Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snack Bar reviews

I realized that I’ve only posted one review on here, so I thought I’d better add a few more! I’m new in the corporate world, having just recently graduated from university, and adapting to an 830-430 lifestyle has been a challenge.

I find that I need to have a few snacks to keep me going throughout the day, usually one at 1030, and one around 230. Now that it’s Christmas, I’ve been having a mandarin orange as one snack, and usually, a handful of almonds or apple slices with peanut butter for the other.

But, sometimes I’m in a meeting (or I’m lazy and forget to bring something), so I have a drawer in my desk filled with pre-packaged snack bars. In my pre-gf days, I used to love having granola bars around (in my purse, backpack, car, you name it). I loved the portability and the ease of these snacks (plus, you could roll out of bed, grab one, and be off to class really quickly!).

Now that I’m not eating gluten, I’m not finding the snack bar quite as delicious, but I am finding it more of a necessity. I still keep them in my car, purse, gym bag, etc. but now I rely on them more as foods I can eat when everyone else is eating fast food, or having wings after work, or whatever. I also find that my new snack bars don’t work as well for breakfast (maybe just the kinds I’ve been buying). But, it takes me a lot longer to get ready in the mornings, so it’s not a big deal to eat some fruit and yogurt, or have a piece of gf toast while my hair is drying (I know, I was surprised, too, when I wasn’t allowed to show up to work with my hair in a pony tail and my sweats on, as I did all throughout my university days. At work, you have to look presentable and professional, which can take a little work in the morning!).

I’ve found that, as usual, the gf version of something is way more expensive than the “regular” version. That makes it a little difficult to try a bunch of bars, because I hate spending $6 on 5 bars that taste like a crumbly version of fig newtons. But, I’ve tried a few, and I’ve found some that I actually like!

First up, the lara bar. A larabar has very few ingredients, the first one being dates. I hated dates growing up. Hated them. I didn’t like the taste, the texture, the consistency, or even the colour. But I loved raisons. However, at some point, I began to like dates. Not love, but I can appreciate them. So if you don’t like dates, you probably won’t like this bar.
The next ingredient depends on which bar you’ve got. I’ve tried the apple pie/cherry pie/ pecan pie flavours (because they come in a variety pack at costco, 18.99 regular for 12 I believe, but I got them on special for 14.99), I’ve also tried the banana bread, cinnamon roll, and cashew cookie.

The pros – these bars are all-natural, no added sugar, gluten, dairy, soy free, vegan, and kosher. You feel like they are a healthy choice. And at around 200 calories for a bar, they do taste like a substantial snack (maybe more so for me because I feel like I’m had enough after a few bites, because I don’t want anymore dates). They’re also easily portable, and aren’t really trying to be a “regular” bar substitute. These are a solid fruit and nut bar. They pack a decent amount of iron, usually 8-10% of your daily value (important if like me, your iron levels are always on the low side), plus other good nutritional stats depending on your flavour. It doesn’t melt when it sits in your car for days, and it doesn’t matter if it freezes and then thaws (say when you leave it in your car in the winter). Although those might not be selling points for everyone, it certainly was to me!

The cons – you feel like you could easily replicate the taste yourself by mixing up a bag of dates and crushed almonds (or walnuts, or whatever else you’ve got in your version of the bar). They’re expensive, you can usually find them for about $2 a bar (or less if they’re on sale at costco ), but that’s more then I want to spend on my morning snack (it’s ok if I’m going to have it to replace a meal – or to sustain me when I’m starving). It doesn’t really compare to the granola bars I used to eat (I know, it’s a very different bar concept, but still.).

Overall, a good bar that I will continue to buy when it’s onsale. And probably for when I’m travelling. It’s not trying to be something it isn’t – like a gluten bar. My favorite so far is the pecan pie flavour. I didn’t love the cinnamon roll one (and I thought I would) but maybe that’s because I tried it first, before the bars had a chance to grow on me. I also haven’t tried the chocolate that larabar has (called jocolat, I think) but I’d really like too!

I’ve also tried nature’s path’s envirokidz organic crispy rice bar in peanut butter. I adore peanut butter, but sadly, I didn’t really love these bars.

