The term “gluten-free” is often met with eye-rolls and sighs. It comes with an association to one of the of-the-moment trendy diets and weight loss methods, used by the it-girls of fitness. However for some of us, being gluten free is not a fad or a diet, it’s a way of life, because without it quite frankly we would be miserable. We are the gluten intolerant. Sounds like some kind of posh club or political movement when I put it like that…
I am one of these people afflicted with a long list of food intolerances. Not just gluten and dairy, which seem to be the fashionable ones of late, but soya, yeast, sugar, and most sweeteners, among others (I’ll save telling you the entire lengthy, boring list). So yes, when I eat out I seem like the pickiest person on the planet, and no, I don’t envy any waiter who’s stuck serving me. But I’ve had these intolerances for four years now, and am now used to living and eating this way.
So how do I do it?! When I first tell people my list of culinary no-gos, I get a ‘poor you’ head tilt, slight confused daze in their eyes, and the classic line “Wow, I couldn’t live like that. I love cheese too much!” although cheese could be replaced by pizza/bread/ice cream/ dessert/the list goes on.
But the thing is, I have to live this way. I get incredibly ill if I don’t, and to me living a healthy life is far more important than eating cheese. Not that I don’t miss cheese though….
So here are my tips and tricks to living with food intolerances; how to make your life a lot less miserable, keep your body happy as well as that little voice in your head that tells you it’s not fair you can’t have dessert. And spoiler alert, you actually can have dessert.
Yep, I’m tackling the hard part first. Eating out in restaurants is always the hardest part for me. My biggest and best tip is google the restaurant’s menu before you go, and make sure there is something you can eat there. Remember, most restaurants provide allergen menus on request, and are also often more than happy to remove some items from a dish. For example, I often ask for a chicken caesar salad, without cheese, croutons, and with olive oil rather than caesar dressing. I’d also suggest finding something on the menu that you know you will actually enjoy eating, rather than just something that will “have to do”. If you are there munching on a plain green salad which bores you to tears, and your friends are all tucking into lasagnes, it’s a recipe for disaster and giving in to temptation.
If there isn’t anything you can eat at your chosen location, why not just change restaurants! I know it can seem like you’re being extra demanding if you are meeting your friends and you ask them to change plans, but if your friends are nice, understanding people (which I should hope they are if they’re your friends…) then I am sure if you explain why you can’t eat somewhere, then they will be happy to help you accommodate.
The other option of course, if you are purely eating out for social reasons, is to eat something at home before hand, and only go along to see your friends. This however, requires quite a lot of will power.
Dealing with Cravings
So I really, really fancy a pizza. But did you know, pizza contains gluten, dairy and yeast! Who’d have guessed?! 😦
Yeah this is pretty sucky. If you’re used to having a weekly pizza and suddenly can’t ever tuck into your favourite Friday treat again, it’s going to seem like life isn’t worth living.
First off, gluten free products are becoming more and more available (credit and thanks belong to the fashionable nature of the free-from movement here, I believe). So gluten free pizza does exist! And, there are a variety of ‘fake’ cheeses out there as well to try out; ones made from nuts, or soya, or even ones from plants. You just have to search for them, and pizza might actually become an option again. Same goes for a lot of other items you might crave aside from pizza. You’ll be surprised what you can find in your local health food store.
Getting in a Food Rut
The other issue a lot of people find with cutting out food from their diets is variety. I have especially found this to be a bugbear of mine. Having the same meals over and over again, getting into a dietary comfort zone, and then feeling like you’re stuck in a rut with no new options because of your slightly less wide ingredients list.
First off, search the internet. The World Wide Web is full to the brim with food bloggers, and healthy food bloggers in particular! So give google a try, you might find some great intolerance-friendly inspiration out there. If you’re more of a paperback bunny, treat yourself to a few cookbooks.
Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with substituting some ingredients. Not all recipes are going to be completely appropriate for you, depending on your personal list of allergies, so get creative.
When I tell people I can’t eat sugar, or most sweeteners, I think a vision of a dessert-less life fills their head. Umm…I hate to tell you guys, but your pity is wasted. I eat cake. And biscuits. And pancakes and chocolate. MUAHAHA!
Okay I don’t buy shop bought treats…but luckily I love to bake, and have found intolerance-friendly recipes for all my favourite desserts through a bit of experimentation. I use stevia as a sweetener, because for me its the only sweetener that I have no reaction to, and various other substitutes for ingredients you’d use in baked goodies. And I will tell you this, my “normal” (aka. non dietary-challenged) friends have tried my creations and will happy munch their way through them with me, no complaints or cardboard comparisons in sight.
So here for you lovelies is my favourite gluten, dairy, sugar, soya – free pancake recipe. One of my many go-tos for when I fancy a sweet treat!
Ingredients: 1/2 cup gluten free oats, 1/2 cup almond milk (or any other milk alternative), 1 egg (or 1 banana for vegans), 1/4 cup almond flour (gluten free flour also works), 1/4tsp stevia (optional), 1/2tsp gluten free baking powder, 1 cup blueberries.
How to: First, put the oats, almond milk and stevia in a bowl and leave to soak (preferably overnight, but for at least 2 hours).
Once the oats have soaked, put all the ingredients except the blueberries into a blender, and blend! Then add the blueberries and mix (not blend!)
With minimal oil, fry for about 2minutes either side, until golden brown.
So those are my best tips for surviving with food intolerances. And, sneaky plug, keep tuned (maybe subscribe *cough cough*) for more of my recipes, both savoury and sweet (!!) that have been tried and tested and will make you completely forget any mention of allergies. Because you can have your cake of health and eat it too!