Last updated 12 February 2021
What it’s about
An original and witty yet practical guide to the gluten-free diet.
- Credits the reader with being intelligent.
- Covers not only avoidance of gluten but also healthy, balanced diet (the saturated fats debate and all).
- Has verve and attitude.
- Challenges conventional wisdom (where justifiable).
- Has an international outlook, especially with regard to regulations about food labels.
- Has been meticulously researched.
- Is fully indexed (paperback).
Whether you’ve been established on a gluten-free diet for a while but need a midterm refresher or you’re only now going gluten-free or you shop and cook for a gluten-free person, this is for you.
Why is white gluten-free bread healthier than brown? How can it be that lactose intolerance in celiac disease sufferers might disappear after a while on a gluten-free diet? What’s so special about selenium in the gluten-free diet? How can you order gluten-free meals in a country where you don’t speak the language? What is the difference between “may contain gluten”, “may contain traces of gluten”, and “produced in a factory that handles gluten”? Why are oats usually contaminated with gluten, even though they don’t naturally contain it? Is it safe for a person with a gluten-related disorder to use a shampoo containing wheat? All these questions and more answered in the book.
Avoiding common mistakes > White is the new brown
For bread, the “brown is healthiest” message is deeply ingrained, so to speak, in all of us. We all know that brown bread is made with flour that has been ground from the whole grain and thus contains more nutrients and fibre than white bread, which is made from refined flour. But this line of argument is irrelevant to gluten-free bread because the main ingredient is starch. If you compare the ingredients lists on the white and brown gluten-free loaves from the same manufacturer, you will find that the main ingredients are the same in both but some brown stuff has been added to the brown loaf to make it brown. And the brown stuff is usually something unhealthy, such as caramelised sugar. Therefore, the white bread is actually healthier. Manufacturers of gluten-free bread offer brown bread because they know that some people have been conditioned to demand it. Resist. White is the new brown.
What to eat > Dairy products
Eat two or three portions of dairy products every day. Include live yogurt at least three times per week.
Examples of dairy product portions are a 200 ml glass of milk, a single-portion pot of yogurt, and a matchbox-sized piece of cheese.
3-a-day dairy campaigns have been run in several countries, with the aim of reducing the incidence of calcium deficiency and other nutritional deficiencies. In some countries, including Ireland, 3-a-day dairy advice has been incorporated into official nutritional guidelines. Regrettably, the UK is an exception. In December 2015, the UK Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group wrote to the Department of Health to ask for the implementation of a 3-a-day programme, as part of an enquiry for a report. It has to be said that one aim of the APPG is to support the UK dairy industry, but the report nonetheless makes good nutritional points about the consumption of dairy products. In a single week in March 2016, the APPG published its report and a Department of Health agency, Public Health England, published revised nutritional guidance (the “Eatwell Guide”) in which it actually reduced the recommended intake of dairy products.
Anyway, having three portions a day of milk and/or yogurt and/or cheese is the best way to get the recommended intake of calcium. These foods also provide protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Live yogurt additionally provides good bacteria. Butter and cream can also be included in the diet, though they have a different nutritional profile; they contain more fat, less calcium, and less lactose than cheese and milk.
When buying milk, you must decide on the type — low fat, middling fat, whole milk, or unhomogenized (cream floats to the top) whole milk. The received wisdom in the late 20th century was that low-fat varieties are healthier. Not only is fat in general no longer considered bad but also the particular types of saturated fatty acids in milk are actually claimed to confer health benefits, particularly regarding the risk of cardiovascular disease. Also note that when fat is removed from milk, some of the vitamin A goes with it. It’s up to you. If you’re buying milk for use in a milk pudding or any recipe requiring milk, whole milk gives better results. If you’re buying it for drinking on its own or adding to hot beverages or breakfast cereals, go with your personal preference.
When buying cheese, check the salt content because some cheeses are very salty. If this applies to your preferred type of cheese, it’s usually possible to find a different brand of the same type with less salt.
When buying yogurt, choose natural yogurt with live bacteria and change brands occasionally. The ingredients list should contain only milk and live cultures (for example, bifidobacterium and lactobacillus acidophilus). If there’s anything else — sugar, glucose syrup, fructose, fruit, tapioca starch, maize starch, cream, gums, acidity regulators, stabilizers, flavourings, sweeteners — it’s not proper yogurt. It’s dessert. Try to re-educate your palate to accept the sour taste of natural yogurt. If you insist on a sweet taste, get a natural yogurt and serve it with fresh fruit. Or make a fruit lassi. Changing brands occasionally increases the chance that you will get different strains of bacteria and that a proportion of them will exit your stomach alive and set up home in your gut. Even if you doubt that yogurt improves your gut bacteria, eat it anyway because it provides calcium and protein and may serve as a comfort food.
The lists in the Resources section of the book will get out of date but will be updated here. It’s the list of restaurants that is most liable to change. Pre-publication, I had to remove some restaurants because they worsened after a change of ownership. More sadly, I had to remove some truly excellent places because they didn’t survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s hope I will discover some other truly excellent places to add here.
Chocolate from a local chocolatier. Among others, there are Kernow in Cornwall (www.kernowchocolate.co.uk), The Dorset Chocolate Co. in Dorset (www.dorsetchocolate.com), Temper Temper Chocolate in Kent (www.tempertemperchocolate.co.uk), Gnaw in Norfolk (www.gnawchocolate.co.uk) and Rye Chocolates (www.ryechocolates.co.uk) in East Sussex.
Chocolate from afar. If you don’t have a local chocolatier, it’s easier to find gluten-free chocolate in online stores than bricks and mortar ones. The Chocolate Trading Co (www.chocolatetradingco.com) has a selection of gluten-free chocolate bars and pralines, including good-quality, expensive brands suitable as gifts for the special gluten-free person in your life. It also sells non-Dutched cocoa powder.
