Real Food Underground

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May 25, 2013
by Sarah Cooke
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How Food Allergies Help Us Know Our Bodies

Photo courtesy 123RF.com

Photo courtesy 123RF.com

I just read this article from Elephant Journal – it’s by Terri Tremblett and in it she discusses her struggles with multiple food allergies. My gluten and egg sensitivities aren’t *nearly as severe as her situation, but they’ve caused me to look at my diet in a new way, nonetheless.

Cutting out eggs and gluten has often been annoying, to say the least. I mean come on, can’t a girl eat an omelet without it being a big thing? But seriously folks, cutting eggs and gluten out of my diet has really shown me that it’s not just about eating foods that are supposedly “healthy” – it’s about finding out what foods work for our own bodies.

There are a million diets out there, all claiming to be magical health panaceas. Whether it’s a diet that’s low-fat, low-carbs, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, raw…etc….no single diet is right for everyone. If we want to feel our best and help our bodies to function optimally, we need to have enough awareness of our bodies to understand how they’re impacted by different foods. Of course, I think everyone can benefit from making the switch to whole foods…but the particular mix of whole foods will vary from person to person. Eggs, for example, are a perfectly healthy whole food and they provide health benefits to a lot of people – but given my unique makeup, they’re not a good choice for me right now.

AND…the right diet will vary throughout a person’s lifetime.  I really hope I can add eggs and, to a lesser extent, gluten back to my diet. For several reasons, I don’t necessarily plan to make gluten a regular part of my diet. But it would be nice to just be able to go to a bakery every once in a while and get a cupcake without having to call ahead and play my least favorite game – Twenty Questions of Gluten Cross-Contamination. Hopefully those foods will be better choices for me again but right now, the best thing I can do for my body is to avoid them.

Photo courtesy 123RF.com

Photo courtesy 123RF.com

As things change in our lives – like our age, where we live, our activity level, our relationships, our stress level, etc. – our dietary needs change, as well. It’s important to be aware of that fact and to resist the temptation to guilt-trip ourselves if we find we can no longer stick to whatever we’ve deemed to be the “perfect” diet. I was vegetarian for four years but, because my blood sugar is quite low, I eventually realized it would benefit me to add some meat (ethically sourced, of course) back into my diet.

It was the right decision for me. Vegetarian sources of protein – like grains and legumes – are also fairly high in carbs and didn’t always help me stabilize my erratic blood sugar. I found that a little chicken or fish helped keep my sugar from spiking and crashing and helped my energy level to stay more even throughout the day. Had I guilt-tripped myself about not remaining a vegetarian, I probably wouldn’t have been making the right decision for my body (although I’m sure others with blood sugar issues have had different experiences). I have a great deal of respect for those who chose a meat-free diet, though – it can be an excellent choice and it certainly resonated with me for a number of reasons.

So my point is this – like Teri Tremblett’s article points out, food allergies can be a *major pain in the ass. But the silver lining is that they can help up to be more in tune with our bodies and to deepen our understanding of how food impacts our health.

 

 

May 12, 2013
by Sarah Cooke
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Moms, Food and Love

Photo courtesy 123RF.com

Photo courtesy 123RF.com

Happy Mother’s Day to all the lovely moms out there. This is a short blog, but I wanted to take this opportunity to chat about the powerful connections between moms and food. Full disclosure – I got a little teary-eyed writing this. But that Folgers commercial with the brother and sister always makes me cry, too.

Sometimes, food really is love, am I right? That’s why it’s romantic to cook on a date. Like Cher from Clueless says, “Whenever a boy comes, you should always have something baking.” I think part of the reason we associate food with love has to do with our moms. Marc David of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating suggests that this connection starts as early as breastfeeding. And even if you’re not breastfed, there’s a good chance your mom is the first one to feed you. So in the mind of a child, food and mom’s love are all rolled into one delicious ball of yumminess.

I also associate a lot of wonderful holiday meals with my mom and my grandmothers and I treasure their recipes. Thankfully, gender roles are a lot more forgiving these days! But growing up, it was the women of my family who delivered the goods at holidays and I really cherish those memories.

There’s something wonderfully unique about the way a mother nurtures her kids. And I think the way your mom nurtures you teaches you, in large part, how to nurture others. So when your mom feeds you, it takes on extra special significance. It’s a symbol of the first source of love in your life and it represents the most fundamental way of showing someone you love them. Pretty great, right? So to all the moms reading this – thank you and have a fantabulous day!

May 5, 2013
by Sarah Cooke
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Two Great Bay Area Gluten-Free Spots

Photo courtesy 123RF.com

Photo courtesy 123RF.com

Ok, folks, I’m now in week seven of eliminating gluten and eggs. My astute readers will remember that the original plan was to cut those foods out for six weeks. So here’s the update – in the last two weeks, I’ve finally started feeling the benefits of all my hard work, so I’ve decided to give it about another month. I’ve been on the lookout for gluten-free and/or vegan restaurants and my friend Amie introduced me to two excellent ones that you should definitely check out if you’re in the Bay Area – Miglet’s Bakery in Danville and Kebab and Burger in Lafayette.

Miglet’s is a 100% dedicated gluten-free bakery. Everything is made in small batches and their eggs and produce are locally sourced. And – bonus! – they have quite a few baked goodies that are also vegan. So far, I’ve tried one of their chocolate cupcakes and a snickerdoodle. Both were gluten-free and vegan and both were fantastic. Plus, Miglet’s has a grocery section with items like gluten-free sourdough baguettes (how cool is that?), all kinds of gltuen-free sauces, dressing and marinades, as well as pastas and snack foods. I’m sure there’s a lot I’m forgetting. Just trust me, they carry some great products – and the staff seems to be very knowledgeable about all of them. They have a section of sandwiches and other prepared foods and sadly only a few of those are vegan – but all in all, I was certainly impressed with Miglet’s.

Next up is Kebab and Burger. To appreciate how much I like this place, you have to understand how addicted I am to Mediterranean food. My dad’s side of the family is Lebanese, so growing up, our Thanksgiving meal every year included turkey, bread dressing and mashed potatoes – right alongside dolmas, hummus and fatoush. So Mediterranean fare is comfort food for me.  In fact, I’m convinced I could live quite happily for an extended time on nothing but hummus and chocolate. At Kebab and Burger, everything truly tastes homemade. It’s simple, clean food made with quality ingredients – and almost everything is gluten-free or can be made that way. The husband and wife team who own the restaurant really understand the importance of preventing gluten cross-contamination because she has celiac disease.

It’s not always easy to find great gluten-free restaurants, so I thought I’d pass these on to anyone in the area. And to my glutenless readers in far-flung locales, don’t lose hope! More and more restaurants are offering gluten-free options. And while it’s easier to find this stuff in urban areas, it not limited to big cities. I’ve been surprised to find restaurants that offer gluten-free pasta, as well as some vegan places, in small towns. And that’s encouraging to me – it says that many of us are becoming more aware of both the quality of our food and how it impacts our health.