Gluten-free food is, of course, what this is all about. Many foods are naturally gluten-free, and you may choose to build your diet around these staples, rather than wheat, oats, barley or rye.
Some food sold as gluten-free still contains wheat, with the gluten removed. These foods work well for some people, but others find that they need to cut out wheat as well as gluten.
Even in prescription goods sold as gluten-free, there may be a – very low – level of gluten permitted. This level is different in different countries. It is possible that you may still react to these goods. If you find that you still have a problem, try cutting these out too.
And some people find that having gone gluten-free, they experience a period of being lactose-intolerant as well. If you are still experiencing problems, this may be why. I understand that many people are able to reintroduce lactose later.
Say No to wheat, oats, barley and rye
Of course, there is always an exception, and it is thought that some adult coeliacs can tolerate a small amount of oats that have not been contaminated with wheat. Check in your food guide from Coeliac UK for details.
Would you have thought that Smarties contain gluten? Or some yoghurts and icecream? You really do have to check everything, and bear in mind that manufacturers do revise their ingredients to make New! Improved! versions of food – either to modify the taste, or to make production cheaper.
Things to watch out for on ingredients lists include: starch, modified starch, rusk, malt, crumb, bran and gluten. This will eliminate a lot of preprepared foods. Some supermarkets use Contains boxes on their own-brand food to indicate whether a product contains a range of allergens. Some manufacturers include “suitable for coeliacs” on their packaging – Heinz and Walkers do this. This is extremely reassuring, especially when starting out.
Lots to eat
Please don’t be alarmed – you will find plenty of food that is OK. You may have to take a little longer to shop (certainly to start with!); you may find it more expensive; and you will probably find that your diet actually becomes healthier overall, as you will almost certainly use less processed food, and you may find it easier to cook simpler foodstuffs.
What will I eat on my first gluten-free day?
Everybody has their own routines and preferences, of course, but this is what my daughter might eat on an average day, back when she was younger…
A particular favourite at the moment is gluten-free pancakes or gluten-free waffles. She also likes boiled egg with gluten-free soldiers to dip in, or sometimes fruits and yoghurts (check the yoghurts). A continental style breakfast with ham (check this – don’t go for breaded, and be wary of wafer-thin) or cheese can work too. Gluten-free toast or crackers with Marmite or jam is a different option.
There are lots of gluten-free biscuits and cakes available, but these may well be high-calorie, so be careful. My daughter likes fruit, popcorn or gluten-free pretzels. If you’re having ice-cream, check the contents, but you can also get gluten-free icecream cones.
She usually has a packed lunch which might involve a gluten-free sandwich in gluten-free white bread, gluten-free pitta bread or gluten-free rolls. She likes tuna mayonnaise (check the mayo and be very careful about mustard), but you could have cold meats, cheese etc. Again, fruit and yoghurt are useful for packed lunches.
She has recently decided to become a vegetarian, which changes things slightly, but she used to like simple home-cooked meals – chicken or pork or fish with potatoes or rice and vegetables. You can still have gravy – just check that it is OK. We have pasta – she has a gluten-free variety cooked in a separate pot – or pizza – she has a gluten-free version. Baked potatoes are easy to do, and so are chips – but check any preprepared chips that you buy.
Once you get the hang of it, you will find that there is plenty in the supermarket that you can eat – it may not be what you used to eat, but you won’t go hungry!