Going Gluten Free

Going gluten free isn't a journey I ever wanted to undertake. I LOVE chewy, warm, rich bread. But being a parent takes me to places that I never would have imagined.

Going gluten free isn’t a journey I ever wanted to undertake. I LOVE chewy, warm, rich bread.

But being a parent takes me to places that I never would have imagined.

Our daughter started complaining about stomach pain early into 2016. In her squeaky, small voice, she would say, “My stomach hurts, Mommy.”

And I would answer, maybe you’re hungry or maybe the milk was bad, maybe you have a stomach bug (that led to an interesting conversation!), but at some point, the complaints got more numerous, then nearly continuous.

I never planned to go gluten free, but parenting takes me to places that I never imagined. Click To Tweet

She was uncomfortable and hurting everyday. She seemed able to function and play, but if she sat still, the pain was too distracting. It was rarely so bad that she was crying in pain, but she hurt everyday.

We had an ultrasound and liver enzyme blood tests done, yet there was no clear reason for her discomfort. But after months of charting her pain, I finally couldn’t stand to watch her suffer anymore.

I took lactose out of her diet, but it didn’t seem to help.

A trip to our clinic for a physical led us to decide to try removing gluten from her diet. Days before a cross-country trek wasn’t great timing, but we went for it, desperate for answers.

Going gluten free isn't a journey I ever wanted to undertake. I LOVE chewy, warm, rich bread. But being a parent takes me to places that I never would have imagined.

After a few weeks, she stopped complaining her stomach hurt. After a few months, I threw away her pain chart.

And of course, we’re willing to go gluten free for her, but I am still mentally adjusting to this change. It changes so many things I didn’t anticipate.

She can’t often have the snacks at church. I have to do extra planning and preparation for playdates and babysitters. I’ve had to teach my six year old how to graciously decline snacks when I’m not around. I always have to carry safe food.

On National Talk like a Pirate Day, Krispy Kreme gives free doughnuts for customers who talk like pirates. As we drove past, she asked if we were could get our free doughnuts this year. No, honey, doughnuts have gluten.

We’ve found some swaps for bread items and just changed our diets to a larger extent, but the holiday season is making this adjustment really hard. Some things just aren’t the same.

While gluten free recipes and flours improve every year, some dishes are just different and others have been kind of gross. We all have had to adjust.

I’ve had to learn more scratch baking, no more prepackaged pie crusts for us. I’ve never had xantham gum in my kitchen before. I’m still a little unclear about what it is, but Google and Alton Brown are my friends.

I got distracted at a party a few weeks ago when my daughter asked if she could have one of what I was eating. I handed her a bagel chip without thinking. Face palm.

As much as there is a learning curve for going gluten free, I hate to complain. Her health and happiness are paramount. It isn’t a life threatening allergy (if it’s an allergy at all-see below), and I give HUGE PROPS for those with serious allergies.

Knowing she may never have flour again is one thing, but knowing she may never be able to casually order from a restaurant menu again is a little emotional.

We went to one of our favorite restaurants last week only to realize she can’t eat anything there. They had one gluten free option, plain grilled chicken with green beans. The kitchen staff wasn’t even clear on what gluten is. I was literally reading the ingredients labels for them.

We went to a church potluck, and it was so hard to watch her dejected face at the dessert table when she couldn’t have a single one. Luckily, someone brought a bowl of candy which was all gluten free.

I hate watching her be disappointed. It breaks my heart more than it breaks hers.

Thinking about how this will affect her life forever gets a little overwhelming, so I try not to, just taking one day at a time.

And today, I don’t know if going gluten free will be permanent for her or not. The doctor wouldn’t order the blood test for gluten allergies without any clear diagnostic reason, but in order to get a diagnostic reason, we had to take all the gluten out of her diet for months to see if that made any difference.

Thinking about forever can be overwhelming. Take health changes one day at a time. Click To Tweet

Once we believed it made a difference, the doctor was willing to test her, but she has to be eating gluten for two months before the antibodies can be tested for an allergy.

SIGH

So, we’re gradually adding gluten back into her diet. A few bites of bread here, a slice of pizza there. I figured if we have to do it for the testing, we might as well do it over the holidays so she can enjoy our favorite treats, and I can practice with some gluten free recipes for next year.

