Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gluten Free Expo 2009

Wow, this was such an awesome event! I'm so glad my hubby and I got there early, as by the time we ran out of money and wanted to pop out and back in again to the ATM, there was at least an hour long queue to get in.

I left feeling stuffed full of yummy food - lots I'd seen before, much I hadn't. Pies, cakes, breads, cereals, sauces - all the things we have to look carefully for were there.

My product picks of the day were from healthy feast ( Check out their range of products - the pies are seriously yummy, I cannot recommend them enough. But they also had some yummy white rolls, quiches, the most amazing array of cakes, tarts etc I'd ever seen. To my absolute delight, I found out they are at our local farmers market (Frenchs Forest) every Sunday so I'll be up there tomorrow clearing them out of awesome products!

I found a bread company I hadn't come accross before ( I tried their mixed grain and turkish bread and both seemed really lovely, so I'll definitely be ordering stuff from them.

The biggest message I got from the day was that if you cannot find some of these amazing products in your nearby supermarkets or delis or cafes, as the cafe owners. Everyone I asked said they could get products to me, but also could I recommend anyone they could approach. It's worth remembering, the power is with us to try to help these amazing providers get us there beautiful products.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Top ten tips for being gluten free

Check this out! My husband wrote this last night and posted it on which by the way, is an excellent website.

It's an awesome post that I wanted to share with you all, from the husband of a Coeliac, not an actual Coeliac. He talks a lot of sense, and has some great tips:

Great to see some solid advice for those who are new to the world of Gluten Free or have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. My wife is Coeliac and we both like to cook. It didnt take long to realise how little this needs to restrict you and in fact has helped us become more creative in the kitchen. Here are the top tips we have found

1. Join the Coeliac Society they can give you all the facts and assistance you need to get started. They also supply a great ingredient reference book.

2. Read up on what Gluten Free actually means and get smart on what ingredients and products need to be avoided. You dont need to hang around health food stores or the health food section of the supermarket. You can find gluten free products in the normal aisles if you take a look at the label and they are usually cheaper and better tasting.

3. Feel lucky you are in Australia - it has the best labeling policy in the world. If a product contains gluten it has to state that it contains it. So if it is an Australian labelled product and it doesnt mention gluten/wheat/barley/oats/grains etc then its gluten free! It doesnt have to say gluten free. Again the more reading up you do then you will understand this.

4. Gluten Free is a rapidly changing and improving market. Keep checking all types of stores for new products and try everything. We recently found some amazing GF products in a local IGA which was surprising.

5. Pasta - this can be a tricky one to replace but new brands are coming out all the time. One of the best is the cheapest - San Remo. Again just keep trying the different brands and eventually you will find something close to the real thing.

6. Bread - this is the tough one. There are many types of so called "Gluten Free Bread" which are barely edible and look more like cake with a funny chemical smell. Pick up a loaf and smell it. If it smells bad then you can guarantee it tastes similar. Dont give up hope there are some good brands out there and new ones are arriving all the time. Try Naturally Gluten Free and Choices Gluten Free

7. Someone has already made this point but it's a good one - just make naturally GF food then you are not substituting anything

8. Flour/baking - yes you can mix different flours but for me White Wings GF plain and self raising flour is fantastic so we just bake and add it to recipes as normal.

9. Keep looking online there are plenty of great websites and blogs around.

10. Enjoy it - GF cooking means using fresh quality ingredients which tastes so much better than the processed packged or take away rubbish and if you crave a pizza and a beer then try and buy some O'Brien's Lager from Dan Murphys Good luck! Jon

Not bad from a Northern Irish boy who was brought up on gluten!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pea and Ham Soup even my toddler loves

Even my toddler can't get enough of this one! So easy, so cheap and so healthy.
500g of split peas (green or yellow, or a mixture)
1 brown onion, chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1kg ham hock
1 bay leaf
Enough water to fill a big stock pot

Rinse split peas unil water runs clear. Fill up big stock pot with cold tap water. Add peas, chopped onion, celery, carrot and the bay leaf, and then pop the ham hock in.

Bring to boil, then simmer gently for approx. 2 hours. Take out ham hock, and remove all the nice pieces of meat. Throw away bones, add meat back to soup, and it's done!

I serve it with gluten free toast, and gruyere cheese melted on top.

