Tag Archives: hygiene

It’s not easy being green (and gluten- or allergy-free)

Happy Earth Day! Yesterday in Prospect Park I saw two young guys tromping around the lake, drumming on reclaimed water cooler jugs and chanting “Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!,” with a group of kids and parents following behind and half-heartedly shaking the little recycled maraca-things they’d clearly made earlier in the outing. I’m sure Mother Nature found it cute. I found it a good reminder to write this blog post.

Gluten-free often gets lumped in with organic and green in marketing and in popular imagination. I find this odd. Sure, reading labels on processed foods may make you more aware of what weird chemicals you’re putting into your body, and from there you might make the leap to increased awareness of what those chemicals may do to, say, bodies of water. (Dana at Celiac Kiddo wrote a great post about beaver butt in breakfast cereal and what exactly “natural ingredients” means—related and definitely worth a read.)

But overall, I find it’s not that easy to be both green and gluten-free. I’m sure anyone who’s ever had to worry about gluten and allergy contamination can relate; maintaining a clean, contamination-free environment can involve a lot of waste.

There’s the inevitable pantry cleaning at the start and the rallying cry, “When in doubt, throw it out!” Might you have dipped a spoon into first the flour and then the sugar? Toss the sugar. Did a knife go onto toast and then into the jam? Ditch the jar. And while you’re throwing out food right and left, go ahead and buy yourself a new dedicated cutting board, and try not to think about plastic and landfills.

We’re encouraged to buy designated gluten-free toasters, which means double the appliances to plug in, using double the electricity—and no, I don’t believe you remember to unplug your appliances when they aren’t in use.

My sponge usage went through the roof when I went gluten-free, as I’ve written before. Besides that, there’s paper towels for cleaning, parchment paper for baking, and ziploc bags for everything. I also use a lot more soap, which may or may not be harmful to the environment.

And all that is just at home. There’s more! At the grocery store, where before I might have skipped bagging my potatoes and apples, now I worry about those mystery stains on the conveyor belt and opt for the extra plastic. Packaged ingredients, with their FDA-regulated ingredients labels and airtight seals, are my friends. And shopping from the bulk bins to reduce packaging? Forget about it! You don’t know where those scoops have been!

We nod approvingly at muffins being baked in a separate facility and shipped to our local bakeries in individual shrinkwrap. We ask that Chipotle employees wear new gloves while preparing our burritos. And when we can’t find safe places to dine out, we buy individually packaged power bars to see us through.

I’ve even started using more plastic utensils and cups, because I bring meals with me when I’m out instead of stopping off somewhere to eat, and because I don’t trust these items to be clean enough at friends’ homes (no offense).

If you seek organic and non-GMO foods, you may find it harder when purchasing gluten-free products, many of which include corn (here’s a pretty recent list of foods, maintained by a gluten-free, vegan mom blogger, that are non-GMO and gluten-free). I can’t seem to get worked up about GMOs myself, but I understand there’s a lot of anxiety surrounding their health and environmental impact—an anxiety that may be compounded by gluten or allergen concerns.

Organic, natural body care products may also be more likely to include wheat or dairy proteins because these are “natural” alternatives to the chemicals in the big guys. This means if you’re avoiding those proteins, you must reject the purportedly greener options.

For people with severe seasonal allergies to, e.g., pollen, there’s a whole other set of energy expenditures to add into the mix: more laundry-washing, more vacuuming, more air conditioning. Those with serious allergies may also drive their cars during this season more often than they walk or bike. (Amanda at Celiac and Allergy Adventures has written here about the measures she takes during asthma/allergy season.)

So you see? It’s not that easy being green! When we’re expending lots of extra energy ourselves to rigidly control our immediate environment, it’s harder to maintain some of those little footprint-reducing habits we once cherished. Luckily, this doesn’t mean you can’t be green.

The safest foods in the world for most allergies and the gluten-free diet are fresh fruits and vegetables—whole foods that (as long as you buy in season) are pretty darn low in environmental impact. You can even consider going meatless for at least some meals, which is touted far and wide as a simple way to reduce one’s environmental impact. Yes, it can also be a bit harder to maintain a balanced diet while avoiding gluten or allergens and meat and dairy/eggs, but it’s nowhere near as tough as some will have you believe.

You can still keep an eye on your overall energy and water usage (and a dishwasher, widely considered the most effective way to clean contaminated dishes for those lucky enough to own one, is also often more energy- and water-efficient than hand-washing).

And (unless you do have the aforementioned severe seasonal allergies) you can always plant a tree or make an effort to walk or bike more, use public transportation more, and drive less, none of which have much of anything to do with gluten.