We’ll see what the next two months bring. Perhaps she is just sensitive to it, not allergic. Maybe it was the pesticides, and the wheat needs to be organic or non-GMO??? Maybe it was something else entirely.

We really don’t know what will happen.

I do know that I have a better understanding and greater compassion for parents with children who have food allergies. If nothing else comes from the past two months, I am grateful for that.

Many of our homeschool friends have serious allergies like Celiac’s, nut allergies, dye allergies, etc. And for the first time, I’m more than aware of it, I get the seriousness of it and have serious respect for those moms!

Every ingredient has to be investigated.

A homemade recipe by a dear friend could be dangerous because they might not know how to examine labels the way you do. Gluten hides in crazy places: soy sauce, taco seasoning, Twizzlers! She can’t have Twizzlers on a gluten free diet.

Cross-contamination is a real risk.

So, a product that might be edible alone is rendered unsafe because it was made in a factory that also processes wheat or nuts or eggs or soy or milk. This often includes our own kitchens, especially for celiac’s and nut allergies!

Reading labels has helped me understand just how many products are off-limits for people with serious allergies, especially nut allergies.

It is so true that things just don’t hit home until it’s your child.

I am grateful I’ve had this chance to learn how to be mindful of allergies for food preparation and hospitality.

Seriousness of food allergies (Cross-contamination and reading ingredients) doesn't hit home until it's your child. Click To Tweet

I found myself turning down invites to parties or lunch because it’s hard to find many places that offer safe food. I know more seasoned allergy moms have some great strategies for handling these things, but for now, I’m still learning.

No matter how her tests turn out in February, I have learned so much. I’ll always have something safe for guests and label food items for potlucks, making sure to be the one to think of those with allergies.

Going gluten free is a journey. And we’re in a weird stretch right now, but we’ll keep taking one step at a time as a family.

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Natalie’s Juice – a fresh take on juice

Natalie's Juice - a fresh take on juice that I feel good taking home to my family.

Between shopping with a 5 year old who thinks she needs to have an opinion on everything I buy (or pass by) and navigating nutritional labels, grocery shopping is more and more challenging these days. I am trying to balance making healthy choices with not allowing a fear of additives and GMOs, etc. to overwhelm me, but it is hard to know what are good choices.

Being a Christian parent my faith is part of everything I do, including grocery shop.

I want to be a good steward of the body God has given me and teach my daughter to do the same.

When I saw a sample table in our path, after an hour of negotiating the commissary with a cranky 5 year old, I was hoping for a little pick-me-up.Natalie's Juice - a fresh take on juice that I feel good taking home to my family. Heaven Not HarvardI was willing to let my daughter try a few sips of a juice and move on, but as I listened to the representative, I got excited about Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice.

Ever wonder why most store bought juice is nothing like fresh-squeezed?

Concentrating juice doesn’t just remove water, it also removes the flavour. After it has been reconstituted, manufacturers add ‘flavour packs’ — cocktails of chemicals which restore ‘natural’ oranginess. 

Doesn’t that sound tasty? 😛

In contrast, Natalie’s was started by a mom who wanted to give her child the healthiest juice possible, just like ME. Okay, so now, I’m listening. Then the representative said those magical words, “No ADDITIVES!” Only the lemonade varieties had any added sugar, but 100% pure cane sugar, not GMO sugar beets.

As my daughter diligently tasted each juice, I picked up a brochure. Natalie’s juice is made from handpicked, non-GMO Florida fruit and fresh-squeezed daily to order (not sitting around on a shelf or in a freezer!) It is also pasteurized at the lowest temperature for the shortest amount of time to make sure the juice retains fresh flavor and vitamins. Natalie’s Juice never has any added flavor packets or chemicals!

The company takes the entire process beyond healthy and delicious to environmentally responsible by making sure every part of their packaging is made in America and is 100% recyclable, while maintaining the smallest carbon footprint in the juice industry.

I was sold, but how does Natalie’s Juice taste?

We squeeze our own often, so I know this is the closest, freshest, and sweetest juice I’ve ever tasted from a store.

All the varieties we tried were delicious: Orange, Orange Pineapple, Honey Tangerine, Grapefruit, Orange Mango, Lemonade, and Strawberry Lemonade. Our favorite was probably the Honey Tangerine (which is made from honey tangerines) because we both like our juice a tad tart, but all were refreshing and crisp.