This will last in the fridge for a week. It goes really thick in the fridge, but thins out once you heat it up again.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gluten Free Bread - a challenge to the major suppliers

When I first was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and tasted the supermarket gluten free bread I was horrified. Next time you're in one of our local supermarkets, pick up a loaf of gluten free bread and smell it - it's very distinct......and very unpleasant.

Thank god for wonderful niche producers like Naturally Gluten Free and Choices Gluten Free bakeries.....without them, I just wouldn't eat bread.

I would like to issue a challenge to the major manufacturers - get someone in your company who eats normal bread to smell and taste some of the bread produced and see if they would eat it! Moores, Country Life and all the others you see in the supermarket - surely we can get closer to decent, affordable, edible gluten free bread for everyone, not just those priviliged enough to be able to order from the niche bakeries?

Gluten Free Bread in Australia

What I would do to have some yummy, soft, fresh Turkish Bread with vegimite for breakfast - or that soft, warm italian bread you are given in restaurants with oil and balsamic to soak it in.....

OK, so I've never found gluten free bread that gets even vaguely close to this. But I've found bread that is not only edible (when you get used to it - and you do, I promise) but will become a staple. I still believe that all gluten free bread is best used toasted (and toasted well) but if you get one of my picks on the day they are baked, they could be used to make a sandwich (especially the bread from Choices - see below).

So, my picks:

Naturally Gluten Free: based in Sydney, but deliever and stock in other places around the country. These guys have done a great job. The crunch is my pick of their products, and I'm excited to see if they continue to bring out more and interesting products. Their bread is so filling and satisfying, definitely my favorite.

Choices Gluten Free bakery in Sydney. It doesn't really matter where you live, they will deliver! Their range of bread is great - everything from white, to wholemeal to grainy bread, par-baked rolls, pitta - you name it, they have it. They also have some nice treats to add to your order! Order $40 worth and they will deliver within metro sydney the next day for free - very cool, and a great, great find! My pick is their banana bread pre-mix - it's beautiful!

Thank you to both these guys for making the effort to ensure we can enjoy gluten free bread, and also thanks for continuing to innovate and produce more great products all the time.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gluten Free Pizza

Finally I've found an awesome gluten free pizza in Sydney! I've tried a few, but Crust Pizza have come up trumps!

These guys have got it right! Nice thin base, no additives or preservatives and they deliver! What more could we ask for? They even stick a great big sticker on the box, (Gluten Free) so you can be sure you eat the right one.

If you felt like you were missing out on Pizza in Australia once you were diagnosed, you don't need to worry anymore!

Another pick for me is Hugos in Manly (right on the Wharf, and an absolute joy during the day or at night). Their entire pizza menu bar one (the meatballs) can be made gluten free. What a pleasure to go out for dinner (or lunch) and know I have the pick of the menu.

Finally, a surprising find was The Calabria Club at Manly Vale. A small, family type bowling club with cheap wine and carpet (!) is the last place I'd expect to find decent gluten free pizza. It's an awesome spot to hang out with the family summer or winter, with an enclosed area for the kids to cause havoc, while you sit and enjoy gluten free pizza. You can even take the bases home to put in the freezer. A great find.
I think gluten free pizza is easy to get wrong, but both Crust, Hugos and Calabria Club have done a great job and I highly recommend them.
Any other pizza recommendations would be gratefully received.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Carrot Cake (gluten free and very easy)

I have to admit, I’m not a baker. If my old friends from London could see me now….! I was undiagnosed then, drank far too much beer, and relied very heavily on packaged food and pasta with tomato sauce. I eat like a queen now, and have started to bake. For those of you that know me….don’t faint, I know it’s surprising. Not everything is a success, but I can tell you, this Carrot Cake was so easy and so yummy, even I could do it.
Check it out at and search under Gluten Free Carrot Cake.

This would be enjoyed by those who are gluten free or not gluten free. My hubby, who doesn’t like carrot cake and doesn’t need to be gluten free thought it was ‘delicious’.

Slow cooking, gluten free style

The winter has really set in now in Sydney (well, it’s a cold 18 degrees Celsius during the day) and someone at work recommended a slow cooker as the perfect easy, healthy way of cooking during the winter months.

