Gigi makes gluten-free living simple, nutritious, affordable & fun with "Smart Nutrition Backed by Science" facts, practical tips and strategies to live your best gluten-free life, recipes (all free from gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts) all with an upbeat, positive approach!
Celiac disease (CD) is a serious autoimmune disease. I know because I have it. I suffered for more than 25 years with chronic pain and debilitating health issues as a result. For me, 2007 was the year of diagnosis and a true game-changer year for me. That’s when I transformed my health with food alone on a gluten-free diet.
I remember how sick I was, but most of all, I recall not knowing anything about this disease. I wished for a trustworthy, fact-based resource to turn to for answers. As a research scientist, facts are my currency and the only way I make sense of health issues like CD. Consequently, I quickly got up to speed on the current research. In 2009, I launched my former website, Gluten Free Gigi, to share what I learned along with my original gluten-free, allergen-free recipes. You can still find the Health & Nutrition articles and my recipes here on the site.
My goal is the same now as it was in the beginning: To share reliable, current, research-based information with anyone who needs it. Therefore, to help you quickly locate articles you may find useful, I compiled list of CD-related articles I have written. I constantly add new articles to the site and will update this list periodically.
Hopefully you find this resource page useful as you navigate your health issues. If you feel you have celiac disease, I encourage you to consult a reputable gastroenterologist skilled in CD diagnosis before going on a gluten-free diet.
Between 2012 and 2014, I cut my work days from 14 to 5 hours, shortened my work week from 7 to 5 days and tripled my income along the way! I even took a 6-month hiatus in 2015 to live in France. The idea of Work Less, Be More Productive may sound crazy at first, but I know from personal experience working less increases overall productivity. I transformed my business and my life with this approach.
The idea of taking time off makes some Americans cringe. I hear it from colleagues often – the price of time away is too high.
They aren’t talking about the monetary price tag on a vacation, either. That “price” some folks are calculating is about guilt.
Some want to take a vacation with their family, but know they will feel bad about taking time off from their job. They do not feel they have “earned” the time to relax and unwind. Others avoid scheduling a vacation for fear of “something going wrong” while they’re away. And how about those who bow out of family vacations at the last minute due to work? While there certainly are emergency situations (depending on career, timing, etc.), there is time for everyone to take time for themselves.
I’m certainly not judging those scenarios. They are familiar to me because I was the person who felt my business wouldn’t run without me. Over the past several years, working on having the life I really desire, I realized my business was running me. I also realized none of us is so important to our job that it will collapse if we take time for ourselves. I say this as a business owner with multiple “jobs” – website, content creation, recipe developer, magazine editor, author and freelance writer.
And like some of you, I’m a homeschool mom (year nine homeschooling, currently in grade 11 and I write the curriculum), and like all of you, there’s a separate list of “extra” activities on my calendar.
So am I too busy to take time off? Hardly! I make taking time off a priority and I stick to it! And I’m not talking about dashing off to Europe or even taking a family vacation. I’m talking about regularly scheduled self time where you invest in YOU. That could be a solo date to your favorite restaurant for lunch, a day at the spa or a manicure at your local nail salon. Or maybe you don’t even leave the house. Self time can be as simple as curling up with a favorite book and cup of tea or taking time out for a walk or yoga session.
If regularly taking time out of your schedule for activities like these sounds foreign to you, I want you to think about your daily routine. Is it relaxed, calm, peaceful and productive? Or is it hectic, rushed and frantic, leaving you always feeling a little behind on tasks? If it’s the latter, I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way. This idea of working less and increasing productivity has gone a long way in helping me create my dream life, and I think it will help you, too!
Work Less, Be More Productive
Here are a few reasons why working less allows us to be more productive.
1 – Reduce stress & recharge.
Taking time away from everyday life will instantly reduce stress and help you recharge mentally and physically.
No matter how much we love our homes and our daily lives, getting away from the routine really helps us appreciate it that much more when we return. The “routine” is different for everyone, but in our case, Dreamy is most happy to be free from driving when we travel. He has a significant commute in Atlanta traffic daily and it’s a huge stress reliever for him to be out of the rat race.
For me, because my office is in our home and a lot of my work is centered in the kitchen (recipe development), I enjoy being away from my desk and from cooking. Even something that brings us great joy (like cooking for me) is better if we take an occasional break from it.
Sleep is another treasure of getting away. There’s something about being able to turn in whenever you like without worry of setting an alarm and being up at a certain time. It feels indulgent and it is so good for body and mind!
But what about those times when we can’t get away for days at a time? A few hours at the spa for a massage, an hour manicure or even a 30-minute yoga session at home can relax the mind and body enough to lower our stress levels and recharge out batteries. Meditate, take a walk, sit and watch the sun rise (or set), groom your pets. Whatever brings you joy in quietude will help reduce stress and energize your mind and body.
2 – Increase creativity.
Stepping back from your normal environment means seeing new places, talking to different people and looking at life in a more relaxed way in general. That opens up the mind to new experiences and increases creativity automatically.
I know for me, by the time we are returning home from a trip, I’m usually writing ideas for recipes or articles in my little travel notebook on the plane. From new dishes at restaurants, new cocktails I tried and from seeing new places, I get a rush of ideas that help me keep my work fresh and current!
When travel isn’t possible, my go-to creativity booster is nature! I love taking walks, but even when my schedule is tight and I’m up against a deadline, a simply 10-minute walk around my backyard is often enough to help me center and get the creativity flowing again.
3 – Increase efficiency.
Whether taking more time off means traveling to a faraway destination for an extended period or simply taking an extra day off each week, more time away means less time to work.
Now, that may sound counterproductive at first, but it’s not! When we know we have less time to get a task completed, we must increase our efficiency. After all, there’s zero time to scroll through Instagram when you know you have to turn out some work by a certain date AND that you are taking some time off.
I mention often about the dramatic time reduction in my active work hours and I say it to make a point: Making a huge cut in my work time actually increased my productivity and in turn, my income (I tripled it in just a few years!). That’s because I became more efficient. I knew I had deadlines to meet and work to complete, so I simply evaluated how I was spending my time each day. I realized there were some major time sucks that I allowed to hinder my productivity. I did away with those and voila! Just like that, I accomplished more work in less time.
