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Posts from the ‘Diet and Food’ Category

Gluten-Free Bread Showcase.

For those who are unaccustomed, gluten-free bread is kind of terrible.  It’s like the bread can’t commit to being bread.  It starts out strong – looks good, smells good – but once you try to make a sandwich out of that sucker, it falls apart into a crumbly mess in a matter of milliseconds.  For the last year, I’ve been entirely gluten-free (and I feel better for it – more here on the how and why), and over the course of my gluten-free adventures, I miss proper bread the most.

There are some decent options, though, and they’ve been tested by adults (Chris and I) and kids (Birdy) alike.  Here are some of the top contenders in the Sparling household:

Udi’s is the first kind of gluten-free bread I’ve ever tried, and I want to like it more than I actually do.  It’s not bad, but it’s my least-favorite option.  The pieces of bread themselves are tiny, the bread can’t hold up unless it’s toasted, and when it comes into contact with peanut butter, it becomes sludgy almost immediately.  But it will do in a pinch, and the other Udi’s options are infinitely better than their actual bread.  (Like the hamburger buns.  Those are legitimately awesome.)

Rudi’s is slightly better than Udi’s, but the similarity in names confuses the hell out of me.  Are Rudi and Udi brothers fraught with conflict who once had a unified bakery but then split off and created their own gluten-free fortresses?  Whatever the case,  Rudi’s bread is slightly studier than Udi’s but with the same “better when toasted” consistency.  The pieces of bread seem slightly bigger than Udi’s on the whole.  This brand is a little better but only marginally.

Three Bakers was my favorite bread until two weeks ago (more on that in a second).  This bread is decent in size, better than Udi’s or Rudi’s in consistency, and doesn’t have to be toasted in order to be tolerated.  This bread can hold up to cold cuts and doesn’t shrink and die when touched by condiments.  Three Bakers hold up pretty well when compared to the other kinds.  And it makes bangin’ French Toast.

 

For a long time, the frustrating fragility of gluten-free bread had me baking my own bread, and the preferred bread mix was Pamela’s.  While I’ve made my own bread from scratch before, it takes a reasonable amount of time, and Pamela’s mix on the gluten-free setting for the breadmaker works really well.  It’s thicker and more moist (worst word ever but it applies here) than the store-bought breads, but it falls apart pretty easily when not toasted.  (Sensing a theme here?)

Two weeks ago, though, I found a real winner.  A REAL WINNER.  The Schar brand of bread popped up in the gluten-free section of our local grocery store and holy shit, this stuff seems legit.  It can hold up without being toasted, which is the first kind of GF bread I’ve found capable of unlocking that achievement.  It has a consistency and texture closest to regular bread (in my opinion) and it stood up to the sandwich-in-a-cooler-on-the-beach-for-five-hours test.  I realize I’m holding this stuff up against a strange standard of failure (“This bread sucks the LEAST!”), but it’s been the most successful substitution I’ve found in my 12+ months going gluten-free.

The main drawback to all of these options?  They are pricey.  $5 or $6 for a loaf of bread is ridiculous, which prompts us to buy less of it and embrace other non-bready options more.  But the gluten-free world keeps expanding, and as someone who dove in headfirst and ditched a year’s worth of bellyaches, I’m wicked grateful for these options.

Food Frustrations.

“What frustrates you most as someone living with diabetes when eating out or attending an event that isn’t necessarily friendly to your dietary needs?  How do you overcome those challenges?”

Diabetes makes food an out-of-the-gate loaded topic.  Food isn’t ever simply nourishment.  When I look at a plate of food, I see it as a math problem with a dozen different variables.  How many carbs are on the plate?  What kind of carbs are they – fast-acting, slow burning, or a combination of both?  What’s my blood sugar at this moment?  What was it an hour ago?  Do I have a sense of whether or not I’m holding steady, rising, or falling?  Have I exercised recently?  Will I exercise soon? 

And, and, … and?

Oh yes indeed.  It’s another food-related column up at Animas, talking about the weird dance between food being what people eat to stay alive and food being OMG I’M LOW EAT THE FRIDGE.

To take a nibble out of the rest of this column, click over to Animas.

[And in case you were unaware, here's a link to my disclosure page.]

Looking Back: Thank Goodness for Whiskey.

This is a post from February 2013 about the “diabetic diet” perceptions from back in the 1940′s, and when I came across it again this morning, I marveled once again at the power of whiskey.  See below for what old school diabetes diets were once in play.

*   *   *

I received an email from Krista, one of my oldest friends in the world (not that she’s old, but she’s one of the people I’ve known the longest), and the attached file made me laugh out loud.  Her email said, “I found this list in an old (as in published in 1924, and stuffed with articles clipped from various magazines from the 30s and 40s) cookbook that I got from a friend when she cleaned out an old relative’s house … anyway, thought you’d appreciate it.”

