GLUTEN free labels are rapidly increasing in cafe cake selections and lots more non-wheat bread brands are appearing in the supermarkets, but dining out can still pose a problem for coeliacs.
Although gluten-free options are available at many restaurants, some gluten-free meals can be compromised by cross-contamination.
The gluten free diner has had no way of knowing which eateries follow best practice for gluten-free food preparation, posing one of the biggest challenges faced by people with coeliac disease.
Currently there is no cure for coeliac disease and the only medical treatment is to follow a strict gluten free diet for life.
A recent study by Coeliac Australia showed that 60% of its members avoid eating out because they do not trust restaurants to offer meals free from contamination.
We spoke to coeliac food blogger, Renee from @glutenfreelivinginqld to find out more about coeliac disease and how to still eat out in style.
What is coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease, and Coeliac Queensland describes the disease as follows: "In people with coeliac
disease (pronounced "seel-ee-ak”), the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and
oats), causing small bowel damage.
The tiny, finger-like projections which line the bowel (villi) become inflamed and flattened. This is referred to as villous atrophy.
Villous atrophy reduces the surface area of the bowel available for nutrient absorption, which can lead to various gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms”.
How does coeliac
disease affect your life?
The only treatment for coeliac disease is to follow a strict gluten free diet which means I spend a lot of time reading ingredient labels, giving waiters the third degree on what's in a meal and how food is prepared to limit the risk of cross contamination, and spending loads of money as the cost of gluten free foods can often be more expensive than the "regular” versions.
There's also having to say "no thank you” to the free biscuit with your coffee or wanting to have everything but the gluten free option on the menu!
Despite my options now being limited, since being diagnosed I get so much more excited about food! I think it still surprises my friends and family about how excited I get just to eat a gluten free donut! I can definitely attest to the old adage, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Are restaurants catering more for coeliacs in Ipswich?
There has definitely been an increase in the number of restaurants catering for coeliacs across South East Queensland in the past few years, and so too the number of gluten free products stocked in supermarkets.
Unfortunately there is still a lack of awareness over the issues caused by cross contamination, so whilst a menu might indicate something is gluten free, it's still important to have the conversation with the waiter about how the food is prepared.
Why did you set up your Instagram glutenfreelivinginqld account?
Eating out can be a particularly stressful time for coeliacs due to the risk of cross contamination and lack of awareness about the disease.
If you're asked if "gluten” is in rice, that's a good indication to choose another restaurant!
When I was first diagnosed, I sought recommendations on where to eat safely but I found this very hard to find!
I figured other coeliacs had the same issue, so I started taking photos of the food I ate and posting it on social media as a kind of public service to other coeliacs!
It's important to note that my posts are based on my personal experience.
I always encourage people to ask questions before they dine as the waiter I had might be different to who they deal with.
"Or there might be a different chef working that day who doesn't have the same experience in dealing with somebody with coeliac disease.
Coeliac Australia has an endorsement program for products and restaurants so this is also a great resource to refer to when looking for recommendations.
Great gluten free places to eat
This cafe is tucked away from the main road overlooking the construction of Greater Springfield, where you can relax and enjoy your coffee, breakfast or lunch, and has many gluten free options.
There is also a BYO alcohol option for those who would like a drink with their meal.
Find at 145 Sinnathamby BLVD, Springfield Central. Call (07) 3470 0555, go to facebook.com/Springfield LotusCafe
Nourish Real Food Cafe
Nourish feels homely and warm and is dedicated to bringing healthy alternatives to old fashioned favourites.
There is a focus on organic, ethically-sourced and sustainable produce, with the menu rotating according to availability of produce.
However, you can always expect to find a range of gourmet sandwiches and salads, made fresh each day, gourmet burgers cooked to order, as well as a variety of house made sweets and guilt-free treats. Find at 160 Brisbane St, Ipswich. Call 3143 1566, go to nourishrealfoodcafe.com
Char'd - PA Hotel
Char'd is known for its big servings and great service, but perhaps the fact it has a decent gluten free menu is less known.
Any suburb in Brisbane would welcome a steakhouse like this.
It's spacious, atmospheric, and there is plenty of onsite parking, and places to have a quiet beer.
Find at 170 Brisbane Rd, Ipswich. Call 3282 1577, go to char-d.com.au