For most of us, the hardest food decision we make in a day is whether to have pasta or pizza for dinner, but for the one person in every 100 with coeliac disease in the UK, it’s a whole lot more complicated.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes immune system reaction when gluten is ingested, damaging the lining of the small intestine. Symptoms can include iron-deficient anaemia, persistent tiredness and neurological problems, as well as digestive ones.
The only treatment is a gluten-free diet, which eliminates wheat, barley and rye, and, for about 5% of people, oats. But following a gluten-free diet is a potential minefield.
“A lot of processed food will include these products, especially wheat because it’s often used as a thickener and a flavour carrier,” says Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK. “There are cross-contamination issues as well — because of the nature of the production process it might be contaminated by another product going down the line.”
But as awareness of the condition increases, more mainstream and specialist manufacturers are producing gluten-free options, from Sainsbury’s brownies and Nairn’s’ oatcakes, to Jude’s ice-cream and pasta imported from Italy.
“There are increasing numbers of products out there, which is good news," says Sarah. "Really, some of it is down to taste — what do you actually like yourself? When choosing you’ve got to consider your diet in total as well. There are plenty of naturally gluten-free things you can eat too, don’t just stick to the free-from aisles.”
If you don’t know where to start, here are ten of our favourite gluten-free products to try.
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Gluten free food
Gluten free food
1/5 Elena’s Gluten Free Way Dialsi Tagliatelle
Dialsi Tagliatelle is authentic gluten-free pasta, imported from Italy. Made with rice flour, it has a slightly rough texture so it picks up sauces nicely. The range was highly commended in the Free From awards this year. £2.20, elenasgfway.co.uk
2/5 Eat Natural Bars
Eat Natural bars are naturally gluten-free, packed full of nuts and grains, and make the perfect mid-morning or post-workout snack. Keep an eye out for the sneaky peanut and popcorn bar that isn’t gluten-free. £2.09 for 3, waitrose.com
3/5 BFree Brown Seeded Loaf
Fresh gluten-free breads are a relatively new innovation, and this loaf from BFree is a great example. It is tasty and holds its shape well, and is dairy and soya-free too. £2.50, asda.com
4/5 Delicious Alchemy Vanilla Sponge Mix
Baking without traditional flour can be a minefield of gritty batters and deflated sponges, but Delicious Alchemy’s vanilla sponge mix – just add butter and eggs – is the answer to all your baking problems. £2.99, deliciousalchemy.com
5/5 Nairn's gluten free oatcakes
Nairn’s oatcakes are made from uncontaminated wholegrain oats and are a good source of fibre; a great alternative to bread for lunch, served with soup or your favourite sandwich fillings. £2, sainsburys.co.uk
If you’ve recently been diagnosed as coeliac, start with the essentials like BFree’s brown seeded loaf, and Elena’s Gluten Free Way Dialsi Pasta is a useful thing to have in the cupboard for gluten-free dinner guests. But for creativity, simplicity and simple yumminess, Delicious Alchemy’s baking mixes are my favourite.
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