We seem to end up at Walt Disney World every March for the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. You can read about the gluten-free foodie finds we enjoyed there in 2016 and 2017.
We have visited WDW in every month of the year, and March is by far our favorite. The weather is moderate with average daytime temps around 78F, even if there is a significant swing toward cooler temps at night, with an average of 54F.
While I think of spring as a wet time of year, the average rainfall in Orlando is a mere 3.5 inches in March, with about eight days of rain. So, chances are, you’ll stay dry if you visit then. Of course, I always prepare for a rainy day, just in case, so I pack a compact poncho for everyone.
Here are some other things we pack to make our Disney holidays as magical as possible!
(For tips on how to decide where to stay at WDW, check out this post!)
What to Pack for a Spring Visit to Walt Disney World
Like I said, we take along a poncho in the event we are out at the parks and get caught in the rain. In the past two years, in nearly a dozen visits, we’ve only used them once. I like these best. I invest in a multi-pack like this, so I have some spares for future visits (because I can’t ever fold them back into that perfect square, so sometimes they get tossed.)
Don’t forget about that Florida sunshine! Be sure to go prepared with sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen. No matter what time of year it is, never underestimate the power of the sun! It’s easy to get out and about and enjoy yourself so much that you forget the sunscreen. That can make for an unpleasant evening if you have a long, clear and sunny day outdoors!
External portable phone charger
Regardless of the weather, you don’t want to miss a pic of your magical fun times, so be sure to have a compact power bank for your phone. My personal favorite that I carry everywhere is this one (in that color, too, but there are multiple color options). It’s roughly the size of a tube of lipstick, so it’s super-portable!
This applies to year round at Disney, but I want to emphasize the need for more than one pair of shoes, regardless of how comfy a pair is at home. Giving your feet options when you’re putting in long days of walking is a smart move. All shoes are slightly different, putting pressure on different areas of your feet, so switching it up can really help keep your feet happy and pain-free.
Sneakers are a good choice and another pair of comfy closed-toe shoes are a nice second option. While I have worn some super-comfy sandals in the parks, I usually keep to closed toes shoes just in case crowds are dense, strollers are all around or something gets spilled on my feet. If you’ve been to WDW, you know those aren’t out of the question!
I like taking a bottle of water with me into the parks. We usually order ahead (using local grocery delivery service) and have a couple cases of water (and fresh fruit) sent to our room before we arrive, then we can easily grab a bottle on the way out the door whenever we head out to the parks.
It’s far more economical than buying a bottle once you get to your destination, plus, having water out in the open in your room and handy will encourage you to stay hydrated – very important!
I want to keep it cute & classy as much as the next gal (or guy!), but at the end of the day, comfort wins!
For an 8-day visit, which is our average, I pack the following:
Keep in mind, we always stay in a villa with a washer and dryer (you can read more on that here), so I do laundry while there to keep packing lighter so that each of us only needs to take a carryon with us and no checked bags.
3 pairs of shoes (1 sneakers, 1 comfy closed toe, 1 dressy for dining out – I only pack 2 pairs and wear one on the flight down/back.)
1 pair of slippers (I seriously cannot walk around a non-home location without my slippers!! These are my favorite for travel, so much so that I bought several pairs just in case they suddenly aren’t available!)
1 pair of pants & matching top for flying to and from Orlando. (I wear the same outfit there/back on the plane, but usually don’t need the pants during the stay. I just wash the outfit before it’s time to return home and wear it again.)
2 purses (I carry a large tote, which Dreamy jokingly calls my “second carry-on” on the plane, then when we get to Disney, I only carry my small crossbody purse, which also doubles as a cute clutch for dinners out.)
4 pairs of shorts (I take 2 regular/casual shorts, 2 dressier shorts.)
4 short-sleeved tops (2 Disney-themed tee-shirts, 2 dressier tops to go with dressier shorts)
2 long sleeved tops (These are usually Disney-themed pull-over style thin sweaters that work well in various seasons. They are great for wearing with shorts, over a tee-shirt, in the early morning, then rolling up and tucking away once it warms up; same goes for night time, they are great for pulling on over a tee with shorts!)
2 dresses (We usually dine out at a few signature dining restaurants, so I take a couple dresses for that.)
1 wrap or cardigan (I make sure it matches both dresses so that I can wear it on multiple occasions for dining out/at night, etc.)
1 scarf (Because I literally do no go anywhere – at home or when traveling – regardless of season, without one! And I don’t pack it, I wear it or loop it on my purse.)
2 swimsuits (Optional, we don’t always need them, but you never know!)
Sarong (swimsuit cover-up, just in case)
PJs, undies (I take several pairs of each.)
Is that really “light” packing?!
Ha! After reading this list, I’m laughing about my “keep packing lighter” comment at the top. Oh well, THIS is lighter packing for me. And by rolling clothes and really clever packing, it all fits in a standard size carry-on bag (we own several of these, I love them!) and totally eliminates the need for a checked bag. Checking a bag isn’t a big deal at all (and it’s free with our tickets), but I really like to travel without doing so if possible so there’s no waiting to get my things (and no risk of losing a bag!).
And, if you’re totally into the Disney experience, I recommend taking along these fun extras:
Disney lanyard & pins – if you’re into trading
Autograph book – for those character meetings
For those who have food issues, like me, here are some celiac / food allergy essentials that I carry along:
Individually wrapped protein or snack bar you can tuck into your pack
Ginger tablets (part of my daily routine, but also excellent for tummy issues while traveling! I buy these, and yes, I buy 10 packs at a time!)
Daily probiotic (part of my daily routine, and I’m not changing it for travel!)
Nima Sensor & Test Capsules (this is great for dining out! Use this link and code GIGI18 at the checkout for an extra $15 off!)
Now, tell me, how do YOU pack for a spring getaway to the Happiest Place on Earth??
Along with news of their merger with Monster Digital, Inc., Innovate Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. recently announced their drug, larazotide acetate (INN-202), will enter Phase III clinical trials mid-year in 2018.
We’ve discussed the phases of clinical drug trials here. As a reminder, phase III tests an even larger group of participants (from 1,000-3,000 individuals) than previous phases to confirm findings of safety and effectiveness.
Celiac Drug enters Phase III Clinical Trials
INN-202 is the only drug for celiac disease in this trial phase. If you follow celiac drug clinical trials, you may be familiar with the drug under its previous name AT1001.
