Native Sun Jacksonville

gluten free jacksonville native sunThis past month, I had the opportunity to meet with Native Sun Natural Foods Market to discuss their celiac safe bakery, gluten-free product vetting, and more. As background, Native Sun opened its first grocery store in Jacksonville over twenty years ago. Since then, it has grown to three neighborhood stores and is known around town for its all organic produce selection, health minded and organic deli, delicious juice and smoothie bar, and the best celiac friendly bakery in town. They are truly Jacksonville’s neighborhood grocer!

Gluten Free Jacksonville Native Sun

Whether you were recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease or are trying to prepare a gluten free meal for a friend or family member, I highly recommend making a trip to Native Sun. After meeting with their team, I really believe that they are the number one resource in the JAX community for products and tips on how to live a gluten-free lifestyle. Ginny Nehring, who is Native Sun’s Manager of Research and Education, is just one of the many resources available to you when shopping at Native Sun. Ever since her middle son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease twenty years ago, Ginny has been researching gluten-free products and spearheading Celiac Disease community education around Jacksonville. I admire Ginny for her dedication to our community and the 1:1 time she spends with newly diagnosed gluten-free families. One of the services she offers at Native Sun is hosting tours to those newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Tours can include education on Native Sun’s color coded in-store labeling, recommending some of her favorite products, and can provide much needed comfort to those who are trying to navigate a new lifestyle and diet. Ginny shared with me that people often hear, “Celiac Disease” and fear that they can never eat their favorite foods again like pizza, pasta, or cake. When she walks them through the aisles and shows them donuts, fritters, muffins, pizza crust, pasta and breads that are celiac safe, it can open a whole new world of enjoyable options!

Native Sun’s new product vetting process is also impressive. As the Manager of Research and Education, Ginny contacts every single gluten-free product manufacturer and researches their cross-contamination practices. As a result, Native Sun will not label a product gluten-free unless it has passed a rigorous process that ensures it is Celiac safe. Ginny shared that some products will be labeled by the manufacturer as “gluten-free” but after researching cross contamination practices, Native Sun will discover that they do not meet their gluten-free labeling standards.

It was Ginny’s idea to create the dedicated gluten-free bakery at Native Sun. She had perfected many of the recipes in her home for her son and wanted to share them with the community. It’s important to mention that when I say, “gluten-free bakery,” I mean 100% gluten free Celiac safe bakery—it’s dedicated gluten-free. Their bakery items include my favorite oatmeal cream pie made with purity protocol oatmeal, carrot cake, banana bread, and even a pecan pie.

In addition to what we put in our body, I had the opportunity to talk to Ginny about the cosmetics and skincare products that we often use. Ginny shared with me that we need to be concerned about the cosmetics we put on our skin and in our hair. One of her favorite products is a skincare line called Derma E—all items are gluten free. After our meeting, I tried one of the Derma-E face serums and absolutely loved it! I had to get used to the sunscreen type consistency, but it has done wonders for smoothing out my skin! Ginny assured me that not all their products share that consistency!

Gluten Free Jacksonville Native SunSome of the items Ginny shared with me that I really want to highlight are these new Udi’s bread you do not need to toast! This is a game changer!

Lastly, I compiled some of my favorite gluten-free items that are available at Native Sun! If you are looking to set up a meeting with Ginny you can contact the store by phone and request a store tour or stop by and complete a Product Knowledge Enhancement Tour form and she will contact you, usually within 24 hours to set up a time to meet with you at your convenience.

Italian night! This gluten-free pasta tastes just like the real thing and the recipe for Manicotti is already on the box! The pasta is made in Italy. I also suggest pairing the cheesy bites. You might even trick your gluten eating friends.

Gluten Free Jacksonville Native SunMexican is the easiest to eat gluten-free and you can feel safe doing it at Native Sun even this margarita mix is safe!

Have you been to Native Sun? Have you ever taken one of Ginny’s tours?

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May is Celiac Awareness Month

gluten free jacksonville may is celiac awareness monthIt is amazing how far Celiac Disease Awareness has come in the almost 10 years since I was diagnosed.  There are a few things I am happy about and a few things I would LOVE to see change as we try to raise awareness of Celiac Disease.

For those of you new to the Celiac world- according to The University of Chicago Medicine Celiac Disease Center, Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine. When a person who has celiac disease consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, the individual’s immune system responds by attacking the small intestine
and inhibiting the absorption of important nutrients into the body. Undiagnosed and untreated, celiac disease can lead to the development of other autoimmune disorders, as well as osteoporosis, infertility, neurological conditions and in rare cases, cancer.

