Traveling with food allergies? Help has arrived! 

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Vacationing in Florida!

 
Hello my friends! I’ve just come back from a super trip to Florida with my daughters, and I thought I’d post about something that is a difficulty to overcome when I am traveling with my daughter, Danielle. 

 

Danielle right before her diagnosis!

 
She has an allergy to gluten, which is the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. She was diagnosed 4 years ago when she began to suffer some extreme stomach symptoms. Since she will kill me if I go into detail, suffice to say that she was a miserable camper for months and months on end. We took her to the doctor and had her tested for food allergies and other issues, and she had a very high reaction to wheat and gluten. There is no treatment for this condition, the only way to diminish the symptoms is to refrain from eating anything that contains wheat or gluten.

Sounds easy, just avoid the bread and pasta, right?!! Wrong! First of all, wheat and gluten are in EVERYTHING! It’s so difficult to avoid it. Even food items that you wouldn’t think had wheat in them, like gravy, bouillon cubes, and soy sauce can contain gluten. 

Gluten hiding in bouillon cubes!

Obviously if she’s eating at home it’s not a problem because I am extremely careful, emphasize protein, fruits and vegetables, and make most everything from scratch. However, it’s when she’s eating away from home that it’s a real problem. A trip to a restaurant, supposedly a pleasant experience, can become days of misery if she isn’t vigilant. It’s even worse when we are on vacation. 

However, it is possible to eat safely, and feel good with food allergies while on vacation. My tips will help not only those with allergies to gluten, but to shellfish, nuts and any other food items as well. 

1. Be a vigilant label reader- Danielle carefully reads every label before buying any food product. And she knows the foods items that contain gluten but don’t have the words wheat, barley, gluten or rye listed like brewer’s yeast, bulgur, durum, farro, malt in any form, matzo, and the list goes on and on. Google food items that contain gluten for a complete list.

 

Flags on food reassure those with food allergies!

 
2. Ask for a gluten free (or any other allergy) menu- the first thing Danielle does when entering a restaurant is ask for a gluten free menu. She can peruse the menu and make her choices from there. Some menus have the gluten free items listed on the regular menu. The most problematic restaurants have neither of those options. In that case she has to ask if there are any gluten free options available. Some servers are very knowledgable about their gluten free options, but if they aren’t don’t hesitate to ask to speak with a manager or chef. 

 

Gluten free cream puff, no sugar added!

 
3. Don’t be afraid to ask how their gluten free items are prepared-for instance, if a restaurant has gluten free French fries but uses the same fryer that they use to make breaded chicken or onion rings there could be gluten cross contamination. In addition, if they have gluten free bread for toast but make it in the same toaster as the wheat toast that is another danger for people with a gluten allergy. Again, if the server seems unsure ask to talk to the chef or restaurant manager for reassurance. 

 

Gluten free hash with hollandaise sauce!

 
4. Your cell phone can be your best friend- Some very useful apps are out there to help people with food allergies. Two in particular that Danielle uses are “find me gf” and  “scan avert”. Find me gf is an app that lists the gluten free restaurant options around the country. You can search by restaurant or by area to find the best options for dining. Scan avert is an app that allows the user to scan barcodes on labels and shows a list of gluten ingredients that food item contains. Pretty cool!

 

Mickey waffles of course- gluten free!

 
In my humble opinion, Walt Disney World does an extraordinary job and is a very safe place to eat for those with food allergies. All of the food items shown in the pictures above were made at WDW restaurants. Whether at their walk-up or table service restaurants, as soon as Danielle would ask for a gluten free menu they would go through a very thorough set of procedures to ensure her food safety. At the walk-up places, they would stamp our receipt with the word “allergy”, and give us a special beeper that would go off when her food was ready. They would bring it from a completely separate kitchen from where other food is prepared, and it would have either an allergy flag or be placed on different colored dinnerware, something to differentiate it from regular food. In the table service restaurants, they would give her a gluten free menu, then either the chef or manager would come to speak with her, and answer any questions she would have. All Disney’s restaurants have separate kitchens to prepare food for those with allergies- very impressive! She was so relieved to be able to safely eat her way around the “World”! 