Now called larazotide acetate, this drug is designed to keep the space between cells (tight junctions) in the gut operating properly. For example, taking the drug before eating could keep the junctions closed and prevent the inflammatory reaction to gluten in celiac patients.
The FDA awarded INN-202 fast track designation to expedite the development and testing of the drug due to the lack of any treatment for celiac disease beyond the gluten-free diet.
The drug company suggests this treatment could “potentially help those who have symptoms even though they follow a gluten-free diet”.
To be clear, the drug does not appear to be intended to be taken as a way for individuals with celiac disease to quit their gluten-free diet and begin eating gluten again. The intent is to be a protective measure in the event a person with celiac disease accidentally ingested gluten.
Of course, I suspect use to reach beyond that intent.
Harvard School of Public Health researchers say regularly consuming excess sugar increases our risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other health issues. That’s serious enough to talk about, isn’t it? I put together these Facts about Sugar: Glycemic Index to Inflammation to clarify some points (like turbinado, or raw, sugar has the same GI as regular ol’ white sugar) and to highlight the reason too much sugar damages our health.
Nutrition experts cite sugary soft drinks and sweetened coffee beverages as primary culprits in excessive sugar consumption; however, copious amounts of sugar are consumed in the name of healthy eating. “Natural” sugars like honey, agave nectar and pure maple syrup are substituted for refined white sugar then promoted as having nutritive health benefits. Some recipes using alternative sugars are labeled “sugar free”. You’ve seen the recipes. I bet, like me, you’ve wondered exactly how those dishes can be labeled “sugar-free”. They are definitely not sugar-free!
Facts about Sugar: Glycemic Index to Inflammation
Whether granulated and white, or amber colored and liquid, sugar is sugar. It makes sense to be aware of our sugar intake regardless of our health condition, but especially if we have celiac disease or another inflammatory autoimmune disease.
High in calories
Devoid of nutrients
Some liquid sweeteners like pure maple syrup and honey are touted as having health benefits. That’s because of certain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals they contain. However, keep in mind these compounds make up a very small portion of those natural sugars. They are less refined, but they are still sugar.
The bottom line on sugar, regardless of form, is to consume it in moderation. Definitely do not rely upon sugar for nutrition.
Let’s look closer at different types of sugar, talk about glycemic index and explore the sugar-inflammation connection.
Types of Sugar
Fructose – also called fruit sugar, fructose is a simple sugar found in many plants. GI = 22
While fructose has a lower GI than sucrose and glucose, experts warn against over-consuming this sugar. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation reports consuming fructose may be less healthy than consuming similar amounts of higher GI sugars like sucrose and glucose. That’s because fructose consumption caused more visceral fat gain (belly fat!) and insulin-resistance. Fructose also lead to an increase in participants’ risk of developing heart disease and diabetes more than other sugars.
Glucose – another simple sugar found in plants and the primary source of energy for the cells of the body. GI = 100
Sucrose – Its most common form is table sugar. Sucrose is comprised of fructose and glucose. GI = 64
Glycemic index (GI) is a ranking system for foods based on their affect on blood sugar and insulin levels in the body. The lower the GI for a food, the lower its impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. Foods are ranked by their GI based on how they compare to glucose. That’s the simple sugar carbohydrate found in plants. It serves as the primary energy source for the cells in the body.
The GI of a food is affected by:
Fat – The fat content of a food reduces its GI because fat slows digestion, slowing the rate of glucose entering the blood.
Fiber – Just like fat, fiber slows the digestive process, thus reducing the GI of a food.
Processing – Grinding or cooking certain foods can raise their GI because it makes them quicker and easier to digest.
Ripeness – As fruit and vegetables ripen, their GI increases.
Whether the food is eaten alone or in combination with other foods – Combining higher GI foods with healthy fats or high-fiber foods slows digestion and lowers the GI for those foods.
Being aware of GI is another way to help us control blood sugar levels. This, in turn, can help us with weight control and in the prevention of serious diseases like heart disease, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes and even certain cancers.
Varieties of Sugar
White (GI = 64)
White sugar (sucrose) is also known as cane sugar. It is derived from sugarcane (a perennial grass) or sugar beet (an annual plant) and is the most common sugar used in baking. White sugar is highly processed and refined and has no nutritional benefit.
Brown (GI = 64)
Light and dark, brown sugar is a mixture of granulated white sugar and dried molasses (a by-product of refining sugar cane). Light brown sugar contains less added molasses than dark brown sugar. Brown sugar has a rich, deep flavor (from molasses) with a utritional profile similar to white sugar.
Turbinado (Raw Sugar) (GI = 64)
Raw sugar is light tan in color and made up of larger crystals than traditional white sugar. Like white sugar, raw sugar is also crystallized from sugarcane. The difference between raw sugar and white granulated sugar is that raw sugar is obtained from the first pressing of the sugarcane. This means raw sugar is less processed than white sugar; however, nutritionists and food scientists remind us that raw sugar is no different in calories nor in nutritional value from white sugar.
Coconut (GI = 35)
Also referred to as coconut palm sugar, coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut palm tree flower buds. (Note: true palm sugar, made from the sap of a different type palm tree, is not the same as true coconut palm sugar.) Coconut sugar is primarily sucrose with some glucose and fructose.
Because of its low GI, minerals (potassium, zinc, magnesium and iron) and vitamins (B1, B2, B3 and B6), coconut sugar has become popular as a substitute for white sugar.
In baking, coconut sugar usually works as a 1:1 substitute for granulated white or brown sugar. It does take coconut sugar longer to dissolve than granulated sugar, so there is a slight variance in results when used in certain recipes. Remember, sugar is sugar, so even coconut sugar should be used in moderation.
Date (GI = 103)
Date sugar is dehydrated dates ground into crystals that resemble a dry version of brown sugar. This process yields a sugar that is unprocessed, all-natural and raw.
None of the dates’ natural fiber, B-complex vitamins, vitamins A and C or minerals (like potassium, magnesium and iron) are lost during dehydration, making date sugar a nutritive choice relative to traditional granulated sugar. Of course, even though date sugar contains nutrients and fiber, note the high GI.
To use date sugar in baking, substitute 2/3 cup date sugar for 1 cup granulated sugar. Keep in mind, while date sugar looks similar to brown sugar, it lacks the moisture of brown sugar. It is also rough, grainy and difficult to dissolve in liquids.
