Be a PAL

By Rachel Sircy

With a new school year fast approaching, I thought it would be a great time to address a serious subject that both you and your kids should be up on: Food Allergy Bullying.

Let me begin with a personal story that was really the catalyst for me wanting to get involved in this anti-bullying campaign. Of course, it’s no secret that I have celiac disease, which is not a gluten allergy, but an intolerance of gluten. What this means for me is that, thankfully, gluten doesn’t cause an anaphylactic reaction. I don’t get rashes when I eat gluten and there’s no danger of my throat swelling shut. So, this personal story, which is really two stories, is about someone else that I know. The first story is one I’m going to tell on myself. I have a daughter who is a very, VERY picky eater. For the longest time one of the only foods I could get her to eat was peanut butter sandwiches. One Wednesday night my husband and I were running late to church and our daughter (we refer to her as HRH or “Her Royal Highness”) hadn’t eaten anything for dinner. She was only about 18 months old at the time and so, I felt like I couldn’t make her go for an entire church service without dinner. So, I made a peanut butter sandwich and put it in a plastic sandwich bag in her diaper bag. HRH ended up eating the sandwich in the church nursery right before church started and I thoughtlessly threw away some of the crusts (which had peanut butter smeared on them) in the trash can. A friend of mine from church who has a severe allergy to all nuts ended up having to leave church that night because she started having an allergic reaction to something in church. Now, I didn’t put two and two together at first. In fact, I didn’t even see her family get up and leave in the middle of the service. I never would have had any idea that I was the one who probably caused her reaction if the pastor had not announced that this woman and her family had had to leave due to an allergic reaction. He asked that we all be more mindful of what we ate before we came to church and he mentioned (though he didn’t ask anyone to confess) that part of a peanut butter sandwich had been found in the nursery trash can.

You can imagine how awful I felt in that moment.

Despite having an allergy to all nuts that is so severe that merely being in the presence of nuts or of nut butter could set off an allergic reaction, my friend told me that she has been unable to afford to get an EpiPen for a long time. This may not sound like a real problem in a country where most people can afford their medications and where there almost always seems to be a way to get your hands on what you need. However, there has been an incredible price spike in these life-saving syringes in recent years and even more recently, there has been a shortage of EpiPens, so that even those who can afford them cannot buy as many as they may need (most people carry two EpiPens on them at a time because one dose of epinephrine may not be enough to open a person’s airways during anaphylactic shock). What this means for a serious allergy sufferer is that they must take their allergies more seriously than they ever have before. But, what can an allergy sufferer do when the people around them refuse to take their allergy seriously? The second part of this story is one that this particular friend told me herself about 2 separate encounters that she had while flying out of state.

Her first encounter was on her way out of state. As she was boarding the airplane, she let one of the flight attendants know that she had a severe nut allergy and that simply being in the presence of any kind of nut could set off a reaction. The flight attendant stated that almonds were to be served as the in-flight snack and that there was nothing that they could do to change that. So, my friend loaded up on Benadryl and prayed. Thankfully, nothing happened.

On her flight home, she again informed a flight attendant – this one much more helpful than the first one – that she had a nut allergy. She was told by this particular flight attendant that snacks other than nuts were available and that they would serve those instead of the almonds. Unfortunately, there are no regulations as to the snacks that passengers can bring onto the airplanes for themselves, and so sometime after take off the passenger directly in front of my friend opened a bag of shelled peanuts – peanuts being the most dangerous allergen for this particular person – and started cracking them open. My friend and her sister moved quickly to get a flight attendant to change their seats and again my friend loaded up on Benadryl and her sister wrapped her face in a scarf, to keep her from breathing in any of the dust that might be floating backward to her through the stale cabin air. Seats were changed, prayers were answered and nothing bad happened. But this was a very serious close call.

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Now, you might be saying to yourself (or to me through your computer screen) that none of these incidents was actually an act of bullying. (Well, actually the incident with the first unhelpful flight attendant was really bordering on bullying.) However, these were all stories of simple acts of thoughtlessness that could have ended a person’s life. Consider that for a moment.

