Starting your gluten free or dairy free adventure
If you’re deciding to follow a dairy and gluten free diet (either by choice or necessity) it can be a bit overwhelming to begin with. As you pore over the labels in the supermarket you quickly realise that a lot of products have hidden ingredients (Salt and Vinegar crisps contain dairy! Why would they do that?!).
As I embarked on my intolerance journey I found that the dairy- and gluten-free world can seem limited and confusing – and definitely expensive! Fancy a loaf of bread with 6 slices for £3? Sure!
But in the interest of sharing everything I’ve learned along the way, this post talks about a few of the quick ‘cheats’ I’ve found. I make no claims for them to be the healthiest options, although to be honest, a side effect of being gluten- and dairy-free was that I lost lots of weight. Having to turn down all the cakes and biscuits in the office soon makes the weight drop off!
How do you know you’re intolerant?
I found after having the little one that I couldn’t eat the same foods as I used to. I seemed to be bloated all the time and sometimes had stomach cramps after eating. After lots of tests I found I was intolerant to dairy, and also that I felt a lot better when I excluded gluten from my diet (I had tests for Coeliac but they all came back negative). I had tests through my GP and also through a private doctor. Either way, it can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle as there aren’t any simple ways to find answers or solutions, and it’s usually by a process of elimination that you find the answers.
Where to start?
Not everyone is gluten AND dairy intolerant, and just because something is classed as ‘free from’ in a supermarket doesn’t mean that it will be free from both, so I’ve split this post into 5 sections:
- Everyday food you can buy from supermarkets that’s Dairy or Gluten-Free (or both)
- My favourite Dairy-free options
- My favourite Gluten-Free options
- Where to buy Dairy- and Gluten-free in Maidenhead.
- Eating Out
1. Everyday food you can buy from supermarkets that’s Dairy- and Gluten-Free.
The following are foods that are naturally gluten- and dairy-free and can be found in most supermarkets, without having to go to a specialist food shop or without having to venture into the ‘free-from’ aisle at your local store. They’re meant to give you some ideas as to how you can recreate the meals you’re used to without having to buy specific dairy- or gluten-free foods from the specialist aisles in the supermarket.
Plain Tortilla Chips
The Tesco Everyday Value ones are gluten-free. When I stopped eating bread I really missed the crunch so this was a good treat. I have these along with some chilli and rice.
Mrs Crimble Macaroons.
2. My favourite Dairy-free options.
3. My preferred Gluten-Free options:
The winner for most people seems to be Genius bread. Although everyone has different tastes and I just couldn’t get used to Gluten Free bread. I’ve preferred to just go without. Another tip: if you do buy a loaf and don’t like it you can always turn it into breadcrumbs and freeze it for your own gluten free fish fingers.
You can also buy lots of gluten-free flours and start experimenting. I found that it was often easier to try and make my own, either by following a gluten- and dairy-free recipe, or swapping ingredients from standard recipes. It can be a bit trial & error though as different flours behave in different ways!
4. Where to buy Dairy-free and Gluten Free food in Maidenhead
Most supermarkets have a ‘free from’ section, and if you’re just going gluten-free you’ll be in luck because there is an ever increasing range of gluten-free products on the market, (although less so for the dairy-free peeps amongst us).
Tesco in the Nicholson centre has a very limited range (mostly pasta and gluten free bsicuits) and the Tesco on the Bath Road also has a small end of aisle ‘free from’ section. They also stock almond milk in the chiller cabinet.
Waitrose has a much bigger range and is great for some research and a mooch. You’ll be most likely to find tasty gluten free sausages and dairy free chorizo here!
Holland & Barrett have a mix of products including flours and bread and have a range of dairy-free cheeses in the chiller cabinet, although I didn’t really get on with many of these.
Harehatch Sheeplands Farm Shop has a brilliant range, including two freezer cabinets full with everything from gluten-free yorkshire puddings to dairy-free ice cream.
Being honest though, the simplest way to shop for dairy- and gluten-free stuff is online. Otherwise I found myself going to Sainsburys for one thing, Tesco for something else. I’ve shopped around and have ordered items from Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda, but beyond a shadow of a doubt, Ocado have the best range, and it’s easy to find on their website. I’ve searched on Tesco Groceries for gluten-free sausages and been presented with a list of Dog Food. True story!
5. Eating Out for gluten free food in Maidenhead and beyond
You’ll find quite a few of the big chains and restaurants offer gluten-free items on the menu now. In Maidenhead both Prezzo and Pizza Express do gluten-free pizzas, and for me, if I take the lactase tablets with me this means I can have a ‘normal’ meal out. Here’s the Pizza Express Gluten Free menu.
I’ve found Mexican food is often gluten- and dairy-free; Tacos, Tortillas and Tacquitas are often naturally gluten-free. My favourite is Wahaca in London, but we also have Poco Loco in Maidenhead too.
Fruit is not a desert
Quite often though, restaurants can be a bit baffled by the request so it pays to talk to them before you get there. Otherwise, you may find that your Christmas dinner, which is mostly gluten- and dairy-free could be a little like this:
Oh, and you’ll need to get used to the ‘fruit’ thing. Even though really, fruit is not a dessert, it’s about the only thing you’ll find on most dairy- and gluten-free menus.
Hopefully some of this information helps if you’re just starting out on an intolerance ‘adventure’. With a little bit of knowledge it’s not as daunting as it first seems, and after a while you get used to not eating chocolate, biscuits, cake… I promise!
If you think you might have food intolerances it’s best to get checked out by your GP. A lot of people have Coeliac disease without knowing it and it can have really serious consequences if left undiagnosed. Plus, if your doctor confirms you are Coeliac and gluten intolerant then you might be able to get help on the NHS for gluten-free items.
I’d love to hear if you have any tips to include here, or any experiences at local restaurants or shops – just drop me a note in the comments.
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