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.
Nadine Grzeskowiak from Salem, Oregon
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?
NG: I put a fair amount of thought into where we can safely eat out. Unfortunately, I learned quickly and completely that while many eateries say they can provide safe, gluten free food, often that is not the case. Pizzerias that offer gluten free pizzas but they toss the dough into the air are contaminating everything in that restaurant, even the salads. Unless a restaurant has a separate designated gluten free kitchen, the risk of contamination with gluten is enormous. Corporations, fast food joints and restaurants like to jump on the gluten free bandwagon because they understand that many people are interested in eating gluten free, not just the people diagnosed with celiac disease and this is impacting their profits. They offer gluten free options without realizing or taking into account how to prevent contamination and cross-contamination. Additionally, if I am going out to eat with my family, friends or for business, I look for a restaurant that is safe for me with good, quality food that we all can enjoy. I always look for and ideally choose restaurants that are designated gluten free, if that is an option.
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal in (or near) Salem?
NG: I have to confess, my most memorable gluten free restaurant meals have taken place at Eats and Treats Cafe in Philomath, Oregon. Several years ago, when Katy McHenry was employed at Gluten Free RN, we held a community meeting with the intention of having someone (but not us) open up a safe restaurant in our area. Katy's Dad showed up to take notes for the meeting. It wasn't long after that initial meeting that Katy's Mom and Dad opened up Eats and Treats Cafe. The very first meal at Eats and Treats Cafe several years ago was extremely exciting and memorable, as has been every meal since. People, quite literally, travel great distances just to experience the incredible 100% gluten free barbecue, baked goods and other tasty foods on the extensive menu. Whenever Katy is back in town for a visit, we happily, proudly and safely eat out at Eats and Treats Cafe.
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal outside of Salem?
NG: My most favorite and memorable restaurant meal occurred in the Mission District of San Francisco, California at Pica Pica which serves 100% gluten free Venezuelan food. My mouth is salivating just thinking about their great food. The first time we ate there, we just kept ordering more and more food because we could not get enough of the incredible flavors. The arepa are handmade with either white or yellow corn fresh, every day. The meat options are spicy and tasty beyond belief. They also offer yuca fries on the menu. The food is fresh, tasty, gluten free, not expensive and amazingly fabulous. Thankfully, I find myself traveling to San Francisco frequently and always make sure at least one trip to Pica Pica is on the travel agenda.
And now having written that, another favorite meal was at Zydeco Restaurant in Bend, Oregon after summiting South Sister with a group of friends. That meal was divine too!
CA: For people with special diets, how do you suggest they talk with restaurant staff in order to get what they need?
NG: I recommend that people do their homework first by asking people they trust for recommendations for safe restaurants. There are a few restaurants that I recommend that are not 100% gluten free but my criteria is pretty strict. People need to be very clear in communicating their needs to the restaurant staff. It might help to call ahead and ask the important questions before you show up. One app that we rely on when we are traveling is Find Me Gluten Free. We use that as a starting point but continue to ask questions until we are relatively certain the place is safe. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to get the information you need to eat safely. Whenever your food is delivered to your table, always ask the person presenting it to you, "Is this food gluten free?". It is amazing how many times that simple question at the point of delivery has prompted that server to say that 'well, no, it isn't gluten free'. There are times restaurant staff have assured me that food is gluten free, but when I test to with my Nima Sensor or EZ Gluten test strips, it tests positive for gluten. If you really want to have another way to feel safer eating out, invest in either of these options and test the food at your table. You have to be prepared to not eat the food if it comes up positive for gluten.
CA: Do you prepare an emergency meal when you travel? If so, what do you include?
NG: Sometimes I do prepare a meal and sometimes I don't. It depends on the circumstances, where I am traveling and how long I plan on being gone. There are very few times when I do not have access to food such as fruit, EPIC bars or some type of quick snack. At this time, my body is really fine even if I have to go without food for a day or even a few days. Fasting is an okay way to avoid potential gluten contamination if safe food just isn't available. Speaking of emergency meals, I have been teaching classes for several years now titled "Emergency Preparedness with Nutrient Dense Foods". Our kitchen is stocked up with all of these shelf stable, nutrient dense foods which we use everyday and I keep stocked up in our cupboards. We live in the Pacific North West where earthquakes, floods and forest fires are a real threat, and there aren't any agencies or shelters that will be capable of feeding me safe foods. People need to take this into account when they are preparing their own emergency travel bags and food stores at home, in their cars and at their work place. There is a podcast on iTunes Gluten Free RN that includes the foods and basic supplies in the podcast notes.
CA: Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?
NG: Every meal I prepare at home is quick because I work long hours. Preparing great meals everyday is not hard. If it's hard, you are doing it wrong. Simple, great tasting food is easy to prepare, cook and incredibly tasty. Grilling, sautéing, baking, using the NEW pressure cookers (I was emotionally scarred as a child by my Grandmothers' pressure cookers dramatically exploding) and my rock solid crock pot. It is really, really hard to pick just one favorite meal but this one keeps popping into my head. Into the crockpot goes 100% grass-fed beef chuck roast from Farmer Dave, pumpkin puree (I use a can of organic pumpkin from a local farm), sweet potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, turmeric, beef spices, water, red wine and a splash of apple cider vinegar. This cooks all day in the handy slow cooker. When I get home from work, we chop up a whole head of green cabbage and sauté it in bacon fat or roast Brussel sprouts in olive oil and salt which either option takes about 15-20 minutes total. Set the table, plate the food and eat. I am drooling (again) just thinking about this meal. If I can in anyway incorporate my fresh homegrown basil pesto into a meal, it is on the table and being eaten.
CA: Do you consume alcohol? Explain why you think it is or isn’t a good idea.
NG: We live in the the Pacific North West which is another terrific wine region. Wine is a part of our culture and is involved in our social gatherings, all within reason, of course. For us, drinking wine with friends, at meals and in social gatherings is fun and lovely. Having said that, Pete and I were doing the Whole30 during a period of time when we were invited to a wedding. That wedding was memorable for many reasons but also because we had so much incredible fun dancing together without any alcohol. Any time alcohol is consumed in excess or without limits, of course that is a problem which needs to be addressed. Addiction to any substance, including foods, can have detrimental health consequences. People need to aware of their overall health and take everything into account when deciding to drink alcohol. If drinking alcohol is causing a problem or problems in your life, get professional help to quit. If drinking alcohol is hurting you, your liver or the people that love you, then recognize the problem and seek a solution.
CA: In terms of food, what is your guilty pleasure?
NG: Guilt is no longer in my bag of feelings, especially surrounding the foods I choose to eat. Since we are primarily on our variation of a Paleo diet/lifestyle, our slide comes in the form of stove top popped organic popcorn while watching a movie together. Our other favorite after dinner treat is made in the blender with organic 100% coconut milk, a splash of organic 'just cranberry' juice, frozen blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, mango with ground cinnamon a splash of vanilla. Super yummy! Do I feel guilty? Not in the least.
Nadine is a 'food is medicine’ activist and is very proud of her work to educate all people about the power of food in health and wellness. Nadine is an expert consultant, professional speaker with over 1500 lectures to date, author of DOUGH NATION: A Nurse's Memoir of Celiac Disease From Missed Diagnosis to Food and Health Activism, podcaster, mom and former emergency/trauma/critical care nurse. Nadine is co-authoring her next book on the science of celiac disease.