And now, consider that approximately 1 in 13 children in America have food allergies and that approximately one-third of those children report having been harassed solely on the basis of their allergy. You can type “food allergy bullying” into Google and read story after story of children with food allergies not only being made fun of, but actually being threatened and sometimes physically attacked with the foods that have the potential to end their lives. One New York Times article cites 6 different incidents of children who have been purposely threatened and attacked with allergens. One of the mothers of the children featured in this article stated that though children may think that they are just playing pranks on people with food allergies, they are actually threatening the allergy sufferers with deadly weapons. In one incident a 14-year-old girl who was hi-fived by a classmate who had smeared pineapple juice on her hand was hospitalized. According to this article in the Washington Post which covered the story, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2018/01/26/3-teens-charged-with-knowingly-exposing-allergic-classmate-to-pineapple-she-was-hospitalized/ the girl’s allergy to pineapple was well-known to her classmates and the hi-five was intended to cause an allergic reaction. The classmate who intentionally caused the reaction has been charged with felony aggravated assault in juvenile court.

Even if the pranks don’t end in hospitalization or a severe reaction, the psychological toll that this kind of bullying has on children can be overwhelming. Another one of the heart-breaking stories from the above-mentioned Times article cites an incident where a child was taunted at lunch by his friends with a peanut butter sandwich. These so-called friends waved the sandwich and said “Let’s see if he dies.” Other children have had peanut butter or dairy products smeared on them. Many children who have food allergies dread school and some of them fake illness to avoid going to school at all. As a parent of a young child, I cried reading some of these stories. I felt immensely grateful that my daughter hasn’t shown any signs of food allergies. It also made me wonder what my family can do right now to make our community – the greater Columbia area – a more compassionate and safer place for those with severe food allergies. I didn’t have to search very long before I found the answer.

First of all, we can become more thoughtful people. Being thoughtful means we need to consider the snacks that we choose to eat and feed our children in public. There are so many alternatives to allergy-trigger foods out there. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, the Enjoy Life brand of foods became a lifesaver to me – and it might be a lifesaver to someone with a food allergy. Enjoy Life produces cookies, crackers, chocolate bars, snack bars, etc. that are free of the all of the most common food allergies – eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, nuts, etc. Need to know what to bring to your child’s class party? How about some Enjoy Life cookies? They are delicious and safe. I’ve fed them to my picky eater ever since that peanut butter sandwich mistake in the church nursery. She absolutely loves them. I also started giving HRH some Enjoy Life Sunbutter Snack bars. They are perfect for when you’re in a hurry and you want to give your child something at least semi-healthy to eat that is also safe for everyone around her. They taste like peanut butter but are made from sunflower seed butter which is allergy friendly. Actually, I love those snack bars. Once I ate all of my kid’s snack bars and felt terrible about it, so I had to go out and buy more.

And, we can teach our kids to Be a PAL. The Be a PAL campaign (the PAL stands for Protect a Life) is part of a wider anti-bullying campaign. It aims to educate both children and parents about the dangers of food allergies and it encourages children to help protect and stand up for children that they know might be bullied because of their allergies. You can read more about the Be a PAL campaign and also find free printables and other resources here: https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/be-a-pal

While the Be a PAL campaign is targeted at younger children, the No Appetite for Bullying campaign is for children 13 or older, parents and also teachers and administrators. You can learn more about this campaign here: http://www.noappetiteforbullying.com/

No Appetite for Bullying encourages you to download their badge and share it on your social media to show your support for those with food allergies. You can find it on their website or right here:

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Columbia, SC is a city known for hospitality, and I think that makes this a great place to champion this cause. So, this school year, let’s educate ourselves, our teachers, school administrators and those in our community about the seriousness of food allergies and let’s work together to make Columbia a safe and friendly place for all people. What do you say?

Product FYI

By Rachel Sircy

Well, this time around, I thought that I would blog about a new product that I’ve recently tried. By “new,” I guess I mean, new to me. I’m not actually sure how long this product has been on the market. The first time I saw and experienced Udi’s Soft White Bread was a couple of weeks ago at a baby shower.

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Since my husband and I decided to travel to Ohio this weekend, I decided to buy some. Sandwiches are the most car-friendly food that I can think of, but it’s so hard to have a good gluten free sandwich without the aid of a toaster. The idea behind this super soft bread is that you don’t necessarily need to toast it. We purchased a loaf for nearly $8.00 at Whole Foods, which is pretty steep for me. We usually purchase Aldi’s whole grain gluten free loaf for $3.99. So, the question is, is this bread worth the high price point?

