducing sugar consumption.

5 More Non-Candy Treat Ideas
Halloween Tattoos – My kids always wanted temporary tattoos whether we were at a ballgame, festival, or school event. I’ve also seen popular temporary tattoos at college and senior citizen events. On Halloween, spiders, pumpkins, and witches come in glow-in-the-dark making them even more fun. There’s still time to order from Oriental Trading, Amazon, or Tattoo fun. You can also find tattoos in sheets of 12 at Wal-Mart or Michaels. Get your kids to cut them into singles. It’s a great way for them to help!

Even better, order Edgar Allen Poe tattoos from Archie McPhee®. They’re creepy and literary.
Halloween Finger Puppets – There’s a large variety of Halloween specific finger puppets on the market. Some are cardboard. Some are plastic. All can inspire your child’s imagination! Available for as little as 9 cents each, these are an easily affordable option. If you’re not on a budget, Archie McPhee scores again with Glow Zombie Finger Puppets at about $1 each sold (sold in package of 5) or Black and White Finger Monsters at about $1.25 each (sold in package of 4).

Vampire Fangs – Get some fangs and you’ll be like “True Blood” author, Charlaine Harris who has a custom pair. You can find high end, realistic teeth for you and inexpensive options for the neighborhood kids. Amazon, Oriental Trading Company, or your local Party City should be well-stocked.

Zombie Figures – Zombies are popular these days for both children and adults, so Zombie figures are easy to find. Some are simple and harken back to the green army men we had as kids. Others are detailed and remind me of HOMIES. Both types are available from Amazon.
Witches Fingers – There’s just something irresistible about slipping on a blue finger with a long red fingernail. It makes you feel like you can overpower anything by just pointing at it. You can purchase fingers for your little witches at U.S. Toy Company for about 12 cents per finger. Similar products called Martian Fingers are available from Oriental Trading Company.
And a bonus: If you’re having a Halloween party, these reusable blood bag drink dispensers are fantastically fun! They hold 11.5 ounces of your favorite soda, juice, beer, wine, or mixed drink and come in packages of 10 for about $20 from Amazlab.

Gluten-free moms will appreciate your thoughtfulness in providing non-candy treats! Gluten-free kids will appreciate being able to enjoy your treat immediately without concern.

Whatever treats you provide, have fun, be safe, and Happy Halloween!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


October 11, 2016

Many Paths to Healing

philAs with all destinations, there are many paths to healing. Sometimes we go looking for a cure and end up finding healing in the process. This weekend, I had the pleasure of watching Phil Volker come to this knowledge in the film “Phil’s Camino”.

For 20 of the past 22 years, I have attended the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Last year, two of the festival’s features were colored by our producer, James Honaker. Every year, I come away feeling more alive, more connected, more knowledgeable, and more inspired.

It would be impossible to view “Phil’s Camino” without feeling inspired. In the film, Phil walks the 500 mile El Camino de Santiago Trail in Spain after a colon cancer relapse that has brought him to stage IV cancer with numerous tumors in his lungs. He makes the trek in the 28 days between chemotherapy treatments.

Giving you this synopsis makes it sound as though he struggles or trudges through a challenge. While he does pass out in one scene, it never feels as though he’s struggling. Instead, what shines through is the incredible fullness of life he’s experiencing in each moment.

Phil came to walk the Camino in a way that many of us would dismiss or overlook. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. He discovered the Camino in 2012. At that point, the idea of traveling to Spain and walking 500 miles seemed like a pipe dream.

He could have given up his impossible idea to focus on seeking a cure for his illness. Instead, Phil decided to follow his dream at an achievable scale. With the help of an engineer, he mapped out a half-mile track on his 10 acre farm. Using maps of El Camino de Santiago, he walked every day and charted where he would be if he were walking the actual pathway in Spain.

As he walked, others joined him. He forged new friendships, renewed existing relationships, and gained a richer perspective on life. He grew stronger. In 2014, as he neared the completion of the Camino on his property, Phil felt strong enough to ask his doctor whether it would be possible to travel to Spain to walk El Camino de Santiago. With the condition of a favorable scan, his doctor consented to the trip.

Soon after, Phil had a favorable scan. The next day, he boarded a plane to walk 500 miles with a friend and a backpack. His wife stayed at home on the island. Phil says that while he prefers vacations with challenges, his wife prefers vacations rolled in warm butter.

