Six years ago, there wasn’t a clear-cut guide to gluten-free eating. Why? Because the term “gluten” hadn’t quite hit its buzz-worthy status yet. Celiac disease, along with gluten sensitivities and intolerances, were not as widespread as they are now. Therefore, Jackie McEwan, founder of Gluten Free Follow Me, was more or less fending for herself when she was diagnosed.
“I had to figure out what gluten was, what foods I could eat, what foods I had to avoid and the nuances in between,” Jackie says. “It was incredibly overwhelming and I wished I had a go-to guide to tell me all I needed to know about following a gluten free diet.”
Since the manual didn’t exist yet, Jackie decided to conduct her own research and trained herself to maneuver being gluten-free both at restaurants and in her own kitchen.
“I wish I had something like Gluten Free Follow Me,” she says, “but I’m glad I can be a guide for others now.”
Today, Jackie paves the way for others in similar situations with enormous support from her husband, Brenden and their adorable rescue pup, Odie.
To learn more about Jackie’s journey, check out our Q&A below with the gluten-free queen herself!
1. What drives you to promote this lifestyle?
I want everyone to feel comfortable when eating and to know that following a gluten-free diet is very feasible. Whether you have to be gluten-free, choose to be gluten-free or have a family member or friend that follows a gluten-free diet, we all deserve to eat well! I’m so happy that I can share what I’ve learned and have others benefit from my experiences and research. My website allows users to do their own customized searches with 2,000+ gluten-free-friendly eateries, products and recipes so there are an overwhelming amount of options.
2. How do you stay inspired?
I stay inspired by letting my creativity flow and connecting with people who have the same values. I motivate myself. I believe that the most successful people are driven by themselves rather than outside forces. They intrinsically want to do good.
I start every day with berries or other fruit. For lunch, I typically make a big salad with a 4-5 egg omelet and roasted vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and squash.
When I eat out at restaurants, my lunch varies but I always make sure to start the meal with greens. After lunch, I snack for the rest of the day, anything from frozen yogurt to berries to popcorn to chocolate, whatever I’m baking/cooking that day, and whatever food packages I receive.
I prefer to have a light dinner and not eat too late. When I’m traveling, this doesn’t always happen. When I eat at home, it’s typically a light meal.
4. Do you support your healthy diet with exercise?
I exercise daily – I love it! Running is my favorite form of exercise. I ran the Boston Marathon and NYC Marathon a few years ago. Now I enjoy running along Santa Monica Beach a few times a week. I also take barre classes, and I do the StairMaster, elliptical and free weights at the gym.
5. What’s your dream job?
I’m the founder of Gluten Free Follow Me – I’m living my dream job! Gluten Free Follow Me has given me the flexibility to work when and where I want. I love that it combines my business and creative sides.
I didn’t even know that it was my dream job until I started doing it. After graduating from Georgetown University, I had an intense finance job in NYC for six years.
While working at my corporate job, I almost always took a lunch break, even if it meant that I just walked outside for 30 minutes. Without realizing it at the time, Gluten Free Follow Me subconsciously started during these lunch breaks! I would walk around the city and try to find gluten-free friendly places for lunch or snacks. That was my “me time” when I could do something unrelated to my job. I kept adding to my long list of restaurants I wanted to eat at. I would check them out either during lunch if it was close to my downtown office or on the weekends if it wasn’t.
6. Wow – lucky you! So when did it all start?
In March 2014, I started to post about some of the gluten-free foods I was eating on Instagram. Surprisingly to me, my posts were met with great reception. People I had never met were asking me for more tips on gluten-free friendly eateries, products and recipes. I was more than happy to continue to make these discoveries. I was getting so many questions that I knew I needed to put all this information in one place rather than just Instagram.
7. Who do you look up to?
I look up to anyone that has created something innovative. If we all did the same thing and thought the same way, the world would be a boring place. Innovation is key.
8. What’s the most challenging part about healthy living?
The hardest part about healthy living is knowing what is healthy. There are lots of mixed messages out there. Some say don’t eat fat, some say don’t eat carbs, some say be vegan, some say eat lots of meat, etc. It’s important to do your research and decide what works best for YOU.
9. Why do you ? Vitacost?
I love Vitacost because they have everything! There are 6,000+ gluten-free options which is amazing. There isn’t anything else like Vitacost – their quality and scope are top-notch. I’ve been a customer for the last few months – I only wish I joined sooner!
10. Aww, well we’re glad to have you now! What goodies can we find in your Vitacost box?
If you’re looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, then I recommend Hu Kitchen Hazelnut Butter Dark Chocolate bar (it’s paleo too!), Enjoy Life Foods Soft Baked Snickerdoodle Cookies (so soft & good!) and WOW Baking Company Chocolate Chip Cookies (can’t stop popping them!).
11. YUM! We like your style! If you could advise someone who’s just getting started on the path to healthier living, what would you tell them?
I would tell them to take small steps. Little things like giving up soda and going on a daily walk can make all the difference on your journey. Ask a friend to join you on this path to healthier living, and then you can both support each other. You can do it!