The first thing that I think is worth mentioning is the size of the bread, which is much closer to a normal slice of bread. I don’t know if this picture of the bread beside my hand actually gives you an accurate idea of how big it is. For those of us who’ve been used to eating tiny sandwiches with those baby-sized pieces of gluten free bread. With this bread you can place a slice of cheese or deli meat without cutting it down to fit the tiny slices of bread.

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As far as taste goes, this bread is good. It fits the white bread ideal, which means that it doesn’t have much of a flavor of its own. It doesn’t get in the way of what is in the middle of the sandwich. I tried it with my homemade chicken salad and it tasted like a regular sandwich.

Texture, as with all  is this bread’s downfall, I think. Yes, it’s soft enough to use without toasting it. Anyone who eats gluten free bread for any reason knows that the unbending, crumbly nature of a slice of GF bread makes it inedible unless you toast it. So, the fact that this bread is soft and doesn’t require toasting is an advantage. However, the texture is NOT like regular white bread. Underdone is the word that most accurately describes how each slice of this bread feels, except for the crust, which is hard and dry, even by gluten free standards. To be fair, I really don’t know how you would make a slice of G-Free bread soft enough to eat out of the bag without feeling a bit underdone.

Here you can see where I took a bite of the bread that included the crust. I immediately concluded that the crust is inedible.

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I tried toasting the bread and it doesn’t make it feel much better. It seems to get the outside a bit crispy, but the middle of the bread is still a bit gooey. The other thing is, despite being soft and pliable, the bread still seems to fall apart somewhat. These lines, which I’m calling stress fractures, appeared in my bread once I cut the inedible crusts off of my chicken salad sandwich.

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Eating a chicken salad sandwich in the car with this bread was easier than I expected. The bread felt like it might fall apart, but it didn’t. I tore two sides of the crust off with my fingers, but I left the other two sides and ate around them. That seemed to help the structural integrity of the bread.

Overall, I think that this bread definitely has its uses. I’m glad that a company is genuinely trying to make a more palatable bread for people who have to eat gluten free. I don’t want to discourage people from purchasing it because I want to support Udi’s efforts to make a better bread. So, let me say this: If you’re taking a car trip and you want to take a sandwich with you, or if you use them (as they did at the baby shower) to make finger sandwiches for an afternoon tea, then this is the gluten free bread you want to use. To sum up, I think this is a pretty good special occasions GF bread. I think, though, that for everyday use, at least at my house, I’m going to stick with the much cheaper Aldi brand.