Pure Maple Syrup (GI = 54)
Real maple syrup is made from the sap of sugar maple trees and consists mainly of sucrose and water. It is similar to granulated sugar in terms of calorie content, but does contain some minerals (like manganese, calcium and zinc). Maple syrup also contains natural plant compounds with antioxidant properties. In fact, one research study identified over 50 plant compounds in maple syrup, most believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. One such compound, called quebecol, actually forms during the process of boiling maple sap into syrup. Grade B maple syrup is darker, richer and has a more complex flavor. It also contains more of the minerals noted above. (See the note after honey, below, for more.)
But remember, sugar is sugar. While some forms, like pure maple syrup or honey, may have minerals or beneficial plant compounds, a sugar source is not the best way to get our nutrients.
Honey (GI = 31-78, depending on variety and how refined it is)
Teaspoon for teaspoon, honey contains a few more calories than white sugar (22 in honey versus 16 in table sugar). Because honey is much sweeter than granulated white sugar, we can use less of it.
Honey contains certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants similar to those in pure maple syrup; however,neither of these liquid sweeteners aids in meeting our daily nutritional values. The amount of honey or maple syrup we would need to consume to meet the daily values for the nutrients they contain would be so high the negative impact in terms of sugar consumption would far outweigh any benefit.
Did I mention that obtaining our nutrients from a sugar source isn’t ideal?
Agave Nectar (GI = 30)
Agave nectar is produced from several species of the agave plant. Liquid is extracted from the plant’s core, filtered then heated to form a syrup, which consists mainly of fructose and glucose. Agave nectar is sweeter than honey and maple syrup and contains a few of the same nutrients. However, when it comes to the hype about agave’s superior health benefits, don’t buy into it. Nutritionally, agave nectar is very similar to high fructose corn syrup. Don’t be fooled by the low GI of agave nectar (see my notes on fructose under “Types of Sugar”, above). The American Diabetes Association lists agave with other sweeteners (granulated white and brown sugars, honey, molasses, fructose, maple syrup, etc.) that should be limited in diabetic diets.
As part of a balanced, happy life, there is nothing at all wrong with enjoying sugar in whatever form you like. I am a firm believer in birthday cake, champagne and dark chocolate, and I refuse to have “food guilt”. BUT don’t fall into the trap of convincing yourself a dessert (no matter how “healthy” and “whole food” the ingredients) is health food. Even if it’s an “energy ball” made from dates, almonds and other whole ingredients, moderation is key. Sugar, regardless of form or type, is calorie-dense, too, so keep that in mind when drizzling on the syrup or honey.
The Sugar-Inflammation Connection
Seven of the leading 10 causes of mortality in North America are attributed to chronic low-level inflammation throughout the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.
Common triggers for inflammation in the body are:
Consuming excessive calories
Elevated blood sugar
Oxidative stress (This is the negative fallout from free radical production caused by the body’s normal metabolic processes as well as from environmental factors we encounter. This is what antioxidants in foods we eat help keep under control.)
Clearly, sugar can be linked to each of the inflammation triggers above. It’s not only the overt use of sugar (drowning the pancakes in maple syrup or adding spoons of sugar to your coffee) that is an issue. For most people, it’s the hidden sugar in many processed foods (like cured meats, condiments and pre-packaged baking mixes) that causes sugar consumption to skyrocket. Simple carbohydrates (those found in non-nutritive sugar-rich foods) lead to excess insulin production in the body, and thus to widespread systemic inflammation.
If you’re ready to tackle inflammation and reduce or eliminate it in your own body, I encourage you to read my eBooks, Understanding Chronic Inflammation and Fight Inflammation with Food. The science-based information and advice in these books is exactly how I restored my own health naturally, with food alone, after my diagnosis with celiac disease and multiple food allergies.
Current recommendations for sugar consumption by the American Heart Association:
To be sure we keep our sugar consumption in check, here are the current recommendations for exactly how much sugar we can consume in a healthy diet.
Women, no more than 6 teaspoons per day
Men, no more than 9 teaspoons per day
Do the math!
1 teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams
Calculate the number of teaspoons of sugar in a serving of food by dividing the grams of sugar by 4.
Example: If a serving of food contains 16 grams of sugar, then 16/4 = 4 teaspoons of sugar in that serving.
Common Reference Points for Sugar Content of Beverages
20-ounce sugary soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar
12-ounce sports drink contains 5 teaspoons of sugar
12-ounces of cranberry juice cocktail contains a whopping 12 teaspoons of sugar
The best bet when it comes to beverages is to stick with pure water and unsweetened coffee and tea the majority of the time.
I hope you find this information on sugar useful in managing your own health!
I usually make this recipe for gluten-free, Dairy Free Shrimp Alfredo as written for my family, but feel free to change it up and omit the shrimp, use chicken or no animal protein at all. The sauce is the real star of the show here, and whatever you do with it, you’re sure to love it!
It make a great stand-in for traditional white sauce on a gluten-free pizza, works equally well spooned over zucchini spiral “noodles” and is a hit when served as a warm dip for gluten-free bread sticks or even fresh cut veggies (carrots, red pepper slices, etc.).
Get creative or traditional. Either way, if you must be gluten-free and dairy-free, you’ll treasure this gem of a recipe!
This is the first post in an ongoing series about Productive Slow Living. It’s all about making the most of the time you have and working with your current means. It’s about living a full, joyful, low-stress life with high energy and maximum reward. It’s about truly living the dream – whatever that means to you! Learn more about PSL here.
The life you desire is waiting for you. Call it up, dust it off and live it! Not enough time to live your dream life? Not so! We ALL have the time, but first, we must learn to stop wasting time on activities that sap our energy for productive living.
Here’s the starting point:
5 Time Thieves to Lock Away Today
1 – Busyness
Eliminate it. Being busy and being productive are two entirely different things.
Being busy is repeat-checking your email, repeat-checking your social media accounts, cleaning up the files in your Desktop folder, looking ahead in your calendar and marking all your vacation days with fun stickers. You get the idea.
We allow ourselves to be busy because it looks and sort of feels like work, but it is not. That’s because while our calendar may be Instagram worthy, our REAL work is likely going undone.