The pros: It’s a decent sized bar, made with rice, so I was anticipating a peanut-butter rice-crispie treat (which could have been the problem, I was expecting too much from the bar!). The rice is light, the peanut butter flavour is light, and it tastes like a nice, light snack (only 28 grams, compared to the denser 48 grams of a larabar). There are no additives to the bar, and they donate 1 % of the sales to wildlife. Also, there’s a cute picture of a panda on the package! These bars are low in fat, and produced right here in Canada!

The Cons: There really isn’t much to these bars. They’re very light, and won’t keep you full for long. They also don’t pack much in terms of nutrients. Obviously, if you’re allergic to nuts, or can’t have soy or dairy(may contain traces), you’re out of luck with these.

Overall, these are an ok bar. They’re a little closer to what I used to have, and they are a light snack. Granted, I may not be the target market (envirokidz), but I would buy these bars again. They weren’t great, but they weren’t bad.

I'll post more reviews later, because I have tried more bars than this. If anyone has tried anything good, let me know!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Be Careful Using Flour!

I thought up a really great way of using up all the flour I had leftover from my pre-gf days. I decided to make batches of brownies in a jar as gifts for my friends. You know the type, the ones you put in a one litre jar, each ingredient layered so that it looks pretty, with a note attached saying something like add 1 cup milk, one egg, teaspoon of vanilla, and bake for 35 min at 375?

I thought it would be a fabulous way to use up my flour, and make some creative presents. Plus, I only recently graduated from university, and I’m still paying off some debt, so this would be a cheap way to make some gifts.

It started off well enough. I used a plastic funnel to layer the ingredients, put the tops on, and tied a pretty bow around the top. I’d made about four or five when I started to feel a bit sick. Not bad, but a little iffy. That’s when it occurred to me – flour dust! I was inhaling the dust! Which basically meant, I was gluten-ing myself (I know it’s not technically a word, but hey, it works!).

I called my boyfriend in to do the rest of the siphoning of ingredients, and then we scrubbed down the kitchen. I’m not sure that I really could have inhaled enough to actually cause a problem (or if I just got paranoid pains, etc.) – but it occurred to me that if I still worked in a bakery (which I did as a part time job while I was a student), I could have had a real problem! Even if the little bit I inhaled didn’t cause a terrible physical reaction, I’m assuming it was still enough to cause damage.

The gifts turned out great, but I just wanted to warn everyone – if you’re gluten-free, be careful when you’re working with flour! It gets everywhere, and you might accidentally gluten-ate yourself!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Glutino Pretzels

I was put on a gluten free trial last year for 7 months, which I now know is totally the wrong thing for doctors to have done. It meant that I had to do a gluten challenge (ie, eat gluten) for six weeks before I had an endoscopy that confirmed damage in my intestines. So to be completely honest, this is my second time around eating gluten free. But, the first time was sort of an experiment. I never really thought I had celiac disease, because my symptoms were so varied and seemed to come and go.

I regarded the first gluten-free stage as a challenge to myself, to see if I can do it. And I basically cut out all cakes/breads/pastas/cookies etc. for 7 months. I ate rice, fruits, veggies, potatoes (I know, they’re a vegetable, but I ate them so much they get to be their own group), nuts, and meat. I did, however, cheat and eat pretzels.
I love pretzels; the salty, bready taste is just so delicious. They satisfy two cravings at once, and they are an easy, portable snack that I can take anywhere. So I was thrilled to find Glutino Pretzels my first time going gluten-free.

If you haven’t tried them – you must! They’re light, crunchy, and taste just like wheat pretzels! Seriously, they do. I was skeptical, too, at first. But, as a test I gave them to my sister to try first (I’d had a few bad experiences with “it tastes just like the wheat product” at this point). She loved them, and so I gave them a try.

The nice thing about these pretzels (in addition to the taste) is that they come in sticks and pretzel shapes. That’s good, because you can dip the sticks into foods like peanut butter, or hummus (naturally gluten-free – but I use “natural” peanut butter -the type of peanut butter you have to keep in the fridge, check the label if you eat the other kind).

A side note about peanut butter – it might provide some protection against cardiovascular disease due to high levels of monounsaturated fats and resveratrol; peanut butter also provides protein, vitamins B3 and E, magnesium, folate, and dietary fiber. It’s a really good snack for celiacs to have (as long as you don’t have any nut allergies, obviously!).