Things that make me happy about where we have come with Celiac Awareness:

  1. Every grocery store has some type of gluten free offering beyond just Whole Foods and specialty stores.
    gluten free jacksonville may is celiac awareness month gluten free jacksonville may is celiac awareness month
  2. Restaurants are beginning to educate their staff better to avoid cross contamination.
  3. Friends and family care and actually want to learn what “gluten-free” means- sometimes even taking steps to avoid cross contamination and make you a meal.
  4. We are seeing more and more restaurants that are dedicated gluten-free (no worries about cross contamination!!)
  5. Sooo many recipes online!!!  I have found the joy of cooking through this diagnosis.gluten free jacksonville may is celiac awareness month
  6. Travel has gotten so much easier.  I have enjoyed trips on Cruises to the Caribbean, Ireland and Italy that were amazing and I didn’t go hungry once!gluten free jacksonville may is celiac awareness month

Things I would LOVE to see changed about Celiac Awareness:

  1. The question: is this a serious allergy when I say I am “gluten-free” and “living with Celiac Disease.”  I dream of a day when I see “gluten-free” on the menu and I don’t have to say a word afterwards.  I hate to say it but french fries fried in the same oil as breaded chicken fingers should not be labeled gluten-free.
  2.   Stop making fun of the gluten-free diet.  Yes there is a large percent of the population who use gluten-free as a diet tactic but there is an even larger group of people- approximately 3 million- that have to follow this diet to stay alive.
    gluten free jacksonville may is celiac awareness month
  3.  Incorporate a laws- similar to what these countries have done– to protect people living with Celiac Disease.
  4. Stop using gluten-free labeling as a marketing tactic.  There are laws in place but there is no one enforcing these laws.
  5. Provide better subsidies for those of us living with Celiac Disease.  Gluten-free goods are very expensive. When I went gluten-free my grocery bill per week was $50 more expensive and continues to be that way.  Thank goodness I live near a Trader Joes!
  6. Educate more primary care physicians on the signs and symptoms of Celiac Disease.  When I was diagnosed, almost 10 years ago, my physician was very skeptical when I asked to be tested for Celiac Disease.  I had done a ton of research online and that was the only thing I could find that matched my symptoms. She is one of the top doctors in our area and she thought it was a waste of time.  But she did it and was extremely supportive when the results came back.

What has your experience with Celiac Disease been?

Resources:

  1. University of Chicago Medicine – Celiac Disease Center
  2. Celiac Disease Foundation
  3. Beyond Celiac

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7 Things I Have Learned Since My Celiac Diagnosis

gluten free jacksonville celiac disease I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in November 2017. Since then the gluten-free world has changed and so have I.  I feel a little more confident about how to eat, I am comfortable talking with restaurant staff in front of friends and I have learned not to hold up the entire tables order when giving my specific instructions. But there are some other big things I have learned. Let me share them with you!

1. Gluten-free does not always mean healthy. It is so easy to get caught up in the gluten-free breads, desserts, pastas and other processed foods. Many times those foods are high in sugar, fillers, fat, etc. that are not always good for you. While I am not perfect and I enjoy breads, cupcakes (icing is my weakness) I am trying really hard to stick to whole foods and have even tried to eliminate sugar and carbs completely. It is really important to read labels.

2. Gluten-free does not always mean celiac safe. In my early days, I thought if it was on a gluten-free menu it was safe. Many times restaurants will label fries and wings as gluten-free. Many times those items are fried in the same oil as chicken fingers or other breaded items. I try to always question items that I know will be fried or I avoid them all together and stick with salad and grilled items. Even a few tortilla strips on top of a salad can be agony for someone living with celiac disease.

3. I have gotten a little bit boring with my food. I eat at a lot of the same places because I feel safe. I feel like when someone asks me where I want to go it is one of these restaurants: Tacolu, Bonefish, PF Changs, Kamiya 86, Moxie, Epik Burger or Sake House. All places #1 are close to my house and #2 are places that make me feel safe. However, I am always up for trying something new even if it means I may have to spend extra time talking with my server before I order. More and more restaurants are educating their staff on the needs of gluten-free patrons.

4. I always have snacks on me. There is nothing worse than going to a work meeting and seeing that everyone is given a sandwich or wrap and I am stuck there for 3 hours or being on a plane where the only snack options are pretzels or cookies. I always keep some sort of nuts in my work bag and when I travel I like to bring peanut butter, gluten-free crackers, gluten-free pretzels and apples or grapes because no one wants to sit next to someone who is hangry.