The solution to battling busyness is to set specific times to manage your social media accounts, check email, etc. Maybe give yourself 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes at lunchtime and more time after your workday is complete. That way, you checked in, but you also managed your time efficiently. It may take some tweaking to get a schedule that works best for you, so try a few different schedules to find the fit that helps you battle busy-ness.
2 – Difficulties
No matter how charmed, perfect or happy we are, life is full of obstacles. We can’t banish them, but we can “black box” them. When a challenge comes my way, I deal with the parts of it I can deal with immediately, then I accept the parts I cannot. Then, and this is the MOST important part, I “black box” it.
This is a mental exercise I learned decades ago and I use it regularly. At first, it might feel awkward or even like nonsense to you, but bear with me and give it a try for a few weeks before you judge its effectiveness.
Here’s how it works:
Imagine in your mind black boxes you are in control of and that you can seal or open at your own discretion. When you face a situation that feels heavy, weighs you down and occupies your mental capacity, do what you can do about it, then “black box” it. Visualize the challenge, see it going into an empty black box, then see yourself sealing the box. The issue will be there for you when the time is right for you to address it again.
I’ll use a recent challenging time I experienced as an example. In early October, my elderly aunt had a series of falls and fractured her femur. The fracture she suffered was severe, so surgery was required. The surgery went very well but something on the x-ray didn’t look good, so more tests were ordered. We learned the questionable areas were lytic lesions indicating Stage IV metastatic bone cancer. That explained sudden falls and a fracture of such severity coming seemingly out of nowhere.
As her caretaker, I was with her nearly round the clock during this time. That meant daily drives to a neighboring state where she lived and being away all day every day for most of the month. But, like most people, I have a family and regular responsibilities. Even though my heart was broken and I was in a state of shock over this terminal diagnosis with “no possibility of treatment”, I could not abandon my responsibilities.
Clearly, this was a stressful situation; however, I had to push through and do my best to meet my obligations each day. Every morning over coffee, Dreamy and I discussed my aunt’s situation and current status since it was constantly changing. But when it was time for work, I had to black box that situation and dedicate myself to my various jobs for a specified amount of time (usually 2 or 3 hours). After that, it was time to reopen the black box, lay out the challenges I faced with my aunt and deal with what needed my immediate attention. That way, I could free my mind and my time to fully dedicate to speaking to physicians, searching for an in-house hospice facility near me and learn what I needed to know to see my aunt through her final days.
Was that easy? No! But it worked because I knew I was giving myself fully to the task at hand and that is what helped me make logical decisions in a time that felt anything but logical for me.
3 – Gossip
Spreading (usually unconfirmed) information about someone else who is not there to set the record straight is in no way positive or beneficial. If you do it, you know you do it and you should stop. Gossip is harmful to all parties, not to mention a huge waste of time.
If you know me, you know I will shut down anyone who attempts to engage me in this negative behavior. Speculating about others, regardless of your intentions, achieves nothing. If you gossip, make an effort to replace those negative conversations with something positive. For example, start talking to your friends about your goals, dreams and aspirations. You might be surprised how your life suddenly improves!
4- Comparison shopping
I’m not talking about actual shopping. I’m referring to that time-sucking lurking we all do on Instagram from time to time, looking at someone else’s life and wondering HOW and WHY they have it ALL (and why you don’t). Instead of spending hours feeling jealous of others, why not spend that time curating a life YOU desire. Just like stopping the gossip, if you stop this “comparison shopping” you will likely be surprised at the positive upturn your own life takes.
5 – Engaging phantom anxiety.
If the phrases “don’t worry about what you can’t change” or “you borrow trouble” are familiar to you, you may be engaging phantom anxiety. In other words, you lock in to some non-existent event and worry about it. You worry about what hasn’t happened. Worse yet, you worry about what may never happen.
I find people are either “worriers” or they are not. If you’re a worrier, you know it. You lie awake at night considering all the things that could go wrong. You worry about your finances, your spouse losing their job, your kids getting into college, and on and on. When you wake up, these thoughts (and more) creep right back into your mind.
To worriers, non-worriers seem nonchalant, uncaring or unaware. Non-worries may view a worrier as a negative thinker with a pessimistic outlook on life. Of course, those types exist, but when it comes to engaging phantom anxiety, it is not a case of someone wanting to be negative. Worriers feel if they do not worry something really bad could happen and they won’t be prepared because they haven’t thought it out properly. Non-worriers do not worry because we know (from experience) that worry changes nothing. It is action that changes everything.
And this takes us back to my second point about black boxing difficulties. Do what you can about a situation, then move on until you can do more. Sometimes, that isn’t possible and we must take accept certain situations as they are, unchanging (and perhaps unpleasant), for whatever reason. That isn’t easy.
In fact, most of life isn’t easy. If you spend time on the five activities listed here, it won’t be “easy” for you to change those habits. But it is possible and the reward will be more time to do what really matters to you. You’ll even have time to slow down and really live the life you want!
Do you have activities you feel are time wasters that you’d like to stop? Have you broken the habit of engaging in any of these activities? Share what you know so that we can learn from each other!
It’s no secret, we love to visit Walt Disney World! The truth is, we can travel to France for the same money we spend on a Disney trip. But the Disney experience is unique and if you love it like we do, you understand why it’s worth it! My first visit was the year the park opened. Of course, I don’t remember it, but I’ve seen the pictures of my infant self in a stroller snoozing the day away while my parents melted in the Florida sunshine.
We starting taking our girls to Disney young (not infant young!) and they still love to go. In fact, it’s more fun now that they are older. Disney has so much to offer these days – for literally any age group. It’s always a great time to plan a Disney getaway!
One of the most important factors to consider in planning you WDW visit is where to stay. It can really make or bread your holiday, so give it lots of thought and the advance planning it deserves. Here are five of my top tips for deciding where to stay at Walt Disney World for a magical visit.
5 Top Tips for Deciding Where to Stay at Walt Disney World
1 – Location
Some might argue budget is the number one factor to consider when deciding where to stay when visiting Walt Disney World (WDW). As a veteran Disney-goer, I rank location number one because it is important to decide where you want to stay before you delve into the layers of options available to you. Once you know the options, you can further narrow the choices by price point.
Consider whether you will stay on or off property. If you’re new to Disney, that simply means will you be staying at a WDW resort or not. For my family, staying at a Disney resort is essential.
