How to eat a healthy gluten-free diet during lockdown
If you live in the UK (or anywhere that's got new covid restrictions) I'm sure you've been turning over what happened during lockdown the first time round. And if you piled on a few pounds, you may be worried about it happening again.
But don't fret - I've got plenty of tips on how to find nutritious gluten-free food that has a good shelf life.
Another thing that impacted many coeliacs was the lack of availability of gluten-free food.
Nigella Lawson recommended people should search out alternative flours if they couldn't find normal ones. (She was kind enough to tweet me back when I pointed out the problems that might cause.)
The usual gluten-free staples seemed to disappear, just like muggle food. But the problem for coeliacs was made worse by an even more limited range. And it's not like we can just pop down to a local takeaway and order whatever we want. The whole thing became so tiring, especially for those who were shielding and had to order via a neighbour because they couldn't get an internet delivery.
So this time it'll be helpful to have some secret tips on how to have absolutely, definitely gluten-free food from the supermarket that won't have flown off the shelves. (And yes, it's edible!)
Everything I've listed below has a good shelf life (even the yogurts have at least 3 weeks) so you can do a big shop for the week and not have to nip back. A lot of products are also vegan, which is also handy if you have multiple allergens.
(N.B. I've mentioned a limited amount of fresh fruit and veg simply because much of it doesn't last. That said, it's obviously important to get it if you can and if you're lucky enough to have a local greengrocer who's open, that's probably the best place to go, especially if it's on your regular walking route.)
Tinned food: chickpeas, lentils (tinned ones tend not to have a 'may contain' warning, tomatoes, sweetcorn, beans (without sauce), mustard, chili sauce, tamari sauce, tuna (in springwater, not oil), Heinz baked beans (other brands may also be gluten-free but you'll need to check) and tomato paste (squeezy is also good).
Frozen food: fish fillets (naked, not coated), peas, sweetcorn, Wall's soft scoop vanilla icecream (a 35g scoop has fewer calories than you might think).
Cupboard love: butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes (they seem to last longer than white ones), olive oil, chia seeds, curry paste, tahini, cacao powder, cacao nibs, brown rice, quinoa (Lidl and Holland & Barrett do packets that aren't cross-contaminated) and dark chocolate (e.g. Booja Booja, Bendicks or Green & Black's).
Snacks: Alesto protein balls (available in Lidl), dried fruit & nuts (plain & in small amounts), nut butter on rice cakes, smoothies made with frozen fruit, milk & nut butter.
Spice jars: turmeric, cumin, sesame seeds, cinnamon, jerk spice mix etc...
Meals to make from the above:
It's amazing how a drizzle of olive oil with some fish, beans, tinned tomatoes, lentils, curry paste and chickpeas can transform into a feast, beautifully accompanied by a glass of wine. Take inspiration from Deliciously Ella recipes, especially if you're also vegan.
If you've not got most of the above and nearly faint when you shop because it comes to triple figures at the till, rest-assured a lot of my recommendations will last AGES, especially the spices. If possible don't skimp on buying them: just a pinch of cinnamon or dash of tamari can lift a plain meal into a new realm.
Lidl and Aldi are great if you're on a budget and you aren't fussed about eating gluten-free bread (because they don't sell any, although during lockdown this might happen to other supermarkets, too).
Things to avoid/check:
Unnecessary added sugar in products (like rice/corn cereals and pasta sauce).
The same carbs - if you're just eating potatoes and white rice, it's time to up your fibre intake and explore other options such as chickpeas, butternut squash and lentils.
The use by date, especially if you're lured into a 'buy 2 get one free' (unless freezable).
Protein - make sure you're getting enough - frozen or tinned fish, liquid egg whites (which last ages) and protein yogurts are excellent sources.
Things to remember:
Coeliacs need more calcium than many people so products like sesame seeds and tinned tuna are important.
If you have problems with digestive transit (the kindest phrase I can think of!) then make sure you stock up on fibrous food like lentils, brown rice, quinoa and chia seeds. The latter are particularly good in small quantities for easing constipation. (Note: small quantities! You really don't need much.)
Cross-contamination is a no-no for coeliacs and can be found in the oddest places (like pudding rice or a bag of lentils) so make sure you read the label carefully.
Refined sugar alternatives like agave syrup, dates or honey are still a form of sugar - they aren't magically calorie-free diet food!
If you can't get an online shop and are relying on someone else to shop for you, see if you can get a 'click and collect' slot for them so you don't have to worry about gluten accidentally being bought for you. Failing that, enter the foods you want into a supermarket online shop but don't book a delivery slot. Instead, give the list to the person who's shopping (either by taking a screen grab or printing it out for them).
Portion control is so important! Don't guess how much you're eating. Use an app (like MyFitnessPal) and monitor what you're consuming so you don't swallow a large handful of nuts before realising you just ate 500 calories in 6 seconds.