It’s grey and miserable outside, but inside it’s cosy and warm so I’m happy. I’m in two minds regarding what to write about today. Part of me wants to give you a review of the book that I mentioned and finished a couple of weeks ago (Living Dolls by Natasha Walter), and part of me wants to give you a quick guide to eating gluten-free. I think I’ll go with the latter but don’t be surprised if there ends up being two posts in one day.
To be honest, if you’re used to eating vegan and then become gluten-free, or vice versa, alot of the principles are very similar. You will already be used to checking labels before buying a product, ringing ahead or checking restaurant menus before you eat there, dealing with concerns or fear from friends and family. But what if you’re gluten-free AND vegan? There are lots of great resources out there if you are either or both, which I will reference at the end. In this post I primarily want to tackle being gluten-free; this is by no means exhaustive, and I’ll probably think of more things to add once I’ve published this!
In my limited experience, having only adopted a vegan diet for a little over 7 months, people panic about cooking for you and/or they feel sorry that your diet is so narrow. Maybe people assume that you’re doing it to lose weight, that you don’t enjoy food, that it’s just a phase etc. We all have self-imposed limits when it comes to food, to some degree. Some people just write off vegetables- they never liked them as a child so why should they now? And many of us like to stick to out routines as to what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner each day. But for some reason, not eating gluten and being vegan is crazy. Anyway, I digress. Here are some top tips for eating gluten-free (vegan or not):
1. Check labels for hidden sources of things you can’t eat.
2. Familiarise yourself as much as possible about which grains contain gluten, and which products commonly contain gluten.
3. Use Tamari Sauce or Braggs Aminos Liquid instead of Soy Sauce (may have to adjust the quantities).
4. When it comes to eating out I avoid Chinese takeaways and restaurants as they’re a hot bed for cross contamination since soy sauce is used in virtually everything. However, if you don’t have to worry about cross-contamination then I’m sure there are suitable dishes.
5. Cross-contamination- this can occur just by using wooden kitchen utensils such as chopping boards and wooden spoons so either buy new ones or keep them for those in your house that cook with gluten. Unless the metal or plastic kitchen utensils are really old and have been marked then you should be ok to use them. However, if you are newly diagnosed with Coeliac (Celiac) Disease it is probably best to treat yourself to some new kitchen utensils. Cross-contamination also occurs through sharing the same spreads, as people often dip their knife that they just used on their bread into the jar; that’s game over for you. Keep separate supplies of these things or only use a spoon to get the necessary amount out of the jar, obviously ensuring that the spoon never comes into contact with the gluten-containing product. (To be on the safe side, Tom and I have separate pots of marmite and peanut butter).
6. If you live with someone who eats gluten, then either have a separate part of the kitchen that is a gluten-free zone (preferably away from the toaster!) or try to impress upon whoever you live with that they need to clear away and wipe down the surfaces after you to avoid unintentional glutening.
7. Always carry snacks that you know you can have with you as it is very rare that you can find anything quick that is gluten-free (and vegan). Plus, there’s nothing worse than being starving or having low blood sugar levels and not being able to eat anything. The same goes for meals out. I tend to air on the side of caution so if I’m going anywhere new for the day I will always take packed lunch with me so that I don’t get caught out.
8. When eating over other people’s homes, either offer to bring something you know you can eat with you (for example, my friends threw a burns night the other week and because I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat the haggis I bought vege sausages that I could have with the potatoes and vegetables. And my friends set aside some veg and potatoes that hadn’t been prepared with butter). When staying over people’s houses, work on the assumption that they will have very little for you to eat and bring along things that you can have. Or bring along the bare minimum knowing that you can pop to the local shops if needs be. You’ll need to patiently explain your cross-contamination problems, if you’re that sensitive also. Be prepared that they won’t always remember so you’ll have to remind them many times. My parents-in-law always forget, though they try to be as thorough as they can, so I often end up getting glutened.
9. Be patient, with yourself and others. It can be alot to get one’s head around at first so take each day as it comes, always keeping why you’re eating this way at the forefront of your mind.
10. Gluten-free baked goods. This is a separate topic in itself! However, never expect the gluten-free alternatives to taste the same. They probably won’t and the texture will often be different. Embrace gluten-free baking for what it is rather than what you’re trying to replace. Embrace the challenge and have fun with it.
Essentially, the key to eating a gluten-free and vegan diet is to be prepared, gain as much knowledge about eating this way as possible, tap into resources online, and educate friends and family (without being pushy or preachy) about why you eat this way and how they can help you with it. Oh, and get creative in the kitchen; and love and take pleasure in the foods that can nourish and heal your body, and excite your taste buds.
Some great gluten-free resources:
www.vegiac.com – Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten-free forum
Gluten-free Girl and the Chef
Karina’s Kitchen and her page on how to go gluten-free
www.celiac.com – Celiac and Gluten-free Forum
101 cookbooks, a great collection of vegetarian recipes, has a section devoted to gluten-free recipes as well as vegan recipes.
Two final things:
And March’s Gluten-free Lifestyle Blog Carnival takes place tomorrow (which is also St David’s Day), and is hosted by Ging Recommends.