We all talk a good game about how to eat, what to eat, and the importance of preparing our own food from quality ingredients. The truth is that everyone faces the same dilemmas from time to time. Whether it's travel, working late, business lunches, social outings, or simply not being interested in cooking, there are many reasons that eating that home cooked meal may not always be possible.
I've decided to pose a series of questions to our members on a weekly basis on what gets them through these situations. You might be surprised at some of the answers and others might be exactly what you expected — either way, I'm hopeful that this will help you navigate your way through the myriad of awkward, inconvenient, or simply lazy situations you find yourself in.
Kariman Pierce from Tucson, Arizona
CA: Do you put much thought into where you eat out? Or do you simply go anywhere and try to make do with what's on the menu?
KP: This is a great question and a significant one for both my nutrition practice AND my own life. I was diagnosed with celiac disease over 20 years ago and my mom was diagnosed over 30 years ago. I am very sad to share that her life was cut short due to complications of celiac disease. She did not have all the information. She was the one who went to any restaurant and made due. She did not understand that one undetectable crumb could create a domino effect of inflammation and symptoms for months. Her gluten-free bread (the old sawdust and brick style!) shared a toaster with glutenous bread. She put her knife in a jelly jar with a glutenous knife! Needless to say, no one knew how big and devastating the writing on the wall would be. She is sorely missed.
I am VERY picky about my restaurant choices. I am "that person" who asks the waiter a million questions and balances it out with a big tip. I have learned the hard way to become my own best advocate and have turned this around and become that for others. It is truly a matter of life and death!
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal in (or near) Tucson?
KP: There are many, many great eating establishments in Tucson and still my recent favorite is in fact a Mexican food restaurant! Seis Kitchen offers food from 6 culinary regions of Mexico. Chef, Erika Munoz uses fresh whole foods and locally-sourced, simple ingredients. They also make fresh corn tortillas on-site. As a celiac, I appreciate that they keep a clean kitchen and are almost entirely gluten-free (minus flour tortillas and beer!). I have had numerous positive experiences there and have never once been "glutened". This is HUGE for me!
The bonus is that they are a hip and artsy establishment, with appealing faire for everyone, so my friends and family don't balk when I suggest it. Win-win!
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal outside of Tucson?
KP: My most memorable restaurant meal outside of my hometown favorites, is hands-down, The Cultured Caveman in Portland, Oregon. It was the first time I had the opportunity to walk into a restaurant that was entirely designed for my specific food sensitivity requirements as well as being well-versed in nutrient-dense whole foods. It helped that the first time I went, I was sitting among some of the influencers of the Paleo/Primal movement — Sarah Ballantyne and Diane Sanfilippo to name a few. I had just completed the Nutritional Therapy Association Conference, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to see them there, as they were conference speakers. Never the less, it heightened my excitement and enjoyment!
CA: For people with special diets, how do you suggest they talk with restaurant staff in order to get what they need?
KP: I am a BIG advocate of talking to waitstaff. My best advice is to be confident and advocate for your needs and also be kind, humble & generous with your waitstaff (this means tip well!). More and more I am seeing educated waiters and efforts by restaurants to pre-emptively train their staff in ingredients and language around food sensitivities. Always be patient with the servers when you order and remind them how important this is to your health. When they bring the food to the table, ask again about the meal, confirming it has been made as per your request. It is important you also educate yourself on typical restaurant cooking procedures so you know what to ask about. For example, many foods are cooked on shared surfaces. Kitchen cooks wear gloves and potentially touch foods that are problematic to you. Other examples include: salads that are pre-made with croutons (picking out is not enough to keep me safe!). Soy sauce (containing wheat) is ubiquitous in meat marinades, salad dressings and other sauces. And these are only a few things to be aware of!
All in all, show compassion for yourself, choose your restaurant well and tip big!
CA: Do you prepare an emergency meal when you travel? If so, what do you include?
KP: I always travel with snacks to keep me safe! My favorites include: dried fruit, macadamia nuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, grass-fed jerky and sardines. When I am road-tripping, I add fresh fruits, pre-chopped veggies, dips like hummus, hard boiled eggs and avocados.
My purse ALWAYS has a small bag of seeds & nuts. I used to do this for purposes of keep my blood sugar balanced. Since that is no longer an issue, (thank you nutritional therapy!) the habit has evolved to making sure I'm not caught with nothing to eat in this gluten-filled world!
CA: Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?
KP: I have been blessed with a chef for a husband, so I admit, I am well cooked for. This also means I am less in the kitchen. (I'm the nutritional "brains" and he's the "brawn" — so to speak!) When I am on my own, I tend to batch cook. My favorite thing to do it pick up bags of organic, frozen Brussel sprouts, beets and sweet potato. I throw them frozen onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, drizzle with avocado oil or coconut oil and Italian blend spices, plus sea salt and pepper. The pan goes in the oven at 400 degrees F. After 15-20 minutes, I turn the veggies over with a spatula and cook for up to 20 more minutes. (Times have varied depending on oven used.) Once roasted, I eat them hot and then add them as one of my lunch salad ingredients for the next few days.
CA: Do you consume alcohol? Explain why you think it is or isn’t a good idea.
KP: I rarely drink — much to the chagrin of my husband and friends! This is not a teatotaler attitude, as much as I am completely capable of being silly, playful and ridiculous without the use of alcohol to "loosen me up"! That said, I was a stout beer enthusiast before my diagnosis of celiac disease. I have never been a huge fan of wine because it always gave me headaches. Nowadays, my rare drink of choice is a high quality tequila on the rocks or a fresh ingredient margarita. I do live in Tucson after all!
I do not have a problem with individuals having a drink every now and then. I do feel strongly that multiple drinks of alcohol on a regular basis are NOT good for the body. It is no different than consuming excess refined sugar. I recommend all "treats" such as alcohol and dessert be kept to a special occasion. Even then consuming is moderation is key, if your goal, like mine, is to live a healthy, happy life.
CA: In terms of food, what is your guilty pleasure?
KP: I have chuckled with a few nutritionist friends on just this topic. My "guilty pleasure" has evolved greatly as I've become more and more steeped in the world of whole food nutrition. My treat-standards have gone WAY up. I find I don't even want something if it isn't nutrient-dense and high-quality. (I realize how snobby this sounds. I'm just being honest. My health is worth it and so is yours!)
For the quick grocery store grab, I love NadaMoo brand coconut ice cream or Eating Evolved brand Primal Chocolate. I also like Alter Eco brand chocolate. When I'm making a treat from scratch at home, I bake with almond flour and love pumpkin spice cake.
I have celiac disease and am passionate about supporting others, particularly women, recently diagnosed with celiac disease. As a Nutritional Therapist and Wellness Coach, I’ve put my own celiac diagnosis into remission, and want to help you do the same!
I watched my mother die of complications stemming from untreated celiac and I struggled with the symptoms for over 15 years, too, as well as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. At last, the right combination of nutritional diet, gluten free lifestyle and healthy mindset set me free to live an inspired life.
Together, we can win your battle with gluten-based symptoms and autoimmune disease. Food sensitivities, celiac disease, thyroid disease – all can be addressed through the use of healing foods and nutritional therapy.