For fellow Coeliacs (new and old):
- CHECK YOUR LABELS. – I cannot stress this enough. Our food industry is changing all the time so don’t assume that a product is gluten-free just because it has been before or you’ve had similar products that are gluten-free. I have had many situations where I’ve gone to buy a product and realized that the company has changed its ingredients without warning. Even though it can be annoying, its much better to spend a few minutes reading labels than spending the next few hours in pain or in the bathroom, because you accidentally gluten-ed yourself.
- LOOK PAST OBVIOUSLY LABELED GLUTEN-FREE PRODUCTS. – Of course, these are a great place to start, but there is a huge number of other products in the supermarket which are naturally gluten-free without being labelled as such. It can be a nice pleasant surprise when to pick up something you haven’t had in a while and realise you can eat it!
- When it comes to packaged goods, I find the items which are most like their “Normal” counterparts are those which are ONLY GLUTEN-FREE, as opposed to being gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free etc. If you also avoid these other foods out of choice or necessity then that’s awesome, but generally, products which only cut out gluten have a better taste and texture in my opinion.
- GOOGLE IS YOUR BEST FRIEND when it comes to choosing places to eat out. Most restaurants have their menu online, so if you’re planning where to eat, do some research to see who has Gf options before you so. This has saved me many times from ending up with a boring plain grilled chicken breast or sad salad.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO QUESTION WAITERS OR FOOD SERVICE STAFF ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS THEY USE. – Remember that while it is becoming more widely known, a lot of people still aren’t too familiar with Coeliacs disease and what we can and can’t eat, but most staff are happy to show you ingredients lists or allergen information and let you decide for yourself. Also, they may be able to slightly alter certain things on the menu to make it suitable for you.
- IF YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT CONTAMINATION, this can be a great excuse to eat more fresh produce. All fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh meats and most dairy products are naturally gluten-free so building your diet around these can be a great, healthy and safe way to go.
- THIS IS NOT A CHOICE. – I’m not doing this because it’s cool or trendy. I’m doing this because it is a clinically diagnosed medical condition.
- Trust me, if I could go to Bakers Delight and buy a loaf of freshly cooked bread and eat the entire thing in one sitting without being in intense pain, I absolutely would.
- I CAN’T “JUST HAVE A LITTLE BIT”, OR “JUST HAVE IT ONCE”. Many people get confused as they see friends with intolerances such as lactose intolerance, eating the foods they should avoid and just dealing with the consequences. Coeliacs disease is different as eating gluten can cause long term health issues rather than just some immediate side effects which cause a bit of discomfort and pass.
- EATING GLUTEN-FREE ISN’T BETTER FOR YOU unless you are medically required to do so. Wheat-based products are usually higher fibre and less processed than gluten-free products (not to mention cheaper) and wholegrain wheat products are also a good source of B Vitamins.
- CONTAMINATION CAN BE A BIG PROBLEM for Coeliacs. Even the small amounts of gluten from crumbs picked up from non-gluten-free products during processing can cause issues for coeliacs. While this small amount of gluten may not cause symptoms, it does still cause problems which is why we need to be so strict with our 100% Gluten-free diets.
- IT’S OKAY FOR YOU TO EAT GLUTEN IN FRONT OF ME. – I know how delicious fresh bread, baked goods and pizza can be, so please enjoy! Just don’t get offended if you offer me some and I say no.