[This post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with cookbook authors, bloggers, women entrepreneurs and home chefs whose work I enjoy and admire. If you’ve got someone in mind you’d like me to approach for an interview, please shoot me an email at rickiATrickihellerDOTcom, or leave a comment here and let me know! And now, enjoy today’s installment!]
Today I’m delighted to introduce Jennifer Fugo to y’all!
You may already be familiar with certified Health Coach Jennifer Fugo through her site, Gluten-Free School, or the courses she runs there to help those in the gluten-free community adopt a sugar-free, healthy, whole foods diet.
I go to know Jennifer a little better last fall, when she interviewed me for one of her series of podcasts with people in the gluten-free community. We had a great time chatting about candida, its causes, and how I live today as someone on a maintenance candida diet. I really enjoyed getting to know Jennifer a bit better and chat with her about her own journey to gluten-free living!
Here she is to talk about her diet, her site and how she helps others to live gluten free and happy. Plus, she’s sharing this flavorful, visually stunning salad recipe with you all today!
How did you learn that you were gluten intolerant?
I learned I was gluten intolerant accidentally. I was sick for quite some time with headaches, digestive issues, bloating, gas, unexplained weight gain, extreme fatigue and low immunity. As chance would have it, I was interested in the nutrition field and my cousin put me in touch with a friend or hers who is a nutritionist. To give me a sense of what working in the field was like, she had me fill out her intake forms and come in to see her so we could chat about my school options. But as she looked over my information, she expressed concern over my issues and asked me if I’d be open to doing some testing and possibly eliminating gluten for a few weeks.
I had felt awful for so long and couldn’t get any answers from doctors that made sense, so I agreed and found that my digestive system was better than it had ever been after only 3 days of being gluten-free. We did further blood testing and found that I had antibodies to gluten, casein and eggs as well as to all the members of the cruciferous family (think broccoli, cabbage and kale) and the cashew family. After removing these items, my life totally changed as my health continued to improve.
You’re also a certified health coach. What’s the most important change people can make to improve their health besides going gluten-free?
Through my own personal journey as well as working with clients, I think the most important change people can make to improve their health aside from going gluten-free is to shift the mindset that everyone should be able to eat the same diet without any problems.
This mindset is problematic for two reasons. First, it makes people feel like they are “less than” for not being able to easily eat what their neighbor eats without issue. And for those out there who don’t think they have any food intolerances, it allows them to assume that a person with issues to a particular food are just being difficult or picky because there’s no room for the notion that we all should eat a unique diet.
Secondly, it keeps people from finding their own unique dietary key to good health. I do not tell my clients to eat as I do. I encourage them to explore foods and together we determine what foods optimize how they feel. We all are different in many ways — from age to genetics to location to activity and physical fitness levels. Your diet should reflect your own unique set of needs rather than copying what others do because they are (or appear to be) healthy.
Tell us a bit about Gluten Free School, and why you started it.
Gluten Free School is an online hub for commonsense, straight-forward and real information about how to live and eat gluten-free. I found that too many sites focus on sweets and refined foods or that they don’t really address all the angles of the issues (health, lifestyle, food, etc) that gluten-free folks face. Plus I wanted to show our community what the real face of the gluten-free diet looks like that supports good health.
Plus there are so many people who don’t have any support around them. No local groups, no understanding friends or even family members. Gluten Free School gives them a community and voice so that no matter where someone lives who is gluten sensitive or celiac, they can feel connected.
What’s your favorite healthy gluten-free treat?
I certainly love chocolate and am a big fan of Nibmor Chocolate’s Mint & Nib bar which is organic, vegan and gluten-free. But if I want a treat, I do love making homemade, vegan softserve “ice cream” from fruit with my Vitamix (this is my favorite recipe). I usually make a big batch and then put it into single serving containers that I keep in the freezer for later. Because of this recipe, I rarely buy ice cream anymore and love that I know exactly what I’m eating.
You recently appeared on Dr. Oz—congratulations! What is the next big thing on the horizon for you?
Yes, the Doctor Oz segment on gluten sensitivity was such an honor to be a part of. I feel really lucky to have the blessing to share my story of gluten intolerance with the world and give our community a voice. Advocacy is a huge passion of mine and it’s my hope to do more in the coming years through a number of channels.
I’m incredibly excited about the upcoming release of my first book called The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy without Breaking the Bank. I dish on all my secrets that I share with clients on how to effectively reduce grocery bills without the high cost many associate with a gluten-free diet. Eating healthy is important to me and I figured out how to do it without skimping or eating junky gluten-free food.
Another cool avenue is leading me back to school this Fall to begin a Masters in Human Nutrition. I love to learn and am excited to serve our community with even more knowledge in the coming years.
There’s a lot in the works and I encourage anyone interested in staying in touch to join my weekly newsletter.
Sweet Strawberry and Cucumber Salad
3 leaves of red leaf lettuce, shredded
1 small cucumber, sliced
1/2 avocado, cut in chunks
5 strawberries, sliced thinly
handful of pine nuts [I used 1/4 cup or 60 ml sunflower seeds, as I couldn’t find pine nuts]
2 Tbsp (30 ml) toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1-1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) balsamic vinegar [for Stage 2, use apple cider vinegar]
sea salt, to taste
sprinkling of white pepper
Combine everything in a bowl and toss until well coated. Adjust seasonings to your tastes and enjoy immediately!
Suitable for: ACD Stage 2 and beyond; sugar-free, grain-free, gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, yeast-free, soy free, vegan.
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Jennifer Fugo is the founder of Gluten Free School, a website dedicated to teaching gluten-sensitive individuals commonsense, simple and powerful steps to get healthy. She’s a certified Health Coach named a “Gluten Free Guru” by Philadelphia Magazine who co-hosts the popular “Gluten-Free Sugar Cleanse” to empowers gluten-free folks to take control of their diet, feel great and kick their sugar habit.
Jennifer is a sought-after expert for news contributions about healthy, gluten-free living as well as a speaker and avid blogger who has been featured on Doctor Oz, Yahoo! News, eHow, CNN, Huffington Post and Philadelphia Magazine. She also hosts the popular “Gluten Free School Podcast” to share eye-opening health information vital to living a gluten-free life. In early 2014, Jennifer released her first book called The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy without Breaking the Bank, available in both hardcopy and electronic formats.
Watch my Google hangout with Jennifer in which she discusses The Pitfalls of Gluten-Free, here.