Eat Natural snack bars. Energising and tasty bars containing various combinations of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Some added sugar but no other additives. A 35 g bar is good for a snack. A 50 g bar is filling enough to substitute for a meal, if necessary. Widely available in UK supermarkets and other shops. www.eatnatural.co.uk
Fentimans drinks. Botanically brewed lemonade, rose lemonade, dandelion & burdock, and other soft drinks containing fermented herbal extracts. Very thirst-quenching. These drinks somehow feel healthy, though they do contain quite a lot of sugar and thus should be reserved for the occasional treat or energy boost. Available in some pubs, restaurants, supermarkets, and delis in the UK and also in some parts of Europe and North America. www.fentimans.com
Nairn’s Gluten Free Oatcakes. These oatcakes can be eaten unadorned or topped with cheese, ham, nut butter, or bananas for a light meal or snack. Tastier than rice cakes and healthier than gluten-free baps. No added sugar. www.nairns-oatcakes.com
Nakd snack bars. Various energising and tasty bars, each ingredients list starting with dates and continuing with a combination of nuts and/or fruits and/or spices. No added sugar or other additives. Softer than many snack bars, making them suitable for anyone whose teeth have been weakened by celiac disease. Widely available in UK supermarkets and other shops and in some other countries. www.eatnakd.com
Orgran vegetable rice pasta. Good taste and texture. Useful for a tricolore pasta dish. Available in some branches of some supermarkets, some health food shops, and online sellers. www.orgran.co.uk and www.orgran.com
Scotti rice. Top quality risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, and vialone nano), rice pasta, and other rice products. Sold by some Italian delis and Italian cafes with a deli counter and by some online sellers. www.risoscotti.com
Wiltshire Farm Foods ready meals. Complete frozen meals, including gluten-free meals, in three different sizes delivered throughout the UK and optionally put into your freezer. Useful for anyone who is unable to shop and cook due to limited mobility or who wants to precisely control calories. Also pureed and minced meals for those who can only eat soft food. www.wiltshirefarmfoods.com
Restaurants and cafes
Eateries make it onto this list only if I have been there myself incognito on more than one occasion and experienced consistently good food and service.
Chestnuts, Alfriston. Tea rooms and bed & breakfast. Homemade cakes and scones, lunches, sandwiches, and a selection of teas and other beverages. There are always gluten-free cakes and scones (so you can have a gluten-free cream tea) and the daily “specials” menu always contains at least one gluten-free meal. Owners and staff knowledgeable about gluten-free diet and happy to cater for it. Friendly, personal service. In the lovely village of Alfriston, which is also home to my favourite bookshop, Much Ado Books. 8 High Street, Alfriston, East Sussex, BN26 5TB. Tel: 01323 870959. www.chestnutsalfriston.co.uk
River Green Cafe, Norwich. A vegetarian and vegan restaurant. The menu includes lots of gluten-free dishes, all clearly marked. Some of the dishes contain interesting combinations of foods. Also hosts a cookery school and sells “globally inspired” gluten-free ready meals. The Street, Trowse Newton, Norwich, Norfolk, NR14 8AH. Tel: 01603 622448. www.rivergreencafe.co.uk
Russell’s Fish & Chips, Broadway. Gluten-free fish and chips always available; no need to give advance notice. To eat in or take away. Amazingly good quality fish restaurant for a place so far from the sea. Their homemade tartare sauce is the best I’ve ever tasted. Friendly service too. 20a High Street, Broadway, Worcestershire, WR12 7DT. Tel: 01386 858435. www.russellsfishandchips.co.uk
Vernon Cottage, Shanklin, Isle of Wight. Lunches, afternoon teas, and dinners, all freshly prepared with good quality ingredients. The menu has gluten-free options for every type of meal. They cater for the customer with special needs; at one meal, I wanted a dish that normally contains gluten instead of one of the gluten-free dishes and they happily modified it for me. I especially recommend the seafood dishes and the salads and the gluten-free scones. In the summer, you can eat in the lovely garden. If you plan to have your evening meal there, it’s best to reserve a table because it’s popular and closes early in the evening. 1 Eastcliff Road, Shanklin, Isle of Wight, PO37 6AA. Tel: 01983 865411. www.vernoncottage.co.uk
Online food stores
Healthy Supplies. Sells a good selection of gluten-free foods (but not solely gluten-free foods). Delivers to the UK and, for a higher delivery charge, worldwide. www.healthysupplies.co.uk
Real Foods. An online emporium selling a huge selection of food cupboard items, including many gluten-free items that are difficult to obtain elsewhere, and also fresh food. All foods are clearly marked with symbols to indicate their suitability for special diets, including GF for Certified Gluten Free and NG for No Gluten. Delivers to the UK and, for a higher delivery charge, worldwide. www.realfoods.co.uk
Gluten testing kit
GlutenTox Home. Can detect gluten in food to the Codex level of 20 parts per million. I tried this kit with food known to contain gluten (tested positive), food known to be gluten-free (home grown, transported from the garden to the test with my own clean hands, tested negative), and two “may contain” foods (both tested negative). The instructions are easy to follow, though they contain traces of translation from Spanish. Find it online; not providing a link due to fluctuating availability from various places.
WolframAlpha. Answers questions about nutrition (and many other things). Start by entering “nutrition” or by going to the Food & Nutrition section and then you’ll see what kinds of questions it can answer. www.wolframalpha.com
The items in the References list in the book are all in the following PDF, in case you want to consult any of them but can’t use the hyperlinks and don’t want to type the URLs (that is, if you get a printed copy or get the eBook on a vintage device on which the links don’t work) .