Back to Basics

By Rachel Sircy

I’ve written many articles about cooking at home, but I’m going to write another one. Home cooking is an important topic for anyone wanting to go organic or gluten free on a budget. Actually, it’s an especially important topic for celiacs these days. According to a recent study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Jack Syage and his research team found that adult celiacs who were following a gluten free diet and still experiencing symptoms of celiac disease, had been exposed to 150mg to 400mg of gluten per day. Only 10mg per day is safe for a person with celiac disease, but of course 0mg is preferable!
The thing is, gluten is hidden in so many things, it’s easy to forget or get sloppy with our eating habits. Unfortunately, any sloppiness in our diet means that we are doing damage to our bodies. Gluten is hidden in so many sauces, food additives (who wants food additives anyway?), and it comes with so many sneaky names : dextrin, maltodextrin, Brewer’s yeast, malt, malt flavoring, etc., that I’m sure that I accidentally get some contamination without even knowing it. The other issue is that not everything that is labeled gluten free really is gluten free. It’s not good enough for a celiac to purchase something that says, “contains no gluten” or “no gluten ingredients used.” The ingredients of a product may be gluten free, but it also matters how the product was processed, how it was shipped and how it has been handled in the store.
Most of the gluten hidden in our diet is going to come from processed foods. If you’re new to celiac disease, or if you are still experiencing symptoms, follow this advice that a registered dietician gave me years ago when I was first diagnosed: Make simple meals. What does this mean? It means if you don’t know what else to cook, make a crockpot roast with potatoes and carrots. You need a meat, a vegetable or two and some source of starch. You don’t need to worry about purchasing processed foods. Trust me, after 10 years of gluten free living, finding out which processed foods are safe to eat – even when shopping in a health food store – still makes my head spin. So, the best thing that you can do is avoid them. Buy plain raw meats and cook them yourself. Buy plain raw vegetables and cook them yourself. Potatoes, rice and beans all work well as starches and if you purchase the beans and rice plain and dried, not only are they gluten free, but they are super cheap. This simpler way of eating (meat, veg and a natural starch) will save you SO MUCH MONEY if you are a celiac. Gluten free noodles, cake mixes, cookies, etc. are insanely expensive anyway. If you’re still sick after going gluten free or if you need to be gluten free and you’re on a tight budget, simple meal planning is the way to go.
Of course, you might be saying, that cooking every single day is exhausting and too time consuming. Here’s the thing, if you want to cook like you’re going to be the next Food Network Star, then yes, it will take you quite a bit of time. I know, because I’ve made the mistake of trying to cook that way when I worked full time. Cooking was a burden to me, then, not a joy. It’s become more fun the more I’ve had to do it. But people, we live in a world full of crockpots and my co-worker has recently been raving about how much she loves her new Insta-pot. It’s so easy to throw meat and vegetables into a crockpot and let it do all the hard work for you. We also live in a world full of microwaves. If you enjoy cooking but only have time on weekends, then cook your meals and freeze them to be reheated later. This is actually a really economical way to plan meals. The freezer is your friend. This is my freezer:
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The individual containers in my fridge are full of soup that I made one day when I had the time. I let the soup cool slightly and then froze it in individual meal size containers. When I don’t know what to take to work for lunch, I’ve got these containers of soup that I can just grab and throw in my lunch bag. They reheat in about 3-6 minutes in the microwave (about the same time as a processed frozen meal). I also have freezer bags containing individual servings of cooked ground beef for tacos. My husband is the only one in our house who really likes it, so what we did on Saturday was to cook 2lbs of ground beef with a homemade taco seasoning and then he decided how much he would eat with a meal and he froze that amount (about 1 cup, I think) in each of these freezer bags.
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Actually, if you’re wondering what might be a great simple meal that isn’t roast and potatoes, tacos are great. Many brands of soft corn taco shells are gluten free. I do recommend that you choose a brand that has an ingredient list that is short and that you can completely read (try to avoid anything with huge, difficult to read words which are probably chemicals and which may contain gluten). Many hard corn shells are gluten free as well, but be careful, these are usually more processed and therefore contain the potential for contamination. Most of the other ingredients for home-made tacos are naturally gluten free: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese (natural cheese, not processed! Processed cheese is likely to contain gluten), sour cream. Also, many brands of refried beans are gluten free. I go for the fat free beans, which keeps the ingredients list simple – usually just beans, water and salt. Make sure that you can read and understand all of the ingredients on the salsa that you choose, some have preservatives which may not be gluten free.
Below is the recipe for some home-made taco seasoning that is gluten free. It may seem like a long list, but it’s well worth making. I think it tastes better than a lot of packaged taco seasoning, and this recipe makes 6 tablespoons which will last a while since you only use 2 tablespoons per pound of ground beef. I also use 2TBS to season my home-made chili.
Taco Seasoning
Ingredients:
2 TBS Onion Powder
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 TBS Salt
1 TBS Chili Powder
1 ½ tsp Crushed Dried Red Pepper Flakes
1 ½ tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Dried Oregano Leaves
1 ½ tsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Sugar

Method:
Place all ingredients in a tightly sealed container and shake until well mixed.
Makes 6 TBS of seasoning. Use 2 TBS per 1Lb of ground beef for tacos. Use to taste to season chili.

Happy Eating.

 

Reading for Your Life

By Rachel Sircy

Well, this post will be interesting, I hope. It’s a combination of two posts: the first part touches on the physical ailments caused by chronic stress and the second part is a summer reading list. Sounds pretty far out, eh? The part about stress was my idea and my husband (who, as I’ve mentioned before, is an English teacher) recommended that I do a post offering a summer reading list. As it turns out, reading can alleviate the physical effects of stress according to a 2009 study done by the University of Sussex, so the two subjects would seem to fit together nicely.

