Gluten-free since: 2006
Are you completely gluten-free?
"Yes. I have Celiac disease, so I need to be pretty vigilant with reading labels and ensuring there are no wheat products in the food that I eat. Gluten-free for life, baby."
What made you decide to go gluten-free?
"Sophomore year of college, I remember feeling super-lethargic all the time with an overall lack of energy. I went to the doctor, who then discovered that I had a strong gluten-intolerance bordering on Celiac disease. I was never a huge bread and pasta person, so to me it didn't feel like a drastic change — just more of a lifestyle change and commitment to my health."
Take us through a typical day of meals for you on a gluten-free diet.
"Breakfast is coffee and a yogurt with gluten-free granola. Lunch is salad with some form of protein like chicken or tuna. For a snack, I have a Lara Bar, potato chips, nuts, or fruit. Dinner is sushi with gluten-free tamari sauce or gluten-free pasta."
What's the hardest thing about being gluten-free?
"Drunk food and hangover food. Who doesn't want to chow down on a greasy slice of pizza after a night of imbibing, or soothe a throbbing hangover with a big ‘ol toasted bagel and cream cheese. Luckily, I've found some decent substitutions."
What do you like about being gluten-free?
"How my body feels – a lot more refreshed and rejuvenated. It’s also quite the conversation starter and a nice common thread when you discover someone else is gluten-free! All of a sudden you have so much to talk about."
Have you noticed a difference in your health or the way you feel since going gluten-free?
"Yes! I have so much more energy, and feel a lot less tired and heavy. It’s definitely improved my overall physical and mental health."
Do you ever cheat?
"Not intentionally. I'm usually pretty careful about checking labels, but occasionally I'll forget, and then discover later that something totally random had gluten in it. Note to all Celiacs out there: Wasabi peas? Pizza Pringles? Haribo Gummies? All have gluten. Now, how would anyone have known that!"
What gluten food do you miss the most?
"I love baking, so I do miss sweets and pastries. Luckily, one of my best friends, Julia, also has Celiac disease and makes a killer gluten-free pineapple upside-down cake. It has become the default birthday cake for our entire circle of friends and always receives rave reviews, even from the gluten eaters!"
What kind of advice would you offer to anyone who is considering gluten- free?
"Do it for the right reasons. Don't do it to lose weight, or because you want to try the new 'fad-diet' — you likely won’t shrink down to a size two. In fact, often times gluten-free alternatives have more calories. Obviously, in my case, I had no choice, but if it is a conscious decision I would encourage people to commit to it. I see so many people who claim to be 'gluten-free' and then when no one is looking, will sneak a slice of birthday cake or a big bite of a hamburger."
What are some of your favorite gluten-free brands/foods?
Udi's Bagels are the best! I also love Udi's and Bakery on Main granola. Bionaturae makes the best gluten-free pasta. Lara Bars, Glutino Pretzels and Tate’s Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies are the best snacks.
Where are some of your favorite places to eat gluten-free?
"Risotteria in the West Village and Pala Pizza in Soho. Both of these places have separate ovens and utensils for all of the gluten-free food, which definitely puts me at ease as far as cross contamination goes. If you go to Pala Pizza order the Zucca. Butternut squash puree on a pizza may sound weird, but it is the most delicious thing ever! And the Limonata cocktail is the perfect summer drink to pair with it."
Can you offer some advice about eating out at restaurants when you are gluten-free?
"I always dread asking waiters at restaurants if there is wheat in this item or what dishes are guaranteed gluten free. I feel like it makes me sound so high-maintenance. It’s obviously easier to go to gluten-free restaurants, or places that have a separate gluten-free menu. But, if you’re at a regular restaurant, ask for hamburger without the bun or an egg sandwich without the bread (sounds weird, but I've definitely done it). Do be cautious though as oftentimes chefs use flour to thicken up sauces or salad dressing, so I always try and check."
What are some of your tried-and-true gluten-free recipes?
"Pineapple-Upside Down Cake (makes one 9x13 cake)
- 2 bags of Pamela’s classic vanilla cake mix (follow recipe on package but substitutepineapple juice from the can instead of water)
- 1 stick of butter
- ¾ - 1 cup of brown sugar
- 1 can of whole ring canned pineapple (in juice, not heavy syrup)"
"Melt butter over the stove and pour into 9x13 pan. Evenly distribute brown sugar over melted butter and stir until it becomes a sugar paste. Drain the canned pineapple (save the juice for the cake batter) and place the pineapple rings on top of the brown sugar mixture. Prepare cake batter per the instructions on the bag and pour the batter on top of the pineapples and brown sugar. Bake as directed on the package. Once the cake is done, immediately flip the cake over to cool on a pan. Serve warm with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream."
"Yes this recipe uses a cake mix, but it is so damn good! I swear it tastes like it’s made from scratch and saves you the hassle of buying all of the specialty gluten-free baking ingredients."
There's a lot of controversy around the idea that gluten-free is not a healthy lifestyle. What do you have to say about that?
"For me, a gluten-free lifestyle is not a choice and I would be doing damage to my body by living any other way. Obviously, any diet taken to the extreme can be detrimental to your health, but I know several people who have ridden the gluten-free wave and immediately felt like a new person! Living a holistically healthy life should be top priority."
Gluten-free since: 2006