The other day I forgot my lunch and I nipped into Sainsbury’s to quickly pick up a gluten free sandwich. ‘Great story, thanks for that Sarah’, you must be thinking – but it suddenly dawned on me: I can actually nip to the shop and buy a gluten free sandwich without thinking about it! When did this happen!? A lot has changed since I was first diagnosed with coeliac disease and doing this is something I never dreamed would have been possible 17 years ago.
But now there are gluten free sandwiches in most supermarkets. Free from aisles around every corner. And yes, the world of gluten free availability isn’t perfect, and not every store has its free from offerings nailed, but it got me thinking about what else has changed. What else can I do now, that I couldn’t do as someone with coeliac disease two decades ago.
Spoiler: It’s actually a lot.
Being diagnosed with coeliac disease is tough, whatever age you are. But being diagnosed nowadays, you instantly have so much choice. Yes, you have to restrict food from your diet, but there is pretty much an alternative to anything. So if you are struggling, here’s a few things to make you feel grateful you weren’t diagnosed ‘back in the day’ like I was…
The free from aisle has grown considerably…
In most stores anyway! I remember when I was first diagnosed with coeliac disease, the ‘free from aisle’ was a tiny end of an aisle in Tesco with some rock-hard gluten free bread and Mrs Crimbles coconut macaroons. Now my local supermarkets have a whole aisle dedicated to gluten free – and often dairy free and egg free too – goodies, from cakes and bread to pasta, flour, cereal and even beer.
…And now there’s a fresh and frozen free from aisle too
I can’t actually remember when the free from aisle expanded to frozen foods, but I do remember when a chilled free from aisle emerged only a couple of years ago. It’s so exciting when I look back at how much the gluten free offerings have expanded even in just the most recent years.
Allergens have to be marked in bold on ingredients lists
Who knows what will happen when we leave the EU, but for now this makes scanning food labels a lot easier. Although a lot of products aren’t labelled specifically ‘gluten free’ it’s really easy to quickly skim through the ingredients and see if any of the allergens containing gluten are in bold. My vague recollections are that before that came into play, it used to say ‘contains gluten’ – but not every product would say it? Please correct me if that’s wrong though!
People don’t look at you funny when you mention gluten
Five or 10 years ago, saying I was gluten free or had coeliac disease just resulted in blank looks. Nowadays, it’s nearly always met with ‘I know someone who has that’ or ‘me too!’. Whether you credit it to increased awareness of coeliac disease or the rise of ‘gluten free’ as a faddy diet, it’s pretty nice to not have to explain what gluten is to everyone I meet.
You can’t get as much gluten free food on prescription
When I was first diagnosed I was a child, and because we didn’t have a huge amount of money and gluten free food wasn’t commonly available, we used to get a lot of my food on prescription. And at the time that was a lot – as well as bread and flour there were biscuits, crackers, pizza bases and more. Now a lot of NHS Trusts have cut right back, offering only flour and/or bread – or nothing. While I haven’t used my prescription in about 10 years, I know this will have hit some families hard.
Gluten free menus actually exist
That’s right, I can now go into a cafe or restaurant and find many of them have their own gluten free menu! It’s lovely to feel included and able to go out and enjoy eating gluten free. A lot of places still don’t have a firm grasp of cross contamination, which is a shame, but many places are getting better. There are a lot of Coeliac UK accredited chains now which really helps.
You can order gluten free pizza
That’s right, go on Just Eat or Deliveroo and I believe you can purposefully search for gluten free takeaways! Domino’s, Pizza Express and Pizza Hut all now do gluten free pizzas. The chain restaurants have really upped their game in terms of gluten free. Great news for those of us who are too busy – or too lazy (guilty) – to cook every single night.
Some gluten free bread is just about tolerable
Ok, so gluten free bread still has a LONG way to go, But back in the day, I couldn’t even stomach it when toasted. Now there are quite a few good varieties (but that’s a whole new blog post!) which I eat regularly! And many of them I don’t even toast! I never thought the day would come I’d enjoy a burger in a gluten free brioche bun, or a supermarket gluten free sandwich, or a fresh gluten free baguette from the oven, but here we are! I can’t wait for the day they NAIL it!
You can create your gluten free shopping list on Instagram
Ok, not literally, but how many of you rush out to the nearest supermarket because someone posted that there is a new gluten free product on the shelves? Instagram didn’t even exist when I was diagnosed with coeliac disease and now it’s the go-to place for people to find new gluten free foods. You don’t even have to leave the house to plan what you’re going to buy next!
There’s a whole online community of support
When I started this blog, blogging wasn’t even a thing. No-one had really thought up what an ‘influencer’ was. I started this blog because I wanted to help people who were struggling with their gluten free diet or coeliac disease diagnosis. Now there is SO much support, it’s quite incredible! At just the click of a button (or tap of a thumb, mobile-first readers) you can find yourself in a Facebook group or Twitter thread full of people willing to help you and support you on your journey. Like this awesome group full of the best people (totally biased).
What else has changed since you went gluten free?
Is there anything else you can think of which has changed since your coeliac disease diagnosis? Can you relate to these!? I’d love to know – let me know in the comments below if there’s anything else you’d add to this list! And if you want a giggle, give these other posts a read while you’re here!?
- The 11 emotional stages of a gluten free diet
- 23 stupid things people have said about being gluten free
- 13 things every coeliac feels about gluten free chocolate brownies
- 18 things that happen when you eat out on a gluten free diet
And don’t forget, you can also join my Facebook group or tag me on Instagram if there’s anything you’d like to see on the blog! Oh – and don’t forget to sign up for my e-newsletter where you’ll know about all my latest posts, recipes and finds!