Some of the main perks for us are:
Zero driving. This is important because Dreamy has a long commute to and from work each day. A break from the Atlanta traffic helps him relax and really feel he’s getting away from it all.
Easy to access, comfortable complimentary Disney transportation to and from anywhere we want to go via water taxi or bus. We love the water taxis – so relaxing!
Less time spent driving to/from an off-property hotel means more time enjoying what we went there for in the first place. Once we stayed off property, but very nearby, when I attended a conference (Orlando Waldorf Astoria/Bonnet Creek Hilton). While there were complimentary buses to/from WDW, the schedule was a nightmare. We felt like slaves to that bus schedule! Once was enough to teach us, never again.
No parking issues or fees.
We enjoy walking, so we walk a lot (average 10 miles per day) as a family when at Disney, which is great exercise and a wonderful opportunity to be outdoors together.
It’s simply the most convenient option. From taking advantage of Extra Magic hours, to popping over on a water taxi or bus to Disney Springs for a late night snack or having a great view of the nightly fireworks, on property stays make it all simple.
If you decide to stay on property, you can search the Disney website for properties (about 25 to choose from) near certain theme parks or the Disney Springs area/
When our girls were very young, we stayed near Magic Kingdom. Now that they are older, we prefer to stay closer to Disney Springs since we go there often during our visits for dining and shopping.
If you stay off property, there are dozens of WDW Good Neighbor hotels to choose from. You can find those on the Disney website, too.
A few reasons you might want to stay off property are:
A better “bang” for your buck. There are some wonderful luxury hotels nearby WDW that offer prices far better than those a Disney resort offers, so it never hurts to look around, depending on the type accommodations you’re after.
Visiting other areas and attractions in the Orlando area – If you have family nearby and you’re visiting them, or if you want to see all that Orlando offers, you’ll want a car whether you drive your own or rent one for your stay.
You aren’t interested in being inside the “Disney bubble”. For my family, it’s part of the reason we go (and continue to return multiple times each year), but for others, they prefer Disney in smaller doses. If that’s you, then off property is your best bet! And even if you are an avid Disney fan, many off site hotels offer character experiences, free shuttles to and from WDW attractions and more Disney fun!
Loyalty program – If you’re in a loyalty program with a major hotel chain, you can take advantage of offers/discounts and that might benefit you when visiting the area.
You need a pet-friendly accommodation.
2 – Budget
Once you decide on an area, it’s time to look at prices. For on property accommodations, you can filter out resorts based on price point by selecting Deluxe Villas (these are at Disney Vacation Club Properties, but you do not have to be a DVC member to stay there), Deluxe, Moderate, Value or Campgrounds.
We stay in a villa at a DVC property because we want:
Full kitchen (even though we do not cook when we travel, it’s just nice to have the space)
Washing machine and dryer (I like to pack lighter and do laundry when we’re there since we take multiple types of outfits for day/parks, night/dining out, etc.)
Moderate resorts are more like standard hotel rooms that are Disney-fied. We stayed at Port Orleans once in a Royal Room (table photo, below) for two nights in August 2017, and while the room was completely charming, we were so ready to leave. It was not up to the standard we expect when we are away from home. BUT, to each her own! So, don’t shy away from exploring all types of resort properties at Disney. We have never stayed at Value resorts or campgrounds, so I can’t speak to those. The closest I get to camping is dining al fresco on the terrace. ;-)
3 – Amenities
Another point to consider when choosing your accommodation gets back to a few of those items I mentioned loving about the DVC villas.
Do you need a kitchen? How about a washer and dryer? Is a separate bedroom for everyone important to you? Are you cool with sharing more space and cutting costs a bit? Do you absolutely need a king size bed?
These are all questions to consider.
We got stuck on the full kitchen villas when the girls were small. At that time, we needed to be able to prepare foods they were used to (instant oatmeal for breakfast, chopped fresh fruit for snacks) and to have everything handy that little ones need. I liked a proper kitchen to wash the sippy cups, what can I say?
It made life easier to have more space to relax in, for the kids to have their own bedroom and for us to be able to sit on the terrace and have a glass of wine after the girls were tucked in for the night.
Admittedly, we got hooked on those villas and now, there’s no going back. Beware the lure of the villa! ;-)
4 – Activities
Consider where most of your activities will take you.
Will you be doing things off property like visiting other Orlando attractions? Orlando has a lot to offer and if you take advantage of it by seeing Universal Studios, the Space Center or other attractions, you may prefer to stay off property.
On the other hand, if you’re like my family and you never venture off WDW property anyway, on property may be best. We spend a lot more time at Epcot these days than we do at Magic Kingdom, so that factors into where we stay.
5 – Special Membership Discounts
Obviously, if you are a Disney Vacation Club member, you will stay at a DVC resort.
Like I mentioned earlier, we stay at DVC resorts even though we aren’t members. But we are annual passholders, which comes with its own set of discounts on lodging, dining out, merchandise and more, so it makes sense for an on property stay for us.
But maybe you are a Hilton Honors member or Marriott Rewards member. Your points may earn a substantial discount on an off site (but still nearby) hotel, so be sure to check.
No matter where you choose to stay, putting some time into researching your options and planning based on your family’s unique needs will go a long way in making your stay at WDW extra-magical!
Are you an on property or off property Disney vacationer? What are your tips for choosing the best accommodation at WDW?
Game day is a great day to celebrate family, fun and (gluten-free) food! And just because it’s football doesn’t mean it has to be pizza and wings (unless that’s what you love, and in that case, go for it, just use this gluten-free pizza crust recipe). Fact is, you can whip up good for you gluten-free game day food everyone will devour. Give these 20 Good For You Gluten-Free Game Day Foods a try for your next get together!
17 Good For You Gluten-Free Game Day Foods
This Bacon Wrapped Olives Appetizerwill virtually evaporate from your table, so make sure to make a BIG batch! The combo of smoky bacon and salty olives (which get milder during baking) comes together creating an addictive snack that just happens to be perfection with a cocktail.
Get out your mini muffin tin and bake a batch of Mini Gluten-Free Corndogs. Just be sure you have plenty of toothpicks, ketchup and mustard on hand for picking & dipping! You can make this cheesy or dairy-free “cheesy” if you like.