Oh, I did.


(link to original version, which is way bigger)

This list is an old-school “diabetic diet” list, and the contents read as follows:

Foods Allowed: 
Soups and broths not thickened with flour
Meats, fresh, smoked and cured, except liver, without flour gravy
Eggs in any way without flour
Fish, all kinds except scallops, clams and oysters
Fats, butter, olive oil, etc.
Cheese, all kinds.
Vegetables and salads, asparagus, beet greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, celery, pumpkin, radishes, spinach, string beans, tomatoes
Sour pickles, ripe olives
Cream, not over 3 oz a day
Desserts, jellies, etc. sweetened with saccharin
Nuts
Tea and coffee sweetened with saccharin and with small amount of cream
Whiskey, brandy, rums up to 3 oz a day
Lemonade sweetened with saccharin

Articles Forbidden:
Sugar and sweets
Pastry, puddings, preserves, cake and ice cream
Bread, biscuit, toast, crackers, griddle cakes
Cereals, except oatmeal in small amounts
Macaroni, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, beans, peas, corn, turnip
Fruit of all kinds
Alcoholic beverages, except as above

It’s not so much that the list of actual foods is ridiculous, but what kills me is the fact that the second half of the list is deemed “FORBIDDEN ARTICLES!”  No wonder people with diabetes can have such a strange and confusing relationship with food.  Even now, food for me is not always simply food, but becomes a combination of medicine, guilt, sustenance, and math.

Thank goodness for whiskey?

Feed Me.

“I spent [insert slightly obscene amount of money] at the grocery store this afternoon … again,” I said as I put the grocery bags on the kitchen floor.

Chris looked over and assessed the content of the bags.  “It goes into our bodies.  This is what we should be spending our money on.”

Food is an important topic in our house, ranging from its complicated relationship with my diabetes, its influence and  role in my daughter’s health, and overall how society pushes a confusing food agendaFood is a reward.  Food is a punishment.  Food is confusing as fuck and I’d rather just view it as food.

But as much as I’d like to say that I follow all the “rules” and do right by my body at all times, I slip a lot.  Unhealthy food habits creep their way into my regimen almost unnoticed at times.  (Sneaky little bastards.)  For example, about a year ago, I actively tried to cut back on the amount of coffee I was drinking, but after a few months of half-decaf and picking water over iced coffee, I found myself reintroducing that second, and then third cup of caffeinated awesomeness.  (Because that’s a huge problem for me – coffee is awesome, and I like it very much.)  But despite how much I might want to snuggle up with a giant iced coffee, it’s bad news to consume so much of the stuff.  I need to scale back.

I also have a tendency to defer to things like prepackaged and pre-measured yogurt in order to take a crack at keeping blood sugars from going nuts.  If I need a snack, it’s easier to reach for something already carb-counted, but that’s not always the best plan because I’d much rather avoid pre-packaged, if I can.

I won’t even mention the gluten-free journey, because that’s been an exercise in dedication and frustration all unto itself.

Basically, I’ve worked hard to cut out some bad eating habits, and some of them are working their way back in.  This trend needs to be met with an “Oh hell no” because I work too hard at being healthy to derail efforts by something as daily as food.  I need to revisit food logging, even for just a few days, to realign my brain with my mouth and hands.

In the past, I used an app to log food choices, but this time, I have a sharpie marker, a piece of printer paper, and a firm resolve.  I need to see my choices in black-and-white (or, specifically, teal-and-white, as the teal sharpie marker is really lovely) so I can make better choices.  Otherwise, I’ll end up swimming in an endless pool of iced coffee and protein bars.

… which kind of sounds delicious, aside from the whole “protein bars looking like poop” thing.  I think I need to stop this post now, because it just derailed.

Gluten-Free … Still.

I don’t have celiac disease.  I don’t have gluten-sensitivity antibodies.  My endocrinologist ran a slate of tests to determine if my body was pro- or anti-gluten, and nothing came back weird.  As I mentioned last September, the basic gist is that my body seems to have no trouble at all with gluten.  Except that it totally does.

For a good, long time, I felt crummy.  To revisit last summer:

“I was exhausted – falling asleep on the couch and having trouble maintaining my normal vampire hours.  I was moody and grouchy, especially later in the day.  (And I’ll just offer this up because I know you’re thinking it:  I’m not pregnant.)  My hands, on some mornings, were tingly and pins-and-needlesish.  And my stomach was angry, but in a really passive-aggressive way.  I had sharp pains in my stomach, but not all the time.  I had wicked bloating, but not intensely all the time.  I just had a permanent belly ache, and it was becoming the norm.”

