Just when I think I have gluten free dining cracked, something seems to pop along and surprise me. I know from Twitter that I’m not alone in being caught out sometimes.
Here are 10 surprising gluten free lessons I’ve learnt in the last 2 years since diagnosis:
1. Food can be gluten free but not wheat free, e.g., Costa coffee chocolate brownie which contains Codex wheat starch.
2. Gluten can be found in some coca-colas, especially those bought in supermarkets. However, ‘real’ coca-cola is gluten free. It’s better to avoid coca-cola on tap in bars if the source isn’t known. If you want a coca-cola, only order from a can or bottle where you can see it’s real coca-cola and labelled as gluten free.
3. Malt vinegar is safe to consume in the UK according to Coeliac UK. They state that after fermentation, the end product contains a trace amount of gluten which is well below the limit considered safe for most Coeliacs. However in the US, the FDA states that malt vinegar could not be labelled gluten free under the proposed new gluten free labelling rules.
4. It’s not enough to read and check every label, you have to understand what the labelling means. For example the difference between “gluten free”, “very low gluten” and “no gluten containing ingredients”.
5. Italy is a gluten free paradise. Initiatives such as a Coeliac screening programme for young Italian children means awareness amongst the general population is high. This is as close to a Coeliac paradise as I’ve experienced: Gluten free pizzas in fashionable Milan, on the Vatican’s doorstep in Rome or even in a tiny village on a tiny island; there are specialist shops for Coeliacs. You can even get gluten free cones for your gluten free gelato!
6. Gluten free batter can be lighter, crispier and far tastier than regular batter.
7. You can be safely catered for on an overnight 20 mile charity hike without incident so long as you’ve prepared and fully briefed the caterers in advance. For longer walking holidays there are companies who can cater for gluten free meals even when trekking to Everest base camp or climbing Kilimanjaro (possibly next year’s challenge).
8. Dietary Specials Brown Ciabatta rolls taste better than most gluten-filled breads.
9. Not all of your friends will be supportive of your gluten free needs, especially if you’ve been diagnosed later in life. Whilst others will amaze you with their support and the efforts they will go to in order to ensure that you eat safely.
10. The virtual world is a fantastic source of information. From other gluten free blogs to a wonderful Twitter community, there is always someone somewhere in the world who’s happy to interact and share information. I’ve also been very lucky to meet other gluten free bloggers in real life, which I never anticipated when I started writing this blog.
I firmly believe that if you put your mind to it, nothing is impossible in a gluten free world, it just might require a little extra research, preparation and effort.
What things have you learnt along your gluten free journey that surprised you?