Explaining "Special" Diets and Food Intolerance to Children

In September my new book will finally launch. I say finally, because it was 8 years in the making - beginning as an idea in my friend Alessandra's living room in Rome in 2006. As I drove through the mountains looking at the sheep on the hills I figured that sheep, who do little more than graze all day might make good creatures through which to tell a story about food intolerance and living among the herd. 

I had lots of ideas. Most were fairly lame. When I returned home to Toronto a year later, my dear friend Robin would bring up the story  and we'd talk about where it was going. For a long time, it was going nowhere. I knew that Woolfred, the main character was struggling with his intolerance, and that there were elements of isolation. I knew that Woolfred would have to "overcome" his challenge. Truth is - I had no idea what the message was supposed to be. It's not so bad? Get over it? I played with lots of complicated scenarios where Woolfred could end up being a hero. Nothing really worked. Nothing was credible. There was no happily ever after ending. 

Interestingly, it was through writing this book - more than 40 years into having celiac disease that I came to understand how I really feel about having grown up with a food intolerance.

When I think about my personal childhood experience, I've got some very vivid memories. No one wanted to have me over, or pray, have to feed me. I remember a friend's mother being put in the situation of having to make me dinner one evening when my mother was held up. The rest of the kids were served fish sticks and fries (it was the 70's). For me, she unwrapped an entire brick of cheddar cheese and served it on a plate with a knife and fork, explaining - that at least she knew this wouldn't kill me.

Or, there was the time in 3rd grade where I stole a box of the Girl Guide cookies from the case I was supposed to sell. (That's quite a test for a celiac child - here's a carton filled with boxes of cookies!!) I snuck a box into the washroom, locked myself in a stall and ate both the vanilla and chocolate rows as fast as I could. An hour later, I was outed, when I threw them up in the school lobby and everyone had to walk around the mess on the way out the door. 

My food was always referred to as "special" - don't touch that, it's Claudine's "special" hot dog bun, or cupcake. The term was meant to make me feel better - but it didn't. It made me feel like I was inadequate in some way... and needed "special handling". Today the "special" stuff looks just like regular, and there is often more than one kid in the class with an intolerance. I'm sure that this makes it easier - but the feelings associated with being called out are about human interaction and less about the food itself. We want to be known for what we can do - not for what we can't. 

In the end, the story I wrote is Woolfred Cannot Eat Dandelions. He is no super hero - just a sheep with a food intolerance. What this means for him, will be revealed in short order. 

You can read more on the publisher's website HERE.


Product Review - Larabar Pie Flavours

Larabar ingredients are simple, pure and delicious
I haven't been an energy bar person to date. In fact, when they first came out years ago I took a hard look, and it wasn't easy to find something that I could be sure was gluten free. Times have changed. 

To be honest, even when I started seeing energy bars enter the market, I was not that drawn. So many seemed to have a great deal of ingredients, and I preferred to carry my little ziplock bag with nuts, seeds and raisins around. In part because of the simplicity, but in part because of the price. 

My stepdaughter, who is going through a very particular phase with food has been on a bit of a Larabar kick these last few months. You've never met a healthier 19 year-old. 

When I was contacted and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing Larabar products - I said yes please. A week before the samples arrived, I bought my first bar. I was already sold before I opened the box of samples they sent this week (pictured).  

I've been on the special carbohydrate diet for 68 days at this point, so on top of needing to be gluten-free, there was little out there that would count as a "treat" in my books, that was also allowed on this scd diet. Dates had become my new favourite food. Low and behold, that is the base for the Larabar. A super healthy, and "legal" treat in every regard. 

I confess that one of the things I pine for most in the gluten world has to be pecan pie. While I haven't indulged in many, many years... one of my last memories of "cheating" on my gf diet was a low moment of scooping the innards out of a pecan pie. I was weak. It was a dumb idea. Today, I had the Pecan Pie Larabar - and I do not embellish when I say - they've nailed it. You will not believe that they managed to replicate pecan pie with only three natural ingredients - and none of them is sugar. 

The Apple Pie Larabar was also delicious (you need to like cinnamon - and I do, because the flavour is strong). The Cherry Pie is bursting with the fresh tart taste of cherries. You have no doubt that the real fruit is what you are tasting. Simple, delicious and nutritious. 

I liked all three of the samples I was sent to try, but Pecan Pie - for my tastebuds, is the winner. Three ingredients never tasted so good. I could eat one every day without guilt for about the same price as a chocolate bar. Add that there isn't the insulin high and low, there is plenty of fibre and protein - gf, vegan and kosher. Excellent road trip fare. 

For the gluten-free diet, these are a real winner. If you have an even MORE restrictive diet... you will be shocked to know that you now have an amazing, healthy and dessert-like treat to enjoy. I might be able to handle this SCD diet a few more weeks now. Thanks Larabar!

Check out the Larabar site HERE for more, including how to order online.