Firstly, stress. According to the American Institute of Stress (yes, oddly enough there is such an institution) between 75 and 90% of all visits to American healthcare providers are the results of stress related disorders. Chronic stress (that is the persistent feeling that you cannot cope with all of the demands on your time and energy) can lead to increased susceptibility to viral and bacterial infections, ulcers, heart attacks, depression, anxiety, autoimmune disorders (remember if you have celiac disease, this is an autoimmune disorder!), ulcerative colitis, etc. And stress will worsen the symptoms and damage to your body from any other illness (whether acute, like a cold or chronic like diabetes). You can read more about the effects of stress at the American Institute of Stress’s website: https://www.stress.org/stress-effects/.

So, the major point here is that we want to avoid stress as much as possible. According to Dr. Mimi Guarneri of The Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, deep breathing is the best way to stop an acute stress response in its tracks. She recommends breathing in for a count of 5 seconds and out for a count of 5 seconds. These deep breaths will force your heartrate to slow and will cause many of the other automatic stress responses in the body to stop suddenly. Reading, too, can counteract the immediate physiological effects of stress according to that study I mentioned above conducted by the University of Sussex. According to their study, people who were exposed to rigorous physical activity to increase their muscle tension and heartrate experienced a 68% decrease in heartrate and muscle tension (these are two of the main physical effects that a person who is stressed will experience) after just 6 minutes of reading. Other relaxing activities such as taking a walk and listening to music did not produce the same kind of dramatic decrease in stress levels.

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See the article: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/4245076.Reading_can_help_reduce_stress__according_to_University_of_Sussex_research/

Dr. Guarneri believes that spiritual health is crucial to both physical and mental health, and I completely agree with her. I can’t think of a better way to cut back on our chronic stress levels than to connect ourselves with Truth and know that all of our efforts really do count for something. I have shared my Christianity in the past and written blog posts about how both our body and soul are connected in God’s eyes. God sees us as whole people who need to care for both our spiritual and physical selves. So, my summer reading list is going to be a very short list of 3 books that I have felt both entertaining and spiritually challenging and/or uplifting. Keep in mind that these books may not be lining the bookshelves of Lifeway, but they have managed to engage me and challenge me spiritually.

  1. The Lord of the Rings Series: I think we all know that these are great fantasy adventures and that they are also inspiring stories. Despite not having any direct religious references, Tolkein’s deep Christian faith shines through every part of these novels.
  2. The Screwtape Letters: This imaginative novel written in a series of letters from an older, wiser demon to a younger, inexperienced demon on how to tempt a human soul is a great read. It is also a challenge for any Christian as C.S. Lewis picks apart “acceptable” sins that Christians sometimes wink at such as gluttony and selfishness.
  3. Girl Meets God: This memoir by Duke Divinity professor and Episcopal priest, Lauren Winner, is one of the best spiritual memoirs on the market today, in my opinion. It’s the story of Winner’s conversion from Judaism to Christianity, told with a deep love for both faiths and with a great deal of personal honesty. If you prefer non-fiction to fiction, I would recommend this book.

There are, of course, plenty of good reads out there, just waiting for you to put your hands on them. Frankly, I was pretty self-conscious about putting together a reading list. I’m not as avid a reader as I should be, and I’m definitely no critic, so I kept my book reviews to a minimum. I hope that this little list will be helpful for anyone looking to lower their stress level by escaping into the world of a good book!

Happy Reading!

Acquired Tastes

By Rachel Sircy

Normally, I write blog posts that are meant to be instructive and helpful – hopefully someone has found them helpful. And for this post I was going to write about an article I’d read recently about things in your home that you should buy organic other than food – the list includes everything from cotton swabs to couch cushions. Apparently, we live in an incredibly toxic world. However, I decided against it, not only because that article seemed a bit far-fetched to me, but also because I’ve been thinking about something random and strange lately, and I just thought I’d share. Do you ever notice how people change over time? Like, when you go back to a high school reunion and they tell you that so-and-so just married what’s-his-face, and you stare for a second before you manage to ask, “Didn’t they hate each other in school?” People are full of surprises and the funny thing is that sometimes the people who surprise us the most by the way that they change are the ones that we know best.

