Last week I attended a Marks and Spencer gluten free evening! This event is held in over 70 M&S stores once a year and I have been lucky enough to attend the last three. This year it was particularly well signposted with posters advertising it in both the Made Without Wheat aisle and inside the cafe where the event was held.
The food hall manager of the Liverpool M&S store started off by giving a presentation where she talked about all the gluten free products in the Made Without Wheat range such as sandwiches, bread, cakes, pasta, pork pies, chicken burgers, fishcakes and a range of ready meals such as beef lasagne, spaghetti carbonara and chicken arrabbiata. They also have some very indulgent desserts such as apple pie, New York cheesecake and trifle (which is my favourite!) They have recently released some new products – beef in black bean sauce with rice, sweet and sour chicken with rice, spicy prawn spaghetti, tomato and basil fusilli, St Clements sponge puddings, pork sausages, cheese & onion rolls and cheese & bacon tartlets (the puff pastry is amazing!) They had also kindly laid out a buffet so we got to taste a selection of the yummy products! These products are great for when you want to grab something quick when you are busy. M&S gave us a feedback form to fill in and a list of all their gluten free products (you can request one from their customer information desk, they are regularly updated). It just goes to show that following a gluten free diet doesn’t have to mean missing out on your favourite foods! I have had coeliac disease for 11 years now and would like to share some of my top tips for following a gluten free diet –
- Use gluten-free substitutes in place of gluten-containing foods
You can switch to gluten-free alternatives of your favourite foods. Gluten-free substitute foods include bread/rolls (both long life and fresh), all purpose-flour mixes, cereals, pasta, crispbread and pizza bases. Those medically diagnosed with coeliac disease can speak to their GP to see if they are eligible to receive staple gluten-free food items on prescription, (or they can be purchased directly from the pharmacy.)
- Read food labels when you shop
All packaged food in the UK and the EU is covered by a law on allergen labelling, meaning you can tell whether a product is suitable for a gluten-free diet or not by reading the ingredients list. If a cereal containing gluten has been used as an ingredient in the product, it must be listed in bold writing in the ingredients list. The specific grain will be listed, so look out for mentions of wheat, rye, or barley as these contain gluten.
- Remember you can still enjoy meals out with family and friends
Being on a gluten-free diet doesn’t mean that you can’t eat out – check out Coeliac UK’s online venue guide to see where you can eat out gluten-free, you could also ring ahead and discuss your dietary requirements with the restaurant before eating out so that you feel more comfortable.
- Be aware of cross contamination
Even a tiny bit of gluten can be enough to cause symptoms for someone with coeliac disease, so make sure you minimise the risk of cross contamination with gluten-containing foods. Do this by washing down kitchen surfaces before use, using separate butters, spreads and jams to minimise the spread of crumbs. You could invest in a separate toaster just to be used for your gluten free bread (some people just place their bread on foil under the grill so that it doesn’t touch the grill and get contaminated from other crumbs).
- Join Coeliac UK
Whether you are diagnosed, seeking a diagnosis, supporting a friend or a relative, or trying to find out more about the gluten-free diet, coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), Coeliac UK is a registered charity and they are there to support you.
I am a member of the Liverpool Coeliac Group and the Wirral Coeliac Group (you can join more than one which is great!) I’ve met many people who have coeliac disease like myself. I have picked up recipe ideas and restaurant tips from them as well as enjoying a trip with them to Chester a few years ago where I had a 3-course gluten free meal on a canal boat! I’ve also had a delicious afternoon tea out in a hotel in Wirral last year and I have been to numerous AGM meetings where you get to enjoy tea/coffee with biscuits and find out all the latest gluten free news. Funnily enough the first ever group meeting I went to in 2010 was to watch a Juvela Cookery demonstration (making pastry and cakes) which I thoroughly enjoyed and it inspired me to get my apron on and start baking myself!
If you decide to register with them they will send out the Food and Drink Directory, this book is very useful as it highlights the food that you will still be able to enjoy along with lots of specialist gluten free foods too, if you are a member you also have access to their app which has a bar code scanner for any food you buy, the app tells you whether it is suitable for coeliacs or not. They also send out copies of the crossed grain magazine three times year which keeps you up to date with all the latest gluten free news. The contact phone number for Coeliac UK is: 0333 332 2033 or you can look on their website for some really handy tips and advice.
If you would like to meet & learn from others, share experiences & have fun attending events organised by group leaders then you can contact Coeliac UK on 0333 332 2033 or check out this link . There are over 80 groups across the UK and you can search by postcode to find one near you!
- Juvela is here to help
If you ever need any help regarding our products, recipes etc then please contact us on our free phone helpline 0800 783 1992 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org