Living Gluten Free

Eating Gluten Free and Rule 17b

rule-17bEvery family has its own traditions and in-jokes. One of ours is Rule 17b.

When my children were little, and we were trying to teach them acceptable table manners, the number of rules about what they should/shouldn’t do at the table seemed to get ever longer.

Rule 17b came about as a joke rule—something to do with not-deliberately-humming-in-a-way-that-annoys-your-sister-at-the-table—and is now used as a general hint about behaviour.

One of the rules that my sister has is that no-one should be rude about anyone else’s food. As an experienced foster-mother, she’s dealt with a lot of children with a variety of food-related and behavioural issues, and I was impressed by this rule when I first heard her invoke it.

I wished I could have used it the other day. My coeliac daughter—a Young Leader at Guides—was eating, picnic style, with her group of Guides, and one of them commented on her food:

“Oh yes, I used to have to eat gluten-free. It’s disgusting, isn’t it?”

Hmm. My daughter has a core of steel, and wasn’t affected – but someone younger, more recently diagnosed, or struggling with the diet might have found this kind of comment very hard to deal with. Especially from someone who presumably has experienced the difficulties of a special diet – and who was certainly old enough to know better.

Definitely a call for Rule 17b, which may need to be rewritten:

“No-one should be rude about anyone else’s food.”

Coeliac Disease: from Child to Adult

We recently got involved in a clinical research study that researchers at Birmingham University are carrying out, looking at the transition from Child to Adult Services in the NHS.

My daughter and I were interviewed for about an hour each (separately) about everything from her diagnosis all those years ago, through the care provided by Child Services, all the way to how we thought the transition to Adult Services had been handled. The researchers will compile the results from a whole series of paired interviews – we were one of the early pairs.

It was a very interesting process; while living with coeliac disease, in our experience at least, we just get on with life, and don’t really think about or discuss CD very much. It was good to sit down with somebody and go through it all, how we manage it, and how we feel about it.

It was also surprisingly emotional – for me at least – remembering how I felt when my one-year-old switched to a gluten free diet and started eating again.

It was also interesting to think through the transition process, and to realise that my daughter didn’t, in fact, get what we were told would happen – a referral to an adult gastroenterology clinic – and that there had been some communication failures. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the study.

Of course, as we all know, the way the NHS functions is not consistent across the country, and each coeliac’s experience is different. If you are a young person diagnosed before you were 14 and who has recently been moved from Child Services to Adult Services, the research team are still recruiting volunteers, and may be interested in hearing your story. You can find out more on the Coeliac UK site

Asda and Amy’s Kitchen: Gluten free at the supermarket cafe

amys-kitchen-macThis is good news: Asda will be offering gluten free meals by Amy’s Kitchen in their supermarket cafes from the end of this month (April 2014).

Coeliacs will be able to have tomato soup with gluten free oatcakes, or gluten free rice mac and cheese.

Although we don’t eat in supermarket cafes very much, now that I don’t have to trail tiny children around with me, I welcome anything that makes life easier for coeliacs. There’s only so often you want to eat a baked potato.

And my daughter likes the Amy’s Kitchen rice mac and cheese; we tasted it at the London Allergy and Free From Fair last summer, and I’ve bought it several times since then. We haven’t tried Amy’s tomato soup yet.

Curiously, we did eat out in cafes a lot more frequently when the children were small – probably because they needed to be fed more regularly than they do now they’re teens. In any case, both these meals will stave off those hunger pangs whether you’re feeding a tot or a teen.

Going for Gold: Gluten-Free Expedition Food

duke of edinburgh gold expedition

Another year, another expedition…

I’ve talked before about our coeliac daughter’s Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, and had a very interesting email conversation afterwards with another mother about her own daughter’s expeditions.

As you may know, the DofE expeditions require that the young people carry everything they need (except water): tents, maps, food, sleeping bags, fuel, cooking equipment… and that there is a weight limit on what each person can carry. In our experience, the team of girls have split the tent and cooking gear between them, to spread the load, and so we’ve relied on sharing pans (though not crockery, cutlery or utensils). Naturally, this involves cook-in-the-bag type supplies and/or VERY good cleaning between uses. But the other family I was discussing this with needed dedicated pans, thereby increasing the weight that had to be carried. Difficult indeed!

My own daughter’s final Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition is coming up, involving 4 days of hiking and 3 nights camping.

Since my last post on this, we’ve found a couple more options for gluten-free expedition food:

  • Expedition Foods offer a range of gluten-free foods. The company was set up to serve the DofE market, and has grown to serve all kinds of outdoor explorers and enthusiasts from Ranulph Fiennes to those taking part in the Marathon des Sables. These are freeze-dried meals – so don’t need refrigeration, and are very light to carry – and to cook them you add boiling water to the bag (avoiding the cross-contamination risk).
  • Ilumi seem to add to their range all the time, and often have very good offers. Their products are all gluten-free, nut-free and milk-free, and some of them are vegetarian or vegan. The food can be stored at room temperature (or in a rucksack!) and can be heated by putting the bags in boiling water (avoiding the cross-contamination risk)
  • And we were sent some of the new, organic and gluten-free Nature’s Path granola bars to try (chocolate chip, and trail mix). We haven’t found many gluten-free granola bars, so these could prove useful. They’re of the soft and chewy variety, rather than the crisp and crunchy – at least, the trail mix ones are, I didn’t get to try any of the choc chip variety – and they are quite sweet. I can see that they might give a weary walker something to keep them going for another few miles.

And once this Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition is done, her next challenge is an expedition to Nepal, next summer. Being gluten-free doesn’t seem to hold her back at all.

Free From Foods Awards – The Winners 2014

Oo, exciting – the winners of the Free From Foods Awards were announced last night!

It’s a long, long, list, and you can read more about all the awards here. Here’s my selection of award winners that we’ve either tried ourselves or that I’m looking forward to trying in the future.

Focaccia per tutti - winner FFFood Awards 14

Overall Winner

Overall Winner of the FAIR trophy for Best FreeFrom Food 2014

Focaccia Per Tutti (Focaccia Mediterranea)

The judges said:

‘Stunning! Ticks all of the freefrom boxes and yet looks – and tastes – like an authentic and delicious focaccia. How did she do it!’ ‘Excellent aroma, good crust and lovely classic Mediterranean flavours – olives, garlic, tomatoes, rosemary.’ ‘Fantastic that it is free of all allergens except nuts.’ ‘Really filling a gap in the market – love it! Want more!’ ‘A worthy winner in terms of both innovation and quality.’

We say:

We’ve so got to try this!

Runners Up

  • Amy’s Kitchen Broccoli and Cheddar bake

    The judges said:

    ‘Visually appealing, lovely taste and texture. All elements work well together – a very, very good product.’ ‘Excellent. Good al dente pasta, lovely al dente green broccoli, well flavoured sauce and great crunchy top. What’s not to like?!’

    We say:

    We’ve tried this, and its a great freezer fallback for those days when there just isn’t time to cook.

  • Bessant & Drury Raspberry swirl frozen yogurt

    The judges said:

    ‘The best coconut product I have tasted – lovely mouthfeel and raspberry flavour comes through well.’ ‘Excellent freefrom qualities and good live cultures – very tasty.’ ‘Fab dairy free, fab texture, fab taste!!’

    We say:

    We haven’t tried this because we don’t need to be dairy free in our house, but maybe we should; I’ll look out for it.

  • Tesco Free From fresh seeded bread

    The judges said:

    ‘Excellent everyday loaf – good texture, lovely seeds and a better ingredients list than most!’ ‘Light, tasty and really hard to believe that it is gluten free.’ ‘Really good seeded loaf – perfect for sandwiches.’

    We say:

    It’s good to be able to pick up a decent gluten free loaf in the supermarket.

  • Waitrose Gluten free egg watercress and chicken salad roll

    The judges said:

    ‘Look wonderful – great lookalike for a normal filled roll.’ ‘Very good product – great to see a vending product of this nature – faultless innovation.’ ‘Fresh and well executed – what a treat – and in a mainstream outlet too!’

    We say:

    We haven’t tried this yet, but we’ll look out for it. It would be good to be able to pick up gluten free sandwiches easily.

The Innovation Award – Sponsored by Food Matters Live

Winners: Venice Bakery large seasoned gluten-free vegan pizza base

The judges said:

‘Fabulous pizza base – excellent freefrom properties – very innovative.’ ‘Great product for multi-sensitives.’ ‘Good crisp crust and great flavour because it is thin – if a little sweet.’

We say:

We tried this at the Allergy and Free From Show last summer, and liked it so much we bought some to bring home.


  • Newburn Bakehouse Seeded wraps
  • Udi’s Cinnamon & raisin bagel

We say:

We regularly buy both these. Fabulous additions to the range of gluten free food available in the supermarket.

‘Food to go’ and food for vending machines – Sponsored by 24Vend

Winner: Waitrose Gluten free egg watercress and chicken salad roll

The judges said:

‘Delicious moist rolls (so many gf rolls are dry). Generous, nutritious and tasty filling – what a pity it isn’t dairy free as well. Excellent on-the-go food.’ ‘A delicious vegetarian sandwich (egg and cress) – really satisfies the need of people looking for gluten free and vegetarian lunch options. And they look great. Love all that cress.’ ‘Generous portion and a well balanced mix of salad, mayonnaise and chicken.’

Highly Commended:

  • Great Food Spinach & pinenut with houmous – snack pack
  • Hotch Potch Eggs Arancini

We say:

This all sounds fab; and anything that makes it easier for coeliac daughter to find food she can eat while out and about is good by me.

Foods designed for food service – Sponsored by Genon Laboratories


  • The Indian Coeliac Gluten free authentic Panjabi pakoras
  • We Love Cake Gluten free cherry Bakewell tarts

We say:

Again, we tried – and bought – the pakoras last summer. We hope this category just keeps getting stronger; the easier it is to eat out as a coeliac, the better.

Do go and check out the full list of recommended products – and then try them! Let me know what you think…