If you’re newly diagnosed, walking down the shopping aisle may seem a little daunting. When you pick up a product and turn it over to read the information on the back you might even have a small panic attack, I definitely did for a while after I started shopping for myself.
Reading and understanding the labels on the back of your food products is the best way to protect yourself from being accidentally glutened. Yikes! We don’t want to go there, never, ever again.
Products that are suitable for a Coeliac can be separated into a few categories; fresh fruit and vegetables which are naturally gluten free. These are a staple in my kitchen. Products that are labelled as gluten free and testing shown in the nutrition panel (if you don’t know what that is, we’ll explain in a bit) and those products that don’t contain gluten ingredients but aren’t labelled with the lovely gluten free logo.
I always check the ingredients list on any processed product I buy; it’s become a habit after so long. We’ll focus on the non gluten free labelled products so that you know what to look for.
The back or sometimes the side of a product will usually contain three or four sections.
- Ingredient List
- Allergen Alert
- Advisory Statements (Or May Contain Statements)
- Nutrition Panel
The first three are usually close together for ease of consumer use.
The Ingredient List
The ingredient list will notify you of all the ingredients that are included in the product. As a rule they are listed in descending order from the most dominant ingredient in the product.
The example provided shows a gluten free by ingredient product but not gluten free labelled product. If you have trouble remembering all the numbers and ingredients that are safe for you to eat then investing in an ingredient app may be helpful. There are several available on the market in both free and paid versions.
My favourite is the Coeliac Society app; although it does cost $9.49AUD it provides me more peace of mind than the free versions.
A similar but free alternative is the gluten free guide by application studies.
The Allergen Alert
The Allergen alerts are generally found underneath the ingredient list.
If the product contains any of the major allergies, they will be listed here and most commonly in bold among the ingredient list.
This is a good first port of call to check if a product contains wheat or gluten.
This is a very important section, it will let you know if the product could have possibly come in contact with any ingredients that would contain an allergen. This cross contamination could be due to process lines, harvesting cross contamination, storage or travel conditions that have led to a possible contamination. Unfortunately as stated by the Coeliac Society; any product that has a may contain or may have been contaminated statement of gluten is unsafe for consumption by any person with Coeliac Disease. This sadly rules out Cadbury chocolate blocks as their new redesigned packaging contains a may contain wheat statement.
In all honesty, I am not someone who searches for the healthiest foods, if I want mac and cheese, I get myself gluten free mac and cheese. So it is not often that I check the Nutrition Panel. If I do have a read it is usually to compare two products or to check for a gluten detected line. The gluten detected line means that the manufacturer has paid for gluten testing and has provided you with the results.
In terms of reading labels that is really all these is to it; see not all that scary. Unfortunately it can be a bit confusing to start with and a bit hard to remember to do. After practice and time I promise it’ll become second nature. Even Brody does it now.