TOP FIVE coeliac survival tips for gluten-free newbies!

  1.  DON’T ask if it’s gluten-free, ask if it’s COELIAC FRIENDLY. That has the waiter/cook bouncing backwards. Suddenly you’re not a fussy customer on a fad diet, but a customer with serious dietary needs. They get a bit scared, lawsuits come to mind… If I tell them it’s gluten-free and they get sick, will I get fined/taken up for it?!! I’ve actually had caterers gleefully tell me their food is gluten-free, as advertised, but they soon change their tune and quickly come up with an alternative ‘wheat-free’ label once they realise it isn’t gluten-free at all! *Side note: if a waiter asks you what gluten-free means or looks confused momentarily, leave the premises IMMEDIATELY!!
  2. Have gluten-free, filling snacks in your bag at ALL times. I’ve lost count at how many times I got stuck somewhere with food that was unsafe for me to eat and there were NO alternatives. I ended up eating a chocolate bar or some other unhealthy, not exactly filling, snack to tide me over as I gazed longingly at my peers gorging on steaming bags full of chips or pizza or something similar. *URGH*
  3. B.Y.O.B. No, not bring your own booze – bring your own buffet! When a friend is hosting a dinner I often bring my own food, even if it’s just a side, or my own sauce to have with their main plus dessert and nibbles. They don’t get offended (if they do I wouldn’t care as they obviously don’t care about me!) and I even think it takes the pressure off them and they feel relieved. I know I wouldn’t fancy cooking for someone with a food allergy/intolerance – I’d be too scared!!
  4. Don’t explain – Educate! Most people should know by now about what living gluten-free entails, so I no longer feel the need to explain or justify my needs to people who just don’t get it! I refuse point blank to eat something I’m not comfortable with and I don’t make excuses. If they ask why I tell them that I’ve a medical condition that requires careful monitoring and care and how cross contamination is the main reason I could get very sick. Usually, they suddenly feel a bit sorry for me and leave me be, or if they seem genuinely inquisitive about my health I’ll tell them more. Job done!
  5. DON’T fall into the temptation of the gluten-free aisle. Most of the food in the ‘free-from’ section of a shop is a complete rip off. Yes, it’s where you get your gluten-free bread and dried pasta, but really, some of the stuff is so grossly over priced and unnecessary I don’t spend long perusing it’s contents. A lot of mainstream goodies like branded chocolate and crisps are already gluten-free (if you spend a few extra moments reading labels!) and this includes pasta sauces, curries, chips or any pre-made, handy meal that you want to quickly fling in the oven when you’re feeling lazy (something of a novelty to newbie coeliacs!) *End note: my GP told me many folk who find out they’re a coeliac flee to the gluten-free aisle and stuff their noggins with bread, biscuits and cake and end up putting on lots of weight. The reason being, these biscuits and cakes are packed FULL of sugar and other junk to compensate for the lack of wheat that flavours and holds it altogether. Do yourself and your body a favour – don’t fall into this misconception and trap! You don’t need it!

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