Who says eggplant doesn’t have a place on the game day snack table?? Not me! Even the most hard core grid iron guy will go for these eggplant wrapped sausages. You can use a mild or spicy sausage to change up the flavor.
Cheesy Crab Artichoke Spread is your tortilla chip’s new BFF. Serve it warm from the oven or at room temp – either way, it’s likely to be gone before half time!
Baked Herbed Feta. Really, that’s enough said. :) It’s the flavor experience of the year… don’t underestimate the power of a block of baked cheese.
If you can’t get enough cheese, roll out a platter of these Bite Size Party Cheese Balls with Dill and dive right in! You can change up the herbs you use for rolling the cheese balls to change the flavor to suit your tastes, or use a combination of herbs.
More cheese, but this time, in crisp cracker form. With only 3 ingredients you can whip up a batch of these easy crackers in no time. (I’ve also made them dairy-free with Daiya shreds and they are great!)
Take your deviled egg game to a whole new level with these Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs. The salty, tender smoked salmon combined with the egg filling is ultra-rich and decadent tasting, but makes a perfect paleo-friendly appetizer for your guests.
It’s that time again! Stores have already replaced the red of Christmas with that slightly different shade of red for Valentine’s Day (just so we don’t reuse that discount Christmas candy, right?). If you enjoy getting in on the love fest that is Valentine’s Day, you may be interested in which chocolates and candies are gluten-free. Even if you aren’t living gluten-free, if you’re giving candy to someone you love who is, it’s important info to have handy.
Here’s my updated list of the major brands and candies we associate with V-Day. Be sure to share the love and share this post with anyone you think it might benefit!
Note: This list is not all-inclusive; there are certainly other sweet treats that are gluten-free for us to enjoy. I’ve tried to list some of the more common confections associated with Valentine’s Day. If you know of other products that might be a good addition, please let me know so that I can add them!
The information provided comes from the manufacturers based on information from their websites, from emails I have received and from phone calls I have made to some of them.
Please always read all labels carefully every time, even if you have previously eaten a product with no problems. Manufacturers can (and do) change recipes, suppliers and production methods, which can change the allergen content of their products. For the most up to date information on a particular product, visit the manufacturer website or call the toll free contact number on the product package.
Let’s begin with everyone’s favorite:
On its own, pure chocolate does not contain gluten. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can take your pick and have any chocolate you like if you’re gluten-free. Here’s why:
1. Gluten ingredients are sometimes added to chocolate during manufacturing, for example in the form of barley malt as a sweetener or in the form of wheat, usually in add-in ingredients like cookie bits or as a binder.
2. There is a risk of gluten cross-contamination due to chocolate being processed and packaged on shared equipment.
I focus on mainstream brands that seem most popular during Valentine’s Day and that most are able to easily locate.
According to Hershey’s some seasonal items are NOT gluten-free, such as seasonal shaped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, unwrapped miniature Reese’s (regular Reese’s are gluten-free) and Almond Joy Pieces (regular Almond Joy are gluten-free).
A company representative told me the following regarding these three Valentine’s Day themed products:
Valentine’s Day Miniatures Chocolate Bars – this bagged assortment contains Hershey’s Miniatures Candy Bars (including Milk Chocolate, Special Dark Chocolate, Krackle, Mr. Goodbar). While the representative assured me this assortment IS gluten-free (even after checking with her supervisor), I pointed out to her that the crisp rice in the Krackle bars contains MALT EXTRACT, which is derived from BARLEY, which is gluten!! While the other bars in the bag do not contain gluten ingredients, I recommend you avoid ALL the bars in Hershey’s Miniatures bags due to the risk of cross-contamination.
Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate Hearts – this bagged product contains foil wrapped Hershey’s milk chocolate heart shaped candies. The representative reviewed the ingredients and said, “I don’t see any concern for gluten in this product.” When I receive this sort of response, I avoid a product.
Chocolate Hearts Assortment – this bagged assortment contains foil wrapped hearts in Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and Hershey’s Special Dark varieties. The representative just wasn’t certain about this bag of goodies and when I pointed out seasonal shaped Reese’s are noted as CONTAINING GLUTEN on the Hershey’s website, she was truly baffled. My vote here is to avoid this product, as well.
So, it looks like these Hershey’s Valentine’s Day candies are off limits; however you can still enjoy non-holiday themed Hershey’s products like: Candy Bars: Milk Chocolate Bar, Milk Chocolate Bar with Almonds, Almond Joy, Mounds, Heath Bar, York Peppermint Patties, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (except seasonal shapes, as these are reportedly NOT gluten-free), Skor Toffee Bar; also by The Hershey Company all Scharffen Berger products and Dagoba Baking and Drinking Chocolate are listed as gluten-free, however,Scharffen Berger Baking Cocoa is NOT gluten-free (as of Aug. 2014) as I noted in my Gluten-Free Guide to Popular Holiday Baking Ingredients.
Milk Chocolate Hershey’s Kisses in any color foil wrapper (even the red, pink, silver for Valentine’s Day) are gluten-free. If you buy in specialty seasonal decorative tins, as with any product, be sure to read the label to be certain there’s no gluten there.
And the big news from Hershey’s is that the Hugs are gluten-free. That is a change from last year’s list. Now, everyone gets Hugs and Kisses.
Dove: Silky Smooth Bars (except Cookies & Cream and Cinnamon Graham Cookie varieties), Dove Promises Candies (except Cookies & Cream and Cinnamon Graham Cookie varieties) are gluten-free; however BE AWARE of specialty items like Valentine chocolates in specialty decorative tins, as some say “May contain wheat” on the label. Always read labels before purchasing or consuming.
M&Ms: all varieties except Pretzel M&Ms, also note some packages of M&Ms now state the allergen warning “May Contain Wheat”, so always read package labels carefully. This is due to processing the M&Ms in different facilities and is especially likely during high production times (during holidays like Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day). Before you buy those white, pink, red variety bags, be sure to read the label.
Other Candy Bars from Mars: Snicker’s, Milky Way Dark and Caramel (Milk Way Original is NOT gluten free), Three Musketeers Bars are gluten-free.
You can see results from my testing lots of the above candies (Christmas versions, of course) in Dec. 2017 with Nima here.
(Maker of Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, etc.)
One of the more difficult product lines to navigate in terms of which products are gluten-free. Because of this, I email or call for the most up to date information from Nestle each year.
