Archive for ‘Tips’

August 15, 2017

Travel Tip #18 Push the Limits?

Travel Tip #18 Push the Limits is written with you in mind if you suffer from IBS, IBD, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease or other conditions that may lead to a sudden need for bathroom facilities. I just got back from LA. During Sunday brunch I had a sudden reminder of how uncomfortable it can be to travel with a gastrointestinal condition. This travel tip deals with a subject that’s difficult to discuss in public.
cypress
If your guts are constantly in a knot and you can’t predict when diarrhea, gas, or pain may suddenly hit, it can be hard to imagine taking a long trip on an airplane or even in a car full of people. A fear of embarrassment or discomfort can lead to a gradual withdrawal from family outings and vacations.

Reluctance to disclose the real reason for resistance to certain situations often leads family and friends to misinterpret what’s happening. I mean who really wants to say, “I just can’t face the chance that I’ll poop myself during a 3-hour plane ride?” I don’t. It really doesn’t matter how close we are, I just don’t want to discuss that with you.

So, what should I do?

Pretend to be too busy, too sick, or too angry with Aunt Jane to attend?
Insist on a different trip that no one else is excited about?
Wear adult diapers?

Sometimes saying no may be the best choice. If your only motive is to take care of yourself, you’ve explored all the options that might make the journey enjoyable for you, and you still can’t find a way to make peace with attending, then say no. It’s only when you have an ulterior motive or when continual refusals begin to limit your access to a full life that saying no becomes detrimental.

Say yes within limits. If it’s hard for you to take care of yourself, establishing certain parameters in advance can make it easier to decide in the moment when presented with an invitation. For instance, you may want to have a rule that you only agree to car trips in areas with ample facilities. You may want to limit flights to 1 hour at certain times of the day. You could have a rule that you will not stay at friends’ houses so that you have the privacy of your own space. Along those lines, you can have a rule that you don’t share hotel rooms. If you know you usually have fewer problems an hour after eating, join the family after the meal rather than for the meal.
breakfast
Make sure you eat properly and/or take your medication on time. When you’re willing to say yes, there’s no reason to tempt fate. Adhering to the regimen that works best for you while varying your activity can make all the difference. Investing a little time in research and advance planning can make it possible for you to have plenty of medication on hand even when you miss a connection.
It can also mean that you have plenty of tummy friendly snacks on hand when meal times or restaurant options unexpectedly change.
orange tree
Focus on the good stuff. A beautiful view, a warm hug from your favorite cousin, or the smile on your grandson’s face when he meets LeBron James can all mitigate a little discomfort. After all, you may not feel perfectly well at home. If you can feel equally good and add some great memories, it may be worth risking possible inconvenience or embarrassment. If things turn out badly, you can make a different choice next time. If you always stop yourself before you start, you’ll miss out on a lot of good stuff.

Bring the party to you. If you need to be in your own space to be comfortable, make your home the place everyone gathers. Let the travel be someone else’s problem. Instead of missing out on memories and contact with people you enjoy, develop your hosting skills.

That doesn’t mean you have to do a lot of work and throw a party. Just establish that you’d like to see everyone at a certain time and invite, invite, invite. When someone visits, relax and enjoy them. It may take some time to develop momentum, but eventually word will spread that your place is the place to be. Making your guests feel welcome is all it really takes to be a great host.

If you suffer from IBS, IBD, Crohn’s Disease, or Celiac Disease, should you push the limits and travel or should you stay home? There’s no right or wrong answer. What’s right for today may not be right for tomorrow.

The important thing is to always, always take very good care of yourself. For some of us that is in and of itself pushing the limits.

August 8, 2017

Snacks from Down Under

If you have a toddler, you may think I’m writing about snacks from down under the table. I get it. I just kept my one-year-old grandson for a week. I’m pretty sure there could be food under the food on my kitchen floor. I feel like I keep finding more every time I sweep. But, that’s not the food I’m referring to. Today, I tried Majans Bhuja Snacks from Australia.
snack bag mix
I’m not sure why I picked up the bag. Curiosity, I suppose. Well, curiosity and the fact that I’m always looking for snacks to carry along on a road trip or airplane. This one boasts no preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors, a low glycemic index, 5 grams of protein per serving, non-GMO ingredients, and it’s certified gluten-free.

I took a quick look at the ingredients before putting the bag in my basket. The noodles and chips in the mix are made from yellow peas, chick peas, sunflower or canola oil plus rice, potato, tapioca, salt, sesame & cumin. Scattered throughout the noodles and chips are green peas, peanuts, and sultanas seasoned with salt, fennel, chili, turmeric, paprika, and cane sugar. There’s also a little maltodextrin thrown in.

The serving size is about 1/2 cup and has 140 calories. There are 8 total grams of fat. One gram is saturated. There are no trans fats. Each serving contains 170 mg of sodium, 16 total carbs, 2 grams of dietary fiber and 2 grams of sugars. There are 5 grams of protein.