Take my husband and me. Before we were married, my friends and I used to refer to my husband as the human garbage disposal. Not the nicest name, I know, but we were referring to the fact that he would eat anything that was put in front of him. My friend Shannon and I in particular loved this about him because when we were all in college together (before my husband and I were even dating), if Shannon or I ordered something at a restaurant that we didn’t like, we could always feed it to Elisha. (Elisha is my husband’s name. It’s pronounced sort of like Elijah. Don’t call him anything that sounds like Alicia. He hates that.) In those days, the only thing that Elisha positively would not eat was mayonnaise. This thing with mayonnaise began when he got a stomach bug as a child and the last thing he remembered before barfing his guts up was eating was a submarine sandwich with extra mayo on it. You know how those things go. The last thing that you eat before you get sick becomes the food you can’t stand to even talk about. Well, some people get over those aversions given time, but my husband has gone in the opposite direction. Not only will he still not eat mayonnaise, he now will not eat sour cream, ricotta cheese or pretty much any food that is both soft and white. He doesn’t even like white icing. In fact, he told me recently that his culinary tastes are narrowing. Things that he used to enjoy like curry, tea, etc., are now things that he just can’t stand to eat or drink. And he informed me just last weekend that he really isn’t up for trying anything new. I wonder if it’s my cooking…

Conversely, my culinary tastes are expanding. As a child I was an irritatingly picky eater. I remember time and time again my mother getting frustrated with my whining over having to eat this food or that. I remember my parents and grandparents bribing and begging me to eat things. I didn’t like ground beef. I didn’t like cheese. I didn’t like mushrooms. I didn’t like lima beans or Brussels sprouts After getting sick once, I wouldn’t eat cheesecake or cream cheese in any form except smeared on a plain, toasted bagel. I didn’t like any food that looked, smelled or tasted different than what I was used to eating every day. Once, my mother who was normally as honest as the day is long lied to me about the eggs I happened to be eating. We were staying at my great-grandmother’s house. Great Grandma Deaver raised ducks and chickens, but mainly got her eggs from her ducks. My mother put a plate of over-easy duck eggs and toast down in front of me. I was, of course, immediately suspicious and I began asking what was wrong with these huge eggs on my plate. My mother smiled sweetly (I’m sure she wanted to shake me) and said that Granny just happened to raise really, really big chickens. I ate the eggs and found that they tasted better than chicken eggs. But then my mother triumphantly revealed that they were actually duck eggs and I screamed and refused to ever eat eggs at Grandma Deaver’s house ever again.

Over the years, I’ve grown to love cheese, cheesecake, mushrooms, lima beans and Brussels sprouts. Of course, in the case of each food, I had to choose at a particular moment to force myself to eat them. Cheese was something I came to love somewhere between the ages of three and seven, I believe. Cheesecake, mushrooms, lima beans and Brussels sprouts were foods that I only decided to try after I had been married. brussels-sprouts-1856706_1920

Initially, I was inspired by my husband’s openness to food. I wanted to be as open minded to food as he was. Then, about 6 months into our marriage, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I found myself cut off from easy and familiar foods like take-out pizza and doughnuts. I was forced to try new, bizarre foods like quinoa (which I pronounced quin-Noah until some nice hippies at the health food store corrected me) and cakes made from rice flour and potato starch. This re-routing of my dietary habits was the final sealing of the deal. At first, I wanted to try new foods and then I had no choice about it.

Recently, I’ve surprised even myself by my willingness to try seafood. I HATE seafood. Nothing that I have tried so far in my life has made me change my tastes on this front. In fact, the only reason I’ve been willing to try fish lately is that my cholesterol has become a problem and fatty fish are touted as the culinary cure for cholesterol issues. I think that people who love seafood (and this is most people that I come across) don’t understand what I mean when I say that I don’t like seafood. I’m going to try to explain this here because I want it to be clear what a miracle it is that I’m even willing to put the stuff in my mouth. When I say that I can’t stand seafood, I do not merely mean that I baked salmon fillet on boardprefer chicken or beef. I mean that everything about seafood – the sight, the smell, the texture – is repulsive to me. I find the smell of the ocean itself to be slightly nauseating and that smell of fish, even the stuff that people swear is “not fishy”, is a concentrated dose of that oceanic scent. When I say that I don’t like fish, I mean that often times I have to hold my breath when I take a bite of salmon or tuna (two of the only fish I have managed to choke down) and that there have been times that I’ve had to hold on, white-knuckled, to the edge of the dinner table in order to force myself to swallow the bite I’ve taken. I gag and dry-heave the whole time that I eat fish, but the point of pride for me is that I DO eat it. I don’t enjoy one second of it, to be sure, but I force myself and (occasionally) win the war against my food aversion.

