I often get asked about why our whole house is gluten free, are we all Celiacs? If not then why aren't the rest of you eating gluten? Well, let me explain how I see it...
Our Celiac is 3 years old. Still a young child. A young child who doesn't yet fully understand the ins and outs of cross contamination. But thats not the main reason we have made our house gluten free. We made our house gluten free because we want our child to feel normal. Because she is! She's just a normal kid, she likes pink, she likes to dance, she likes to play football with her brother and she loves squinkies! She's only different from most 3 year old girls when it comes to food. And she is only different when we are out.
Why? Because we, her family, have decided that this diagnosis is not hers, its ours. We are a Celiac family and this is how it has to be.
I personally believe that every Celiac has the right to feel safe in their own home. If there is gluten in your house, no matter how many systems are in place, you always run the risk of contamination.
Cooking, in a mixed house where both gluten foods and gluten free foods share a space is extremely stressful, or at least it was for me. Watch a pot of pasta boiling. Did you know water can jump out of the pot and jump in to the pot next to it? Never mind the spoon confusion, gluten free to the right, gluten to the left, gluten free to the right, gluten to the left.... then the phone rings, the doorbell goes, the dog barks, older child spills a juice and which spoon was it again???
For a Celiac, less then a bread crumb (or a very tiny bread crumb) is enough to cause a reaction. For my older (non Celiac) child this took the enjoyment out of eating his chocolate cupcake, I was a nervous wreck, right there with my tissues, waiting to clean any crumbs, 'lean over the plate, careful, careful.... don't touch anything, come, now wash'. I was on edge, worried, and most meals I had tears in my eyes when she asked for something she couldn't have.
We lasted like this less than 2 weeks. The decision to make our home a safe home for our girl, was the best I ever made. Now we all eat chocolate cupcakes together and the crumbs can go wherever (although my cleaning nerve does twitch a little), we all eat the same food, and everyone is able to open any cupboard and eat anything they want. It is all gluten free, all safe.
From the work I now do with Gluten Free UAE, it seems to me that those who have a mixed house (gluten and gluten free foods sharing a space), have a much more limited diet with less variety. Why buy variety if its just for one person anyway, its a waste if it goes off?
In the beginning our food costs were sky high off course, they over doubled once we all went gluten free, now, a year and a half later, they are back to almost the same as they were when we were gluten eaters, and I must tell you, we are all, much much healthier.
If you are still mixing products in your home and finding it a challenge, try making your house 100% gluten free for a while - it may just work for you too - if not, you can always change back :)
-by Linda Forster
Gluten Free UAE in Spinney's Food mag in the September issue. No link available, but its still in the shops so go get your copy :)
Well this is certainly not News, but it was one of the things I forgot to add when it all first started :) Here it is anyway :) Expat Echo Article
World Foods have brought a whole range of Gluten Free cooking sauces to the UAE. You will find them in supermarkets across the UAE starting with Spinneys, Geant and Carefour.
All WORLDFOODS products are made in gluten free environment. They also conduct Gluten test on products - analyzed using ELISA method.
I am ashamed to say I have only tried some of the dipping sauces so far, so no review yet. If any of you have tried them please post your feedback below as a comment :)
Big Thanks to Ms Gabbai for the basket :) WORLDFOODS website
Ladybug Labels have offered all Gluten Free UAE members a discount on their allergy labels!
The allergy pack contains: 18 Icon labels, and 6 large icon labels with contact information. - 80dhs
They are also giving us an offer on their Back to school packs (Adding 6 'no Gluten' stickers with no charge!)
The Back to School Pack contains: contains: 24 classic sticker labels (65x15 mm), 9 Large sticker labels, 80 pencil labels (7x50 mm),10 spot labels (35 mm) - all are self adhesive, dishwasher and microwave safe and 21 iron-on labels for all the uniforms and clothes) + 6 "No Gluten" round shape labels. - 150dhs
All you need to do is put the coupon code as - Gluten Free U.A.E when you make your order.
Click the Lady bug to go and make your order. Any questions about this offer should be directed to Ladybug labels themselves using the contact button on their website :)
Yes, we finally joined Pinterest! Finding it super useful so far, a great and easy way to collect all those links in the right places! You can visit our boards even if you dont have an account, so please do check it out :) Let us know if you want a specific board added. Click the logo below!
Like many other gluten free families, we rarely travel unless its for a big reason. Those last minute trips and sleepovers that were so much fun before, are no longer possible. Even short trips away require planning and shopping, and plenty of worry and stress. What if there is no gluten free food? What if our Celiac gets contaminated and spends the whole trip being ill?
Having spent the whole summer (so far) here in the UAE, and many many loooong hot days doing very little, me and the kids were absolutely climbing the walls. Lets take the risk, lets GO somewhere!
