Celiac Awareness Month: Interview with Erin Collins
When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2012 after my oldest son was born. Pregnancy was the trigger for my celiac disease onset, but it took my doctors awhile to figure out what was going on. I had so many unexplained symptoms and just felt like something was "off" for months until I was diagnosed. When my son was 18 months old, I had a skin biopsy come back positive for dermatitis herpetiformis and the follow-up bloodwork confirmed celiac disease. I was actually happy to have a real reason to explain why I was feeling so unwell! It can be hard to transition to a gluten-free diet, but is so worth it to experience better health.
Tell us a little about your gluten-free journey?
I went gluten-free immediately following my diagnosis. I remember the very first day following my diagnosis my husband offered to take me to lunch to cheer me up. We drove around town and I quickly realized I couldn't eat at any of our usual places. It was a hard transition at first, but got so much easier with time. Luckily I've always liked to cook and studied nutrition in college so I think that made the transition easier. Focusing on the foods I COULD eat like vegetables, fruits, meat, potatoes, and rice/quinoa was helpful in the beginning. When I found out most chocolate was gluten-free I knew I could survive! A gluten-free diet doesn't need to be restrictive as most real, whole foods are naturally gluten-free. I'm also glad there are so many great gluten-free products out there now to make gluten-free life a little easier - and my husband and I now have plenty of safe places to eat out!
What was the most unexpected challenge you had to overcome when you were first diagnosed?
I was surprised by how often I had to clarify why I was following a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free diets have become more popular over the past decade and sometimes people roll their eyes at you for following a "fad diet". I was surprised I had to clarify that I had to eat this way because of a real disease and it wasn't optional. At first, it also made me uncomfortable to ask people at restaurants to clarify what was gluten-free and what steps they took to avoid cross contamination. I now realize it is totally fine to call restaurants ahead of time and to ask questions to make sure my meal is safe.
What is a typical day of eating like for you/your family? And how do you manage food for yourself, and then for the kids?
Luckily my kids are little and we eat totally gluten-free at home because they have never known any different. My husband is also really supportive and likes eating healthy. When we go out to eat my husband and the kids will often get regular pizza, sandwiches or other gluten-containing meals, but at home we all eat the same food. For breakfast our go-to's are gluten-free oatmeal, fresh fruit and yogurt, gluten-free bagels or toast with scrambled eggs, green smoothies, and other favorites like sweet potato hash. We also make delicious gluten-free waffles, pancakes and buckwheat crepes on the weekends. For lunch I usually fix my kids some kind of snack plate with hummus, cheese, vegetables, fruit, gluten-free crackers and rolled up lunch meat. I like to do meal-prep for my husband and I's lunches and try to have a salad or something healthy in the middle of the day. It doesn't happen every night because of busy schedules, but most of the time we try to eat a healthy dinner together.
What is your go-to recipe/meal?
My go-to meal for company is an older recipe on my blog for Slow-Cooker Sweet Pork (http://meaningfuleats.com/slow-cooker-sweet-island-pork/) that we turn into tacos. I lightly fry corn tortillas for the tacos and like to put out all kinds of toppings, especially pickled red onions, feta cheese and avocado. For busy weeknights one of my go-to's is 50/50 Cauliflower Brown Rice Fried Rice (http://meaningfuleats.com/5050-cauli-brown-rice-fried-rice/). It is healthy, easy and delicious! My family also loves Friday night pizza night on our favorite gluten-free pizza crust (http://meaningfuleats.com/the-best-gluten-free-pizza-crust/)!
What are some of your favorite tips for expecting mom’s who are gluten-free/celiac?
The first trimester can be rough when you're morning sick and craving certain foods! I usually never crave gluten anymore, but the first trimester is a different story. I am currently pregnant with my third baby and gluten-free stand-in's for foods I was craving, like Canyon Bakehouse Bagels with cream cheese and gluten-free mac and cheese, got me through the first trimester. Make sure you pantry and fridge are well-stocked with healthy foods that sound good when you're pregnant. It isn't good to get too hungry because you not only feel nauseous, but can reach for unhealthy choices. Make eating well a priority when you're pregnant for both you and the baby!