How can you thrive and eat foods when you’re not only vegan but gluten intolerant/ celiac?
A couple of years ago, before choosing veganism, I discovered that I’m gluten intolerant. Going gluten-free made a fantastic difference to my health, and let’s face it, it’s not hard to find the free-from section in any supermarket these days.
Upon deciding to fully commit to the vegan lifestyle, the doubts about how difficult it would be to eat out, find my favourite foods and manage the sheer palava of this change crept in.
I’m not going to lie and say it’s a breeze, easy peasy, but it’s much easier than you would think. With some planning, you can totally do it!
So, if you’re a vegan having to go gluten-free, or gluten-free looking to go vegan, I hope these tips can help!
*Disclaimer- This is all only my experience, if you have severe allergies/ intolerance to gluten please consult with your doctor and be extra careful to check ingredients etc.*
Figure Out What You Can Eat
Rather than see this as a restriction, focus on what you can eat. There are loads of suitable ingredients and ready-made foods out there to swap to.
Choose Quinoa instead of Couscous
Switch from wheat to brown rice/ corn/ or any other GF pasta
Oats themselves are gluten-free. However, be careful if you’re highly sensitive to gluten as they are often contaminated due to farming practices.
In the UK, some of my favourite GF ‘meat’ options are:
- Linda McCartney Red Onion & Rosemary Sausages
- Tesco Peanut & Avocado Burgers (sounds weird but honestly so yummy!)
- Good old tofu (especially Cauldron)
There is also a whole fresh produce section available to you still. I hope you like fruit & veggies!
(Ok a bit dramatic) but often gluten-free foods have egg and/ or milk in them!
For example, whilst you wouldn’t normally find dried egg in a loaf of vegan-friendly bread, most gluten-free bread products have egg in them! It’s worthwhile always scanning the ingredients of any products you buy. Whilst many will say ‘gluten-free’, ‘vegan’, and have dairy and egg products in bold, honey is often hiding where you least expect it.
Help Others Understand Too
It’s important to do your own research into what you can and can’t eat. It may also be a good idea to speak with your family and friends about your new diet.
Many people are still unclear about what is ok on a vegan diet, and I’ve been before asked if potatoes have gluten in them!
We can’t expect others to have the same knowledge and understanding that we do. If you live at home with parents, maybe write down some meal ideas that will be suitable. Or you could even offer to do the shopping and cooking. If you’re visiting friends or relatives, call them before beforehand so they are aware, and maybe bring some goodies with you. It’s much easier to be proactive than to face the awkwardness of ‘I’m so sorry but I can’t eat that’.
Following on from the last point, planning ahead can make your life so so so much easier.
If you’re going on a trip, research some potential eateries before you go. You don’t have to stick to this list, but you don’t want to be wandering the streets hangry. I recommend Happy Cow as a go-to source.
Being prepared can also look like keeping healthy bars in your bag, or taking a packed lunch to work/school if you’re unsure what options you’ll have.
I always like to check the menu online if, say, I’m meeting a friend for dinner. If there isn’t anything likely to be suitable, you can call the restaurant, or suggest eating somewhere else. Being prepared can make you feel much more relaxed about food and you can just enjoy the experience.
Relating to travel, many airlines offer a vegan option and a gluten-free option. So far I have not had any luck being on an airline that offers both together. The best option is your only gluten-sensitive is to go vegan and eat around the pasta or salad croutons. If it’s a more serious allergy, or the airline can’t offer you something suitable, come prepared with a goodie bag of your own snacks. The gluten-free option usually has cheese and meat and you can’t eat around that!
Let’s face it. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll only ever go to restaurants that solely serve vegan and gluten-free food.
At ‘normal’ restaurants and cafes, often it’s easier to start by looking at the vegan options (I don’t know why but this always seems easier than looking at the GF menu first). Can these be made gluten-free? Can something be swapped out to remove the gluten? Is it just a small trace of gluten that you may be ok with?
There may be no Ve or GF indicators on the menu, especially if it’s a smaller eatery. Just be open, friendly and clear with your server about your dietary requirements. Most places are respectful of your restrictions and willing to help. You may end up with a salad or various sides, but hey, it’s not the worst outcome.
Sometimes servers are not completely sure if a menu item is Ve GF. Don’t be afraid to ask them to go and check with the chef for you, you don’t want to be ill or eat animal products. In addition, unless when bringing out the food they emphasise ‘the gluten-free, vegan…..(enter food here)’ then it may be worth double-checking with them. Many a time has the wrong order been brought over.
Look On The Bright Side!
Think about how many zillions of processed foods you can no longer have! Sure, I think Oreos are the most delicious cookie on earth but knowing they make me ill means I can’t sit and eat a whole packet. My waistline is happy about that!
Free-from alternatives to regular foods are often unhealthy and while I admit to enjoying these treats on occasion, being gluten-free has seriously cut down this intake.
But, when you do find something you can eat, you just wanna dance and shout about it!
Also, you become more adventurous and creative with food. So you can’t use the store-bought veggie burgers, why not make my own? Why not bake your favourite treats and find a recipe online? Could I make an almond and quinoa crust instead of using breadcrumbs?
Overall, being both a vegan and gluten-intolerant is by no means the end of the world. You can still enjoy delicious food and eat out with friends and family. I hope these tips have provided some comfort to some of you out there 🙂