We booked one night at the Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa. One night , because booking 2 nights seemed very very risky, given that we didn't know how it would work, gluten free wise.
We brought with us a loaf of freshly made gluten free bread, plenty of biscuits, crisps and bananas, crossed our fingers and left. We had a big breakfast before leaving, plenty of snacks, and some sandwiches in a cool box, worst case scenario all we eat is dinner, then if its not that great we can always go home after breakfast tomorrow we thought.
We really needn't have worried. Not long after arriving we had been introduced to the Executive Chef and Half the waiting staff. A basket of fruit and a tray of sweets (all gluten free) were sent to our room, as well as a basket of bread rolls. The bread was good! Too good, I had to call the kitchen just to double check that it really was gluten free (you just never know right?).
We had a great afternoon by the pool, the kids going crazy on the water slide and enjoying being outdoors.
Dinner time came, and we went to the restaurant. We were looked after like celebrities at this point, the 'gluten free family', yes yes, here. The head waiter came to greet us. We discussed what our Celiac would eat and it was decided she would have chicken (plain, no marinade, made in a clean pan) and home made chips made in a clean pan with new oil. Plain perhaps, but absolutely perfect for a Celiac 3 year old, and in terms of stress levels for the mum, less is more!
The rest of us had the Iftar buffet avoiding obvious gluten. When out of the house we don't worry about trace amounts or contamination for the rest of us, but we wouldn't eat 'real bread' around her, besides, real bread now makes me ill too!
The chef also made us some gorgeous home made thin and crispy potato chips (crisps).
We had a nice and relaxed evening and a good sleep.
Breakfast came and another buffet for the rest of us. We had 3 types of gluten free bread given to us, and we all enjoyed them. Had our celiac wanted eggs, or bacon or anything else, a fresh portion would have been made for her in a clean pan just to be sure. She was quite content though - stuffing herself with bread rolls!
We enjoyed lunch in the pool snack bar before leaving, another meal which went off without a hitch. The Celiacs meal was made in the main kitchen- again under the watchful eyes of the executive chef.
Our short break has given us not just a well deserved break, but also some extra confidence. We will be going away soon again for sure. Maybe even for 2-3 nights.
A big thanks to executive chef Tarek Mouriess and his staff for looking after so well. We will be back :)
I am not a food critic, or a resort critic (I bet you can tell!) But I really wanted to share our POSITIVE experience with you all, because for some people - like us - food safety is top priority. So while I may not be able to tell you about the succulent this or that, I can tell you that our Celiac was happy, and didn't get ill! :)) Apologies for the bad pictures, they were taken in hindsight with a very dirty iPhone!
You can check out the Fujairah Rotana here
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Cant believe I totally forgot to add on the blog about the Radio show I did! It was so much fun, and the response after was enormous, tons of emails and people asking questions about testing for Celiac! I remembered today because yesterday I bumped in to someone on twitter (is that possible? lol, maybe its twumped in to?), who had heard the show back in May and remembered me from it :) He says he had never heard about Celiac disease before but that he has now taken an interest and reads what he can about it.
I didnt actually want to do the radio, because I was so scared I'd say something horribly wrong or come across as a total fool. About 10 minutes in I felt totally at ease though and it was actually a fun day. A BIG thanks to Suzanne Radford for having me and for making me (and the others) feel so at ease.
Missed the show? You can listen to it again on the Dubai Eye Website
This must be one of the questions I get the most. And the answer is SO long, and not always easy to understand. Celiac Disease is a complex auto immune disease that can show in so many different ways in different people. But just incase you (like I often do) need the short version, here you go (once you are done reading it, hit the F or T at the bottom and share it on Facebook and twitter, more awareness = a better life for Celiacs :)
Celiac (Coeliac) disease is an autoimmune disease. When someone with Celiac disease eats gluten, the immune system triggers a reaction and releases antibodies, the antibodies cause damage to the villi in the small intestine. The villi in the small intestine is responsible for soaking up all the nutrients in our food, so once it is damaged a whole range of issues can follow.
Symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person, some researchers say there are around 200 symptoms associated, others go as far as saying over 300 symptoms! Some people may have only 1-2 symptoms, others will have 10, or many many more.
The more common symptoms are:
Bloating / Cramping
Abdominal discomfort / pain
Diarrhea or constipation (or both)
Weight Loss (or sometimes weight gain)
Failiure to thrive (in children)
Dental and bone disorders (such as osteoporosis)
There is currently no cure or medical treatment for Celiac (Coeliac) disease. The only treatment is to go on a life long gluten free diet. Once on a gluten free diet, symptoms will clear up and the villi will heal. It is important to watch out for small amounts of hidden gluten in foods, as even minute amounts are enough to cause a reaction, and if the exposure is frequent there will (again) be damage to the villi.
