Coeliac disease, which causes an adverse reaction to gluten- a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, malt- affects around 1 in every 100 people in the UK.
And while it's a condition that can't be treated as such, it can be managed by switching to a gluten free diet. Although this might sound a bit daunting at first, especially if you're newly diagnosed, eating gluten-free doesn't have to be difficult or involve buying lots of expensive foods. Kirsty Henshaw, founder of a gluten, wheat and dairy free ready meals company, shares her top tips on getting round your gluten intolerance, without bumping up the price of your food shop, to help mark this Coealic Awareness week (11-18 May).
While many people worry that they won't be able to call on cheap supermarket staples like pasta, bread and pizza, with a gluten intolerance, shopping wisely could make all the difference to your shopping bill. Make a daily meal plan at the start of each week and before you do the weekly shop, thinking through the clever food swpas you'll need to make in advance.
Watch out for sneaky gluten
Other than the obvious foods like pasta, bread and biscuits, there are quite a few foods that also contain hidden gluten. Getting wise to the foods that sneakily contain gluten will not only help you when you're eating out, it'll also help guide you through the supermarket shop.
Beware of these common foods that you might not expect to contain gluten:
- Soy sauce which contains wheat. Use tamari sauce as a gluten-free alternative
- Stock cubes- many brands use malrodextrin which is not suitable for those on a gluten free diet. Try making your own stock for a cheaper and safer alternative
- Sauces, gravy or soups, especially instant versions of these which often use flour as a thickening agent. Try making your own at home using corn-starch instead
- Sausages: most sausages contain rusk which is not gluten free. Look out for gluten free sausages in the shops
- Hot chocolates, especially instant ones which often barley malt.
If you're not sure what's gluten free or not, have a look for the crossed grain symbol somewhere on the packaging- this means it's gluten free.
Clever food swaps
Having a gluten intolerance doesn't have to mean giving up your favourite foods. Often there's a very simple swap you can make that tastes just as good but contains no gluten.
For example, if you love a spaghetti bolognaise, swap your pasta for thinly sliced courgette. It tastes very similar but it's gluten free- and it's healthier too.
For a summer barbecue, swap your burger bun for a meaty portobello mushroom or lettuce.
Pizzas don't have to be off the menu either as you can make the base using a cauliflower, which will still give you that delicious crisp base as well as being packed with nutrients.
Don't be scared
Going gluten free doesn't have to be scary. It's just mainly a process of experimenting with your foods to see what works for you and your family.
Start by buying the gluten free alternatives in the supermarket and as your confidence grows and you learn more about what triggers your symptoms, start being more adventurous in the kitchen and making clever swaps.
- There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.