With food intolerances having become a widely-recognised condition, the industry is constantly working to provide great-tasting alternatives for your once-favourite foods. For Monique Bryson, being diagnosed with coeliac disease brought with it the realisation it’s not just pasta and bread she’d be missing out on. She shares some suggestions on how to fill the gluten-free void.
I’ve been gluten-free for just under a year. What started as a gluten intolerance gradually snowballed into coeliac disease with a lovely little sprinkling of IBS. Bloating, nausea, rashes, headaches… I had the lot. Trust me when I say I’m the least fun at dinner parties.
Coming from an Italian background, the idea of breaking up with my Nonna’s pasta cut me deep. However, the reality of coeliac disease extended far further than having to skip the schnitzels during Christmas lunch.
Gluten is everywhere. Your favourite barbecue sauce? Gluten. Indulging in a cheeky Cadbury chocolate bar? Gluten. Enjoy drowning your sushi in soy sauce? No more soy sauce for you because, you guessed it, gluten.
Farewell, freshly baked traditional pastries...
Whether you’re coeliac or just intolerant, the food industry’s sneaky practice of adding gluten into the vast majority of products will leave you feeling bloated and sorry for yourself. But that doesn’t mean you have to go without, you just have to keep one eye on the labels.
After copious amounts of personal trial and error, here are a few handy alternatives I've found to your favourite gluten-filled foods.
Unfortunately, as gluten is the protein that gives you those big, fluffy cuts of bread, most wheat-free alternatives fall short of impressive. Traditional gluten-free loaves are small, dense, and go dry quickly.
I found Helga’s Gluten Free range as close to the real thing as you will get. Their slices are 50 per cent bigger than most brands and don’t crumble as soon as they’re exposed to air.
While Helga's offer a great range of gluten-free wraps too, if you enjoy burritos, my favourite swap has been the BFree Sweet Potato Wraps.
A decent, gluten-free pasta is easier to source than bread, but some cheaper alternatives can be tough and chewy.
If you’re looking for penne or other pasta varieties, Barilla offers a great range that can cater to all tastes.
Meanwhile, On Ya Gnocchi do an amazing, handmade gnocchi that tastes just as good as anything my Nonna makes (but don’t tell her I said that!).
Prepare your tissues (I know I did) because we have to break up with our best friend: Cadbury. Almost all Cadbury bars – apart from their Easter eggs – contain traces of wheat due to cross-contamination during manufacturing.
The best chocolate swap I’ve found so far has been Jasper + Myrtle. They come in the most amazing range of flavours (the Rock Salt & Wakame is my favourite) and have none of those nasty preservatives or additives you might struggle to even pronounce.
I’m notorious for using three times the regular amount of soy sauce than I should be and my bag was littered with the packets I would hoard after every sushi visit, just in case I'd ver need them. Sadly, it turns out that soy sauce is just fermented wheat, so try swapping it for Tamari or Kikkoman Gluten-Free Soy Sauce.
I’m not a big drinker, but I do love a vodka cranberry when out with friends. But if you’re coeliac, you better hope that’s a potato-based vodka they’re pouring into your glass right now.
The majority of vodkas, bourbons and whiskeys are all distilled from grains. Whilst experts disagree on whether the distillation process makes the liquors suitable for those with coeliac, it’s better safe than sorry.
If you’re a vodka person, opt for Crystal Head instead (as an added bonus, you might get to keep the cool bottle).
Beers and ales are a gluten minefield, but if you’re not content with cider, try O'Brien Beer. The Australian brewery was established when its founder discovered he had coeliac disease and has a great coeliac-friendly range of preservative and colouring-free beers on offer.
A lot of cafés and restaurants now cater to a gluten-intolerant clientele and there’s no shortage of cupcakes, tarts and sweet-bread to cater for every palate. But let me tell you what there is a serious lack of in the gluten-free world: Doughnuts.
If you’re health conscious, Houghnuts are also vegan and have used 100 per cent pure maple syrup to sweeten their products.
As someone who is intolerant to almost everything the light touches, I’m often subject to a lot of well-meaning pity about my restricted diet, but with so many amazing alternatives available, I honestly don’t feel like I’m missing out.
Sure, Nonna still sheds a tear when I have to respectfully decline the meatballs (again), but not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for the food that I can eat. Why spend time mourning what you’ve lost when you can stuff your face with what you’ve got?