So that’s how those with food allergies can protect themselves while on vacation- and enjoy themselves in the process! And for those over 21, remember that some alcoholic beverages contain gluten, for example beer, whiskey, vodka and some brands of rum and tequila. There are some gluten free versions of these alcoholic beverages available, check with your bartender or liquor store first. With the dangers of mixing and cross contamination though I’d opt to stick with wine- it’s always gluten free! ūüôā Avoiding food and beverages that can make you sick and miserable will allow you to enjoy your vacation and live a life of vitality-with Valerie!

One Year Anniversary Top Ten Posts!

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Me and my babies 2015!

Me and my babies 2015!

Well, a year goes by so quickly, doesn’t it? I can’t believe it’s been a year since I began writing this blog. I have enjoyed writing it, and have truly loved all of the comments, enthusiasm and encouragement I have received from my readers. I have actually¬†met people during this¬†past year,¬†and when I’ve told them my name they’ve asked me if I write a blog! So the word is definitely getting out about what I do and I appreciate that. In honor of my one year blogiversary, I thought I would write a “best of” post, highlighting the 10 posts I have received the most positive feedback on, and the ones I think are the most reflective of my message. It’s a walk through memory lane for me, and I hope you have gotten something positive from them as well.¬† My list is displayed “Letterman style” starting with number 10 and working my way to number 1. To read the posts in their entirety, click on the link at the end of each section.

Lift Your Way to Health!

Lift Your Way to Health!

10. “Lift your way to weight loss- and a healthier body!”- This was a post I wrote about the benefits of lifting weights on the body. I am still enjoying my weights and just lifted this morning!

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2015/02/05/lift-your-way-to-weight-loss-and-a-healthier-body/

Do what scares you!

Do what scares you!

9. “Why you MUST do what scares you!”- I really enjoyed writing this one, and had many tell me this was their favorite post I’ve written. I liked it because it was so indicative of positive changes I’ve made over the years, and zip lining was a blast!

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/12/09/why-you-must-do-what-scares-you/

My Fitness Pal!

My Fitness Pal!

8. “My Fitness Pal is my fave fitness pal!”- This post is important because it focuses on the importance of journaling what you eat in order to maintain a healthy weight. Journaling is one of the keys to fitness success, and the My Fitness Pal app not only is a food journal, but also keeps track of the calories you expend through exercise, calories eaten, steps taken, nutritional breakdown of foods eaten each day, weight progress, and much more.

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/10/15/my-fitness-pal-is-my-fave-fitness-pal/

Grow your own food!

Grow your own food!

7. “Grow your own food!”- This is one of my first posts and discusses my philosophy about the importance of growing your own vegetables and herbs. My vegetables and herbs have been planted already this year and are growing like crazy. I can’t wait to eat a tomato from my own garden again!

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/05/27/grow-your-own-food/

Eggs- truly a bonanza of health benefits!

Eggs- truly a bonanza of health benefits!

6. “An EGGceptional protein!”- This post reflects my health philosophy about the importance of eating lean proteins, and eggs are one of my favorites! Eggs are versatile, full of nutrients and delicious- like I said, they’re EGGceptional!

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/08/22/an-eggceptional-protein/

DON'T SIT TOO LONG!

DON’T SIT TOO LONG!

5. “Sitting is the new smoking!”- This was a post in which I talked about how bad it is for your health to sit for long periods of time, and alternatives to sitting at work and at home (I guiltily jumped off my chair just now and am standing while composing this post!). It’s a good reminder for all of us!

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/09/12/sitting-is-the-new-smoking/

Oh how I love the sun- and it's GOOD for you!

Oh how I love the sun- and it’s GOOD for you!

4. “Here Comes the Sun, and it’s Alright!”- One of my favorites because I believe it imparts critically important information that you won’t get from mainstream media. Many studies support what I’m saying about the sun and it’s role in vitamin D production. Email me if you’d like more in depth information.