5. I have a huge fear of being stranded without anything to eat. This is similar to #4; when you live with celiac disease the convenience factor is taken away. Fast Food restaurants are not always available and able to accommodate, gas stations have limited availability and coffee shops and other quick stop places don’t always have gluten-free items available. This has caused me to perhaps overeat at times and has got me into trouble with my weight. It is hard to find that balance between eating before you go somewhere and not having any options when you get to the event. This happens mostly when I go to weddings, dinner parties, on trips, and going to a friend’s house that doesn’t know I have celiac disease.

6. I make mistakes. I sometimes get lazy and it has come back to bite me in the you know what. Sometimes at certain restaurants that I trust I forget to tell the server that I am gluten-free and dairy-free . While most of the time I am fine, there have been times when other ingredients that are not gluten-free end up on my dish. This is not only annoying for me it is annoying for the server and those dining with me because they have to re-make my food
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7. I need support. It is easy to feel like the odd man out when you are gluten-free and dairy-free. I occasionally get comments like “oh my gosh what do you eat” or “don’t you just want to cheat.” But overall my friends and family know that I am gluten-free and they are very supportive. My husband is extremely supportive we don’t have any gluten in our house. On Monday nights we rotate houses for dinner with some of our friends and it is amazing to see how friends say “gluten-free really isn’t that bad.” When I was diagnosed I felt like such a weirdo but now my friends will call and say “I am making dinner and here is the menu what can’t you have” or “what do I need to avoid for this recipe.”  People don’t realize just how happy this makes me.

What have you learned on your gluten-free journey? What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?

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Honey Acres, Inc. Dark Chocolate and More

Recently Tiara from Honey Acres, Inc. reached out to me to try their chocolate line.  She shared with me that they are made with 100% Dark Chocolate and Raw Honey.  They are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, and no added sugar.  Being dairy free as well as gluten free can be hard sometimes because very few chocolates don’t incorporate milk into their recipe.

When the chocolate’s arrived they were also accompanied by other honey products I did not know even existed and some honey straws.

honey acres gluten free jacksonville

The first thing I did was try out the Cinnamon creme by sauteing some local pecans from Front Porch Pickings and then adding to a yummy King Arthur Flour banana bread mix.  It was so yummy and a great recipe for the holidays.

cinnamon creme honey acres gluten free jacksonvilleking arthur flour pumpkin bread honey acres gluten free jacksonvilleking arthur flour pumpkin bread honey acres gluten free jacksonville

I then tried the chocolates which are delicious!  The dark chocolate taste is not too over powering and I just loved the creamy centers.  The dark chocolate mint was my favorite and the dark chocolate cocoa was my second favorite.

dark chocolate honey acres gluten free jacksonvilledark chocolate honey acres gluten free jacksonville

Some other things I plan to do with these yummy honey products:

  • Put some in my morning smoothie to naturally sweeten it up
  • Add it to my morning hot tea
  • Use it on pancakes like this suggested recipe

Currently their products are not available in the Jacksonville area but to see changes and updates to locations view their store locator.  I hope they come soon because I am going to be craving these chocolates!

Do you cook with honey?  What are some of your favorite recipes?

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Schar Gluten-Free Artisan 10 Grains and Seeds Bread

Whenever people ask me “how does gluten-free bread taste?” my usual response is “it’s ok, it doesn’t have a long shelf life, it needs to be refrigerated, it needs to be toasted and it is usually very small with large holes in the middle and tastes somewhat dry and it crumbles as I eat it.” Well no more!  Schar’s Gluten Free Artisan 10 Grains and Seeds Bread has changed the game completely.  gluten free jacksonville schar gluten free bread

For decades Schar has been dedicated to the celiac and gluten sensitive communities providing a safe and flavorful line of gluten free products including: bread, cookies, crackers, pizza, pasta and frozen meals.

Schar’s Gluten Free Artisan 10 Grains and Seeds unique sourdough recipe is made with ancient and whole grains including : rice flour, quinoa seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, millet flour, buckwheat flour, quinoa flour, amaranth flour and chia seeds and comes packaged at room temperature; there is no need for refrigeration, freezing or toasting.  Schar’s Gluten Free Artisan 10 Grains and Seeds Bread is also high in fiber.

gluten free jacksonville schar gluten free breadThe package can easily get you through the week with 2 people having sandwiches or breakfast toast.  The bread is chewy and delicious with a hint of sweetness.

gluten free jacksonville schar gluten free breadWe enjoyed ours with a turkey sandwich and with my husbands famous toast, guacamole egg breakfast (paired with sauteed spinach and Canadian Bacon).

gluten free jacksonville schar gluten free breadgluten free jacksonville schar gluten free breadI love this bread so much it is definitely a bread game changer.  Where can you get it you ask:  as of the posting of this blog they are available at Native Sun Natural Foods Market, Winn Dixie, Walmart, The Commissary and The Fresh Market. Click here for a full list of locations as they get updated. 