Tell me: Do you consider yourself an environmentalist? What do you do to reduce your footprint, if so? Do you find it harder to do while on a gluten- or allergy-free diet? What are your tips for managing both at once? And how are you celebrating Earth Day?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When life gives you lemons (or limes)…

Photo © CasaDeQueso | Flickr

Photo © CasaDeQueso | Flickr

Citrus fruit—from lemons to limes to grapefruit to the mystical Sumo orange—is naturally gluten-free. So, in fact, is every kind of fruit, even breadfruit. It’s still citrus season, and there are all kinds of citrus-heavy gluten-free recipes that you should probably make now, while the blood oranges are still sanguine and the limes are seven for a dollar (like polenta cake, or lime bars, or gelato—let me know if you do make any of the above, with recipes, please).

But here’s the thing. Those lemon and lime wedges and sad little slices of orange that the bartender adds to your cocktails are usually the dirtiest thing at the bar. This little factoid has always tickled me; I’m especially fond of sharing it just after one of my friends has squeezed out the juices and plopped the entire desiccated rind into his or her beverage, when it’s too late to turn back. It’s funnier that way.

As karma would have it, on Saturday I went out to a bar with friends and ordered a club soda with lime—that is, the preferred beverage of hard-core dieters and recovered alcoholics everywhere. I didn’t dunk the lime, but I did keep it on the rim, and I did squeeze it into my soda and lick the juice off of my fingers afterwards (which was in itself gross, considering I’d just come from the subway—what is wrong with me?).

It wasn’t until later that I started wondering whether that lime could be a cross-contamination risk. After all, if a bartender fills a pint glass with beer and the foam spills onto his hand, then he reaches that hand into the garnish caddy to rummage for a hunk of lime, isn’t drinking a soda with one of those wedges just as bad as eating from the same bag of chips contaminated by a friend’s pizzaed hand (which I avoid doing, puritanically)? Isn’t it at least as risky as, or riskier than, using a clean-looking spoon from a possibly crumby drawer without washing it first?

I’m not really at a point where I can tell when I’ve been “glutened,” because overall I still feel the same as ever (which is to say bad). I did, though, have a canker sore on the inside of my lip the next day. Of course, canker sores can be caused by approximately a billion triggers, but one of them is celiac disease. (In fact, for about 5 percent of people with celiac disease, it’s the only noticeable symptom. Learning this made me wonder whether it would be worth giving up gluten if canker sores were the only noticeable symptom…until I looked up some Google images of severe cases and answered that question for myself: yes, a thousand times yes.) Anyway, perhaps that canker sore appeared because of my lime, or perhaps I am simply female (another leading cause of canker sores and other woes).

Either way, I worried. And once I’d started down the worry road, I also worried about the glass—what if it wasn’t well cleaned after holding beer? I’ve seen the old bartender rag-swipe cleaning job before. And what about the soda itself—was the tap definitely clean?

That a simple glass of bubbly water with a hint of lime should be the source of such anxiety sort of makes me want to curl up in a little gluten-free ball in the middle of my gluten-free bedroom on my gluten-free floor and never, ever eat anything anywhere else again. Except, just how gluten-free is my bedroom floor? We all know I’ve been known to snack there—have I vacuumed up all the gluten crumbs? Have I vacuumed at all? Does a vacuum even pick up gluten? Must I go somewhere that gluten has never been?


Yes, every day I sympathize just a little bit more with Julianne Moore’s character in Safe. (Have you seen it? What do you think? It was recommended to me by a favorite college professor and it’s worth a watch, though it’s almost as disturbing as the Google image results you get by searching for “canker sores.”)

Since the curling-up-and-hiding option is neither possible nor desirable, I’ll instead conclude, “When life (or the bartender) gives you lemons (or limes)…politely decline.”

After all, that lemon or lime has probably been sitting out for days, and even if it is gluten-free, it’s most likely as flavorless as it is bacteria-ridden. It’s not worth the anxiety. All things considered, I’d rather have the gelato.

What’s your favorite drink garnish (or do you go naked)? Do you accept the lemon or lime at bars? What’s your favorite citrus recipe? Do you get canker sores/have yours gone away on a gluten-free diet?

Want more like this? I’d love if you followed me via Twitter, Facebook, or email.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As it turns out, celiac disease was invented by the sponge companies.


Of course, the dishwasher manufacturers aren’t making out too badly, either.

Which do you use? Dishwasher, or elbow grease and a prayer? Do you, too, get twitchy if you so much as drop your gluten-free sponge into the gluten-full sink?

Am I overdoing it? Or underdoing it?—should I simply use only my own dishes for everything, regardless of material

What incidental, non-food costs have shot up for you on a restricted diet?

By the way—in case you were wondering, the image quality isn’t bad; your eyes are. My math also isn’t bad. I hope.

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: