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Celiac in DC? Don’t eat here.

I typically try to put a positive spin on living and eating out with celiac disease. But there’s nothing that gets my blood boiling more than a restaurant trying to take advantage of the gluten free trend by offering a gluten free menu without putting in place the proper measures needed to make the meal actually gluten free.

These restaurants have all either gotten me sick, have told me about practices I believe are dangerous, or have been negatively reviewed multiple times for their mistakes or bad service. While they may be okay for those trying out the gluten free “trend,” I wouldn’t recommend them for anyone with celiac disease or a serious need to avoid gluten.

  1. Pizzeria Paradiso – While Pizzeria Paradiso offers gluten free pizza, they have told me that none of their ingredients or preparation is separate from the regular pizzas. That means shared utensils and surfaces. I’ve voiced my concerns to their manager and walked out of their restaurant.
  2. Jackson’s 20 – It saddens me to add this place to the list, but they were misinformed and rude when I asked for a simple brunch meal of scrambled eggs and grits. They claimed that flour in the air would get me sick just sitting in the restaurant (?), and that real celiacs just shouldn’t eat out. A comment on Facebook confirmed this attitude for me.
  3. Masa 14 – A lot of people pat Masa 14 on the back for their gluten free menu, so this might just be my experience. Not only did I feel like a burden to my server, but they brought out a sauce containing gluten on my plate. I ate the sauce before the server came over to inform me that it had gluten, and that was the reason they had put it on the side. I got sick and won’t eat there again.
  4. Ping Pong Dim Sum – This place is widely known for being on DC’s most wanted list for bad gluten free menus. Actually, their menu isn’t gluten free, it’s “gluten friendly,” meaning that it’s only about 75% gluten free, and you have to grill the server for what is actually in everything. I wound up ordering the most plain things I could in an effort to not get glutened. See reviews on Yelp confirming.
  5. Domino’s – Another confirmed no-no for celiacs. Because they use the same ingredients, pans, and utensils as the regular pizzas you can bet there will be gluten all up in your pizza. Check out the FAQs from the NFCA for more information.

While Yelp and other online reviews aren’t always to be trusted, here are a few that I have put on my radar.

  1. Nature’s Table“I explained to her that I asked for it as a bowl as I have a gluten intolerance. So what does she do? She tries to pour the contents of the burrito into a container rather than making it again!”
  2. Silver Diner “Be very careful with their GF breakfast options. No separate griddle.” “Staff didn’t get the cross-contamination piece of things. Brought me my GF meal with a biscuit on the plate.”

Do you have any restaurants on your “never again” list? Tell me about them!

Stop saying cross-contamination – I beg of you.

I’ve had this topic on my list of things to write about, but I just can’t take it any more. As a community, us celiacs need to stop saying the phrase “cross-contamination when we’re referring to a gluten free food coming into contact with gluten, thereby rendering it unsafe to eat.

That’s called cross-contact, people!

It’s not just semantics, it’s a matter of communicating in an accurate way what we’re trying to prevent. Using the wrong word can confuse kitchen staff, waiters, and anyone else cooking for you.

Any trained cook or chef is taught that cross-contamination refers to food borne bacteria and diseases. They are taught to properly handle foods like raw meats by storing them correctly and heating them to a high temperature to prevent food-borne illness.

So if you ask a cook, “You know how to prevent cross-contamination, right?” They might think that as long as they wash their hands and cook your food enough, they’re all set.  If they use the same tongs/utensils, they might think it won’t matter if they used it for something with gluten in it as long as they cook it enough then the gluten will “burn off” or something.

Cross-contact occurs when a residue or trace amount of an allergenic or gluten-containing becomes incorporated into another food not intended to contain it, according to the FDA.

You’re probably thinking, “Fine, that’s the correct definition, but everyone says cross-contamination!” I thought that myself at one point as well.

I’d venture a guess that we are getting glutened more for that very reason. You have to talk the talk to be taken seriously. Being able to explain the difference between cross-contamination and cross-contact can help clear up people’s questions about how to safely prepare meals, and can help keep you from getting sick.

So, get with the program – start saying cross-contact. Even if it’s just to make me happy.

My Posts in The DC Ladies

This summer I began contributing to the blog “The DC Ladies,” which is a compilation of great articles by women in the Capital Area. I contribute one article a month on a gluten-free topic I think would be of interest to all the ladies of DC. Whether that’s a recipe, restaurant review, or tips for eating healthy, I’m so excited to be a part of such an inspiring group of women.

Here’s a list of my posts thus far:

Lazy Girl’s Guide: Healthy Take-Out Lunches

Try These 5 Easy, Healthy, and Gluten-free Snacks

Soup for Two in 5 Minutes Flat

Gluten-free Holiday Gift Ideas

The DC Ladies Guide to a Healthy (and Gluten-free) Thanksgiving

How to Plan a Gluten-free Wedding

Tasty Ideas for a Gluten-free Tailgate

Where to Find DC’s Best Gluten-free Pasta

A Beginner’s Guide to Being Gluten-free in DC

The best way to find out about new posts is to follow The DC Ladies on Facebook and Twitter. They have lots of great posts on fashion, home decorating, fitness, and more!

Avoid a Glutening: Bring Your Own Food to the Bar

In my experience, about 10% of bars with true “bar food” offer anything that’s gluten free. Even if there is something that’s edible, like chicken wings, bar food is one of the riskiest types of fare for celiacs. It’s typically fried, made in a rush, and kitchens are less likely to make substitutions. If I’m absolutely starving at a bar I typically order nachos, after checking that the chips come from a package and are made from corn, and any toppings are also gluten free. But who wants to go through that hassle when you’re at a bar trying to relax?

