A little over two years ago I was told that it would greatly benefit my health if I cut gluten out of my diet. My first reaction was confusion... how could I have survived 20 years of wheat eating yet now be told I could never eat a single piece of bread, bowl of pasta, slice of cake again?! It made no sense to me, so stupidly, I went and ate a malteaser. A single malteaser. And within seconds was doubled over in pain. And since then I have never again *intentionally* consumed wheat or gluten... I say intentionally as there has been the odd gluten-related slip up, needless to say each one resulting in an early night, hot water bottle, a belly that could rival a 5-month-pregnant woman and some seriously painful tummy cramps. OK, these symptoms may not seem like the end of the world, but trust me, this adverse effect towards gluten is far from pleasant (I'm deliberately leaving out the gory details because no one wants to be reading those at this time on a Tuesday evening), and most importantly, since cutting gluten from my diet I feel so much healthier. So what may seem like a huge sacrifice is actually a small price to pay for feeling fit, happy and healthy.
It is actually incredibly common to, like me, be completely unaware of an allergy or intolerance to types of gluten such as wheat. I had become so used to the symptoms of my intolerance that I didn't realise how ill I felt every single day until cutting it out. In fact it is estimated that a shocking 76% of suffers go undiagnosed. Therefore, as it is National Coeliac Week I decided to write a little blog post on my Gluten Free experience to help raise a bit of awareness about wheat free living.
001. Being New to Gluten Free
I think it's safe to say I spent about five hours food shopping during the week following my diagnosis. I went everywhere that was in easy driving distance of my house: Tesco, Morrisons, Co-op, a Sainsbury's Local, an M&S food. I searched high and low for the 'Free From' products and spent a small fortune trying out a number of different brands and products. Although this was a huge pain at the beginning (and definitely wasn't student food shopping budget friendly), I very quickly got to grips with which brands I preferred and it wasn't long until I was able to complete my food shop just as easily as usual. Yes, the first time I ate a gluten free digestive it tasted like a dog biscuit, and some pizza bases have a texture suspiciously similar to that of corrugated cardboard but hey, trial and error right?!
002. Naturally Gluten Free is Always Better
The above brings me nicely onto point number two... I quickly learnt that there really are so many foods that are naturally gluten free, meaning you can avoid some of these questionable supermarket alternatives. I quickly replaced starchy gluten filled carbs with not only naturally gluten free alternatives, but much healthier alternatives too. I discovered sweet potato, quinoa and beans and realised that gluten free doesn't actually have to mean tasteless and boring food! Suddenly this horrible gluten-less tunnel was seeming a lot less dark.
003. Have a Positive Attitude
When I was diagnosed I went home and cried. All I could think about was everything that I used to enjoy and now could no longer ever taste again. I would sit in restaurants and wish that I could order anything off the menu instead of narrowing it down to things I could actually safely eat and then picking from a small and less than appetising selection. Food can become a chore, social situations become awkward as you don't want to be the one to cause a scene in a restaurant by rearranging the whole menu to find something suitable. But it really does help to try and ignore all these negatives and focus on the positives too. Remember how much healthier you now feel, remember that there are still so many nutritious and healthy foods available to you and most importantly remember not to feel awkward because your diagnosis isn't your fault!
Below I have linked some of my Gluten Free recipes for you to try:
Berry and chocolate refined sugar free protein bites
Protein oat breakfast bars
'Nakd' cocoa cookie bites