The company states their products will be fully labeled for the presence of gluten or gluten-containing ingredients. They encourage consumers to contact Global Headquarters to inquire about the gluten content of their products.
Here’s the standard response from the company:
“We consider “gluten free” to mean no gluten ingredients are in the product, whether directly added, or potentially present due to cross-contact. In other words, if a product label has an allergen advisory statement such as “made on equipment” or “facility that also processes wheat etc… “, we do not consider that product to be gluten free. It is important to always read product labels/packaging for the most accurate information.”
Last year, I learned their gluten-free list was updated 26 Jan. 2016 (this is the first time since 2011!!). They sent a list to me via postal mail. You can also receive the list if you contact the company via the link above.
Note: special holiday shaped products (like Butterfinger, for example) are not considered gluten-free.
Here are a few items from their mailed GF list:
Outshine fruit bars
Morsels: semi sweet, milk chocolate, premier white, peanut butter/milk chocolate, chocolate/white swirl, dark, dark mint, butterscotch, bittersweet
Butterfinger Bites, Minis, Cups, any seasonal shaped items
I like the 85% bars from Pascha. In addition to being gluten-free, Pascha Chocolates are:
fair trade certified
1% for the planet certified
USDA organic certified
They are made in an allergen-free facility and contain no peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat or milk.
My personal experience is that I’ve purchased some bars that were not palatable from Sprouts Markets (they were old bars, had bloom and were inedible); however, chocolate from other stores and direct from Pascha have been excellent.
Non-Chocolate Valentine Candies
Gimbal’s Fine Candies
If you aren’t a chocolate fan and you have celiac disease and/or multiple food allergies, Gimbal’s candies are made for you! Direct from their website, you will learn that all “Gimbal’s candies are peanut-free, tree nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and egg-free.” They are also free from high fructose corn syrup.
For Valentine’s Day, give one of the products from Gimbal’s Lovers Line a try. There’s Cherry Loverswith three flavors (Chocolate Cherry, Bing Cherry and Cherry Daquiri), Cinnamon Lovers (soft, chewy red cinnamon hearts) and Sour Lovers, which will make you pucker up with flavors like Meyer Lemon, Pomegranate and Mango!
Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks
Fruit by the Foot Mini Fruit Snacks Valentine Minis
All Jelly Belly jelly beans are gluten free, peanut free, dairy free, fat free and vegetarian friendly.
Note: A reader from Facebook was wise to point out and to remind me to share that this is accurate regarding Jelly Belly direct from the manufacturer; however, SOME (not all, some) seasonal and the Costco packaged ones do have a “processed in a facility that also processes wheat” allergen alert on the label. Thanks for pointing this out!!
Sweethearts come in six flavors and colors, including strawberry (pink), grape (purple), green apple (green), lemon (yellow), orange (orange), and blue raspberry (blue), and they are fat-free, gluten-free, and nut-free.
Beware similar conversation hearts from companies like Brach’s and Mayfair which not considered gluten-free due to cross-contamination in manufacturing.
Peeps Valentine Marshmallow Products (by Just Born)
Milk Chocolate Covered Raspberry Heart (this product may contain nuts)
Marshmallow Hearts (this product may contain milk)
Vanilla Crème Flavored Marshmallow Hearts (this product may contain milk)
Strawberry Crème Flavored Marshmallow Hearts (this product may contain milk)
Additional information from Just Born on food allergens:
“The modified food starch that we use in our candies is corn starch. However, because some of our products may be manufactured and/or packaged in a facility that may also handle non gluten-free products, we encourage consumers to read the labels carefully for the most up-to-date ingredient and allergen information. For further questions, please call our Consumer Relations Team toll-free at 1-888-645-3453.”
Note: For those who avoid animal products, please note the gelatin used in Peeps is pork-derived.
Tootsie Roll Industries Candies
(Includes: Charms, Tootsie Roll, Tootsie Pop, Junior Mints (there are heart shaped ones for V-Day), Dots, Double Bubble, Fluffy Stuff, Frooties, Sugar Babies, Sugar Daddy, Fruit Chews, Fruit Chew Pops, Razzles, Andes (NOT Andes Cookies), Blow Pops, Caramel Apple Pops, Charleston Chew, Cella’s, Child’s Play, Crows, Cry Baby Sours, etc.)
From the Tootsie Roll FAQ page: “At this time, all of our confections are gluten free. We do not use wheat, barley, rye, oats, triticale, spelt or any of their components and that includes our dusting on our conveyor belts. We do use corn and soy products in the manufacturing of our products.”
Lifesavers Candies and Starburst Candy (both Wrigley products)
The Wrigley website for Starburst products only indicated the Starburst Original Gummi Bursts as gluten-free (on the nutrition facts/ingredients list), so I contacted Wrigley about their products. Here is the response I received via email on 10/9/14:
“All U.S. Wrigley chewing gum and confection products have been assessed to be gluten-free with the exception of the products listed below, which contain ingredient(s) derived from wheat or are made on shared equipment that also processes products with wheat and may contain trace amounts of gluten.
Accordingly, these products are labeled as containing wheat-derived ingredients:
Altoids® Smalls® Peppermint Mints (contains wheat maltodextrin which is stated in the ingredient line)
Lucas® and Skwinkles® Branded Candy Strips (contains wheat flour and wheat fiber which is stated in the ingredient line)
If your sensitivity extends to other types of gluten or if you are extremely sensitive to gluten sourced from wheat, rye, barley, oats or cross-bred hybrids, then you may want to consult with your physician prior to consuming our products.”
Red Bird Candies by Piedmont Candy Company
This company makes peppermint puffs, minis and sticks, but they have many flavors besides peppermint (like cotton candy!) and they deserve mention for (a) being a really nice group of folks and (b) for having a forever-free facility. Piedmont Candy has always had a dedicated gluten-free facility and they are also top 8 free. You can find more here. They are also featured in my GF Chritmas Candy List.
I hope you find this list useful as you enjoy the Valentine’s holiday with people you love.
Remember, always read labels before consuming any candy or other foods. Also, as I said at the beginning of the post, this list is not all-inclusive, but is a brief overview of some of the most popular products available during Valentine’s Day. And this year, there were significant changes with Hershey’s products, so it’s always a good idea to reevaluate products every time you try them.