We found Natalie’s juice delightful. The friendly sales representatives chatted with my enthusiastic daughter, who loved playing taste tester. They even gave me a few samples to take home.

Better still, when I mentioned I was a Christian blogger, they pointed out the ichthys fish symbol on their packaging.  I love supporting responsible, female-owned, small businesses, especially faith-based ones. Win-win-win!

Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company is a home run. But don’t take my word for it – they’ve received many national awards including ones from Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, and Cook’s Country.

And they’ve earned my business. I feel good sharing this juice with my family. I hope you will look for it next time you make the magical journey through the grocery store.

Real God in an Artifically Flavored World

I had to decide between faith and fear. I decided I have a big REAL God in this artificially flavored world.

Today, (contrary to everything I’ve been trying to do all year) I purposefully gave my child high fructose corn syrup, artificially flavored, red dye #40 (or whatever is causing cancer this week) on a stick.

Yep, all the rules of how we’re trying to eat clean – broke ’em. Nobody died. I don’t even think I gave her cancer.

I have been learning a lot about our food this past year, and frankly, it’s terrifying. It is hard to find anything the experts can agree on.

So today the rubber met the road, and I cried UNCLE.

My daughter gets ferociously carsick on her best days. Every trip past 15 minutes is a game of Russian Roulette with the puke bucket.

This morning, she woke with a 101.6 temperature, sore throat, and screamed every time I even touched her tummy. After spending the morning trying to schedule and get to our doctor’s appointment with a kid wearing pants, I decided we were buying whatever the tiny (scary Deliverance style) grocery store next door to the clinic had on hand.

We bought cheap-o popsicles and Jell-o. My child was in heaven, she slurped a red popsicle after some broth for lunch and an orange one after dinner.

I will have a plan in the future to make homemade popsicles, but today, when I am not feeling great and my child is miserable, it just didn’t make sense to add another 90 minutes of travel/shopping time when the 10 minute car ride to the clinic made her queasy.

I had to decide between faith and fear. I decided I have a big REAL God in this artificially flavored world.

I decided that I have a big, REAL God. He is big enough to save people from cancer and car wrecks. There are people starving in Africa, and I get to be choosy about what I eat (even on one salary in a recession).

God asks me to trust Him, not sacrifice myself on the altar of mommy perfection. Click To Tweet

I think He would rather I put serving Him by loving my family and friends and being Godly before crucifying myself on the cross of modern mommy perfection. I have a sick daughter. I am not an actual superhero even though my iPhone refers to me as ‘Supermom.’

Sacrificing my sanity over perfect nutrition wouldn’t have been the best service to my daughter or self today.

She slurped her popsicle and smiled. She curled up and fell asleep. I was able to catch up on my bible study with a friend, get some time with my spiritual mentor, and talk with my dad while she napped.

God has to be my real God. Listening to what He calls me to be is way more important than letting food choices dictate how I feel about myself.

Exodus 20:3 ESV  “You shall have no other gods before me.

I have really tried not to let my newly discovered food phobias get out of hand, but I have been proud of myself for refusing to give my daughter the “wrong” kinds of juices, and equally guilty when we run through McDonald’s.

Making healthy choices is supposed to be part of a better lifestyle, not a knife dividing good parents or people from bad.

Healthy choices are supposed to be part of a better lifestyle, not a knife dividing parents. Click To Tweet

I’ve been struggling with giving into the nutritional fear mafia, but today, I learned to let God be my real God. I will try to keep my nutrition on the right track, limiting artificial stuff, increasing organic options in our pantry, but keep the food where it belongs, in the kitchen instead of on the throne of my heart.

Romans 8:38-39 ESV “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I’m sure that if God is bigger than all those things, He has GMOs, BPA, high fructose corn syrup, and MSG under control.

In a fallen world, the lesser evil is mostly what we can offer our children, which is why we have to point them to HIM because He literally is the BEST we have to offer them.

And my REAL God tells me not to let fear control me. The Bible makes over 365 references about fear, not nearly that many about what we should/shouldn’t eat.

God’s word tells me how to trust Him way more than He’s worried about what we’re eating. Treating my body like a temple has to include being real in my humanity by just doing what I can, the best today will allow, and following Him in every area of my heart.

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