When your child has just been diagnosed as having coeliac disease, the first thought is of course to worry about what you’re going to feed them to keep them alive! Essentially, you know you need to avoid all foods containing gluten, but you’re now wondering what that really means. What can you actually feed them?!
You get that this means you will need to avoid products which contain wheat, barley, rye and oats, but on closer inspection on your first terrifying trip to the supermarket, you’ll begin to realise that gluten is present in a huge variety of products. Who knew?!
After your first meltdown, you can pick yourself up off the shop floor and head to the fresh vegetable and meat aisles, at least here you are safe in the knowledge that fresh meat and vegetables in their natural state are gluten free. The nature of the disease means you’re likely to prepare more home cooked meals, but what’s the harm in that? You can then control what your child is eating, down to the knife that is used.
Now, you’re probably going to be surprised at the amount of food on the below list that is gluten free and safe to eat. We suggest that you use this as your gluten free food list guide.
STORE CUPBOARD ESSENTIALS:
- Flours: rice, corn, potato, maize, gram, soya, sorghum, tapioca and chestnut flours are all suitable for a gluten free diet, and are ideal for making a variety of breads, pancakes, pasta, pizza and bread crumbs for coating chicken or using to bind meatballs. You may find you prefer one over another depending on what you are cooking or baking. Trial and error at the beginning will soon help you understand what works best for you.
- Oats: make sure they are labelled gluten free, and keep them away from your other oats. They’re great for making porridge or oat bars for breakfast or snacks for school and when you are out and about.
- Cereals and grains: rice, millet, maize, quinoa, tapioca, polenta, sago and buckwheat. Grains make an ideal side with any dish and the whole family can enjoy them without them being specifically labelled as gluten free.
- Bread, crackers, wraps etc: Products that are suitable for a gluten free diet will be be clearly labelled. Integral for the lunch box, gluten free bread or wraps are perfect to fill with your child with something healthy and delicious when at school or other occasions when eating away from the home.
- Pizza and pasta: Products that are suitable for a gluten free diet will be labelled as so. Most supermarkets have a good range now, though some are nicer than others (just saying!), so you will no doubt need to try a few before you decide which suits you and your child best. Pizza bases are harder to come by and some just aren’t that great. Freya is still searching for ‘the one’. Many a weekend you can find us us trying to create our own perfect gluten free pizza base and it’s harder than you think!. Because the sad fact is that as bad as gluten is for coeliacs, it is the thing that elasticises the dough, and gives it the texture non coeliacs are used to. Only experimenting with different types of gluten free flour, and other gluten free ingredients such as GF baking powder, milk, eggs (oh yeah, we’re not kidding - we’ve tried it all!), will help you find the perfect combo that works for you. BTW, we are still trying but will tell you when we’ve cracked it!
- Spices and seasonings: Sea salt, pepper and herbs are all fine but do check the ingredients of all spices and mustard powder, in case there has been flour added. Gluten free soy sauce is also a staple for the cupboard, as lots of Asian food is naturally gluten free, and also scrumptious!
- Condiments and Sauces; these all need to be checked very carefully. Some brands of ketchup are gluten free, and others are not. Same goes for mayonnaise, brown sauces, mustards and vinegars (but I can tell you malt vinegar most certainly does contain gluten - the clue is in the name!). A lot of salad dressings and ready made sauces unfortunately also contain gluten - so either check the label or make from scratch. Personally, I don’t think you can beat a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing with a hint of GF dijon mustard!
- Gravies and stock cubes; sadly most gravies and stock cubes naturally contain gluten, so you will need to seek out those which are specifically gluten free. Cornflour is a great naturally gluten free agent for thickening up white sauces and gravies with GF stock cubes.
- Meat, fish and eggs: all are basically fine in their basic forms, however gluten could be present in the sauces that you accompany them with, and also in processed meats as the slices could be dusted in flour to allow them to easily peel apart.
- Dairy products: milk and most cream, cheese and yoghurt is gluten free but check any added ingredients, and avoid ready-grated cheese as often flour is added to stop the cheese sticking.
- Soup and sauces: You’ll need to check the ingredients on these, as wheat flour could be used to thicken the sauces.
- Oils/ butters: butter, margarine, oils, lard and dripping are suitable but double check any low fat spreads and avoid suet.
- Pies, quiches, tarts: Products that are suitable for a gluten free diet will be labelled as such, so only eat those or ones that you’ve made yourself.
- Spreads and preserves: jam, marmalade, honey, nut butters are okay but always check the ingredients and don’t forget to put a sticker on them to remind people to keep them gluten free.
- Pickles and dressings: check every time and don’t forget to put a sticker on them to keep them gluten free!
FRUIT AND VEG:
- Fruit: all fresh fruits are naturally gluten free.
- Vegetables: all fresh vegetables are naturally gluten free.
- Cakes, pastries, cookies and biscuits: Products that are suitable for a gluten free diet, will be labelled as such, so only eat those or ones that you’ve made yourself.
- Puddings and desserts: You’ll need to check the ingredients on these but meringue, jelly and most ice creams and sorbets will be fine, but it’s best to only eat ones that are labelled gluten free.
- Snacks: nuts, raisins and seeds are all naturally gluten free, but check any added coatings and check all packets of crisps and other savoury snacks. The ingredients regularly change so always best to check.
- Sweets: Chocolate is usually OK to eat, but not in all cases. With sweets, quite a lot unexpectedly contain wheat so it’s best to check every single time.
- Soft drinks: milk, pure fruit juice, tea, plain coffee, pure cocoa, fizzy drinks and most squashes – but check that they don’t contain barley or ‘cloud’. Don’t forget to regularly check the ingredients.
- Alcohol: If you’re planning on cooking with alcohol or making a dessert, make sure you check the labels as a lot of alcohol is not gluten free. Cider, sherry, port, wine, spirits, malt whiskey (because of the distillation process) and liqueurs are usually gluten free but again, always check the labels.
This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but there’s quite a lot for you to choose from, to get you started. The best advice we can give you is to always always check the label, and use the Coeliac UK barcode scanner when buying products.
So if you’re still stuck on what to do with this information, why not check out our recipe pages for a little inspiration? We add to these weekly so come back and check regularly or sign up to our newsletter and we can deliver directly to your inbox.