I guess the thing I’m wondering – and I would love some feedback – is, does it seem worth it to choke down food that I hate in the hopes that it will one day become an acquired taste? I’ve always heard that a varied plate is a healthy plate and frankly, that is why I try new foods. I once knew a nurse who could count on one hand the foods that she would eat. They were all white, starchy foods. She believed that it would be better to die young and happy, eating the foods that give you pleasure, rather than live a long time gagging on stuff that you find disgusting. So, what is the general consensus? To eat or not to eat stuff I don’t like, that is the question. You can comment with your thoughts below. I am excited to read them!

 

Curried Eggs and (No) Ham

By Rachel Sircy

I love eggs. I have them pretty much every morning for breakfast despite the fact that I have cholesterol problems. I really wouldn’t recommend this for anyone else who has cholesterol issues, but we all have to take baby steps toward better health, right? Well, that’s what I’m telling myself for now, anyway. I’m taking a few baby steps right now toward eating more whole and organic foods. I am trying little by little to purge my diet of chemicals and high glycemic index foods like white flour and sugar. It’s really slow going. But then, so was the change that I made when I switched to eating totally gluten free. Believe me, I would love to tell you that I was a gluten free crusader from the first minute I got that awful news from the doctor that I was a celiac, but that would be a lie. It took me almost a year just to decide to really eat gluten free all the time. I kept wondering whether the doctor might not be wrong. I actually went back to the gastroenterologist about 9 months or so after I was initially diagnosed just to have him check all the lab and endoscopy reports again and make 100% sure that what he was telling me was right.

So, my latest discovery of food that can be used as medicine is turmeric. Turmeric is a powder made from a dried and ground root that is vibrantly yellow and is related to ginger. I had always kind of heard from one person or another that turmeric is supposed to be good for you, but I never knew how or why. I had some sitting in my spice cabinet that had been there for quite a while just waiting to be used. I love to eat curried things: Singapore style rice noodles, chana masala, etc. Somehow, though, whenever I try to replicate these recipes at home, they never taste right. So, my poor container of spice just sat there, ignored for quite a while. It wasn’t until I was reading the transcript of a lecture series given by Dr. Mimi Guarneri, the founder of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, that I decided to get my little container of turmeric out and put it to good use.

As it turns out, all of those things that I had heard people mention now and again in passing about the health benefits of turmeric are true. There have been a number of scientific studies done on the compound, curcumin – the compound that gives turmeric it’s signature yellow color – has some significant health benefits. Curcumin has been used as an alternative treatment for cardiac patients, reducing the number of heart attacks patients have after a bypass surgery. It has also been used as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for osteoarthritis patients and has been found to work as well as ibuprofen. It also has been shown to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. All of these health benefits were of interest to me. As a celiac, of course I deal with a lot of inflammation in my digestive tract. I also wake up with back pain every morning and, last but not least, I am at a higher risk for chronic cholesterol problems. So, each morning for about three weeks I’ve been sprinkling a little turmeric on my scrambled eggs. Of course, it would be best if I could get myself to just eat the scrambled egg whites. One day I’ll get to the place where just plain egg whites don’t seem so hopelessly tasteless, but I’m not there yet. I can’t really tell you if turmeric is healing some of the inflammation in my digestive tract or if it’s improving my cardiovascular health. What I can tell you is that it seems to be significantly decreasing the amount of pain that I have in my back. I’m actually kind of shocked at how much it seems to be helping.