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/06/09/here-comes-the-sun-and-its-alright/

Sugar is one of the worst things you can eat!

Sugar is one of the worst things you can eat!

3. “Sugar- the new cigarette?!”- This is another post that most closely aligns with the message I’m trying to deliver about how terrible sugar and all non-whole grain carbs. Sugar truly is the new cigarette in terms of devastation to our bodies.

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/07/09/sugar-the-new-cigarette/

This is how I eat!

This is how I eat!

2. “Mediterranean “diet” is the way I eat!”- I love this post because it delivers a very important message about not following diets, but adopting a healthy way of eating. That’s the way to get to a healthy weight and stay there. Eating like the people who live along the Mediterranean Sea is known to be a way to long term good health, and is the way I’ve been eating since becoming an adult.

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/07/15/mediterranean-diet-is-the-way-i-eat/

It really doesn't!

It really doesn’t!

1. “FAT doesn’t make you fat!”- My favorite post, and the one I’ve gotten the most comments on. Again, it’s a message I feel compelled to deliver because I don’t feel the mainstream media is delivering it. This post discusses carbohydrates and their role in weight gain for the body. I also discuss how fat is really good for you, and essential in the maintenance of good health. This is so critical for my for my readers to know that I’m going to repeat it, FAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU FAT, EXCESSIVE NON WHOLE GRAIN CARBOHYDRATES DO! Read the post for more information.

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/09/19/fat-doesnt-make-you-fat/

And that’s my top ten list of posts for my one year anniversary. It has been an honor to provide information for my readers, and I have appreciated all the support and positivity I have received. I also want to give an enormous shout out to my amazing daughters who have helped me with technical issues, proof reading, post ideas, cooking prep, editing, etc, etc, etc. They’ve been my biggest cheerleaders (imagine that!)! Also, thanks to my family and friends who have shared my posts on their Facebook pages, and been so supportive to me and my blog.I hope you’ve read¬†something that helps change your life for the better on this page. I write for this reason. So again thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the love. I return that love to you tenfold which will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

Reach for the Stars-choose healthy drinks at Starbucks!

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Star7

This post is in honor of my daughter, Danielle, who has asked me a few times to write about making healthy drink choices at Starbucks. So, I did a little research, some based on my own experience, and compiled a list of what I consider to be the healthiest drink options. Now, remember that for me a healthy drink isn’t only a beverage that is low in calories, after all if that was the only criteria you could just order non fat, skinny everything and you wouldn’t need my help at all. No, for me a healthy drink contains little or no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, and¬†has little or no syrups which often times contain chemicals and other yucky additives. I tried to consider a variety of tastes in putting together my list too, not just coffee (Jacqueline’s favorite), but tea choices too (Danielle’s fave) among others. There is even a smoothie on the list. Obviously you can order black coffee or a tea bag and hot water at any time as well, but remember it’s what you add to it that can turn that relatively healthy beverage quickly to a highly caloric, chemically laden danger zone. With that in mind, I included drinks that give you a little more to start with so that you don’t have to add many extras to it to get it to taste delish. So get ready friends, here it is!

Healthy Starbucks Beverages

My number one choice for you coffee lovers is cappuccino!

My number one choice for you coffee lovers is cappuccino!

1. Cappuccino- Tall, 2% milk, 90 calories, 3.5 g of fat, 9g carbs, 6g protein, 75 mg caffeine. Here’s why I like this one, first, because the milk gives you 6 grams of protein per tall sized (12 ounce) portion, second because there is NO SUGAR in this drink, but you can add Truvia (natural sweetener from the Stevia plant) which they have available at all Starbucks locations, and third because Starbucks always has cinnamon on their condiment bar. Cinnamon is a powerful spice that contains Manganese, calcium and antimicrobial properties, it’s a super spice so any time you can use it, definitely make that healthy choice. But besides that, it tastes really warming and flavorful so it will add deliciousness and health to your beverages, instead of using the syrups that add calories and chemicals. I love the foam of a cappuccino, and because of that foam this drink contains less milk than a latte thus saving you calories in the process. Cappuccino is my favor drink to order at Starbucks by far.

