I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease in my early-20s and have a lived a gluten free life ever since. My childhood was riddled with intolerance symptoms, such as eczema, stomach aches, headaches, black circles under my eyes, extreme fatigue, brain fog and weight gain. My diagnosis came before ‘coeliac’ was very well known and before “gluten free” became a catch phrase. As such, the options of what to eat felt fairly limited. When you live a ‘convenience’ lifestyle, gluten free options are pretty few and far between. But over time, I realised that gluten free opened up a whole new fresh food world to me. My symptoms gradually began to heal, my energy increased, my weight normalised and my skin cleared.
I often hear my clients or my friends comment that being gluten free is “hard” or “frustrating” and very often that it’s “not fair”. To me, this is craziness talking! If I can avoid a migraine that lasts for 3 days, a stomach ache that can have me in tears or dark black circles under my eyes, I’m going to do it! Everyone seems to have different symptoms – maybe their hair falls, others get muscle aches, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, awful gas (blame it on the kids), reflux, burping, itchy skin... the list is endless and you might even get all of these! How much better is life without all of these awful symptoms?
Yes, a gluten free life can be limiting for me and it means I need to be a little more prepared. I often look ahead to restaurant or café menus to make sure there will be an option I can have, or I keep snacks in my bag – I am an awful crazy-lady hungry!! I am always tearing out recipes from magazines and subscribe to lots of healthy eating blogs that send out a range of recipes to keep my meals varied and interesting. Just remember that just because something says ‘gluten-free’ doesn’t mean it is healthy! As with any packaged foods, they can often be filled with sugars, fillers and other nasties that you don’t want in your body.
So far my kids aren’t showing signs of coeliac disease, but with both my sisters being coeliac and a family history of gluten sensitivity, I remain on the lookout! Due to my own lifestyle, my kids often eat gluten free meals anyway, though I do not restrict gluten from their diets. To keep meals consistent (and not having to prepare a bunch of different meals at once!) this means serving rice instead of pasta, quinoa instead of oats and making gluten-free pancakes on the weekends. Being a coeliac can also be great in avoiding extra sweets when I make them a cake or some cookies – those glutenous grains make it easier to resist!
If you are only recently diagnosed as a Coeliac and finding it tough to adjust, do some experimenting. Research some recipes and purchase plenty of gluten-free products such as almond meal, coconut flour, gluten free muesli, fruits and veggies so you are sure you have plenty of alternatives available to you for all meals and snacks. One you find your favourites, you will find you can pretty much eat the same thing as before, just without the gluten.
Gluten free bread has improved greatly over the past 10 years and you can enjoy your gluten-free pizza, pasta, yoghurt, snack food, dips, sauces and marinades easily with an amazing range of products available. Being gluten-free is also a great opportunity to shift your diet back to fresh produce – fruits, veggies, herbs, spices, lean protein and grains such as quinoa, buckwheat and rice.
Don’t be scared – being gluten free does involve some extra preparation, just as it does for any busy mum – we all needs plenty of options on hand for these endless appetites.
Recipe – Mediterranean Beef & Vegetable Bake
I often bake a big batch of this as well as a batch of rice and stir it all through together with a couple of extra eggs for a delicious baked rice. The whole family love it and it’s so awesome to have dinner pre-cooked and ready to go in the fridge.
1 spray Canola Oil spray
2 medium tomato, thinly sliced
2 whole zucchini, thinly sliced
400g lean beef mince
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup canned tomato puree
400g low fat ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Fresh rosemary, chopped
Recipe – Muesli
A great alternative to expensive store-bought varieties which are often packed with sugar.
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup raw walnuts
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup raw sliced almonds
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup chopped medjool dates
1 cup raisins
Lucinda Zammit – Brief Bio
Lucinda has been involved in the health and wellness arena for over 10 years. With a background in fitness and now as an accredited Nutritionist, she works with Nutrition clients from all backgrounds, is involved in course content writing, menu design, training and assessing and is also a regular contributor to women’s magazines.