Now, the caveat here is this: I put a LOT of turmeric on my eggs in the morning. I usually don’t cook it in the eggs, I sprinkle it on top. It’s definitely not the most delicious way to consume turmeric, but it seems to work a bit better for the stiffness and pain when I eat it that way. Also, in most of the scientific studies on turmeric, the patients involved were taking way more than your average culinary doses of turmeric. You can get turmeric supplements at health food stores or almost anywhere you can buy vitamins, but you need to talk to your doctor before you start taking any new supplement!

Right now, I’m focusing on just using more turmeric and curry powder as I cook and seeing how much better I feel after that. I really don’t like taking pills, even supplements. So, food first, capsules later (if the food doesn’t fix what ails me).

You can read the abstracts or even the whole articles on turmeric on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s website: nccih.nih.gov.  You can also checkout this article on Healthline.com, which breaks down some of those studies for you and also has links to the medical studies from which the information was taken: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric#section5. (Truth be told, I hate any article titled “Top 10” Anything. I always feel like they’re trying to fill space or sell me something, or both, but I appreciate the way the author on health line included references for everything he wrote. I’m married to a teacher, so bibliographies and reference numbers always make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.)

Here is a picture of my Curried Eggs and (No) Ham. I put the turmeric in the eggs and then scrambled them and also added spinach to compensate for the fact that I actually did eat some bacon with these…

eggs

The Dirty Dozen (and the Clean Fifteen)

By Rachel Sircy

So, in my attempts to eat healthier this year, I am buying a lot more vegetables and fruits. But, it turns out that not all fruits and vegetables are created equal. It matters (at least to me) that the fruits and vegetables that I eat and that I feed to my family are as chemical free as possible. Of course, the best place to find fresh fruits and vegetables that are chemical free (or close to it) is the farmer’s market. I’ve already written about how much I love the SC State Farmer’s Market. You really can do pretty much all your produce shopping there. And, even if the farmers can’t afford to purchase the “organic” label for their produce, it’s likely that since they’re not farming on a huge scale, like the corn and soybean farmers in the Midwest – they’re the farmers who supply the stuff used to make high fructose corn syrup, etc. – that they’re not spraying some of the crazy chemicals on their produce that a huge corporate farm would. Plus, local produce hasn’t had chemicals added or been processed in a weird way in order to keep it fresh during shipping, because it hasn’t had to travel far to get to you. And the prices of this fresh, local produce are not as high as you’d think.farmers-market-1329008_1280

However, most of us can’t make it to the farmer’s market for a leisurely shopping experience. If you’re like me, you go to the grocery store when you’ve run out of all of your kitchen staples and you’re desperate. And most of us probably try to squeeze our shopping in after work and in between running our kids to this sporting event or band concert or what have you. Unfortunately, the price of organic produce can be prohibitively expensive for some (including me) at the grocery store. Of course, places like Aldi and Lidl (which just opened in Lexington), carry a variety of organic products for fairly cheap. However, if you can’t get to an Aldi or to the new Lidl, or if the prices are still out of the range of your budget, you can choose which fruits and vegetables to buy organic by following the guidelines of the clean fifteen and the dirty dozen.

If you’re not already familiar with these lists – the clean fifteen and the dirty dozen are two lists of fruits and vegetables that are released every year by the Environmental Working Group. The Clean Fifteen is the list of the fifteen fruits and vegetables that are least likely to contain pesticides or which contain fewer pesticides than your average fruits and veggies. So, the produce listed on the Clean Fifteen list are probably pretty safe to eat even if they’re not organic. In other words, these are the things that you can get away with just buying the regular, cheaper version of. And yes, you guessed it, that means that the Dirty Dozen is a list of the produce that is MOST likely to have pesticides. So, if you can only afford to get a limited number of organic fruits or vegetables, choose the organic version of anything you want or need that is on the Dirty Dozen list. Sometimes I have just planned my shopping list around the items on the clean fifteen list, so that I didn’t have to worry about buying organic!

You can find the 2018 lists and a lot of other resources at www.ewg.org or you can just look below, since I’m going to write out the lists for you 😊

The CLEAN FIFTEEN:avocado-2644150_1920

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbages
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen Sweet Peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydew Melons
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantaloupes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

 

The DIRTY DOZENstrawberry-2960533_1920

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet Bell Peppers (they also list Hot Peppers as a 2018 Dirty Dozen member)

 

Happy Shopping!