Living Gluten-Free For Dummies (Australia/New Zealand Edition)
Living gluten-free affects many aspects of your life, not just your diet. Gluten-free living embraces stocking your pantry with gluten-free food, cooking delicious and nutritious meals, ordering at restaurants, attending social functions and dealing with the emotional challenges of living gluten-free.
Avoiding Gluten Contamination When Preparing Gluten-Free Food
Sometimes the way you prepare and cook food can contaminate it with gluten. Here are some ways to avoid contaminating gluten-free food with gluten from other sources.
If you’re preparing two varieties of a meal, prepare the gluten-free meal first. Use separate utensils.
If you’re frying you can reuse cooking oil as gluten doesn’t dissolve in the oil. However, bits of batter or crumbs can stay on the surface. Always carefully scoop out any visible bits of batter or crumbs. Using fresh oil or frying the gluten-free version first is best.
Foil is a great way to avoid contamination. Use foil to keep foods separate when preparing, cooking, or storing.
Use coloured stickers or labels, or different coloured lids when storing food so you and others easily know which containers hold the gluten-free version. Setting up your system takes time, but will save time later and prevent mishaps.
If time is a problem, make a habit of cutting off the section of the food packet that says ‘gluten-free’ or the brand name and poke it into the storage container with your food.
Keep separate containers of margarine or butter in the fridge, or train your family to be scrupulous about wiping knives and not putting leftover margarine contaminated with crumbs back into the container. Keep a paper towel beside you when making sandwiches so you can wipe the knife before dipping back into the topping or spread.
Having separate storage spaces for the gluten-containing and gluten-free foods is convenient, and makes it easier to find gluten-free food quickly.
When cooking gluten-containing pasta, wash well your colander or strainer and tongs after use because pasta can leave a residue on utensils.
Your gluten-free meal can be contaminated by just a few crumbs from gluten-containing food. Be diligent about cleaning crumbs and remember the golden rule — when in doubt, leave it out.
Clean out the crumbs from the bottom of your toaster regularly, or use toaster bags that you slide your bread into before putting it into the toaster. You can buy toaster bags from some health food shops and through Coeliac Australia. Toaster bags are great when cooking toast in those huge, communal toasters in motel dining rooms.
Nutritious and Tasty Gluten-Free Diet
Your gluten-free diet is the way to a new, healthy lifestyle. As you start a new diet, here are some tips to make sure it’s nutritious and tasty.
Gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean ‘healthy’, just because gluten-free foods are found in the health food section. Look carefully at the fat and sugar content in products.
Variety is essential. Don’t get in a rut with a few ‘safe’ choices. Keep looking for more variety. New products are appearing on the shelves all the time and they’re getting better and better.
Eat more nuts and legumes, such as beans and lentils. They provide plenty of protein and fibre. Legumes are also low glycaemic index to help fill you up.
Choose low-fat dairy products. If you’ve been sick for a while and lost weight prior to diagnosis, you may find your weight increases when you go on the gluten-free diet. That’s because you’re now absorbing more of the food you eat, not because of the diet itself.
Choose gluten-free bread and cereals that are low GI and high in fibre. You’ll feel less hungry between meals and probably snack less often. Information about GI and fibre is often on the product label.
Don’t live on rice cakes alone! Keep looking until you find a type of bread you like, as well as a variety of tasty dry biscuits for snacks.
If you’re always hungry, you may need to increase your protein intake and look for lower glycaemic index carbohydrate options. Include some protein in each meal and make sure you eat regular meals.
Living Gluten-Free Affordably
Gluten-free products are more expensive than foods that contain gluten among their ingredients. Here are some tips to help you eat gluten-free without breaking the budget:
Don’t shop when you’re hungry because you’re more likely to make impulse buys.
Make a list before you go shopping and stick to it. Having a list will keep you focused on what you need and help you avoid impulse buys.
Don’t take your kids shopping if you can avoid it. You’re much more likely to make impulse buys if you have children in tow.
Check catalogues and keep an eye out for specials. Buy a few packets when items are on special.