I cannot believe I didn’t know about these things before. Being a busy working Mum, I hate that end of the day feeling of rushing to cook a decent meal for us all, without having to eat really late at night. I tried it for the first time yesterday – beef bourguignonne. It was delicious, and so easy! My hubby and I eat lots, and we will get 2 nights out of it for us both:. I prepared it all and put it in the slow cooker while my little one was sleeping at lunchtime. By the end of the day, the house smelt amazing, and my hubby got home to what seemed like a big effort, gormet dinner!

1kg chuck steak (I kept it in big 1cms pieces that just fell apart with the fork on the plate)
200g bacon (gluten free)
6 french shallots
Fresh Thyme
Bay leaf
Clove garlic
200gms button mushrooms (whole)
1 tbsp corn flour
300mls red wine
30mls brandy

Brown off the beef in a small amount of olive oil. Add the cornflower and stir in. Add the wine and brandy. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and add to crockpot (I did this for 6 hours on high, but check the instructions on your machine). I would add big chunks of carrot as well next time.

I served this with creamy mash potatoes and green beans. An absolute winner!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"I could never give up bread, it would kill me"

Do you know how many times I have heard this since I was diagnosed in September 08? If I had a dollar...!

I smile smugly to myself now when I hear this! Little do they know how amazing I now feel, and how actually, eating bread might have eventually killed me!

I have never, ever felt better.....and as for the bread, yes, I miss it. I hate walking past bakers delight when they are opening the ovens, or being one of the first into my local Woolies or Coles in the morning when they are bringing the bread out of the oven....the smell is amazing, and is something us Coeliacs all miss. But feeling as great as I do now, I would never turn back.

I love the philosophy that I am not giving anything up, I am gaining. I thought that when I gave up smoking 8 years ago, and I think it now....I have freed my body of the ingredients that were beating it into submission.....I have energy, I am slim, I am healthy - and I am so clear minded now. So giving up bread hasn't killed me - I'd like to think it's freed me.

And thank god, I have found some awesome gluten free bread! To start with, I refused to eat the gluten free bread - I thought it was disgusting! But every, single new gluten free bread I find, or I hear about, I try. Why not, I've got nothing to lose!

I think all of us Coeliacs, and anyone else who needs or wants to be gluten free, need to keep up the pressure on the food industry to continue to innovate. I often hear great, and inspiring stories of people trialling new products, but we need to buy them and give the manufacturers our feedback. Vote with our pockets. Because lets face it, we generally all accept that we cannot eat normal bread, but I'm sure given the chance, we would all like to experience something close to it once in a while!

I would love to hear other people's stories and recommendations around gluten free bread. In the meantime, I will write another post shortly with my recommendations so far on gluten free bread in Australia.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I'm hungry all the time!

No one warned me I'd be starving all the time when I went on my new gluten free diet! I had an insatiable appetite! You could spot me running into the local shop to grab a packet of Smiths chips on my way home to eat in the car - I couldn't even make it the 30 minute drive home!

I mentioned this to a colleague of mine who's Mum is Coeliac, and she told me her Mum was the same for the first 3 months, but felt a bit better after that. 3 months?! I hate feeling hungry!

Anyway, I finally unearthed the reason why (thanks to the wonderful Coeliac Society). Much of a gluten free diet is high GI (fast absorbing foods that do not keep you full for very long) which is why I was feeling so hungry! I've had to re-educate the way I eat - basically really focusing on trying to eat low and medium GI foods (check out but also eating more often. I bought a wonderful book, Low GI gluten-free living - the essential diet and recipe guide by Kate Marsh, Prof. Jennie Brand-Miller and Philippa Sandall. This book is endorsed by the Coeliac Society of Australia and is a great start when understanding how to lower the overall GI value of your diet, but also has some great recipes and a good list at the back of staple foods so you can check on how your going.

I also went to see a Dietitian 6 months after my diagnosis - I wish I had gone earlier! She was fabulous (Sarah Dacres-Manning who I saw at the North Sydney Sports Clinic). Don't be scared off by the fact she's a Sports Dietitian - she was fabulous, and so high energy! I would recommend going to see a Dietitian, even if you think you know what you're doing. She gave me some great tips, checked out my blood tests and gave me the confidence to eat more without worrying about putting on too much weight. I have in fact come down to 62kgs with relatively little effort.

