Shopping for gluten free food can seem overwhelming and complicated at first but it does get easier.
Knowing what to avoid is the key here. You need to look out for wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham), rye, barley, triticale, brewers yeast, wheat starch (unless labelled as gluten free, in this case the wheat starch has been modified and the gluten has been removed, therefore it is safe for coeliacs).
In the United Kingdom the law requires manufacturers to list allergens on pre-packed food as well as non pre-packed food. On top of this manufacturers are also advised to warn consumers about the possibility of cross contamination. Allergens are listed in bold so it’s easy to spot them even in longer ingredient lists. Reading labels becomes easier with time and spotting what we can’t have becomes sort of a reflex.
If something has a may contain warning it should be avoided because the product is most probably manufactured in an environment where gluten containing ingredients are also present and there is a possibility of cross contamination. These products are not tested to check their gluten content therefore there is no way to tell wether they are safe or not and this can be different from batch to batch.
Two things that are often mentioned, and I wrote about it before: clean eating and cooking from scratch. I’m mentioning these again because it can help with shopping too. Buying individual ingredients rather than hunting for gluten free ready made sauces or whole meals is cheaper in the long run and makes shopping much easier and less frustrating as options are far less limited. It also means you have total control over what you eat.
This is how I started after being diagnosed: I focused on naturally gluten free food. I knew if I want to find gluten free alternatives to everything at once it will be too overwhelming and frustrating so I took my time and started to look for the very basics. Then I wrote a list with my favourite foods, snacks and treats and started to work my way through it to find out what I can still have and to try and find alternatives to what I couldn’t. I had to find a different soy sauce for example and can no longer eat my favourite ice cream and some of my favourite chocolates. This was the hardest part. Knowing and accepting I can no longer eat things I used to love. Keeping in mind that there are some severe long term effects of Coeliac Disease and being exposed to gluten makes it easier to stick to a 100% gluten free lifestyle and avoid “cheating”.
When I do my food shopping I start with buying all the “normal” food I can have. Focusing mainly on fresh fruit and vegetables and fish (I don’t eat meat other than fish and seafood) makes it easier and I don’t feel limited at all. It’s also easier to shop as I know most things are safe and don’t have to check and search for things I can have.
Cooking takes some planning and maybe in some cases a bit of learning too but at the end of the day it is so worth it. It might seem difficult and time consuming but there are plenty of easy and quick meals that are versatile so it doesn’t get boring and you won’t end up eating the same things all the time.
I try to think about it as a lifestyle and the benefits of it. Obviously this is not a choice but since I’m trying my best to have a healthy diet I feel like I can make this work to my advantage.
Article Author: Emese Abigail Fayk