Scale back on commercial foods such as ready-made gluten-free bread, pizzas, biscuits and cakes. Find some quick and easy recipes and do your own baking — it tastes much better and is cheaper. Bake a double batch and freeze some for later (but hide them well!)
If you do a lot of baking, buy your ingredients in bulk and store in large plastic tubs.
If you don’t have time to make your own gluten-free goodies from scratch, use gluten-free mixes. They can be expensive, but are still cheaper than buying ready-made baked goods.
Compare goods by weight and percentage. Some items are a much better deal than others, especially canned goods.
Buy generic goods. Many generic items are gluten-free.
Brush up on your label reading skills so you can confidently purchase products that are gluten-free by ingredient.
Save money by buying naturally gluten-free and package-free foods, such as fruit and vegetables, unprocessed meats, milk and eggs. These foods are what your diet should be based on anyway.
Labelling Food for Gluten in Australia and New Zealand
Australian food labelling standards are very strict, as are requirements in New Zealand. Here are some ways in which the presence of gluten is noted on food labels in Australia and New Zealand:
All grains containing gluten and any ingredients derived from them must always be listed on food labels.
The source of the grain is usually in brackets, but sometimes summary statements are used after the ingredient list, like ‘contains ingredients from wheat’, ‘contains gluten’ or similar.
If a product is labelled GLUTEN-FREE, this information overrides the ingredient list, because any problem ingredient has been so highly processed gluten can no longer be detected.
Glucose syrup, dextrose and caramel colour are always gluten-free even if derived from wheat, because after processing no gluten can be detected.
Healthy Gluten-Free School Lunches
Coming up with ideas for healthy, easy and interesting gluten-free lunches for kids on a gluten-free diet can be challenging. You want to provide healthy, wholesome food, but not have your child feel deprived because the choices are somewhat limited.
When preparing a gluten-free school lunch remember the following.
Prepare the gluten-free lunch first, use a separate chopping board, or wipe down the board after preparing gluten-containing sandwiches.
Hunt around for the bread your child prefers. If you slice the bread and freeze it with the slices vertical it is easier to separate them as you need them.
Some parents prefer to prepare sandwiches while the bread is still frozen. The bread thaws in the lunchbox.
Most gluten-free bread becomes dry and crumbly after a few days, so freeze most of the loaf and refresh slices quickly in the microwave before spreading with fillings.
Small gluten-free bread rolls are a great alternative if you can find them. They refresh really well in the microwave.
If you’re chopping fillings such as vegetables, salad and chicken, keep the pieces very small because they’ll be less likely to break up the bread. Slightly moist fillings are good, but tomato makes the sandwich too soggy.
Wraps can be useful, but they may be dry unless you can include some moist filling like mayonnaise or cottage cheese. Try toasting them in a toaster oven or sandwich press after filling and rolling up, then slicing into segments.
Leftovers are often popular. Cook a little extra during the evening meal and store in plastic tubs or even in an ‘Aladdin’ meal warmer the next day. Pasta, stir fries, curry and frittata are great in cold weather. Some children prefer them cold.
Fruit and dairy (or calcium-rich alternatives) should be an essential element in any lunch box.
Gluten-free treats are fine as long as you keep the portions small and remember that they are ‘sometimes’ treats.
Here are some ideas for gluten-free food to include in your child’s lunchbox.
Crispbreads or rice/corn cakes (remember they aren’t as filling as bread).
Soup in a thermos.
Salad in a tub with crispbread.
Crackers with cheese.
Individual dip packs, such as chive and cheese, and hummous, with crackers, crispbread or vege sticks.
Home-made muffins (sweet or savoury), slices, or biscuits.
Muesli or health food bars, but be warned — many are loaded with sugar. Some good health food bars are available. Many contain nut products, which may be unacceptable at your school. Popcorn bars are usually nut free.
Tubs of fruit, yoghurt or custard.
Creamed rice in a can.
Fruit nuggets. However, fresh fruit is far better as it contains fibre.
Milk poppa (UHT), which can be frozen to keep the lunchbox cool.
Gluten-Free Diet Restaurant Card for Safe Dining
When dining out, you can show this card to the restaurant's attendant or chef. The basic info explains what you can and can’t eat on the gluten-free diet.