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I was diagnosed with CD at age 26. It was challenging enough for me to adjust to this diet and way of life so I can only imagine what it’s like for people who are living with or cooking for a suffer of the disease but don’t have it themselves. With that in mind, I have drawn up a quick guide for people who might be newly diagnosed or not used to catering for a coeliac in their life!


1.      Find out what Coeliac Disease is

Eating a gluten free & wheat free diet is a very popular trend these days. There are people who feel wheat doesn’t agree with them so they avoid it, they might self diagnose or receive a diagnosis of an intolerance to it. There are also people who believe eating gluten free foods will help with weight loss or assist in a healthier lifestyle. These are valid reasons to avoid gluten but cooking for these dietary requirements doesn’t require the same care it would for coeliacs.

For people with CD, gluten attacks their bodies and causes numerous side effects. If someone you know is diagnosed, read up a little on the disease so you understand the difference between someone who avoids gluten and someone who can’t be exposed to it. Knowledge is power!

A good resource is the Irish Coeliac Society.


2.      Gluten – where does it come from? Know the culprits.

Wheat, Barley and Rye. The most obvious and common foods which contain these are: flour, breads, cakes, biscuits, pasta, some sauces (like soy), some seasonings, most processed foods and beer. Some of the less obvious foods are: sausages, some ice-creams, some types or brands of chocolate, breakfast cereal.

In many cases, foods are technically gluten free but may contain gluten due to cross contamination.


3.      Naturally gluten free foods – cooking with them makes everyone’s life easier

If you focus on the amount of foods that are all naturally gluten free, you will start to see that there far less limitations for cooking gluten free than you might originally think.

For example, all unprocessed vegetables, meat, fish and rice are gluten free. Once any of these items become processed eg. breaded chicken or vegetables in a sauce, there will be a risk that they are contaminated with gluten. You can easily find basic information at coeliac society’s website or you can use everyone’s best friend, google.


4.      Cross contamination – gluten spreads!

Cross contamination is a fancy way of saying ‘getting gluten on gluten free food’. If food is cross contaminated, there is a risk of ingesting gluten particles. Some examples of cross contamination would be:

  • Using the same toaster for normal bread and gluten free bread  (the crumbs from the normal bread might end up on your GF bread).
  • Stiring a sauce made with flour and then using the same spoon to handle vegetables or meat.

It sounds complicated but you just need to get into the mindset of keeping all your gluten free food separate from any gluten. So as well as not using the same utensils, chopping boards or toaster – you should make sure that you don’t put a breaded chicken fillet in the same baking tray as your potatoes for example. If the foods could possibly touch, the gluten could ‘cross’.


5.      Explore Gluten free alternatives

Over the past few years, the amount of gluten free alternatives on our shelves has risen rapidly. We’re lucky here in Ireland to have such fantastic options available to us. If you’re cooking for a coeliac, there are some great alternatives you can buy, should you need them.  However, as GF foods are a niche market, they are usually a little bit more expensive. GF foods will be in their own section in the shop

 Bread: There are two types of gluten free bread available, fresh bread and vaccum packed ‘long life’ bread. Personally, I find the fresh bread is nicer in most cases. You can buy gluten free bread in Dunnes, Supervalu, Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and most small supermarkets. All with varying degrees of selection available.

 Pasta: Gluten free pasta is probably the alternative that tastes the most like it’s normal wheat based counterpart. Again, it is available in most supermarkets.

Flour: There are different types of gluten free flour such as gram flour, buckwheat flour, corn flour and rice flour. There are also flour blends available from brands like Odlums and Dove’s Farm. If you are cooking with flour I would advise doing some research online as to which flour would be the best to use. GF flour is a bit of a trial and error situation and you can’t directly substitute it for normal flour in all recipes.

All of these flours are naturally gluten free but may be contaminated, you can find out if the brand is gluten free by researching online or asking the coeliac in your life who should have access to the food list from the Coeliac Society.


 6. Don’t ban booze

Coeliacs can’t drink normal beer but they can drink cider*, wine and spirits. Cocktail mixes and the like are probably a no as they may contain ingredients like malt but you can check up on it. You can also buy gluten free beer in most supermarkets and specialist off licences. In Ireland, Estrella Daura (now known as Daura) and Green’s Belgian Beer are the most common.

*Not all Ciders are gluten free although the most popular ones in Ireland certainly are, check with the manufacturer or the Coeliac Society.


7. Let them know you know they know… know?

I have great friends, family…okay, and a great husband who listen to me jabber on about my eating habits and cook for me with great care. They also randomly buy me gluten free tidbits from around the globe,send me photos of GF news and offers in the media and recipes too.

I don’t have any worries eating with them because they are so aware of the disease but coeliacs in general will automatically have a niggling in the back of their mind when they are out of their comfort zone. So if you want to put their mind at ease, here are some helpful reassuring phrases.

  • Don’t worry, I’m using a separate spoon for the gluten free sauce
  • Yes, this is gluten free bread
  • There is NO soy in this curry
  • This dessert is completely free of flour/I used GF flour
  • The nuts are XXX brand, I checked and they are GF
  • The crisps are XXX brand, I checked and they are GF

And so on…basically, sometimes we just need the obvious stated to us so we can eat without worry!

Finally, I wanted to give a few quick ideas, to help anyone racking their brains on what to cook for a coeliac

  • A yummy and satisfying meet and two veg dinner – remember, many gravies are not gluten free, but many are. Same with Stock
  • Salad with meat or fish
  • Pies – Shepard’s Pie or fish pie for example. Again, just check your stock.
  • Mexican food…homemade salsa, guacamole, meat, beans, all gluten free. Check you spices though. GF wraps are available for fajitas
  • Italian – Using GF pasta you can make many dishes. A lot of premade sauces are fine if you check but a homemade sauce can be too.
  • Omelettes
  • Thai – curries or stir frys are easy and there are plenty of GF pastes and sauces available. The brand Thai Gold is really great for coeliacs.