Number 2 is refreshing and delicious!

Number 2 is refreshing and delicious!

2. Teavana Shaken Iced Passion Tango Tea- Tall, 60 calories (sweetened), 0 calories (unsweetened), 15 g carbs (sweetened), 0 g carbs (unsweetened). I met a friend at Starbucks a few months ago and wanted an iced drink without caffeine (because I already had enough for the day that morning), I studied the menu carefully, utilized My Fitness Pal app on my iphone to check the calorie content of this drink, and then ordered it unsweetened. I figured if it had no flavor I would just add honey to it after I gave it a taste, but it didn’t need it because it was delicious unsweeted. It is a hibiscus, apple, lemongrass and passion fruit tea, and it’s as good as it sounds. The ice makes it so refreshing, and I just enjoyed the heck out of this drink. Definitely a great choice!

Chai yes, it is yummy!

Chai yes, it is yummy! Danielle’s favorite!

3. Chai Tea Latte- Tall, 190 calories, 2.5 g fat, 34 g carbs,¬†6 g protein, 20 % RDA for calcium. I included this one as a healthy option, even though it’s high in calories and carbs because the spices give it such a warm flavor and the milk adds a good bit of protein. I always recommend getting only a tall size of this drink since it’s fairly high in calories; a little bit goes a long way with this one. I always order 2% milk instead of non-fat because though I’d save calories with the non-fat milk, the additional fat in 2% milk allows the nutrients in the milk to be better digested. I also do not EVER order a skinny beverage at Starbucks because they use an artificial sweetener which is more dangerous than the sugar this one contains.

Jacqueline's favorite!

Jacqueline’s favorite!

4. Caffe Americano- Grande, 15 calories, 3 g carbs, 1 g protein, 225 mg caffeine. This drink packs a caffeine punch with 225 mg, which is why it’s Jacqueline’s favorite! The Americano is an espresso that has hot water added to it, which gives it the caffeine of an espresso in a more generous portion size. She orders it plain and then goes to the condiment bar to add a bit of milk and honey, and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon. Delicioso!

Chocolate smoothie with protein!

Chocolate smoothie with protein!

5. Chocolate Smoothie- tall, 250 calories, 45 g carbs, 40 g protein, 8 g fiber, 20% RDA of Calcium and Iron, 15% RDA of Vitamin C, and 8% RDA of Vitamin A. This smoothie is made with mocha sauce, banana, milk, protein powder, fiber powder, and ice. The original version of this smoothie is actually 320 calories, but I saved you 70 calories because you’re going to request for it to be made with a half a banana instead of a whole one, and double the protein powder (they’ll have to put it in a larger cup because the extra protein will make the amount of this smoothie grow a lot!) I included this one on my list even though there are a lot of calories and carbs because for a smoothie it has relatively few calories and it has LOADS of protein which makes it a possible meal replacement. You can¬†request a shot of espresso to add caffeine to it if you need a pick me up also.

Iced green tea is good for whatever ails you!

Iced green tea is good for whatever ails you!

6. Teavana Shaken Iced Green Tea- tall, 60 calories sweetened, 0 calories sweetened, 15 g carbs (sweetened), 0 g carbs (unsweetened), 30-35 mg caffeine. This is a similar drink to the Passion Tango tea, but I included it because it has green tea in it which has antioxidants in it, plus it contains mint, lemongrass and lemon verbena. It also has a bit of caffeine in it due to the green tea so if you want caffeine this would be a good choice. Yum!

Now you’ve seen my choices for healthy drinks at Starbucks, in honor of my Danielle, but I hope it helps you too. There are healthier choices available if you’re careful and know where to look. Let me know how you like any of these drinks if you try them. Consuming healthy beverages will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

 

My Fitness Pal is my fave fitness pal!

