Are you keen to go gluten free? Reactions to wheat and gluten, a protein in wheat, barley and rye, are one of the most common food-related sensitivities – the most well known is coeliac disease, which affects 1 in 300 people in the UK.
More recently, a condition called non-coeliac gluten sensitivity has been identified, with similar symptoms to coeliac disease, but it’s not suggested that it involves the immune system. Some experts believe that for every person with coeliac disease, there could be at least 6-7 people with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. That means between 4 million and 7 million people in the UK could have this condition, but are simply unaware of it.
For many of us, it’s quite usual to eat wheat at breakfast in the form of cereal, again at lunch as a sandwich and yet again in the evening in a pasta dish. Some nutritionists believe it’s this over-reliance on one food that can lead to an intolerance. For this reason, even if you don’t need to cut out gluten for a medical reason, it’s a good idea not to rely too heavily on ingredients that contain gluten in your diet.
Adapt your lifestyle
* Plan your diet, including gluten free recipes or download our Eating Smart app
* Base your meals around fresh ingredients and foods that are naturally wheat and gluten free.
* Organise your kitchen ingredients like gluten-free four and cereals can easily become contaminated with gluten from other foods, so clear out a cupboard to use exclusively for your gluten free products.
* Read the labels on all ready-prepared and convenience foods as wheat and other gluten-containing grains are often used in processed foods. In some cases, food that is naturally gluten free can be contaminated with gluten in the factory or when stored.
If you’re preparing meals containing gluten or wheat for other family members, prepare the gluten free version first to avoid cross-contamination. Use separate oil for frying gluten-containing foods and wash kitchen equipment thoroughly in hot soapy water after using ingredients that contain wheat or gluten.
Use aluminium foil to cover baking sheets, grill pans and to keep food separate.
Use different boards for cutting gluten free bread, as there are tiny pores in wooden boards where crumbs will remain. Plastic boards are easier to clean than wooden ones.
Avoid foods containing the following ingredients, unless they carry a gluten-free logo.
- cereal binder
- cereal filler
- cereal protein
- modified starch
- edible starch
- food starch
- vegetable protein
- wheat four
- wheat germ
Which foods are naturally free from gluten?
- Fruit and veg
- Dairy products
- Meat, poultry and fsh
- Beans and pulses
- Nuts and seeds
- Rice noodles
- Soba noodles
- Flours such as cornflour and gram flour
Foods to avoid
* All biscuits, breads, cakes, chapattis, crackers, muffins, pastries, pizza bases, rolls and scones made from wheat, rye or barley four
* Wheat noodles and pasta
* Wheat-based breakfast cereals such as Weetabix and Shredded Wheat
* Meat and poultry cooked in batter or breadcrumbs such as breaded ham, haggis, rissoles and Scotch eggs
* Fish or shellfsh coated in batter or breadcrumbs such as fish fingers
* Fromage frais and yogurt containing muesli or cereals
* Vegetables and fruit in batter, breadcrumbs or dusted with four
* Potatoes in batter, breadcrumbs or dusted with four such as potato croquettes
* Soy sauce
* Ice-cream cones and wafers, puddings made using semolina or wheat four
* Stuffing made from breadcrumbs
* Beer, ale, lager, stout, barley waters/squash and malted milk drinks all contain barley and need to be avoided
Q&A: Frequently asked questions
I often feel tired and bloated after eating: will I benefit from a gluten-free diet?
Bloating and lethargy are common symptoms associated with coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity, so it’s worth a try.
Are products labelled as wheat free suitable for someone on a gluten-free diet?
Not necessarily because they may contain rye, barley or oats.
Is malt vinegar gluten free?
Although malt vinegar is made from barley, the end product only contains a trace of gluten, well below the level, which is safe for most people with coeliac disease. Balsamic, cider, sherry and wine vinegars are all safe.
How soon after going gluten free will I start to feel better?
You may feel better quite soon, but it can take months. If your symptoms haven’t improved after eight weeks, talk to your doctor.
Cooking with gluten free ingredients
Gluten free flours are widely available in plain, self-raising, bread and wholemeal blends, which means you no longer have to blend your own. Most gluten-free flours absorb more water, so add a little more egg, fruit juice or milk to your recipes when using them.
It’s easier than ever to swap your favourite pasta recipes to gluten free, as there are so many supermarket and branded labels from which to choose.
Rice, grains and pulses
Stock up on healthy rice and pulses such as wholegrain brown rice, quinoa and lentils. These form a fantastic base for salads, or to serve alongside stews and casseroles. Also, try polenta instead of breadcrumbs to make a gluten-free coating for meat and fish.
Buckwheat noodles (soba) and rice noodles are gluten free. Check your brand label in case there is any gluten cross-contamination.
Cereals and oats
Only buy cereal and oats labelled gluten free. Even naturally gluten free ingredients may have been handled in a gluten environment. You can now buy lots more gluten free cereal brands in the supermarket – Nestlé makes gluten free Cornflakes, for example.
Meat and fish
Check the labels of sausages, sausagemeat, stuffings, burgers, meatballs, fish fingers, fishcakes and pâté. Look out for the Black Farmer range, which is gluten free, and Young’s Free From Fish Fingers.
Tamari is gluten-free soy sauce, which can be used instead of normal soy sauce (which contains gluten) to use in stir-fries and marinades.
Ketchup can be gluten free and will pep up pasta sauces and casseroles.
Curry paste will add flavour and spice to almost any dish. Always check the label on your favourite brands, or buy a special free-from paste.
Vinegar is safe to eat on a gluten free diet.
Mustards are fine, but check the label. Pure mustards will give plenty of extra favour to gluten free recipes.
Pesto is a must-have storecupboard standby and available in free-from ranges. Look out for Sacla’s version.