Through all this walking, Phil recognized that while he was not cured, he had found healing. It began with him scaling his dream to a size that fit his circumstances and continued through his pursuit of that dream one step at a time.

It might have been easier for him to dismiss the dream or give up living to fight his illness. Many of us have dismissed our dreams in far less dire circumstances. But if he had made that choice, we would have all missed out.

Phil sat on a stage in front of me Sunday looking whole and happy. His story has not yet ended. And when it does, his example will live on to inspire us.

That’s how it is when we walk a path we know at our core we are meant to follow. Whether our journey down that path is long or short, our lives are automatically richer and more meaningful. And we inherently make a difference. I wish us all the courage to follow Phil’s example and find our own path to healing. In healing ourselves, we heal the world.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

October 3, 2016

Need Pain Relief? Try These 5 Steps.

painWhen you need pain relief, reach for the origin and you may not need a pill. A visiting friend recently asked me for some ibuprofen. I looked in the medicine closet and I didn’t even have acetaminophen. A lack of ibuprofen didn’t surprise me. Every time I take it, my cheeks immediately turn red and start itching so I don’t buy it, but even I was surprised that there was NO pain reliever on the shelf.

Of course, I’ve long recognized that taking a lengthy round of pregelatinized starch causes my stomach to hurt so I have a bit of aversion to pills that contain it. I guess at some point I forgot to restock.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have pain. I lift weights which means I often suffer muscle soreness. I grind my teeth which leads to jaw pain. I get occasional headaches. And, in spite of a gluten-free lifestyle and eating at regular intervals, I have significant stomach pain periodically.

I’m not a stoic or a masochist. I just prefer to determine the origin of my pain and follow its process before I reach for a pill bottle. For me, this works so much of the time that I rarely need further intervention. I like that because all pharmaceuticals come with risks and side effects. Why ingest them unless I have exhausted other options?

What process do I follow to eliminate pain?

1. Observation
Over time, I have observed the factors in my life that are frequent contributors to pain. For instance, my headaches are usually caused by dehydration, hunger, or lack of caffeine. Sometimes too many sweets in the evening make me feel hung over.

2. Process of Elimination
Using my long-term observations, I review and eliminate possible culprits until I find the most likely source of pain. If I’ve had plenty of coffee, I eliminate lack of caffeine. If I haven’t taken a long break, added reps, or increased weight to a lift, I eliminate my workout as the cause of knee pain.

3. Address the Remaining Possible Cause(s)
I start with the most likely culprit. If I address that and the pain begins to diminish, I’m done. If that doesn’t work, I move on to the next possible cause. If I carried heavy boxes up the stairs in heels, I do some knee stretches and wear comfortable flats or walking shoes to address my knee pain. If it’s severe, I may limit my time standing for a day or two.

For stomach pain, an easy to digest diet for a day or two can sometimes do the trick. Yogurt, frozen yogurt, bananas, honeydew, watermelon, pears, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and chicken are easy for me to tolerate. If that doesn’t work, I sometimes revert to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for awhile.

4. Get to Work
If I’m absorbed in a mind-engaging activity, my pain eases. A computer problem, a recipe test, or even yoga changes my focus and helps me experience pain differently.

5. Use a Natural Pain Reliever
In the event that stretching, hydrating, fashion, or diet changes don’t work, I try cherries or cherry juice. Studies have shown that tart cherries can effectively relieve pain and inflammation.

If none of these work and the pain is unbearable, I make a trip to the store and get acetaminophen. I just don’t make the trip until I’ve tried this process.

I realize the pain I have described here is not the pervasive, chronic pain some of you suffer. I am not saying no one should seek medical or pharmaceutical pain treatment, but I am an advocate of ascertaining the origin of pain and/or any underlying conditions prior to beginning a pain treatment plan.

I know what it feels like to ache so much you cannot sleep, hurt so much you can’t lift your arm, and to have to fight to pay attention to anything beyond your abdominal pain. I was lucky enough to discover that my chronic pain could be eliminated by removing gluten from my diet. Going from constant pain, weakness, and fatigue to the minor pain I now experience is the thing that keeps me from ever wanting to eat gluten again!
If you suffer from occasional pain, try this process. If you suffer from significant chronic pain, I wish you medical care that seeks to determine and treat the origin of your pain. I also wish you relief, comfort, and peace.