If you follow me on Twitter, or you are a regular reader of my little lifestyle blog, you will know that I recently ended up in hospital having to have a blood transfusion because I had become so anaemic, that they couldn’t give me iron via IV and wait for the few weeks for it to turn into haemoglobin. Nope, I was so poorly I had to have 5 bags of all blood that already had high HB levels. And what made me so unwell? It was GLUTEN. My consultant came around during my stay in hospital and told me coeliac disease is actually quite hard to diagnose, so it took the third round of cameras up and down “there” for them to ascertain on my biopsy I had Villous blunting, and I was not absorbing any nutrients orally. Suddenly it all clicked into place, First of all, I now at least know why Greggs gives me pain under my left tit. I now also know why none of the oral iron tablets or liquid prescribed to me in the last 4 years has worked, and I guess this also clears up why the private Vitamin IVs in Essex have worked so well. During my hospital stay, the dietician came around to give me some advice, and I do have a follow-up soon. But over the last four weeks, I have been on a learning curve with what has and hasn’t got gluten in, so find below my list of good, bad and ugly of my gluten-free food experiences so far.
Gluten-Free Finds – The GOOD
Listen, guys, it isn’t all bad news. Some “free from” stuff I have found is good, and on top of that, there are a lot of standard products that contain no gluten. Initially, I made the mistake of making a beeline for Asda’s “free from” aisle, but you will find the stuff is expensive. It is also mostly free from gluten, milk and soya. It took me two weeks to clock, I didn’t NEED the food to be milk and soya free as well, so I started looking at all of the normal stuff I used to get to see if it was gluten-free, and loads of it was. Bit disappointed that I spent two weeks buying up the whole free-from aisle like I had the money of Bill Gates, but we live and learn, and this is one of the reasons I wanted to share my tips.
Marmite on toast is a simple pleasure in life I thought I could still enjoy now that I knew I could get gluten-free bread. Gluten-free bread is everywhere, but you will find it hard to find stuff to put on top of your toast. Marmite, for example, contains gluten. HOWEVER, any of my gluten-free comrades out there that love Marmite will be thrilled to know that Asda’s brand “yeast extract” is gluten-free. The only unfortunate thing missing is a clever name like Aldi and Lidl give their brand products!
Seabrooks and Snackrite crisps (Aldi, B&M, Homey Bargs)
When they dropped the bombshell on me during my last hospital stay that I would need to go gluten-free, my first thought was “well crisps are made from potatoes so I’ll be fine”. But due to flavourings etc, the majority of popular crisps have gluten in them. Yeah, sorry about that. Aside from complaining on my Twitter to the various crisp companies, the only choice I have is to live with the alternatives. My favourites so far are the crinkle-cut beef Seabrooks crisps.
Cooking sauces (Most supermarkets)
Although I have always classed myself as quite knowledgeable about what things are in what food, I must admit, straight after hearing I needed to go GF I descended upon every “free from” aisle like a little locust, buying up every conceivable replacement for the stuff I usually eat. The thing about the Asda “free-from” range is, that it is free from gluten but milk and soya as well. I get that it might be a cost-cutting exercise, but if you need to be free of one of these it can feel convenient to grab free-from stuff, despite the added expense. Cooking sauces were one of the main things for me. And then one day I was in Tesco reading all of the ingredients of a microwave Tikka Masala, and I realised, that DAIRY was the main thing that was taken out of the “free-from” stuff when it comes to cooking sauces. Before you get all over-excited in the free-from aisle, check the stuff you regularly buy to see how much of it is gluten-free anyway.
Genius Bread (Most supermarkets)
Now, this is one I had to turn to one of the incredibly supportive Facebook gluten-free groups for. I do feel like I need to give you a disclaimer here if you are new to the whole coeliac thing: say goodbye to bread as you remember it. Unfortunately, GF bread just doesn’t taste like normal bread, and trust me I have tried many now. The Genius brand is the best I have tasted so far, and my particular favourite is the Farmhouse one.
Multicoloured Pasta (Most supermarkets)
For some reason, the multicoloured pasta is my favourite, and the good news is, the GF multicoloured pasta in most supermarkets tastes pretty much the same as the original. I’m still trying to find a decent GF spaghetti (recommendations welcome), but for now, I can live with having my carbonara with multicoloured pasta.
Gluten-Free Finds – The BAD
Asda Free From Bread (Asda)
I’ve never eaten one of my flip-flops, but if I did, I would imagine the taste and texture would be pretty much the same as Asda’s brand free from bread. One to avoid for sure!
Kikkoman Tamari Soy Sauce (Most supermarkets)
I mean, it’s like the makers of this went out of their way to create a product that tasted as little soy sauce as possible and then just sold it for a laugh.
Gluten-Free Finds – The UGLY
Warburtons Gluten Free Crumpets (Most supermarkets)
Have you ever wondered what your washing-up sponge tastes like? Well wonder no more, just have a gluten-free Warburtons crumpet. Not only do they TASTE like washing up sponges, but they are also the same colour, giving them the feeling that they were carefully crafted in Chernobyl.
Schar Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes (Most supermarkets)
Dry as a Nun’s chuff.