The other good thing about Glutino pretzels is that you can dip them in chocolate for chocolate-covered pretzels! I recently made a batch with both dark chocolate, and then drizzled some whites chocolate dyed green and red (with a plant-based food colouring) to be festive for Christmas. I brought them to work, and everyone loved them. Nobody could tell that they were gluten free – in fact, one of the girls even asked me if I’d made them because I was getting rid of all my gluten-containing food!

These would make a really cute host/hostess gift. Just put your chocolates in a clear bag, and tie with a green or red ribbon.

I found these pretzels at Meyers Drugs (a store that has TONS of gluten free items), but you can also find them at some Safeway’s, and online.


Hi everyone! Welcome to my blog. I decided to create this blog for everyone who’s avoiding gluten, or who knows someone who’s avoiding gluten.

Since this is my first post, I thought I'd give you a little background on me.

When I was 18, I had a serious case of mono. I figured I was tired because it was my year of university, and because I was out partying a lot (here in Manitoba, Canada, the legal drinking age is 18). But I wasn’t really getting any better when I stopped going out and started sleeping more. Eventually, I wound up in the hospital because my throat was so swollen that I couldn’t swallow, I was severely dehydrated, and I had a liver infection. After a few months recuperating, and about 9 months without drinking a drop of alcohol, I thought I was recovered. But I never quite seemed to be back to my pre-mono self.

I was always a little tired; felt a little bloated, and had “digestive issues”. They started out fairly mildly, and I was told that the “mild” lactose intolerance (where I really only got a headache and stomach ache after consuming vast quantities of milk) I had was now severe lactose intolerance (where just one glass of milk would be enough to cause pain, bloating, and headaches). No problem, I eliminated the diary. And that seemed to work-for a bit.

Then, I started throwing up after dinner. Only after dinner, and only about three or four times a week. I couldn’t figure it out, and neither could my doctor. She suggested it could be Celiac, since I have an aunt and a first cousin with the disease. The blood tests came back negative, but we did find out that I was iron and b12 deficient. So it was off to the allergist.

My allergist suggested that I probably had a mild wheat allergy, and to avoid eating more than 2 servings of wheat a day. Since cereal and bread were my favorite things, it was definitely a challenge. But I tried it and felt better – for a bit.

To make a long story short, I started having other digestive issues (lots of stomach cramping, bloating, diarrhea, etc.) after every meal, for about two years. Saw numerous specialists, went from doctor to doctor, pleading for answers (other than IBS which I was initially diagnosed with). Had tons of ultrasounds, a colonoscopy, various blood tests, and no diagnosis. Finally got an endoscopy, and there’s damage to my intestines. Voila, celiac disease.

I cut out all gluten, and feel so much better! I didn’t even know how badly I felt because I was so used to feeling it! My lactose-intolerance has now gone away (it turns out once the vili in my intestines started healing, I could have milk again!), my nickel allergy has cleared up (I developed a severe nickel allergy in the final 2 years before discovering I was celiac – I used to have to tape the inside of my jeans, or I would get a horrible rash), and a whole raft of other mysterious symptoms disappeared (knee pain I associated with years of playing sports went away, the headaches were pretty much gone, no more digestive problems). It was like someone suddenly waved a wand and said “poof” all your ailments are healed!

Since beginning my celiac journey 3 months ago, I’ve discovered a ton about the disease, and I discovered I wanted to learn as much as I can about the celiac. I discovered that gluten was hiding in a lot of foods I never suspected it was in – including bbq sauce, ketchup, salad dressings, my favorite yogurt, and more.

But learning to read labels seemed like such a small thing if it meant that I was going to get better.

I’ve started trying all sorts of gluten-free foods, and I thought I’d start this blog by reviewing some of them, because gluten free food is expensive, and I wish I’d known what was good and what I shouldn’t waste my money on.

I did get some recommendations from my aunt and cousin, but they’ve been off gluten for so many years that a lot of things they swore tasted “just like bread” …well… didn’t. They also live in the states, so they had access to foods and stores that I didn’t, and the labeling between Canada and the U.S. is different.

I’m also going to post some recipes, books, and anything else that I find that will help other people who are avoiding gluten. Because there are a lot of us out there!

So I hope you enjoy this blog!