Discovering you have a gluten intolerance can come as a surprise. When you’re used to rustling up meals with whatever ingredients you like and eating out when and where you want to, it can be easy to worry about spending the rest of your life searching lists and menus for that dreaded phrase: ‘may contain’.
Food intolerances can sometimes mean removing the staples you turn to on a day-to-day basis. You may even find yourself wondering “what can I eat?!”. Can you really be intolerant to gluten?
If gluten intolerance has put you in a bit of a rut when it comes to food inspiration, there’s no reason to worry. With help from two of our favourite gluten-free foodies, we’ve put together a guide to help prove that cutting out gluten doesn’t have to mean cutting out the foods you love.
Gluten Free Tea
First up is Becky, who reviews gluten-free products, recipes and restaurants over at Gluten Free Cuppa Tea and on her YouTube channel. As well as being gluten intolerant, Becky also suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This means that alongside any wheat, things like onions, green vegetables, tomatoes, high-sugar fruits, alcohol and caffeine are also off limits. With this in mind, we asked Becky for her top tips on eating well with a food intolerance.
Should gluten intolerance dictate my diet?
Finding out that so many different foods affected my digestive system in such terrible ways initially made me feel very down. However, over time I learnt that it really isn’t the end of the world; food should never dictate your emotions or your life.
Having food intolerances made me into an explorer. I discovered so many new foods I could eat, visited so many restaurants I might not have, created so many new recipes that tasted better than ever and I felt so much better mentally and physically for listening to my body!
What gluten-free foods are available in supermarkets?
I believe that it’s easier now to cope with food intolerances than it was a decade ago.
Supermarkets now offer such a wide variety of free-from products. The free-from aisle is forever expanding; gluten-free products are all readily available today. From gluten-free pasta, bread and cereals to cakes, biscuits and breaded chicken. There is certainly no chance of going hungry!
It is also important to remember that supermarkets are filled with naturally gluten-free products. Vegetables, fruits, fish, meats, rice and a whole host of spices mean that you can eat naturally gluten-free very easily.
What gluten-free foods are available in restaurants?
Restaurants and cafes are becoming much more aware of food intolerances and are creating different dishes to facilitate.
Late last year, new food allergen laws were put in place. This means that restaurants now need to be fully aware of everything that goes into their food and be able to inform all customers of what they can and cannot eat.
This has made most restaurants up their game and increase the options available for those with gluten intolerances. Many restaurants now provide a separate gluten-free menu or state which common allergens are in each dish. Never be afraid to ask! There is even an increasing number of 100% gluten-free restaurants and cafes popping up across the country!
How do I cook gluten-free at home?
Your kitchen is your kingdom when it comes to having to think about what foods have gluten and what foods don’t. Food intolerances should never mean that you have to miss out on your favourite dishes.
In our house, we regularly create homemade gluten- and dairy-free breaded chicken and pizza, to name just a couple! It’s simple, healthier and means you certainly don’t have to miss out. Food tastes better when you make it yourself!
Gluten Free Dining Guide
Our next blogger is Alice, who has been documenting her experiences with gluten-free restaurants, recipes and ingredients in the UK and beyond over at The Gluten Free Dining Guide for a few years now. With this in mind, we asked Alice for some advice on shopping without gluten and for the top gluten free ingredients to look out for.
I’ve followed a gluten-free diet for health reasons for the last eight years, long before it became something most people had heard of. Back then it was incredibly difficult to find half-decent gluten-free products and was less affordable than it is now.
Over the last couple of years, there’s been a surge in awareness around coeliac disease and gluten intolerance. As a result, demand for gluten-free products has increased and quality has vastly improved, with exclusively gluten-free brands such as Udis and Genius appearing in most supermarkets. I can’t tell you how much easier this has made life!
To help you on your way, here are my top 10 can’t-live-without gluten-free products that you’ll pretty much always find in my kitchen:
- Isabel’s Yorkshire Pudding Mix – hands-down, this makes the best gluten-free Yorkshire puddings (far better than anything I can manage from scratch, anyway).
- Tesco Free-From Fishcakes – these are quite often on a two for £3 deal along with the ‘normal’ fishcakes, which makes them an affordable, easy dinner to grab when you just need something that you can stick in the oven.
- Heinz Gluten-Free Macaroni – macaroni cheese is my ultimate comfort food, so I keep a packet of this in my cupboard for whenever I need cheering up.
- Dove’s Farm Gluten-Free Plain Flour – versatile and essential for making cheese sauce for the aforementioned macaroni cheese.
- Udi’s Tiger Bread – in my opinion, the best gluten-free bread you can buy (pro tip: cut it into chunky cubes and toast it to make croutons if it’s gone a little stale).
- Genius Multi-Seeded Rolls – for bacon butties, burgers and with soup.
- HECK sausages – everything in the HECK range is gluten-free, they even do square sausages, burgers and meatballs!
- Georgia’s Choice Mexican Bean Bakes – another quick, easy and relatively cheap meal that’s perfect for keeping in the freezer as a standby.
- Dove’s Farm Brown Rice Pasta – my favourite gluten-free pasta, as it doesn’t break apart and feels a little bit healthier than some of the others.
- Bisto Best Gravy – you can’t have a roast dinner without gravy and all the Bisto Best flavours are gluten-free according to Coeliac UK.
When you first find out your food intolerances, it can feel daunting but with a range of great products and ingredients to choose from, now is a better time than ever to be gluten-free.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed, then don’t worry. It may feel like a minefield at first, but it soon gets easier, even if you feel like you’re struggling to eat the way you want.
We hope we’ve reassured you that going free-from needn’t be the end of your passion for food. With a little research into products, recipes and restaurants, you’ll be eating the way you want and discovering new favourites in no time.
How do you know if you are gluten intolerant?
Understanding what gluten intolerance feels like can be half the battle. Don’t put up with gas, bloating and abdominal pain and pass it off as ‘normal’ until your next mealtime. Raise your gluten symptoms with your GP if they are causing you unnecessary discomfort; there is often a simple solution.
How do you test for gluten intolerance?
Once you’ve consulted your GP, the next simple and logical step could be to take the FirstStep Test with us to identify whether an intolerance is at play.
You can also check out our real-life case studies of people who have recognised symptoms like bloating and learned how to live with food intolerances.