It can be a struggle to cut gluten completely from your life, but with our tips you can face the challenge head on.
Diagnosed with coeliac disease or simply gluten intolerant? You might be doing well with the gluten-free restrictions, but in extenuating circumstances (like dining out or travelling) your willpower can fail, allowing gluten to creep back in to your diet. The resulting abdominal pain, bloating, tiredness, headaches or poor concentration can have you deeply regretting your choice.
“When I first began my gluten-free diet 8 years ago I was very diligent with cutting out foods containing wheat, rye and barley – except when it came to certain challenging situations such as snacking, travelling and functions,” says Michael Carp, owner of gluten-free snacks line Kez’s Kitchen. “I constantly found myself in situations where eating gluten appeared to be my only option, but this certainly isn’t the case – there are always ways to beat the wheat!”
Here are his tips for avoiding gluten when it seems unavoidable…
“Over the years, I’ve developed tactics for challenging scenarios that really work, where now I don’t feel like I’m making sacrifices,” he says. “The key is to be organised and to think ahead in any situation – this soon becomes second nature.”
1. Dining out
This is often when we throw any diet commitments out the window – simply because of the enjoyment factor associated with dining out, and especially if the menu isn’t in line with our dietary needs.
“When we’re really enjoying good food and good company, we might tell ourselves our symptoms aren’t that bad – then have regrets afterwards,” Carp says. “Although a menu may not offer gluten free meals, if you call ahead most establishments will be happy to pre-prepare a couple of suitable options for you to choose from. And an increasing number of restaurants are now offering gluten-free options on the menu – including some pizza and pasta establishments.”
When sitting on long flights, it can be tempting to consume any meal a flight attendant places in front of you – including the dinner rolls. When you’re booking flights, be sure you pre-order the gluten free option.
“On nearly every flight, my gluten-free meal is often served first and looks better than the person’s next to me, as chefs need to get creative with gluten-free. The remainder of your flight will be much more enjoyable. You might also want to pack your favourite gluten-free snacks for long-haul flights.”
3. On the go
Many of us eat on the run. Instead of grabbing a sandwich or croissant – which you’re sure to regret later – look for some of the new great-tasting alternatives that are gluten free (like the Kez’s Kitchen cereal bars).
You may know exactly where to find great gluten-free meals and snacks in your own neighbourhood, however when you’re on holidays it can be like finding a needle in a haystack, often leaving you with little choice but to take advantage of takeaways and local eateries conveniently located on every street corner.
“A good breakfast is important when you’re travelling,” says Carp. “Make gluten-free breakfast options an important criteria when choosing a hotel – ask whether they can provide gluten-free cereals and breads at the time of booking – most are happy to oblige if you give them notice. For dining out, research restaurants around your hotel, or ask your hotel to do the research for you – most restaurants have menus available on their websites.”
5. Work functions
Readily available canapés drifting past every few minutes is enough to make even the strongest-willed crumble – especially when hungry.
“If you ensure to eat a full meal before attending any event you’ll be much less likely to reach for a few cocktail spring rolls,” Carp says. “Additionally, bringing a snack bar in your bag is always a good idea in case you feel peckish, and remember to opt for a cider instead of beer as they’re commonly gluten free.”
6. Living with young kids
Chicken nuggets, fish fingers and potato gems can be a staple food group in any household with young children and, in turn, can become a quick meal for exhausted parents too tired to prepare an additional dish for themselves.
“Take advantage of any free time you have during the day – for example during kids’ nap time or while they are at day care – to prepare fresh gluten free meals that are ready to eat later on when you’re pressed for time. Chicken schnitzel is always a family favourite, and you can still enjoy this by using rice crumbs instead of bread crumbs – the kids won’t even tell the difference!”
7. When entertained by friends
“These situations – particularly if it’s a dinner or lunch – are sensitive, as they’re more intimate and the host will notice you avoiding foods that were prepared for you,” Carp says. “If it’s a meal, it’s best to let the host know about your dietary limitations beforehand so they can organise gluten-free options. If it’s a more casual get-together, bring a gluten-free share plate that everyone can enjoy. This way, you’ll appear polite and thoughtful and you’ll know there will be at least one gluten-free dish available!”