There’s nothing easy about having a family member diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. Once the initial healing process begins, and the ‘newness’ of the diet starts to fade, families are often left struggling to work out how they’re meant to adapt to catering for the gluten-free diet. Cooking for the family can be tricky at the best of times, without having to potentially prepare a whole separate meal for just one person.
It becomes really difficult to know where gluten-free should start and end within family meals, whether it’s easier for everyone to try and go on the diet with them, and whether it’s fair to make them do so. My name is Tom, I am working in the marketing team at Mr Lee’s and I am Coeliac. As someone who’s been through it all before, below are a handful of tips and pieces of advice I wish my family had been given when I was diagnosed. There is no easy one-step solution, but there’s plenty of ways to ease what is otherwise a hard situation.
Ignore the free-from isle
Don’t take the title of this tip seriously, the free-from isle really is a gift and watching just how much it’s come on over the past 5 years really has been incredible. That said, one of the best pieces of advice I can give to any family beginning their gluten-free journey is to find the meals you already eat that just so happen to be gluten-free. You’d be surprised just how many there are in number that you already eat on a weekly basis, and just how many meals can have slight tweaks to become perfectly safe for the entirety of your family to consume.
Take the typical roast dinner, for example. Yes, possibly more of an occasional meal, but perfectly gluten-free when cooked right, without any detriment to taste. Turkey, beef, pork, any meat you’d place at the heart of a roast dinner, all of which safe for Coeliacs when selected correctly. Speak to any butcher, or check the label of most supermarket meats, and you’ll find plenty of gluten-free meats. The classic, roast potatoes, are also normally gluten-free, you just have to watch out for what they may have been coated in if you buy pre-roasted, though safe options are readily available. Vegetables should all be fine, however, the only item in the dish you do need to be wary of is gravy. Most brands use wheat as a thickening agent, and so substitutes may be needed if already-gluten-free options are hard to find.
There’s plenty of other, more simple meals that are either already safe or can be changed to be so. Pair any meat with a potato or rice based serving, add vegetables, and you’re away. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, though perhaps a narrower choice, it becomes even easier to become gluten-free without having to check the labels of meat.
Gluten-free pasta is actually pretty great
One substitute I doubt the rest of the family will mind is making the change to free-from pasta. If you’re used to bulking out meals with big bags of dried pasta, you really don’t need to do much different than buying the gluten-free substitute. If carefully selected, most own-brand pasta sauces are fine for those with Coeliac Disease and can be easily enhanced with chopped tomato or onion. The only difference in preparation is to cook the pasta for slightly longer than normal, and to make sure to add a small amount of salt to the water to enhance the taste.
Both in taste and texture, you’d have to be a master of cuisine to tell the difference, especially when paired with a tasty sauce. It’s also a good cost-effective meal, with one bag of pasta being plenty to feed a whole family for multiple meals.
Make your own bread, or don’t
Nobody’s thought to tell you this, but the world’s very best gluten-free bread is made right in your very own kitchen. By either using a bread making machine, or by doing it all by hand and sticking it in the oven, there are plenty of great bread mixes out there that are suitable for the diet. Of course, there are plenty of pre-made gluten-free breads out there, all of which have improved tremendously over the past few years with Genius and Schar being two of my favourites, but nothing beats the taste and texture, two things that are often lacking in gluten-free bread, of it being freshly made.
Gluten being a protein, is what often gives ‘normal’ bread it’s texture, it’s sponginess, and on a scientific level is what holds a loaf together. This is why most gluten-free bread products are often coarse in texture, and very easily fall apart. They’re more than fine for when making a quick sandwich, and can be exponentially improved when toasted, but rely heavily on the filling to taste any good at all. Freshly baked bread, however, seems to transcend the usual issues of shop-bought bread, and in my opinion can be eaten and enjoyed alone, without filling, especially whilst warm.
It has a certain depth to it that branded bread seems to lack, and over time can be tweaked to your very own tastes and to what you may want to use it for. I would highly suggest investing in a good bread making machine that both mixes and cooks the dough for you, as it really will transform the life of your gluten-free family member, and whereas I wouldn’t wish the wrath of gluten-free bread on anyone who doesn’t have to, the smell of it being freshly baked is enough to get anyone wanting to tuck in.
Convenience doesn’t have to mean bad snacks
For as long as I can remember, the easiest gluten-free foods to buy have always been snacks. They practically line the entirety of the free-from shelves with all things cake, all things biscuits and all things crisps, none of which are very healthy and don’t make for nutritious, easy meals whatsoever. ‘Ready-meals’ hardly exist, with only a handful of options on the market. Preparation has always been key to healthier meals when including a gluten-free member of the family, but for those days where time seems non-existent, it can be really difficult to pull off a meal that doesn’t consist of four gluten-free Bakewell tarts and an apple.
That’s where Mr Lee’s completely changed my life for the better and opened my eyes to tasty, gourmet goodness. …Too much? Maybe, but they have since become somewhat of a godsend for meals on the go, or when motivation to cook is at an all-time low, be it lunch or dinner. Our range of six cups are all gluten-free, with a wide variety of flavour and are ready to eat within three minutes of adding hot water. They’re an extremely simple item to have in the cupboard, ready to help when a quick, healthful meal is needed and you’re struggling to include your gluten-free family member. Not only that, but you’ll no doubt find the rest of the family picking them up and stealing them for their very own, as they’re just that good.
It doesn’t have to be, but the gluten-free diet can be a tricky one to muddle into the family routine. Knowing how to make sure they don’t feel left out, whilst being fair to the rest of the family is a hard task, but it can be achieved with even the smallest amount of forethought. Mr Lee’s Noodles are more than just a trick to have up your sleeve for when you’re caught out, but it is important to have such things. It’s the days where you forget that can ultimately be the hardest for your gluten-free family, but there’s no reason anymore why those days have to exist at all.
The entirety of our range can be bought right here on our web-shop, and can be found across the South Western & East Midlands train lines, train platforms across the Midlands, and down under on Australia’s Jetstar airlines.