Reading the label for the original flavor, I’m pleased with the amount of sodium and I like it that the noodles and chips rely on peas more than grains for their substance. I could do without the maltodextrin, but I’m happy that there’s less sugar included than any other ingredient.
snack mix
I like the spice blend used in this mix. It has a bit of heat that I find a pleasant alternative to mixes that rely on sugar for flavor. The crackers and noodles feel a bit dense which makes them seem a little less manufactured than a Cheeto or Veggie Straw. I’m ambivalent about the peas. I feel this way about wasabi peas as well. In general, I prefer raw nuts or seeds to dehydrated peas. The occasional sweetness of the sultanas is a great balance for the heat.
For the Americans reading this, a sultana is similar to a raisin in that it is a dried white grape, but sultanas tend to be plumper, sweeter and juicier than other raisins. Turkey is a major producer of sultanas.

The price for this snack is reasonable for a gluten-free snack. I paid $2.65 for a 7 oz bag that will provide 7 servings.

Where does that leave us? The price is reasonable, the spice blend is pleasant, and the bag contains crunch. I suppose the pertinent question is whether I will buy it again. I might.

I can’t see making this mix a regular item on my shopping or travel lists. It doesn’t have an addictive level of crunch or salt that will make me crave it. On the other hand, it isn’t too sweet or too greasy and I like the spiciness. That means I will be likely to grab the occasional bag when I see it on the shelf.

I’m giving it a solid 6 for composition and a 10 for price. That’s not bad for a snack from down under.

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.”

http://majans.com/products/us/bhuja-snacks/

July 9, 2017

Five Easy Ways to Freshen Up Your Summer Menu!

teaHere are five ways to freshen up your summer menu! When it’s hot and humid, the last thing you want is to eat is a heavy meal. Fresh, cool, and light seems much more appealing. My preference is to live on gelato in the summer, but that’s not really practical. Of course, I’d be happy to add ice cream, fresh peach granita, or banana popsicles to the menu – again, not exactly practical.

So what are some easy ways to freshen up your summer menu?

Salads
Many of us default to salads as our lighter fare for the summer. Salads are a great place to showcase seasonal fruit and fresh herbs. Strawberries, blueberries, and peaches are all great additions to spring or bitter greens. It’s also a great time to use tomatoes as a base for Insalata Caprese! Mint and watermelon pair well with salty feta cheese while a salad of cucumber and dill will lighten up the meat off your grill.
caprese salad
Cold Soups
Cold soups can fill you up while cooling you off. I love gazpacho in the summer! The traditional version has a tomato base, but you can also begin with watermelon, cantaloupe, cherries, or strawberries. If you’d rather have a milder flavor, vichyssoise made of potatoes, leeks, cream, and broth may fill the bill. One of my favorite cold soups combines honeydew, cucumber, and jalapeño peppers.
honeydew soup
Chilled Condiments
In the winter, it’s comforting to add complimentary flavors to your dish by serving a warm, thick sauce or gravy. In the summer, pico de gallo, salsa, chimichurri, tzatziki, raita, or another cold condiment will add layers of flavor without the heaviness of gravy. I recently made chimichurri with baby arugula instead of parsley. It was delicious with grilled steak!
asparagus guac
Iced Drinks
Icing down anything when the thermometer hits 100º just seems reasonable – coffee, water, lemon water, juice, gin, and vodka are commonly served with ice. In the South, we also drink a lot of iced tea! Adding muddled mint or cilantro and leaving out the sugar makes the tea even more refreshing.

Cold Desserts
Summer is the perfect time to serve chilled banana, tapioca, or rice pudding. It’s also a great time for no-bake fresh fruit pies. My mom made a fresh peach pie that makes my mouth water every time I think about it. And really, there’s no need to cook – a bowl of fresh fruit topped with a tiny bit of plain yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg can easily satisfy your sweet tooth in the healthiest way possible.

Freshening up your summer menu with chilled food and fresh produce is practical, easy, and delicious! Give these 5 ways a try.

July 4, 2017

Being Gluten-Free Doesn’t Mean You Have to be a Wet Blanket

flagIt’s a holiday and nobody wants a wet blanket at the party! I am qualified to give Fourth of July advice because I once lived in a house with patriotically colored shag carpet. I’m not kidding, the house had red, white, and blue carpet. When I lived there, my family hosted a Fourth of July party at which invitees were asked to design a new flag or write a new national anthem.

Participation was enthusiastic. One couple extended a dog food bag between two poles and barked their national anthem. One couple displayed a Butter Side Down flag and read Dr. Seuss’s “The Butter Battle Book”. Two young men representing the Nation of Lost Children waved inflated condom flags on their heads. (I didn’t say the party was reverent.) No one took things too seriously and no one was afraid to participate.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a party like that. Cell phone cameras, social media derision, and an increasingly thin cultural skin has put a damper on lots of good-natured fun. With this new starting point, I feel even more responsibility to make sure I remain gluten-free without throwing a wet blanket on the party! You may feel the same way. My approach to gluten-free party fun is practical.

