With more and more people becoming sensitive to gluten and many being diagnosed with coeliac disease, gluten free diet has become a hot topic of conversation. My little granddaughter was diagnosed with coeliac disease a few years back and we quickly learned what foods needed to be avoided.
What is coeliac disease?
It’s a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have coeliac disease can’t tolerate gluten; a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms. Symptoms can vary from person to person and some common symptoms are:
• abdominal bloating and pain
• chronic diarrhoea
• pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
• weight loss
A symptom common in children is irritability, so check with your doctor or naturopath if you are concerned.
Changing to a gluten free diet
I know first-hand that making the transition to a gluten free diet can be a challenge and one of the biggest challenges is knowing what you can cook. One of my granddaughter’s favourite treats was my Lemon Jelly Slice from book 1. Needless to say, when she was diagnosed I had two choices, tell her she couldn’t have it or create a gluten free recipe. This was my first gluten free recipe and when I produced book 7, I made it my mission to include a gluten free baking section.
Many foods can contain gluten, here are my 7 tips:
- Gluten free cakes. These will often rely on ground almonds or hazelnuts instead of flour so be aware that this can add massive amounts of fat to the cake. I find mixing gluten free flour and corn flour to the mix makes a great combination and delicious baking.
- Gluten is often found in thickening agents. I use cornflour as a thickener in most of my sauces but be aware that some cornflour does contain gluten so check that it has ‘gluten free’ on the label. Corn products such as cornflakes can contain barley malt so always check the label on chips and corn chips as well.
- Breakfast cereal is a challenge. I mentioned corn flakes above, rice bubbles are another one that can contain gluten. Check the labels. If you are looking for a healthy gluten free breakfast to enjoy on the run, my Breakfast Shakes are gluten free.
- Gluten in spice blends and condiments. Some spices and Asian sauces contain wheat or gluten. Soy sauce contains gluten, replace with Tamari instead. You will also find wheat in most gravy mixes and commercially made sauces. Tomato and BBQ sauce often contain gluten.
- Processed meats. All unprocessed animal meats are gluten free. Processed meats are a different story, these are often processed or packed with fillings such as breadcrumbs, pastry or thickeners.
- Never assume. Some unlikely products contain gluten, for example I have seen yoghurt that contains gluten! Always check the label.
- Gluten free at home. If you must be really strict then I suggest that you create an area in your kitchen for storing your gluten free ingredients. Make sure your food prep surfaces, utensils, mixer, pots and pans are free of any kind of gluten residue. I have even heard of some people having a separate toaster for gluten free toasting.
My final advice for those needing a gluten free diet
Check out the health section in supermarkets as they are continually stocking more and more gluten free products. As gluten is an allergen, it is mandatory in Australia that the label state that the product contains gluten. However, when in doubt check if the label states that the product is ‘gluten free’ and if in doubt, don’t buy it. A gluten free diet will seem a bit daunting at first, but rest assured, it does get easier with time.