I think Pizza is probably one of the most discussed topics on our Facebook and Twitter. Its also one of the first questions people ask once they get in touch after being diagnosed. 'Where can we get gluten free pizza?'. Until now, I have been unable to recommend anything other then 'Make your own'.
Sure, there IS gluten free Pizza out there, but just how gluten free is it? Thats a totally different post altogether really, but lets just say that none that I have come across and spoken to would advertise themselves as safe for Celiacs. In fact, most will tell you they are NOT safe for Celiacs.
The cross contamination issues with Pizza will always be there, the only way to totally 100% get away from it would be to only serve gluten free. Well, someone is finally making the effort to make us a 'safe' gluten free Pizza here in Dubai (and hopefully also in Abu Dhabi by next year).
I say 'safe', because really, with Pizza, made in a Pizza place, there is always going to be some risk involved, but having visited the kitchen and seen their process, Id say that in order to be contaminated you would have to be pretty unlucky.
So, who are they and how do they do it then?
here in the UAE launch their gluten free crust in August, and they will follow all the strict procedures they use in the USA (where they are allowed to call their glutenfree crust gluten free).
They use mainly Organic materials for their Pizzas, and their whole philosophy is about making a pizza less unhealthy. They put all their cards on the table when it comes to what goes in - and on top - of their pizzas, and all my questions were answered fully.
They will also be adding a video to their website (filmed here in the UAE), showing you all what they showed me in their kitchen! But let me tell you what they told me.
Each store will have 1-2 staff members that will be the only ones allowed to handle anything gluten free or anything in the gluten free section. This is to try to minimise the risk of cross contamination, and seems a good security measure to me.
The nominated 'Gluten Free Person' will wash hands and put on a clean pair of gloves before making a new order of gluten free crust pizza.
The Pizza base is individually wrapped, imported, and kept in a cupboard with a door (again, to minimise gluten exposure).
The base contains corn and rice flours, and its a 'thin base'.
The Gluten Free 'station' is off course smaller then the one used for gluten, so there is some limitations in regards to toppings.
Toppings are kept in plastic containers and there is a lid to cover everything, again, minimising gluten exposure. The trays used for the Gluten Free pizzas are different to the gluten ones.
The pizza ovens in NKD are 3 level rolling along jobbies. You put a pizza in, and out it comes, ready, on the other side (I did have a picture of this, but its blurry, sorry). The gluten free pizza goes to the top right only. Never anywhere else. And only the gluten free person is allowed to pick it up when its done.
How do they make sure that procedures are adhered to then? Well, I asked this, because we all know we can have an 'off day', only an off day for someone making gluten free food in a gluten kitchen can result in someone being very ill. Each store has a full time staff trainer. They do not just come in for a couple of hours here or there, they are there, all the time, providing on going training. So if there ever is a slip up, it should be able to be picked up straight away and rectified.
Those of you who have met me know that I never let my little Celiac eat anything from outside, but on this day, given that she was with me, it would have been incredibly unfair to not let her try it, but actually, I wasn't very worried at all. Is it my kitchen? Sure, no, but its a kitchen that is taking gluten free seriously, a company that is used to operating in a country where laws in regards to what can be called gluten free are strict (well, stricter then here), and made by a team who seem very passionate about what they do and their ingredients.
I am not sure who ate more, me or the kids! (It was probably me, lol), but the kids both said its the best pizza they have ever had, and I am not able to disagree. It was crispy, thin, gluten free, full of flavour, not dry and crumbly in the slightest. Dare I say its better then my own gluten free pizza made from scratch?
Best part, watching our celiac that afternoon, evening, and the day after for a reaction, seeing nothing other then a happy healthy 3 year old with a flat tummy!
So, will I let her eat the NKD pizza regularly? Probably not, but I will for sure let her have it again! The best bit will be that I will actually now have the option of not cooking if there is ever an emergency. Given that our house is gluten free it also means that me and hubby can now add pizza to our take out nights without worry!
I did ask a million questions, about which chopping boards were used for the veggies, where the cheese is sourced, if the soap is gluten free, where are things washed etc etc etc, but if I include it all I will be writing for hours. Go to their website when the gluten free crust is launched, watch the video and see for yourself.
me, I cant wait to eat it again!
-Linda And as usual, I have received no payment for this, nor will I ever ask for any. I do what I do in my spare time to help other families like ours. If NKD want to give me a T - shirt I'll happily say yes, but thats about it ;) Happy to review any gluten free product by any company who does it right :)EDIT:
As promised NKD has now put a video on their website of the entire procedure, as well as a full ingredient list. It can be found here
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