Just found out you’re coeliac and unsure where to start? Switching to a gluten-free diet is easier than it first seems. HFG dietitian Brooke Longfield helps one reader shop wisely.
Fine-arts student Niki, 20, is looking for simple strategies that will help her follow a gluten-free diet. Eating with her Hungarian family, who are used to lots of gluten-based foods, is proving a challenge, as is finding snacks at uni.
Bread and pasta are staple foods for Niki‘s family, so when she was diagnosed with coeliac disease earlier this year, she had to adjust. Niki has been making two batches of meals, and taking great care to avoid cross-contamination. “Usually, I only have to replace the pasta; everything else can stay the same,” she says.
In contrast, finding gluten-free snacks on her uni campus has proved a little harder. “I need extra time to organise my snacks before I leave the house,” Niki says, but admits she’s becoming familiar with the growing range of gluten-free snacks available.
A keen baker, Niki explains: “It’s about experimenting with different gluten-free flours to achieve the same consistency, and it’s getting easier.”
“Before her diagnosis, Niki enjoyed a balanced diet of mostly wholefoods, and this has eased her transition to a gluten-free diet. Fresh fruit and vegetables; unprocessed meat and fish; beans, lentils, peas and other legumes; nuts and seeds; eggs; and most dairy foods are all free of gluten.
Niki can also choose from a wide variety of gluten-free grains, including rice, corn and quinoa. Breads and cereal products are the most common sources of gluten, so Niki needs to find her fibre in brown rice; fruit and vegies; nuts; and beans, lentils and other legumes.
As for snacking at uni, easy options include nuts, fresh and dried fruit, gluten-free muesli bars, or crackers with peanut butter or cheese — simple!
Go gluten free
Eat plenty of fibre: Choose gluten-free multigrain bread, brown rice and quinoa, plus lots of fresh vegies, peas, beans and lentils.
Be prepared: Don’t be caught out when you’re on the go. Always travel with a small bag of trail mix or gluten-free muesli bars.
Watch out for cross-contamination: If you share a kitchen with people who eat gluten-based foods, buy your own toaster and stash separate jars of spreads, clearly labelled as gluten free. When preparing multiple lunches, make the gluten-free sandwich first; this saves you from having to swap knives and chopping boards.
Learn your labels: Although some food labels say gluten free, the word gluten rarely appears on ingredients lists. Get into the habit of reading food packaging.
Familiarise yourself with supermarket aisles: Their shelves feature an increasing array of packaged gluten-free foods, as do those of health-food stores.
Dine out with confidence: Some menus state if a meal is gluten free, but don’t be afraid to check or ask for a slight adjustment to a dish.