"Our son, Jack, was diagnosed with Celiac disease when he was 2. He had many symptoms, but our oldest was asymptomatic. We discovered Sarah had it when we went to University of Chicago for its special free blood screening for celiac. Her blood test came back positive, and a biopsy confirmed she, too, had celiac. Since then, it's been a challenge to deal with their diets, but not as difficult as we first thought.
Being a celiac, means you cannot have gluten. It acts as sandpaper in the digestive system and destroys the villi in the intestine, eventually making it difficult for you to receive any of the nutrition from the food you eat. Celiacs have different symptoms, among them diarrhea or constipation. If you eat a diet free of gluten, your body will repair itself.
Over the past couple of years, more and more restaurants and grocery stores are becoming celiac friendly. The most recent restaurant to announce gluten free (GF) menu items is Godfather's Pizza. Godfather's employees go through training to make sure they can make a GF pizza without cross contamination. The store in Springfield on Wabash as well as the store in Mt. Zion offers GF options. (Please note the Chatham Store does not offer GF at this time.)
A little more than a month ago, Monicals Pizza started offering GF pizza. Our kids love being able to have pizza at a restaurant again. Going out to restaurants and eating GF can be a bit of a challenge, especially since many still don't have employees knowledgeable about the diet. We carry a card that explains what would make something "forbidden" for a celiac. That helps, but some restaurants still don't get it.
We do frequent McDonald's. We order Happy Meals, without buns. The kids eat the fries as well, and have never had an issue. McDonald's cooks its fries in a separate fryer from the chicken and fish, so the oil isn't contaminated. But you always have to order with caution, because many employees don't understand the cross contamination issue. We've not had a problem, to date.
(NOTE: One reader does state that their fliers are not gluten free).
We like Smokey Bones, Outback, and Chilis. All three have staff who seem to have a handle on the GF diet. We eat at Outback for special occasions. It actually has a GF menu which we ask for when we receive the other menus. Smokey Bones and Chili's both have information about what's GF on their websites, and we've found staff also have access to that and have been helpful.
Pasta House in Springfield has GF pasta. This is a rarity to find a restaurant with GF pasta. We were thrilled to learn this. Of course, salad is okay without croutons and you have to ask about the dressings. You may want to bring your own bread because there are no GF options there. We also eat at Xochimilco. I've asked about gluten there, and they've assured me the meat does not have wheat in it. We just make sure what we order is made with corn tortillas, and the kids have been okay eating there. It's one of their favorites.
When we first found out about celiac disease, we did most of our shopping at Food Fantasies. It's great, but can be a little pricey (editor's note: check out our Mom's Choice Directory for a 10% coupon at Food Fantasies). Now more and more grocery stores have GF products. Shop-N-Save carries some GF mixes and some pastas. Sometimes you have to search for it. A lot of the mixes at the store at Chatham and Wabash are above the dairy aisle on the top shelf.
County Market, at least the one on Monroe in Fairhills Shopping Center, has a great selection of specialty food items, including frozen GF bread and other products and mixes. Meijer also has a section with some GF products between the fresh deli and the meats. It's been difficult to find GF things at Wal-Mart at this point."
Submitted by Springfield Moms reader Michelle Eccles McLaughlin, mother of Sarah, Jack and Natalie. She works as the Program/News Director at WTAX.