She got me to log what I was eating for a month - that was scary! The amount of chocolate I was eating wasn't too good! And I may have omitted a few of the glasses of wine! But what she helped me to realised was that because I was exercising up to 4 times a week, and on a gluten free diet, I wasn't getting enough carbs, and I was also not eating enough low GI food (thus craving the chocolate, especially in the afternoon).

I now eat about 6 times a day - a vast difference to how I was brought up, and also a big mental shift was needed by me. I was desperate to lose my post baby kgs, and I didn't think this was going to help! But it did. Because I was eating properly, I didn't need the chips or the chocolate anymore, and I had more energy to exercise, so immediately the kgs started to come off.

I will post some menu plans for you to see - but essentially I eat something like the following:

Breakfast (within 30 mins of waking up): Banana smoothie (1 banana, no fat calcium enriched milk, honey, low fat yogurt) plus gluten free toast

Morning tea: Apple

Lunch: Pea and ham soup and gluten free toast with a cheese slice or a salad and another banana

Afternoon tea: slice of home made orange and almond cake or gluten free hot chocolate or glass of fat free milk or 1 orange or gluten free crackers with pate

Dinner: Cottage pie or chicken curry with basmati rice or Thai beef salad or gluten free pasta with chicken, tomato and vegetable sauce

Supper: glass of low fat milk or herbal tea and gluten free biscuit.

Please be aware, I'm not a Dietitian, just a coeliac with a keen interest in the food I eat and the effect it has on me and I exercise at least 3 - 4 times a week. You need to see a proper medical expert to work out what's best for you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Joining the Coeliac Society - What a lifesaver!

So, I've been diagnosed (over the phone!), now what do I do? I have always had a keen interest in food and nutrition, but this was a curve ball I wasn't expecting! Coming from a European family (a Greek father), the thought of no bread was just ridiculous!

My GP advised me to join the Coeliac Society straight away. You can only join if you are a diagnosed Coeliac or have intolerance issues with gluten. They are a dedicated group, who hold the key to understanding how to manage this disease through a gluten free diet. They are also commited to the education of (particularly) GPs in the diagnosis of Coeliac Disease, and have a firm interest in research into it.

Well, they were a lifesaver! They sent me reading materials, an ingredient book, and most importantly, an invite to their next workshop for newly diagnosed members.

Before I got my package of information from them, I had gone to the local health food shop and spent a fortune on expensive gluten free ingredients and products. I was wondering how the hell I was going to maintain such an expensive grocery list in the long term (I was also wondering how I was going to live without bread - anyone tried the supermarket gluten free bread? Next time you're in Woolies or Coles pick up a loaf and smell it - you'll see what I mean!).

So I went along to the workshop. Phew. I was surrounded by like minded people, in the same boat as me. It felt like such a relief. They put on a gluten free lunch for us, provided us with a goodie bag of gluten free products, and they spoke. Spoke sense.

The three most important things I picked up that day were:

1) eat as much 'naturally' gluten free food as possible and;
2) eat as much low GI food as possible, and
3) you are not alone.

I met families with Coeliac kids, older people who had only just found out, opinionated people, quiet people - Coeliac's come in all shapes and sizes, and from all corners of society. That's why I believe it's important we all talk in lay mans terms about how to live with this disease. Education is key, and the Coeliac Society are doing an incredible job. Check them out at

I cannot recommend enough how important it is to join your local Coeliac Society. They are a group that needs to be supported by us all for the wonderful work they are doing. And honestly, they will make your life easier (my grocery bills are not as big as that first week anymore, thanks to some sensible food recommendations and a decent reading list!).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Getting Diagnosed - "I'm SO tired"

Getting diagnosed is a journey in itself! I hadn't even heard of Coeliac Disease when I got diagnosed, so there was no way I would have been in a position to push the GP for tests - I'm just extremely fortunate that my GP was being so thorough.

Did you know that Coeliac Disesase is the most under diagnosed disease in Australia? The stats are astounding. 1 in 100 people are affected by Coeliac Disease in this country, but less than 75% of us know that we have it. Check out

I was well, very well, prior to having my little girl Lucy. I had an extremely busy job (averaging 50 - 60 hour weeks) managing a team of 10, in a start up that was growing so fast we hardly knew how to keep up, and was running at least 4 - 5 times a week, with regular half marathons and 10kms races keeping my weekends busy. Then I found out I was pregnant....WOW! How exciting!!