That’s why I’m all about going to bars that allow you to bring your own food. In DC, it’s possible for bars to get a “tavern license,” which allows them to sell booze and not food. Then you can order delivery from nearby restaurants that you know you can eat at safely, or bring in your own food, whether it be a bag of popcorn or a box of cereal and milk.

For celiacs, that means that you can 1) ensure that your food is completely gluten free and 2) avoid that whole rigmarole of talking to servers and chefs to figure out what you can eat.

Here are some BYOF options in DC:

Let me know if I’m missing any! Cheers!

Celiac Disease: At Least it’s Not a Food Allergy

This weekend I’ll be attending the Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference in Las Vegas, so I thought it was about time that I wrote about a topic I spend a good portion of my day thinking about: the intersection of celiac disease and food allergies.

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Is one harder to manage? More severe? Easier to diagnose? It seems like the celiac and food allergy communities are caught in a constant back-and-forth over who’s got it worse.

First, let me say that having celiac disease is some serious business. No one knows that better than me. On average it takes 6-10 years for a person with celiac disease to be diagnosed. I was lucky to get a diagnosis soon after I started recognizing symptoms, but I still suffer health consequences on a regular basis even seven years later.

But, if I had to choose – I’d take celiac disease over a life-threatening food allergy any day.

Yep, I said it. While celiac disease can lead to serious health implications like infertility, certain forms of cancer, etc.

Food allergies can kill you. Like, today. Right now. At your next meal.

My mom and little sister both have life-threatening peanut allergies (my mom is also allergic to peas). If I could trade in their allergies for celiac disease, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Short anecdote: Growing up, I knew that no peanut dare cross the threshold of our front door. I didn’t have a peanut myself until I was about 8-years-old, when I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a friend’s house. I don’t know if I was sick, or why what happened next happened, but when I got home I threw up that sandwich all over our living room floor. My mom had me rinse out my mouth and hop in the car to go to the doctor, all without cleaning up the mess so she didn’t have a reaction herself.

So, back to my mom and sister – I would choose for them to have celiac disease over a food allergy because of what it would mean for their day-to-day: no more trips to the ER, no more expensive epinephrine prescriptions, no more fear while entering the lunchroom. No chance that a bite of a cookie could send them into anaphylaxis and kill them. 

Because, let’s be real – if I had a bite of a cookie that had gluten in it, I’m not going to die. Not a chance, not today. And I’m grateful that I don’t have to bear that burden.

There is still much more work to be done to bring awareness to celiac disease and food allergies – they are both widely misunderstood, under-diagnosed, and under-funded. More than anything, I’d like to see both communities focus on their similarities over their differences. We both got the short end of the stick when it comes to food, so we’ll need to work together to expand our options and move towards cures.

Thoughts? If you had to choose, which would you rather have: celiac disease, or a food allergy?

5 Things Men Need to Stop Saying (Gluten Free Version)

This Thought Catalog post got me thinking about how certain things that men say affect women who are gluten free differently than they would your “regular” woman. Most of the men I know are extremely understanding and accepting of my diet, but there is still always the random jerk out there who has to ruin it for the rest of them. So, men, please do us gals a favor and stop saying these things:

“I want a girl who will order a beer over wine.”

I used to worry that men would think that I was high maintenance or not “one of the guys” because I can’t order beer or a burger at a restaurant. Sure I could order a burger with no bun, but in my opinion having your date eat a plain beef patty like a cave woman is not exactly a turn on. Now I’ve learned that what people choose to eat or drink is really blown out of proportion. Order a beer, order a fruity margarita with a twist, order whatever it is you feel like drinking that night. Same goes for food – girls who order burgers and girls who order salads have an equal chance of being “cool.”

“Reservations? Nah, let’s just play dinner by ear.”

Whenever any guy says that, I immediately assume that I’m going to be left starving in the middle of nowhere. Usually this of the carefree sentiment that you could just hop into a restaurant and grab a slice of pizza, or pull into a drive thru and order some sandwiches. That’s not an option for celiacs, though. I prefer to know when and where my next meal is coming from, or at the very least that there is some kind of plan for getting food into my belly in the next few hours.

“Do you want a bite?”

This is usually followed by an, “Oh, nevermind…you can’t have this.” Yes, thank you very much for reminding me. I know that usually the person just genuinely forgot that I can’t partake in whatever delicious donut or pastry they’re having, but every time I have to turn down a cookie it makes me die a little inside. Come on dude, just try to think a little before you speak.

“Don’t worry so much.”

Celiacs have to worry because if we don’t, gluten will get us. Seriously, it’s everywhere. I know it’s probably annoying that I have to ask the waiter 10 questions before we can eat, but if the alternative is dealing with me being grumpy and sick from getting glutened, I think you’ll pick the former.

“She could stand to lose a few pounds.”

This is true for all women, but I can see it happening to gluten free women who get that ever-so-attractive distended abdomen after getting glutened. Men are so hypercritical of women’s bodies, and then they wonder why we’re all so insecure. No man has ever said this to me, but if they did…God help them.

All my gluten free females out there – what do you think men need to stop saying to you?

El’s Kitchen Snaps Bagel Chips Giveaway

The folks at El’s Kitchen are always a step ahead of the game when it comes to gluten free snacking. I love their Medley’s snack mix, so I was pumped to try their new flavors of bagel chips. I opted for their sweet variety, the cinnamon and sugar.

These are a great munchable snack, and not as sweet as I was expecting! Not only are these gluten free, they’re also free of the other major allergens: eggs, milk, soy, peanuts, and nuts. And they’re only 100 calories or less per serving.

If you want to win a bag to try, enter the raffle below!

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway