Eat Water and Slim Rice

Slim RiceI was recently sent some Slim Rice to try—it’s made by a company called Eat Water.

There’s been a lot of publicity about this new product over the last few months, but in case you’ve missed it, this is a gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free, salt-free carbohydrate-substitute designed to be used in place of rice, pasta and noodles. It has very, very few calories…

They sent me the ‘rice’ to try—obviously real rice is naturally gluten free (so don’t get confused) but since, I imagine, each of the products are fundamentally the same, simply presented in different shapes, it didn’t really matter which one I tried.

And they are all gluten free. All the Eat Water products—rice, pasta and noodles—are listed in the Coeliac UK Food And Drink 2013 directory (under Pasta and Noodles) as being acceptable for a gluten free diet.

So what did I think of it?

I’ve been struggling to know what to say about this product, because there isn’t much to say, as it tastes of very little.

But it is innocuous enough, and with a flavoursome sauce, is fine. And it is, as promised, filling.

It is, apparently, based on moyu (konjac), a vegetable fibre which has been used in Asian cuisines for centuries, and I can imagine that a good use for these products would be in a noodle soup or similar dish – think ‘rice noodles’ as a comparison. A few recipes are available on the Eat Water site to get you started.

If you’re looking for flavour, I’d have to say that eating true rice or a decent pasta would offer more, but if you want to cut down on calories, you could consider trying this occasionally instead of your usual carbohydrate to fill you up. It isn’t cheap, but as a kick-starter for a weight-loss diet, it might be just what you need.

What was I expecting?

My main concern when I first heard about this low-calorie, gluten free product was the potential for conflation with the ‘go gluten free to lose weight’ school of thought.

As you may know, I have mixed feelings about this view, because while it widens the market, making it more desirable for food manufacturers to provide gluten free food, it can trivialise the importance of going gluten free because you have coeliac disease. Those who choose to be gluten free to lose weight and then aren’t consistent in their diet (“a little bit won’t matter”) make it less likely that those who must be gluten free, and for whom even a little bit matters a lot, are taken seriously.

However, having reviewed the Eat Water site, I don’t believe that they are falling into this trap. Their products are primarily aimed at those who want to consume fewer calories, and it is an almost-accidental bonus that the products are also gluten free.

Incidentally, two of the products have been shortlisted in the recent FreeFrom Foods Awards – do go and check out the shortlist.


If you have to be gluten free and also want to reduce the number of calories you eat, this could be an option to consider, as long as you continue to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet overall. And you’d want to do that on any weight-loss diet, wouldn’t you?

Try the Shortlist: FreeFrom Foods Awards 2013


At last – the FreeFrom Foods Awards shortlist is out.

I was invited to be on the judging panel for a couple of the categories again this year. This is a privilege—and not just because I got to taste 28 different kinds of cake in an afternoon!

It is fascinating, and a rare chance to spend the day in the company of experts in various aspects of living gluten free.

Plus cake, obviously.

As you’d expect, there were some strong views among the judging team, and lengthy discussion. So much so that we significantly overran the allocated time for the bread session (over 25 different kinds of bread, as well as the cake…)

But we—and the other judging teams—did eventually make our decisions. The winners of the Awards will be announced at the ceremony in London, in April. I’m looking forward to it!

Tasting such a wide variety of bread and cake at the same time made some things really clear. One of these is that the quality of gluten free goods is rising, and therefore that the ‘minimum acceptable quality bar’ for products is getting ever higher these days.

Or it should be.

There are still too many ‘good enough’ products out there on the supermarket shelves. I think we should be expecting more.

Some of the products I tasted were indistinguishable from ‘standard’ products. Not necessarily identical, but they didn’t come with that ‘obviously gluten free’ taste or smell. I’m sure you know what I mean!

One or two of the products were so good that I would buy them even if we didn’t need them to be gluten free. (Not everyone in my family eats gluten free). You’ll have to wait for the Awards results to find out which the judges liked best!

So if this is possible, why are there still so many ‘adequate’ products, rather than good ones? Even given the fact that people have differing tastes (as evidenced by the discussions on judging days), it is clear that some products are just not as good as others.

Yet we accept them, and go on buying them.

So if you’re still buying the same baked goods as you chose when you were first diagnosed, try something new, for a number of reasons:

  • you might just find something you prefer
  • it supports innovation in product development, whether this is by new, small companies, or well-established names, meaning that we continue to see new and better products
  • demand for better products will mean that manufacturers will work harder, and shops will stock them
  • and people who live gluten free should be able to choose delicious, high quality products too.

So go on. Try something from the 2013 shortlist soon…

Is Your Packaging Gluten Free?

I invited Chris Bekermeier to write a guest post today, discussing packaging. Chris is based in the US, and so is discussing packaging in the US, but the issues are the same wherever you are. I’m certainly going to be investigating wheat-based packaging here in the UK after reading his article… please feel free to add your views in the comments.

Over to you, Chris!


food packagingWhen you’re going gluten-free, ingredients matter. However, another big question you should be asking both yourself and the stores where you buy your food is, “Is the packaging gluten-free?” Whether you’re an old hand at living without gluten or just beginning to go gluten-free, you likely know how to check the ingredients of what you’re buying. The problem is whether or not the packaging itself is free of gluten, and many people aren’t aware that it may not be.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, and is used as a thickening agent and for flavor in many pre-packaged foods. While the majority of these foods list their ingredients on the packaging, new innovations in “going green” encourage companies to make the packaging itself out of wheat. In 2004, researchers at California’s Agricultural Research Service Western Regional Research Center teamed up with EarthShell to look into the manufacture of wheat-based packaging. They found that wheat-based packaging is fairly simple to make and much better for the environment, but didn’t address the question about whether or not this packing would be gluten-free.

In 2011, Bio-Mass Packaging, in partnership with Bridge-Gate, offered a line of biodegradable wheat-based packaging containers specifically for takeout restaurants and caterers. Unfortunately, these can be especially harmful to customers with gluten and wheat allergies because they have no idea that the takeout food they are bringing home is held in a container made from wheat paste.

Being aware of gluten in packaging also extends to being aware that the packaging and the food may be cross-contaminated by the machinery used during manufacturing. Current labeling laws do not require a manufacturer to declare what is used to produce the packaging material so this does not appear on the label, leading consumers to believe that they’re safe when they may not be. Fortunately, some companies, such as Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, make an extra effort to avoid cross-contamination. On its website, the company states, “To assure the integrity of all of our Gluten Free products, we adhere to a standard of no more than 19 parts per million of gluten. We’ve even built a separate Gluten Free packaging division complete with specialized machinery to make sure that our products maintain their purity–just as nature intended.”

Knowledge about gluten-free foods and packaging is also required when you go on vacation, especially to another country. Although the brand may be familiar, the packaging and the machinery that constructed it were likely different from what you purchase at home and could be contaminated. If you experience especially bad reactions to gluten, it may be prudent to bring special foods with you and cook your own meals, rather than trust that the foods you buy elsewhere – and their packaging – are safe and gluten-free.

Being alert and informed is, as always, the best way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe when consuming any type of food that may contain gluten. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or research wheat-based packaging and its possible negative effects to those on a gluten-free diet. When it comes to being gluten-free, it’s more than just ingredients that matter.

Thanks Chris!

Chris Bekermeier is Vice President, Sales & Marketing of PacMoore in Hammond, IN. PacMoore is a contract manufacturer focused on processing dry ingredients for the food & pharmaceutical industries. Capabilities include blending, spray drying, re-packaging, sifting, & consumer packaging.

On Spontaneity and Pizza

This weekend, we did something that we’ve never been able to do before.

We ordered pizza. For the whole family. To be delivered.

This might sound trivial but it is a very big deal for us. First of all, we live right on the edge of any delivery area… another 100 yards, literally, and we’d be out of reach of all pizza delivery routes.

But much, much, more importantly, we could order a gluten free pizza as part of the main order. No messing about with trying to time a home-baked pizza to coincide with take-away pizza…

This was, of course, Domino’s pizza. Domino’s are perhaps the best known pizza delivery company, and I expect you’ve heard that they are now offering gluten free pizza.

You hadn’t?

This is how it works… Choose your pizza (one size only at the moment for gluten free), and then customise it, adding sweetcorn, removing mushrooms, etc – to choice – and requesting a gluten free base. Adding side-orders and desserts is easy online, too, and items that contain gluten are clearly identified. If you order online, you can track the progress of the pizza too, which is a nice touch.

Simple, isn’t it? Just another customisation option.

Behind the scenes, Domino’s will have allocated the creation of the gluten free pizza to one person, who will supervise it through the process. Only that one person will deal with that pizza, even down to cutting it up at the end. I spoke to our local branch, who assured me that they’ve had training in how to handle it to avoid contamination.

Our pizza order came, and the delivery person explained very clearly which was the gluten free pizza.

And our coeliac loved it. Yay!

Here’s what I think is great about this initiative:

  • ordering gluten free is just another customisation; no fuss. The coeliac in our house is put off by having to make a fuss about things
  • staff training and procedures. I found the explanation from our local branch convincing—I spoke to them 3 times—and the initiative has the support of Coeliac UK.
  • more publicity for the gluten free diet. The more people that know about the need for gluten free—caterers and other customers—the easier it will be for all of us in the future.
  • making life more ‘normal’ for the coeliac, perhaps especially the coeliac teenager who doesn’t really want to be too different.
  • and most importantly, it adds the option of spontaneity. When the teenager is out at a friend’s house, they can decide to order pizza whenever they like, without worrying about her.

It’s also good for Domino’s, of course. Not only do they get the gluten free custom, but they get the custom of the coeliac’s family too. We haven’t, in the past, ordered in pizza, because it excludes one member of our family… but not any more!

As you can tell, we were delighted. And genuinely delighted: Domino’s covered the cost of our pizza meal, because they wanted to know what I thought about their new service, but if we hadn’t had a good experience, I’d have let you know.

I know some of you will be concerned about the risk of contamination; we had no ill-effects at all, but only you can know how much risk you are prepared to accept. I’d love to know whether you’ve tried it, and what you thought…

Gluten Free in Egypt

view of the nile at sunset We’re just back from a week in Luxor. That’s Luxor, Egypt… and the gluten free member of the family managed just fine. And if we can, you can. Go for it!

Here’s what we did:

  • we packed emergency supplies for the plane journeys, including snacks: but they weren’t needed. We flew EgyptAir, and they provided a gluten free meal in both directions. The bread roll on the way out was branded Lifestyle, so we knew it was OK; however, the one on the way back looked identical to the ‘normal’ ones… she didn’t eat it. Our taste-tester told us it tasted ‘normal’, not gluten free.

    Tip: check everything – don’t assume.

  • we packed Sainsbury’s baguettes and rolls. These varieties need cooking and/or refreshing; we were self-catering, and I knew that the apartment would include a microwave/combi oven.

    Tip: I split the bread-stuffs between the cases, in case one got lost en-route.

  • we packed snacks (rice cakes, gluten free biscuits, peanuts and raisins etc) in both our carry-on luggage and the suitcases.

    Tip: chocolate will melt. Freeze an ice-cube-bag of water because it is flexible when frozen, and put the frozen bag inside a ziplock bag so everything stays dry (for the way out – and for the way back, if you can refreeze it and still need it).

  • we also packed a sachet of Helen’s Bread Mix, so that if we ran out of Sainsbury’s bread, we could make a loaf – which we did, reasonably successfully, in the microwave/combi oven. It did need refreshing daily, because of the heat.

    Tip: pack a silicone loaf tin, as we did, because it is lightweight and squashy.

  • we packed a bag of gluten free pasta (in this case, Doves), in case we decided to eat in one night. In fact, we ate out most nights, and made a pasta salad one day.

    Tip: we used only one portion from a bagful, so I suggest weighing it out into portions, and only take what you’re likely to consume.

  • we took with us two versions of a coeliac card in Arabic, one downloaded from Celiac Travel and another from Gluten Free Jordan, and showed them repeatedly.

    Tip: We got caught out once, when she was offered a cake made with semolina: basboosa. As you know, semolina is not gluten free – I guess that travel cards typically talk about wheat, and not semolina. Remember to check!

We usually self-cater, because we find it easier to manage a gluten free diet that way, but if you’re staying at one of the big hotels, I’m sure they’d provide a gluten free diet too. When eating out, we ordered carefully, and discussed the ingredients (in English) whenever we were doubtful. Restaurant staff were typically very helpful, and eager to get things right for us. We also took our time in the local supermarket, and bought basic, unprocessed foodstuffs (meat, cheese, fruit, salad, yoghurts etc).

We stayed here (yes, the image above is of the Nile at sunset from the apartment complex), and had a wonderful time: tombs, temples, mummies, ballooning and boats, and above all warmth and sunshine.

If you’re thinking about visiting Egypt, do it soon: Luxor was very quiet indeed. We think that people must be nervous of visiting Egypt because of the Arab Spring, but the local population relies on tourism, particularly independent tourists, as coach tours typically have a set route for everything, including restaurants and shops. The felucca captain who took us upstream for a tour of a banana plantation and shared riddles and mint tea on his boat (cooked over an open flame – slightly unnerving) told us that he hadn’t had a tourist on board his felucca for 3 months…

It is possible to stay gluten free in Egypt. We’ve done it.