Why Gluten Free Cheerios Matter to Me

The call from the doctor was short but devastating: “We think you have cancer, we just can’t find it.” My soon-to-be husband was getting sicker and sicker and no one could figure out the cause.

Months passed and he continued to lose weight, becoming weaker and more anemic. Finally, a simple test revealed that he had Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder where gluten attacks the lining of the stomach. It would soon be discovered that the thing that was so hard to diagnose was the simplest to treat: Eliminate gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye – and you’ll get better.

The idea was simple, but this was 14-years-ago and there were so few gluten free products on the market that finding something to eat was difficult. Crackers tasted like cardboard, cookies crumbled, and it was almost impossible to find cereal or bread.

I’m Mexican American and my way of solving problems and making people happy is to feed them. After my husband was diagnosed, I bought up all the flour I could find that had no gluten and started experimenting with recipes. (This also works well now that I have 2 boys who are very picky eaters). The first dessert I ever made was a gluten free raspberry cheesecake with those crumbly cookies soaked in butter as the crust. It was delicious, but didn’t taste quite right. I tried a few more versions until it was perfect then started making cookies, cakes, pies, and bread.

Baking became my favorite hobby and after having kids I even made it into a business (short lived) and incorporated gluten free living into my blogs. One thing that has been amazing is to see the many tasty and great quality products that have come on the market since I sat at my booth at the Farmers’ Market explaining what it means to be gluten free.

Gluten_Free_Cheerios2_Yvonne_CondesNow, even products that have been around for years are becoming gluten free including one of our favorites. Cheerios – Yellow Box, Honey Nut, Apple Cinnamon, Frosted, and Multigrain – are now gluten free. We’ve had the Honey Nut and Yellow Box Cheerios and they taste just as good always. They were mostly gluten free before. General Mills simply used a new process to remove stray wheat, barley, and rye from the oats (there’s no gluten in oats, FYI). They’ve also added sorghum and millet to Multigrain Cheerios, which are gluten free.

We have such an active lifestyle in our family that it’s important that we have products we can trust. There have been times when there’s just nothing for my husband to eat. He has another autoimmune disease so not eating or risking gluten contamination isn’t an option. When we’re out hiking for hours or just out of town, it’s good to know there’s food that’s safe to eat. And also food that you grew up with, want to eat, and that’s easily found in a grocery store.

So much has changed since that call from the doctor. And short of a cure, it’s great to know that companies are seeing the value in offering good quality, flavorful gluten free food.

This sponsored post also appeared on MomsLA. My story was also included in a mailer called Gluten Free Cheerios Matter to Us that came with a personalized box of Gluten Free Cheerios.


Gluten-Free Pizza in Los Angeles

pizza gluten free los angeles mom blogger

For a very long time we never went out for pizza. There were just no options. My husband has Celiac and he can’t have gluten plus my kids don’t like it much and I’m very particular.

Then gluten-free became all the rage. Now we can walk to Pitfire Pizza and have gourmet individual gluten-free pizza (I get the steak salad with walnuts and crumbled blue cheese). Or we can go to our favorite pizza place, Fresh Brothers Pizza, in Beverly Hills, which I think has the best gluten-free pizza around. My favorite is the Fresh Momma’s with spinach, garlic, and mushroom. Or we can order gluten-free pizza from Louise’s and have it delivered.

It’s great to have choices and finally, fast food has jumped on the bandwagon. Domino’s Pizza now has a gluten-free option. It’s only available in the small size, but I think it’s great that it’s available at all. It’s carried in most of Domino’s 5,000 stores across the country.

What I find interesting about Domino’s is that the company says the pizza is not recommended for people with Celiac. According to Domino’s “While Domino’s new Gluten Free Crust is appropriate for those with mild gluten sensitivity, Domino’s and the NFCA (National Foundation for Celiac Awareness) do not recommend it for those with celiac disease. Domino’s and the NFCA found that while the crust is certified as gluten free, current store operations at Domino’s cannot guarantee that each handcrafted pizza will be completely free from gluten.”

My husband does not have a mild gluten sensitivity, he has Celiac, but he wanted to try it anyway and take his changes. I thought the pizza was really good and my husband liked it as well. It tasted like Domino’s so it wasn’t gourmet pizza, but it was greasy and cheesy with a flavorful crust. A couple of days later I asked my husband how he felt. Well, he had a reaction to some food he ate and we’re not sure if it was the pizza or something else. Which is probably why Domino’s released this video to be safe.

Eating gluten-free is a challenge, but hopefully more restaurants will give gluten-free options a try.

I was not compensated for this post, but I was given pizza. 

We Art the 99%, Celiac Disease, and Happy Endings

Things have been very busy over at MomsLA.com where I am editor and cofounder. I haven’t been posting as much at YvonneInLA, something that I hope will change in 2012, but I have been posting other places. For example:

No Gluten, Please

Dear Los Angeles Restaurants,

Celiac Disease is real. It’s not a fad or a preference. It’s an auto-immune disorder where the immune system attacks gluten, and in doing so, damages the small intestines. If the sufferer ingests gluten it could lead to stomach pain and inability to absorb nutrients.

In my husband’s case it could lead to much more. He’s also a Type 1 Diabetic. If he doesn’t absorb nutrients his ability to control his blood sugars is compromised.

Now I don’t expect every restaurant to be an authority on all of the food allergies, but if a customer says they can’t have gluten, which is wheat, barley or rye, please don’t give us gluten.

I bring this up because my husband and I had such a bad experience at a restaurant recently. We went to highly recommended spot for a rare night out without our kids.

I told the waiter that my husband couldn’t have any gluten and asked if the dish he ordered was okay. The waiter said it was. After my husband took a few bites of the dish he realized that the stuff sprinkled on top wasn’t nuts or cornmeal, it was barley.

When the waiter came back, he said, oh, it’s roasted barley and took the plate. I asked him for a new plate and to please not just take the old meal and scrape off the barley and give it back to us. I’ve heard of some Celiac’s refusing to give up their plate until a new meal comes, but I didn’t think it was necessary.

I was a server in a restaurant for many years and I know people make mistakes. I thought he either didn’t know what gluten was or didn’t tell the kitchen to make it without gluten. I get that, but what happened next was inexcusable.

After my husband finished the meal we looked at the plate and noticed that there was still barley on it. And underneath a piece of chard was the half eaten piece of meat that my husband had eaten before.

When I pointed it out to the waiter he said it was impossible because he gave our plate to another customer and he pointed to the guy sitting in the table next to us. So he either gave our plate to someone else after we’d eaten food off of it or he had the kitchen scrape off the barley. Either scenario is bad.

Needless to say, we’ll never go back there. But there are restaurants that care that their diners have a good experience.

After an awful first half of the evening, we tried to salvage the rest of it and went for dessert at Bouchon in Beverly Hills. We talked to the bartender about what happened and he pulled the chef over to tell us about the desserts. The chef knew exactly what gluten was and told us what we could and couldn’t have.

Again, I don’t expect restaurants to know about every allergy, just listen when we tell you we have one.

Note: When I tell servers that my husband can’t have gluten, I say “no gluten, which is wheat, barley, or rye.” At dinner that night, the waiter stopped me after I said “no gluten” and said that he understood because his mother is gluten intolerant. I mention it because a few people have asked.