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Home page of the app My Fitness Pal!

Home page of the app, My Fitness Pal!

I have another great fitness tip to share with my wonderful readers, and I’ve made reference to it in past posts. However, I think it’s important enough to my fitness success to deserve its own post. I’m talking about My Fitness Pal which is a free¬†app you can get for your iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer. You can also get it free for your Samsung phone. This app has changed my life in many ways and I wanted to let you know so that you can utilize it too if you choose. I’ve always journaled my food choices each day as I feel it really helps me get control of my eating, both portion sizes and types of food as well. It’s not just helpful for me though, studies have shown that people who journal lose more weight than people who don’t. In a study published by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, they found that people who kept a food journal regularly lost SIGNIFICANTLY more weight than people who completed a food journal seldom or never. According to a study published by the Journal of Preventative Medicine, people who keep a food diary lost TWICE AS MUCH WEIGHT as people who don’t.

The diary on My Fitness Pal!

The diary on My Fitness Pal!

In lieu of the paper and pen journaling I used to do, the My Fitness Pal app on my iPhone is really easy to use. When you set it up the first time you enter your weight, height, and fitness goals, like how much weight you’d like to lose. Then, as you go through your day you enter the food you’ve eaten and the exercise that you’ve done. The app pulls up options for each food item you enter and you choose the type of food and portion size that best reflects what you’ve eaten. It then calculates your calories eaten for the day and how many you have left. When you exercise, you enter the type of exercise you’ve done and length of time, and it computes the calories burned also.

The app also keeps track of your steps too!

The app also keeps track of your steps too!

Another cool thing the app does is keep track of the steps you take each day. It then subtracts the calories burned from your steps off of your daily calories.  So the more you walk the more you get to eat! Yay! As you can see, by 2:02 pm I had taken 3,461 steps and from those steps, I had burned 35 calories. Free calories rock!

Nutritional breakdown on My Fitness Pal.

Nutritional breakdown on My Fitness Pal.

The app also shows the nutritional components of what you’re eating each day. This is really helpful to me to see what I’m eating, and if I’m, for example, eating too many carbs I can make adjustments to my diet based on the information I’ve gotten from the app. Very useful!

Another way My Fitness Pal breaks down what you're eating into useful information.

Another way My Fitness Pal breaks down what you’re eating into useful information.

At the end of the day, when you’ve entered all of your food and exercise information you just click the “complete entry” and it tells you what you’d weigh in two weeks if you would continue eating the way you ate for that day. Sometimes I don’t have time to finish my journaling on the same day, but that’s not a¬†problem because I have set it up to notify me if I haven’t entered anything in my journal by 10:00 am. At that time, I usually finish my diary from the day before, click complete my entry, and then begin journaling for the next day. If¬†I miss a day of journaling, which I try never to do, I will just get back to it as soon as I can and continue on from that point.

Weight tracker portion of the app.

Weight tracker portion of the app.

My favorite part of the app is the weight tracker. Once I weigh myself, which I do first thing in the morning without fail, I enter it into My Fitness Pal. The app then keeps track of my weight and shows the changes, up or down. It also shows my weight for the last month, 3 months, 6 months or 1 year. I find this very useful for looking at patterns, to see if changes need to be made.

Useful information and articles contained on the app.

Useful information and articles contained on the app.

When you click on “more” you see all kinds of extra, useful information on the app like articles and other useful information.

Connect other apps and devices to My Fitness Pal.

Connect other apps and devices to My Fitness Pal.

Also, under the section of “More”, is an area called Apps and Devices. There you can connect other apps and devices to My Fitness Pal. If you have a Fitbit, Jawbone UP,¬†MapMYFitness, and many more devices or apps,¬†they can¬†all be synced to your My Fitness Pal app. So that’s the “skinny”, so to speak, about one my favorite fitness secrets to my success. It has been such a great way to continue my successful fitness journey. Try it and I promise it will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!