Family BBQ
Many Fourth of July celebrations include a family barbecue in the backyard, around the pool, at the lake, or on the beach. The key word here is family. You know your family dynamics. While I prefer to default to the direct approach, sometimes long-standing dysfunction means directness gets rewarded with punishment. If you believe that your requests will be ignored or your contribution unwelcome, you still have options to make a family gathering work for you. Let’s explore several possibilities.

Volunteer to bring an appetizer, side dish, or dessert.

I like this option because it’s a chance to change preconceived notions about gluten-free food. Ask if the host has specific dish in mind then, without mentioning it in advance, bring a gluten-free version that knocks their socks off. When you get a compliment and casually mention you made it gluten-free, you can see light bulbs go off. I love it when that happens!

Bring a favorite family recipe.

My Aunt Opal and my ex-husband take a slightly different approach. They arrive at parties bearing family favorites. While they hostess may not have been expecting it, the minute word spreads that Aunt Opal brought a cherry pie, excitement builds. If you make a mean GF version of your grandmother’s pound cake, just bring it and see what happens. Save a portion for yourself in a discreet separate container so you have a desert option available. If the hostess doesn’t want to serve the rest of the cake alongside her desserts, you can eat your portion and leave the rest as a hostess gift.
grill
Make it easy for the host.

If your sister-in-law begins to fret that she isn’t sure which hot dogs are gluten-free, offer to bring a package so she doesn’t have to read labels. If she doesn’t like that idea, ask if she’d mind saving the package until you have a chance to read it. Either option takes the burden off the host and puts it on you. Making it easier for the host means anticipating your presence at an event won’t put a damper on the party planning.

Don’t whine.

Whining is a definite wet blanket. Even if you believe that your sister was deliberate in failing to provide an option for you at the family bbq, don’t whine at the party. Feel however you want to feel and vent about it later if you’d like, but don’t let her see you sweat. This will take away her power to ignore, dismiss, or torment you and it will allow you to continue to receive invitations to extended family functions. Next year, you don’t have to be available for your sister’s party at all!

It’s much easier not to whine when you’re not hungry. If your family is unreliable, approach the family party as though it’s being hosted by a distant acquaintance. Be prepared by stashing a small cooler in the car filled with your food. You can excuse yourself to eat at the car, or fill your plate from the cooler depending on the circumstances.

No matter how difficult or uncomfortable a situation, it is absolutely okay to take care of yourself. If you do so in the most considerate way possible and a family member becomes irritable, rude, hateful, or cruel, it may be time to reexamine the health of your relationship with that person.

Sometimes it is difficult to see family members as they really are. It can be absolutely heartbreaking to recognize that those you most want to love, protect, and nurture you don’t have your best interest at heart. Unfortunately, the pertinent question may be whether you should sacrifice your well-being or limit your contact. I encourage you to protect your physical and emotional health even if a relationship doesn’t survive. Independence Day is the perfect time to become independently healthy!
food truck

Community Festival

Some towns have 4th-of-July festivals with concerts and fireworks. There’s a lot to enjoy even if you can’t have a funnel cake. A little preparation will allow you to relax and have as much fun as everyone else.

Investigate.

Many festival details will be available on community calendars, in the media, or from the local Chamber of Commerce. Knowing which food vendors or trucks are participating in an event gives you a chance to review menus or contact the vendors for information. There may be plenty of gluten-free options available on site.

Be prepared.

In the heat of summer a lightweight, easy to carry cooler bag is a great investment. With your potato salad on ice, you don’t have to worry about it spoiling. There are backpack styles, messenger bags, and rolling coolers. If your town frowns on outside food at an event, a baby food pack may be in order. If it prohibits outside food, try contacting the organizers for an exception.

Have a fallback plan.

In my family, too hungry comes along with shakiness, irritability, and confusion. If you don’t want a wet blanket squelching your fun, it’s best to never reach that point. That’s why we always have a fallback plan. When it’s impossible to determine what will be offered and bringing food is prevented, we pre-eat.

At one time pre-eating was the standard plan for gluten-free party participants. It’s slightly less necessary now than five years ago, but sometimes it’s still the best option.

Bring a positive attitude!

Of course the real key to having fun whether or not there are gluten-free options is choosing a positive attitude. Many times the only difference between having a fun time or an awful time is making the decision to see all the positive and ignore most of the negative.

Alternative Plans
At other times, you may not be able to wrestle a positive attitude. That’s okay. If you are in too much pain, are exhausted, or simply don’t have enough support in your life at any given time, an event may feel like an additional burden rather than a fun escape. An alternative plan can help keep you connected, but lessen the burden of investigating and planning.

If eating leftovers and taking a long hot bath while everyone else is at the festival makes you feel renewed, that may be a better choice. Offer your friends or family a compromise. After some renewal time, you will plan to join everyone later for drinks and fireworks.

Have fun!

You’ll always have more fun when you can relax and be present in the moment. Planning just enough to make sure your basic needs will be provided for can alleviate anxiety and allow you to focus on the fun of seeing how far you can spit a watermelon seed, spray water with the hose, or shoot a bottle rocket.

Happy 4th! Have fun!