Also click here to visit their website for a coupon to give their Gluten Free 10 Grains and Seeds Loaf- the newest member of the Artisan Baker family.

Follow them on Facebook and instagram @ScharGlutenFree.

Have you tried them yet?  What are your thoughts?

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Front Porch Pickings – Veggie Delivery Service

About 3 years ago I subscribed to a veggie home delivery program called Front Porch Pickings.  Every two weeks a box of vegetables grown within Florida is delivered directly to my doorstep for only $26 a delivery.  I love vegetables and am not picky at all.  Even my husband enjoys the veggie creations I come up with.  My goal every two weeks is to use everything in the box even if I have no idea what it is.  I have grown to love turnips and kohlrabi, vegetables I never would have purchased on my own at the supermarket.  I even became hooked on my eggplant parmesan recipe because I had no idea what to do with the gorgeous eggplants I got in my delivery box.

What I really love is they send you what you will be receiving the Sunday before they deliver so you can make changes and take out items you don’t like.  For instance sometimes there an abundance of salad bunches in the box and my husband usually purchases tons of spinach for our salads so I may substitute for more of one thing or add on something different that may be available.  In addition to vegetables you can add in local coffee, bread, soaps, and more.

Because everything is from Florida the vegetables usually arrive ripe and full of nutrients.  Another nice thing is if I run out of something that is especially delicious I know it is going to be available at the local farmers market or grocery store so I can go and get more.  I feel like I am on top of whatever is in season based on what is in my box.  Here are a few of my finds from my local deliveries:

Oyster Mushrooms, sweet potatoes, green beans, eggplant, peaches, tomatoes, muscadine grapes and sweet potato greens.

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Here are a few of the meals and sides I have made with items from my Front Porch Picking bin:

gluten free jacksonville front porch pickings

Locally grown black eyed peas with fresh sauted green peppers

gluten free jacksonville front porch pickings

Locally grown green peppers and mushrooms in a chicken stir fry

gluten free jacksonville front porch pickings

Locally grown arugula, peppers and cucumbers in a yummy salad

gluten free jacksonville front porch pickings

Locally grown roasted zucchini

Do you subscribe to a local veggie delivery service ? What is your favorite vegetable?

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Gluten Free Delights

Recently, Kristy Luschen the owner of Gluten Free Delights Florida reached out to me about trying some of her gluten-free desserts.  She recently started her gluten-free dessert company and wants to get the word out to those following a gluten-free diet as well as restaurants who are looking for a gluten-free option at their restaurant.

gluten free jacksonville gluten free delights Kristy brought me a strawberry cream cake, chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting, and a cheesecake topped with dark chocolate.  They sounded (and looked) delicious! Since her desserts also have dairy (I am dairy free too) I had to rely on my go-to taste tester: my husband!

gluten free jacksonville gluten free delights Kristy went gluten-free a while back when she thought she may have had gluten-sensitivity or Celiac Disease.  During that time she experimented with different gluten-free desserts and other recipes. While her kitchen is not designated gluten-free she makes every effort to clean, make sure all gluten-containing ingredients are out of sight and avoid cross contamination.

gluten free jacksonville gluten free delights Chocolate salted caramel

My husband found this one tasty- the icing had a salty taste which really balanced out the chocolate cake.  The cake could be a little bit more moist (this is always a challenge with gluten-free cakes) or just pair with a glass of milk or add a bit more icing 🙂 He loved the flavor of the icing.

gluten free jacksonville gluten free delightsStrawberry Cream Cake
This was my husband’s favorite so far and overall.  He said it was SO GOOD. My husband stated that it reminded him of the strawberry cake that they have at French Pantry that is so delicious.  It has a nice fruity creamy strawberry taste and has real strawberry chunks.  My husband said it tasted really fresh.

Chocolate cheesecake

While my husband is not typically a cheesecake fan he said the cheesecake and graham cracker flavors tasted amazing together. I know as far as gluten-free options go it is usually quite hard to find a good graham cracker crust. It was so tasty it may not even need the chocolate part or maybe a little less.

I highly recommend that you try out Gluten Free Delights. Visit her website and place an order. It is always nice to support local people trying to do good things in our community. And no matter what diet you are on you always need to allow a splurge every now and then. For more information visit her Facebook page: Gluten Free Delights on Facebook

What are your favorite desserts? So you normally order gluten-free dessert if it is available? Who has the best gluten-free dessert?

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