Getting started on a gluten free diet
Has your child recently been diagnosed with Coeliac disease? Not only is it a very emotional time for both you and your child as you come to terms with the diagnosis, it can be extremely overwhelming knowing where to begin. To help you feel more confident managing your child’s new diagnosis of coeliac disease I have put together some tips on getting started on a gluten free diet.
Focus on naturally gluten free foods
The first step is knowing what foods are naturally gluten free. Focus on planning your child’s meals and snacks around naturally gluten free foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein (e.g. plain meat/chicken/fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds), grains (e.g. rice, quinoa, corn, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, sorghum and teff) and plain dairy products. It is also helpful to focus on easy swaps rather than complete new meals e.g. swapping regular pasta for gluten free pasta.
Know what to look for when reading for labels
It can be quite overwhelming when faced with all the different products in the supermarket trying to find options which are suitable. Below are some questions to ask yourself when determining if a product is suitable on a strict gluten free diet
1. Is the product labelling gluten free?
If yes, you can be confident that the product is gluten free. The gluten free label overrides the ingredient list.
2. Does the product have the Coeliac Australia Endorsement Logo?
If the product has the endorsement logo it has undergone testing and is gluten free.
3. Is the product gluten free by the ingredient list?
If an ingredient is derived from wheat, rye, oats or barley this MUST be declared on the label. If you do not see wheat, rye, oats or barley on the label then there is no gluten containing ingredients and the product is gluten free.
There are however exceptions to this rule where a product may be gluten free despite containing an ingredient derived from a gluten. This is due to the ingredient being so highly processed that there is no actual gluten left. The three most common ingredients are glucose syrup (wheat), caramel colour 150 (wheat) and dextrose (wheat). Some others include fructose (wheat), maltose (wheat), sorbitol (wheat), malitol 965 (wheat), gluconodelta-lactone 575 (wheat), glutamate based flavours 620-625 (wheat). These ingredients are suitable on a gluten free diet.
I would recommend downloading the Coeliac Australia Ingredient list app as it is perfect for checking ingredients if in doubt when shopping. A booklet version is also available for Coeliac Australia members.
4. Does the product contain advisory statements?
Summary advisory statements will sometimes appear below the ingredient list, for example ‘contains gluten’ or ‘contains wheat’. These are used to summarise the presence of allergens in the product. Products with these statements should be avoided. The only exception would be if you can determine that the ‘contains gluten’ or ‘contains wheat’ statement is due to a highly processed gluten derived ingredient which is actually gluten free e.g. glucose syrup (wheat). If you are unsure if a product is suitable please avoid and check with your dietitian.
Some products will also use cross contact advisory statements such as ‘may contain gluten’ or ‘manufactured on the same line as gluten containing products. These products indicate a risk of potential cross contamination and are not suitable on a gluten free diet.
Be Aware of Cross Contamination Risk
It is so important to be aware of cross contamination risk as even as little as 50mg gluten, which is the equivalent to one hundredth of a slice of bread can cause damage to the small intestine. Some simple strategies to reduce risk of cross contamination include:
- Wiping chopping boards thoroughly with a clean cloth to remove any crumbs and ensure utensils such as tongs, spoons, knives, saucepans are cleaned before preparing gluten free food
- Have separate toasters or use toaster bags (available from Coeliac Australia)
- Ensure BBQ grills and sandwich makers are clean before using
- Use separate butter and spread containers and label them as gluten free
- Store gluten free products and ingredients in separate sealed containers and clearly label all foods if they have been removed from original packaging
- Always use separate water in a clean pot for cooking gluten free pasta. When straining use a separate strainer for gluten free pasta or strain it first.
- Watch out for chocolate sprinkles used on hot drinks as they often contain gluten
- Ensure clean oil when frying foods. If eating out always ask if a separate fryer is used for gluten free products or if gluten containing products are used in the fryer.
- If eating out always speak to the restaurant or host in advance to discuss dietary requirements. If your child is attending a party or social event at a family or friend’s home it can also be handy to offer to bring foods that your child can safely eat.
If you would like more personalised support managing your child’s coeliac disease please book in a time to chat HERE.