Getting Started

Foods you can eat and avoid gluten

You’ve got a diagnosis, and they said “Don’t eat anything containing wheat, oats, barley or rye – avoid all gluten”.

OK – but what does that mean? What can you eat?

Your first thought might be ‘oh, that’s not so bad – only four things to avoid’ but after a trip to the supermarket, and looking at some labels, you might be thinking ‘I’m going to starve’.

Luckily, the truth is in-between, and you may end up with a healthier diet than when you were eating gluten, because you’ll probably eat more fresh and home-prepared food.

So – what can I eat?

  • Cereals and grains: rice, millet, maize, quinoa, tapioca, sago, buckwheat, teff and sorghum
  • Meat fish and eggs: all are basically fine – just check any coatings, sauces and spices you add, and check wafer-thin meats too (sometimes wheat flour is added to make them ‘peel apart’)
  • Dairy products: milk and most cream, cheese and yoghurt – check any added ingredients, and check ready-grated cheese (sometimes wheat flour is added to stop the slivers of cheese sticking together)
  • Flours: rice, corn, potato, maize, gram, soya, chickpea, sorghum, tapioca and chestnut flours are all OK
  • Fruit: all fruits are naturally gluten free – check ready-made pie fillings, though
  • Vegetables: all vegetables are naturally gluten free – check any coatings, sauces and spices
  • Fats: you can eat butter, margarine, oils, lard and dripping (if you want!) but avoid suet and check low-fat spreads
  • Breakfast cereal: tricky one – check carefully, and avoid any containing wheat, oats, barley or rye. You might also want to avoid malt extract
  • Bread, crackers and crispbreads: avoid all the conventional ones, and eat only those labelled as gluten free, or those you’ve made yourself and know to be gluten […]

What’s that gluten thing you’ve got?

Newly diagnosed?

You may have been so bemused by the announcement – or so deep in the ‘brain-fog’ that can come with a diet full of gluten – that you didn’t quite catch the words the doctor used. Or perhaps you need to explain it to someone else … again. We had just that experience over Christmas, when a relative who can use the word cancer quite freely about himself couldn’t manage to talk about our daughter’s health. Or perhaps he’d just forgotten.

The condition is called coeliac disease here in the UK, or celiac disease in the US, and it is pronounced SEE-lee-ak in both cases (emphasis on the first syllable). Sometimes it is known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy, or coeliac sprue, but it is all the same thing, and not fun at all.

Sometimes people debate the term – is it desirable to call it a disease when its not contagious, and (when it is properly controlled by diet) you feel perfectly healthy? An alternative is to say coeliac condition, but that can sometimes sound a bit vague. Another issue is the ‘suffering’ word. Do you say ‘I suffer from coeliac disease‘? Again, this may not be true, if you are maintaining a strict diet, as you may not be suffering at all. Apart from doughnut deprivation, of course.

We tend to go for ‘she is a coeliac‘ if the situation comes up – along the lines of ‘he’s a diabetic‘.

Occasionally, people call it coeliacs, as in ‘I’ve got coeliacs‘, which I understand, but which grates on me personally – but that’s just the pedant and the proof-reader coming out in me. ‘I’ve got pedantics‘.

Is bread making us ill?

A professional baker for 30 years, Andrew Whitley, believes it may be, and explains why in his new book Bread Matters.

He says that the bread we eat has changed, and that this has given rise not only to the rise in diagnosis of coeliac disease, but also of wheat intolerance and even candidiasis, which is a yeast problem.

50 years ago people started making white bread, and fixed any problems with the product with chemistry. In 1961, apparently a new breadmaking method (known as the Chorleywood process) was developed using lower-protein wheat, additives and high-speed mixing to reduce time and costs, and over 80 per cent of UK bread is now made using these techniques. He writes:

“The standard breadmaking manuals of the pre-war period (Kirkland, Bennion etc) give recipes for sponge and dough fermentations using a ratio of compressed yeast to dough weight of around 0.5%. The Master Bakers Book of Breadmaking, published in the 1980s, prescribes up to 1.75% yeast in doughs made by the Chorleywood process. Could it be that by trebling yeast dosage and greatly reducing fermentation time, modern bakers have unwittingly laced their loaves with undesirable yeast residues?”

Interestingly, he says that a home breadmaking machine can make a decent loaf with stoneground flour for less energy than the making and distribution of the industrial version consumes. So there’s the green argument for the breadmaker – get it out from the cupboard under the stairs right now!

I am concerned that the article in the Yorkshire Today about this says that diagnosed coeliacs could eat Mr Whitley’s organic bread made with traditional varieties of wheat – because even if a coeliac didn’t demonstrate immediate symptoms, there would be […]

How to survive the first year of living gluten free

Just been diagnosed? Here are some tips to help you get through that first year of being gluten free …

1. Be brave – and optimistic
. It will be difficult, but you will feel better as your intestine heals.

2. Clear out some cupboard space, dedicated for your gluten free products. They can be very bulky, especially if, like me, you have to buy everything you see ‘to encourage them’ to keep making/stocking it. If you have gluten products in the house that nobody else in the house eats – bin them. Don’t eat it ‘to avoid waste’.

3. Join the local support organisation, even if you’re not a natural joiner. Here in the UK, it is Coeliac UK. They will have advice, tips and other helpful material. CUK produces a list of manufactured foods that are acceptable for coeliacs to eat – with updates every month. If there are local meetings – go to them! And talk to people, no matter how shy you feel.

4. Read every label. On everything. If you’re not sure, don’t eat it – and contact the manufacturer to ask if it is OK. Working out what you can and can’t eat will become easier as you learn what can instantly be discarded, leaving you to concentrate on the things that might be OK.

5. Learn as much as you can – even if you end up knowing more than the local doctor does. She, after all, has to know something about a lot of things. You can concentrate on what affects you. Then you’ll be able to assess whether you […]

12 gluten-free breakfast suggestions

Like all of us, my coeliac daughter’s favourite breakfasts seem to go in phases, so something will be the best-ever breakfast for a while, and then it will be something else. If you’re just diagnosed, though, working out what you can and can’t eat can be difficult. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Gluten free breakfast cereal. Favourites at the moment are Doves Farm Chocolate Stars – but we’ve also had Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise, Whole Earth Organic Maple Frosted Flakes and Nature’s Path Crispy Rice. We are avoiding cereals that contain barley malt – no matter how little the cereal contains.

2. Gluten free toast. Don’t use the same toaster as everyone else, unless you use a Toastabag, because of the risk of gluten crumbs from normal toast. Toastabags are available from various places, including Amazon. The best ones I’ve found, though, are from Lakeland Ltd. You can, of course cook toast under the grill – but please be sure that your grill pan is clean, to avoid cross-contamination.

3. Eggs. Boiled eggs are a favourite here, with soldiers made from gluten-free bread. Other options are scrambled eggs, fried eggs, omelette or poached eggs. Poached eggs are wonderful on bread spread with Marmite.

4. Pancakes. My favourite recipe for pancakes (English style) is 4 oz of gluten free flour, one egg and 10 fluid ounces of milk. Beat these together until there are no lumps left. Often people say you should leave a pancake mix for at least half an hour – but we never have time in the mornings, and it doesn’t seem to matter much. […]