I’ve been entirely gluten-free since last August, and those symptoms up there are gone.  The bloating, tender belly pain is gone, as is the majority of the thick brain fog that had settled in for several months.  (Not all the brain fog, though.  I am still space shot in ways that will never repair themselves, but gluten isn’t to blame for that.  That’s all organically me.)  No more pain.

Overall, I haven’t included a new pile of gluten-free replacements for foods, but instead am just cutting out gluten sources.  I bake our bread, so that’s gluten-free, but I don’t often eat bread.  Or pasta.  Subbing in more vegetables, meat, and fruits works better for my personal diabetes crap and preferences than replacing my diet with a bunch of gluten-free specialty foods.  Again, this is easier for me because I don’t have a problem with foods that have come into contact with gluten (I can pick the croutons off a salad without having a belly ache afterwards) and also because my response to eating gluten isn’t an immediate gastrointestinal disaster but instead a sharp bloating that, all things considered, I can totally work through for a night.

I just don’t want to feel unwell; the change is worth the effort, for me.  So I am totally gluten free.  And I am still squeamish to talk about it because it seems like stupid trend-following witchcraft and food bandwagon’ing.  “Gluten-free!  It’s the modern MUST for foodies!”  I kind of feel like a tool requesting a gluten-free meal or asking a server if they have a gluten-free menu, but the handful of times that I’ve eaten gluten in the last year have left a now-predictable and very uncomfortable mark.  I feel lucky as fuck to have figured this out, because I felt like absolute garbage before cutting gluten.

Which is what I try to remember when I’m sheepishly asking someone about the gluten content of a meal.  I’m not doing this to be trendy or snobby.  I am doing this so I don’t feel terrible the majority of the time.  I’m doing this so my kid can hug me around the waist without me wincing from pain.  I’m doing this so Chris doesn’t think his wife is suddenly 98 years old.  Whether lab work proves a sensitivity or not, my body has spoken loud and clear, and I’m listening.

 

Green Beanery.

Winter started around November of last year and continued onward with a vengeance until yesterday morning, when “42 degrees and sunny” seemed to constitute as “spring.”  The snow is all but melted (except for a few very stubborn igloos built by resourceful squirrels), so Birdy and I took advantage of the sunshine yesterday to explore our backyard.

We moved house several months ago, just before the winter came crashing in, so we don’t know much about what’s actually outside.  For all we knew, there was a hole that went straight through to Renza’s house.  We did know that there was a shed with a fenced in garden-looking area, and my hope was that it would be useable for a vegetable garden.

So yesterday, my daughter and I went out with our rakes, clippers, and yard refuse bags to find out what was underneath all the pine needles.  After a bit of raking and cleaning up, we saw that the garden was decently set up for planting.

“Good thing!  Because we have all those green beans, Mom!”

Oh hell yes we have green beans.

A few weeks ago, she and I took a crack at starting some seedlings in the house, preparing for the eventual moment when Jack Frost would loosen his grip on New England and we could plant our starter garden outside.  We bought one of those seedling trays from Home Depot and with steady preschool hands, my kid planted seed after seed from packets she picked out at the store.  (I didn’t want to stifle her excitement, so we are growing all kinds of stuff – green beans, cucumbers, eggplant, watermelon, carrots, and a woman from the ground.  It’s a festival of greenery.)

Now, several weeks later, the seedlings are starting to sprout.  We moved them to bigger pots so they could become more badass, and in a week or two, we’ll move them outside into the garden.

I’ve always wanted to have a vegetable garden, but needed a partner to help me tend the feeble crop.  (Chris is not a gardener.  He mows the lawn, rakes the leaves, and deals with any snakes/spiders/chupacabra we might stumble upon in the yard, but he’s not into weeding.)  After watching my kid diligently don her gardening gloves and rake, weed, and create impromptu shelters for any worm we came across, I realized I have my vegetable gardening partner now.

Here’s hoping I can go from seed to plate without screwing it up.  But so far, we’re having fun,

 

Egg Roll.

The trappings of Easter baskets can be a real kick in the ass for me, diabetes-wise.  Jellybeans, chocolate eggs, those Cadbury mini eggs of doom … all delicious, but rarely worth it for me because all of these high-sugar indulgences make for gross blood sugars.

Thankfully, the most mild of milds on my blood sugars are eggs.  And Easter isn’t short on eggs of the hard-boiled and highly decorative type.

Eastaaaaah.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“Do you want a jellybean, Mom?”

“No thank you.”

“But you can take insulin for the jellybean?”  My daughter paused a minute.  “OOOH! Or you could have a hard boiled eggie instead!” And she’s fine with that suggestion, only faltering slightly when she sees that the egg dye leaked through the shell a bit during the coloring process, tie-dying the hard-boiled egg white.

“Does the color part need insulin?” she asks.

Learning about diabetes, egg by egg, bird by bird.

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