Diet restrictions can feel like a minefield for the casual observer and that applies to the infamous gluten-free diet, a diet which excludes foods which contain the protein gluten, in other words wheat, barley, rye and spelt.
A gluten-free diet is the only recognized treatment for coeliac disease (an auto-immune disorder of the small intestine) and wheat allergy. Another portion of those who restrict their diets are described as non-coeliac gluten sensitive, a condition still poorly understood by the medical profession. Finally, eliminating gluten can simply be a lifestyle choice which according to some, but not believed by all, helps with digestion and maintaining a healthy weight.
While accidentally ingesting gluten can have dangerous consequences for a coeliac, it might simply be uncomfortable or even harmless for those who are only sensitive, but in any case, it serves to understand where gluten hides, how to do without and what essentials to have in your pantry for those last minute guests with life-threatening conditions (it happens!).
The good news is, coeliacs are known to get around with packets of Gluten-Free biscuits in their bags, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice, but if you want to make an especially good impression, then read on…
I asked a friend, whose husband is coeliac, to shine a light on their experience, the challenges they faced when switching diets and what products they like to use as substitutes.
+ What are the obvious foods to eliminate for a gluten-free diet?
Anything that contains wheat (including spelt), rye, barley or oats. However, there a lots of alternatives available these days and GF diets can include things like bread, cakes and pasta made with alternative flours (usually maize, tapioca, rice, potato or buckwheat).
+ Which ones are less obvious?
Lots of ingredients contain gluten, even things like cornflour, cocoa and desiccated coconut, but you can usually find a brand that contains only the pure version and hence no gluten.
Things to watch out for are: most deep fried chips – if chips are fried in the same oil as crumbed or battered food, then the chips will not be GF; some chocolates contain gluten – especially filled chocolates; sauces such as soy sauce. Some small goods like chorizo might also contain gluten and even some ice-creams!
+ What about beverages, especially alcoholic?
Beer contains gluten; most cider is ok but generally not on-tap cider; wine is ok. Most non alcoholic drinks are ok – but some cocoa powder contains gluten.
+ What were the biggest challenges when switching diets?
Finding take away or fast food alternatives when in a hurry or travelling down the highway. We learnt that food needs to be taken with us in those situations as there is generally nothing available.
+ What are some ingredients that you have started using since starting a gluten-free diet?
Quinoa and a range of alternative flours – soy, quinoa, buckwheat, etc.
+ Baking typically relies heavily on gluten-based flour. How did you find the transition from one type of baking to another? Through trial and error, what are some tips to achieve the desired results when using gluten-free flour?
Find out about the different types of flours and when you should use them. Find some GF baking books written by experienced and reputable GF chefs/cooks. Plain and Self-raising GF flour is available in supermarkets and is good for most types of basic baking. Try tried and tested baking recipes that are flourless and use almond meal.
For more info, check out the Coeliac Society website here.
Cooking school – 09 May 2013: Join our Gluten-Free cooking class where you will create 6 stress-free – and gluten-free – dishes that are easy to make at home.
The Essential Ingredient stocks a large range of sweet and savory gluten-free products to get you on your way to a gluten-free life.
- Orgran range of gluten-free flours – http://www.orgran.com
- Solomon‘s potato flour.
- SF Healthfoods Besan flour (chickpea flour) – http://www.sfhealthfoods.com.au
- The Essential Ingredient‘s range of ancient grains (quinoa, amaranth …).
- Yes You Can Gluten-Free pizza base mix.
- Valley Seed Crisps – Full of flax, pumpkin and poppy seeds.
- Passion for Pasta Gluten-Free range of pasta: Saffron Twists, Vegetable Penne, Garlic and Parsley Spirals, and Organic Brown Rice Twists.
- Passion for Pasta sauces: Chilli, and Roasted Vegetables.
- The Essential Ingredient Camargue Organic Red Rice.
- Zest Byron Bay curry bases: Rogan Josh and Butter Chicken.
- Moretti Polenta: Bianca (white maize flour), Bramata (yellow maize flour), and Taragna (buckwheat and maize flour).
- Unforgettable Meringues.
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