18 Tips for New Coeliacs: My Practical Guide
I’ve broken this guide into 3 parts, packed with tips for 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.
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
*THE FIRST STEP: Learn the Basics*
1. Learn how to read ingredients lists.
This HAS to be first in my “tips for new coeliacs”. 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?: In the UK, allergens have to be in bold or capitals in the ingredients list. Gluten is one of those allergens so to spot whether a product has any gluten in it, we ONLY have to check the ingredients in bold/caps. You can ignore all the other ingredients. Wahoo!!
- What will it say in bold?: It’s unlikely to actually say “gluten” in bold/caps. Instead, you want to look for that contains gluten – barley, rye, oats, wheat or spelt. Don’t eat anything that says one of those!!!! Remember this with the acronym BROWS.
- Exceptions to the rule: sometimes it says “gluten free barley” etc. This time, you can eat it! It means the grain has either 1) had the gluten removed or 2) the amount of the grain used in the product is sooo tiny that overall (less than 20 ppm*) and therefore it can be considered gluten free. Examples: gluten free Peroni, gluten free quaker oats.
- What if it says “may contain gluten”/ “made in factory that contains gluten” etc?: It’s advised that we do not eat these items … would you eat “may contain poison”?!! Want help on that? Here’s my “may contain” guide to why we can’t have them and how to stop eating them!
- 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.
*This used to confuse me but don’t overcomplicate it. 20ppm = 20 parts per million. Imagine if you split a product into a million pieces. If less than 20 of those pieces contain gluten, the product is considered “gluten free” in the UK. If more than 20 contain gluten, its not gluten free.
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.
Do not listen to anyone who tells you anything different from these…
- Heat does not kill gluten. It would be amazing if it did, but sadly not.
- 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!
- You don’t need to worry about gluten in shampoos/ make-up /lip balm etc – unless you’re planning on eating high levels of these things which surely isn’t advisable if you’re coeliac or not, you’ll be absolutely fine!!
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. Coeliacs have to take this very seriously.
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. However, Coeliac UK recently changed the rules and its now **more simple than ever**.
The new rule: We can only have a product that contains barley malt vinegar, extract or vinegar extract if the product specifically states its gluten free somewhere on the packaging. I won’t go into the millions of confusing reasons as to why they’ve changed etc here, but if you want more info just DM me.
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. More info my in Alcohol Guide here.
*SECOND STEP: Cooking*
8. Freezing Bread.
More expensive loaves are fine from fresh, but quite a lot of the cheaper loaves fall apart. If you don’t want to change brand because of price/convenience, freeze your loaf and toast from frozen – they actually taste better that way too!
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 😉
Want more ‘tips for coeliacs’ on cooking pasta? Click here!!
*THIRD STEP: Other tips for new coeliacs*
Write a list of all the meals & snacks you used to have. I bet you can still have 99% of them!! If you can’t find ways of adapting them, message me and I’ll do my best to help. These posts could help too:
- Accidentally gluten free – here’s the Asda guide and there’s a link to all the other supermarkets at the top
- Gluten free food in the normal aisles
- Gluten free substitutes for our fave sweet foods
- Gluten free substitutes for our fave savoury foods
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 on their website 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 one. 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.
If you are feeling a bit pants, my 10 tips for bloating might have something in it that could help.
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.
Want to learn lots of ways to make your shop cheaper: 21 Tips to Make Your Gluten Free Shop Cheaper
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 liked quotes on Instagram: “you know you’re gluten free when you have at least 5 cereal bars on your person at any one time”. Just make sure you’re ontop of where you’re going, what you’ll be eating and if you need to take your own bits!!
18. Eating out.
I could write LOADS of tips (infact I have in my Tips for Eating Out!!), but the short version:
- 1) call ahead & 2) don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions when you’re there – check they use separate fryers etc.
- Chains are usually better than independents. Pizza Express, Nando’s, Bella Italia, Wagamama and Zizzi’s are all fantastic.
If you’re eating at someone elses house, this letter might help both of you! It explains what coeliac disease is and all the basics of cooking for a coeliac.
If you’re at a BBQ, check out my guide: “How to Stay Coeliac Safe at a BBQ”
Want more help? I’ve got loads that I think could help you!!
The best place to look is on my Instagram highlights (the circles at the top of my grid), where I’ve broken ALL of my blog posts down into “money saving”, “new products” etc. Here’s a few of my faves:
- 21 Gluten Free Life Hacks to make your life easier!
- 10 Mistakes I’ve Made