The first 25 weeks of the pregnancy were horrible (sorry Lucy!) to say the least....throwing up most mornings, and chronic stomach pains....obviously I constantly feared the worst. But I got through it, and eventually felt better. On December 4th 2007 Lucy joined my husband and I. I have to say, it was the most amazing moment of my life. She was (and is) perfect.

Welcoming a new born into my world was fabulous, and extremely challenging. After my standard 6 weeks post birth check up, I went back to exercise....I joined a fab, fab group in Collaroy (northern beaches, NSW) called Step into Life, and inducted myself back into the world of sport. It all started really well....for a few months, I was energised and feeling great. But slowly, slowly over time, I stopped feeling that endorphin rush we sport junkies love. I thought "oh get over it, you've been up half the night with a small child, of course you're a bit tired" but as time went on, and Lucy slept more, I just felt that I had less and less to give. I remember at one point looking at the training and saying "I haven't got anything to give you today".

I was also craving crap food! I wanted muffins, biscuits, name the sweet thing, I wanted it, especially in the afternoon.

Every time I saw my GP, I'd say to her "I just don't feel right". No stomach cramps, no upset tummy, no rash, no nothing to show for it, I just felt extremely tired, and just didn't feel right. I know that sounds so cliched, but at the time, I couldn't articulate what the problem was. I just didn't feel right.

I had restless legs at night, I couldn't sleep (even though I was becoming more and more tired as time went on)....I was SO frustrated. And my hubby got to the point where he stopped asking how I was "I'm tired, just SO tired" was the standard response as I was lying on the sofa looking at Lucy wondering just when she'd go to sleep.

My GP started some blood tests. The first lot came back that my iron was a bit low (normal post birth anyway) and my thyroid a bit under active, but neither thing so bad that it would be making me feel as tired as I was. The second round of blood tests were taken, and to my surprise, she called me at 9pm about a week later. God, I was thinking, "please, please don't be ringing me to say I'm pregnant!" - I couldn't have coped. She told me my blood was showing Coeliac antibodies. I had to keep eating gluten (never, ever stop eating gluten until you've had an endoscopy - a small intestine biopsy, otherwise you might get a false negative for Coeliac Disease) and I went in for a biopsy a few weeks later.

The anesthetic was amazing! I was gutted when they woke me up, it was the best sleep I'd had in 8 months!

The following week, I was in Melbourne, at a client meeting, eating my turkish bread sandwich, and I got the call. "Zoe, you are Coeliac. You need to go onto a gluten free diet for the rest of your life". I hung up the call, finished the sandwich and got on with the meeting. That was a Thursday I think. I spent the rest of the week ordering pizza, eating pasta, getting as much bread into me as physically possible. I weighed 66kgs the week I was diagnosed. I now weigh 62kgs. I'll explain how I managed that without even trying in another post.

I didn't have any classic symptoms of being a Coeliac. Except being very fatigued. I didn't show any signs of irritable bowl syndrome, I didn't get dermatitis (a skin condition that many coeliacs get)...I was just bloody tired all the time. The danger of not getting diagnosed is serious - osteoporosis and bowl cancer being two big ones. I've had a Dexa scan on my bones - unfortunately they are already showing a less than normal range for my age, so I feel blessed that I'm diagnosed now and can do something about it (incidentally my Mum has severe osteoporosis - she hasn't been tested for coeliac.....hmmmm).

Don't let anyone tell you to go gluten free before you have a biopsy. It's extremely important you keep eating gluten before you go in. Also, a blood test IS NOT a final diagnosis of Coeliac Disease - it is only an indication. The only true way to diagnose is through biopsy (which by the way, doesn't hurt at all - you get to have a nice sleep for half and hour and wake up with no pain at all). There is also a gene test now, so after you've been diagnosed, you can send your immediate family (kids, mum, dad and siblings) off to have a small swab from their mouth. If they have the gene, they need to be monitored. If they don't, they never have to worry about it!

Don't be afraid of being diagnosed either. I can assure you, that despite being gutted about having to give up bread, pasta etc, I have found ways around it, and I now feel absolutely amazing - probably the best I have done in years. I'll share some of my other thoughts on living a gluten free life soon.

Ps - I honestly used to think people with food intolerance's were making it all up! How wrong I was....I am eating my words now!