18 Tips for New Coeliacs: My Practical Guide
I’ve broken this guide into 3 parts, packed with tips for new coeliacs!
Its all very practical… from how to read a label to check if something is gluten free, to how to cook gluten free pasta.
Also, I should have added a STEP 0: Don’t panic!!! I thought life was over, but I promise its not! There’s a gluten free alternative for pretty much everything these days – other than egg noodles and Coronas *boooo*.
Hope its useful!!! Jess x
FIRST STEP: Learn the Basics
1. Learn how to read ingredients lists.
It might seem daunting at first but only eating food that is labelled “gluten free” is so limiting so you need to learn to read labels!! My simple steps:
- What do I need to look for?: Allergens have to be in bold. You only have to look at these. Don’t pay attention to any of the other ingredients!!
- What things in bold do I need to look for?: Don’t eat anything that says ‘gluten’ or one of the following: barley, rye, oats, wheat or spelt. Remember them with the acronym BROWS.
- Exceptions: sometimes the BROWS ingredients can be made gluten free, e.g. barley in gluten free Peroni or gluten free oats. In this case, it must state “gluten free” on the packaging for it to be safe.
- What if it says “may contain gluten”?: Its advised that we do not eat these items … would you eat “may contain poison”?!!
- Need more help: the Coeliac UK app is fab. You can scan in barcodes and it’ll tell you whether the food is safe or not. I have a guide to using the app coming soon!
2. Learn about the unexpected places you might find gluten.
Like cheap coke & liquorice. This blog post might help: “Hidden Gluten: 20 foods to triple check”
3. Learn the following misconceptions.
- Heat does not kill gluten.
- Gluten free is not healthier in terms of weight loss. If people lose weight by going “gluten free”, its usually just because they’ve cut out a food group and so they’re consuming less calories.
- A little bit will hurt you. People will try to tell you otherwise but even a crumb can cause damage.
- It’s an auto immune condition, not allergy and there is no cure. People will ask you this all the time and I always felt a bit silly when I wasn’t 100% sure of the answer so here it is, just incase!
4. Learn what cross contamination is.
In Jessica language, its where gluten-containing food touches your gluten free food & therefore its “cross contaminated” and isn’t safe to eat anymore.
- An example: your mum prepares her “normal” sandwich on the worktop, leaving crumbs. You prepare your “gluten free” sandwich on the same work surface without clearing up her crumbs. As a result, your sandwich is cross contaminated and not safe!
5. Learn the “barley malt” rules.
Always confuses people!
- You can always have barley malt vinegar.
- Barley malt extract & vinegar extract can sometimes be safe too.
- Read this for my simple explanation!
6. Learn the difference between soy sauce and soy.
Another one that confuses people!
- Soy sauce is made of soy beans AND wheat. Soy sauce is not gluten free because of the wheat. (The gluten free version is called).
- Soy beans themselves ARE gluten free. They will be listed in bold on ingredients lists but that’s just because they are a separate allergen like celery, mustard or dairy… nothing to do with gluten!!!
7. Learn the alcohol rules.
BALS – you can’t have beer, ales, larger and stout unless it states its gluten free.
SECOND STEP: Cooking
8. Freezing Bread.
Freeze your gluten free bread. I find that it falls apart a lot less & tastes so much better if you eat it toasted from frozen.
9. Cooking Pasta.
Everyone moans that gluten free pasta is more gloopy and gets all stuck together when you’re cooking it. You need more water!!! I use double the amount I would use with “normal” pasta. Also, use a fork to wiggle the pieces about whilst it first starts boiling.
Garofalo also messaged to say – “ONLY ADD THE PASTA ONCE THE WATER IS BOILING!!!” Its important for any pasta, but even more important for gluten free!! Given they are my fav pasta brand of all time, I had to share 😉
THIRD STEP: Other bits that might help!
10. Supermarket Shopping.
Write a list of all the meals & snacks you used to have. I bet you can still have 99% of them. If you’re struggling with gluten free supermarket shopping, see my blog post here!
11. Use Coeliac U.K.
- There’s a helpline you can call to ask anything. I’ve rung to ask everything from checking if a product is gluten free to asking if I need a new chopping board! 0333 332 2033.
- Great tips here too
12. Use Instagram.
Its a fantastic community, full of support and product ideas and recipes. Have a look at #glutenfreeblogger and you’ll see 1000’s of us!!
13. Don’t expect people to get it.
I’m still learning this. People won’t get the severity of the symptoms or understand the things they need to do to ensure food is safe for you. Its easy to be annoyed but remember it probably would have been you a few months ago. It isn’t their fault – help them understand.
14. Don’t expect to heal instantly.
It takes a longgggg time. Everyone is different but it was a good +1yr for me.
15. Don’t get annoyed at the smaller sizes & higher prices.
Pizzas will be smaller and bread will be more expensive. That said, there’s no point getting annoyed – just look out for the deals like Aldi special buys and yellow stickers.
16. Allow yourself a few days of eating celebration cakes from the gf aisle then stop.
I saw someone on Facebook group the other day saying they’d bought a gluten free chocolate cake… they didn’t like chocolate or cake but they “could have it” so had to try. The experimental phase of trying everything on offer straight after your diagnosis is all well and good, but after a few months, its time to return to normal food! Not just because of your wallet & waistline, but also because all of this extra, sugary food probably isn’t going to help your bloating.
17. Plan ahead.
One of my most like quotes on Instagram: “you know you’re gluten free when you have at least 5 cereal bars on your person at any one time”
18. Eating out.
I could write LOADS on this but the short version:
- 1) call ahead & 2) don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions when you’re there – check they use seperate fryers etc.
- Chains are usually better than independents. Pizza Express, Nandos, Bella Italia, Wagamama and Zizzi’s are all fantastic.