Guest Post: A week as a vegetarian coeliac

19 May

My lovely wife Abby went gluten free for Coeliac Awarness Week to show support, here is her guest post on the experience:

AbbyYesterday marked the last day of Coeliac UK’s Awareness Week. Although I don’t have coeliac disease myself, since Kev’s diagnosis three years ago I am now an expert on all things coeliac and gluten free, and I’ve become an outspoken advocate for the rights of coeliacs to enjoy eating good food, both in restaurants and at home. Thousands of people use Awareness Week to raise the profile of coeliac disease by not eating gluten for seven days in support of sufferers of the disease. My participation in Awareness Week adds another restriction to my already restricted diet – for strong environmental and ethical reasons I am a vegetarian (no fish) of almost 25 years. Before Kev’s diagnosis he never ate meat in our house, an act of support which I truly appreciated. Unfortunately, I can’t show this solidarity when it comes to gluten because, as a vegetarian, protein is a top concern and most meat substitute products, such as Quorn or Linda McCartney products, contain or are contaminated with gluten. To ensure we both get protein, Kev and I often cook two versions of the same meal – one with real meat and one with Quorn. During Awareness Week this was not an option so last weekend Kev and I carefully planned out our meal plan for the upcoming Awareness Week.

As you know from Gluten Free by the Sea Mexican food is a staple in our house so we ate black beans (refried and as chilli) several times during Awareness Week. We also went to the Plymouth Coeliac UK Support Group dinner at JD’s Grill – I know Kev raves about JD’s all the time but it’s because the place is great for coeliacs and they have a good veggie menu too. The set menu for Awareness Week had two veggie options for starters and a veggie burger for the main course (plus a delicious sweet-potato-fries-with-vanilla-ice-cream dessert). OK, that was an easy version of eating out since it was pre-arranged, but last year I found myself in Padstow during Awareness Week and basically just walked around asking restaurants what they could do for a vegetarian coeliac until one chef offered to make me gf pasta with fresh wild mushrooms. Actually, that was only the second restaurant I approached so it pays to ask questions.

The majority of our food during the week was home cooked, but we did try two ready-made products: Clive’s Pies and a veggie lasagne and a burrito from Amy’s Kitchen. I’ve loved Clive’s Pies since I first tried them two years ago and it was convenient to have a ready-made gf and veggie product in our freezer to throw in the oven for dinner when I got home late one night. The only downside was that we had to walk into town to purchase them at Holland and Barrett – I wish they were more widely available. As for the Amy’s products, I don’t normally like ready meals, but it turned out Amy’s frozen meals are not like normal ready meals! There was no grease, they weren’t over salted and they tasted great. I was really impressed.

Overall it was fine being a veggie coeliac during Awareness Week since 1) we cook most of our own food, 2) I’m assertive and not afraid to order off-menu while eating out, 3) as a vegetarian I’m an avid label-reader, and 4) I was in the UK. I am on the road for work much of the time and the vegetarian coeliac abroad experience would have been much harder, particularly in China or Japan where veggie food is confusing due to the language barrier and lack of understanding about the concept. The best part of Awareness Week was not having to worry about my gluten-containing food contaminating the gluten free food in our kitchen – I normally have to wash my hands constantly while cooking to avoid cross contaminating Kev’s food. I also don’t know what I would have done had we had a barbeque – I love halloumi and veggie skewers but it’s not the same as a veggie burger or veggie sausage (don’t worry – we have a gluten free meat barbeque and a separate barbeque for veggie products and gluten). If Quorn had some gluten free options vegetarian coeliacs would have a lot more choice for protein and I could eat gluten free at home all the time.

Abby – @anaturalstate


14 Responses to “Guest Post: A week as a vegetarian coeliac”

  1. vics1972 May 19, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    Fab post Abby and Kev 🙂 and that’s great you’re so supportive Abby 👍

    • Abigail McQuatters-Gollop June 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm #


  2. vics1972 May 19, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    Fab post Abby and Kev 🙂 great to see you’re so supportive Abby. Keep up the great blog 👍 Vicki (in Leeds)

  3. Gilly Robinson May 20, 2014 at 12:39 am #

    Thanks, Abby, for being so supportive of the coeliac community. It’s really appreciated!
    I’ve found it really tough cooking GF vege food for my daughter: neither of us are vege (we both eat fish) but eating vege is our default position. Freya’s CD diagnosis almost put paid to that. Given that I don’t get in from work until ca 7.15 each evening, cooking something speedy, tasty, GF and meatless for the evening meal had really started to become an impossible chore. I felt useless. I began to feel depressed. And our diet suffered.
    One book that has really helped me is Jack Monroe’s ‘A Girl Called Jack: 100 delicious budget recipes’. If you ignore the ‘Bread and Breakfast’ opening chapter (hardly GF!), there’s barely any mention of meat or fish until their specific chapters, some 100 pages in, so a useful addition to the mixed vege/non-vege household cookery book shelf.
    It’s not a gluten-free book, not at all. But because the recipes are designed for those on a budget, meat and fish are seen as expensive luxuries and therefore not the stars of the show. Where gluten features (usually through the inclusion of wheat flour as a thickener or binder), it’s easy enough to substitute GF flour in its place.
    Definitely worth perusing.

    • Abigail McQuatters-Gollop June 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

      Thanks – we will have to check out that book!

  4. gerrysmum May 20, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    I have a life threatening wheat allergy and frequently eat vegetarian meals. I found frozen quorn mince and chicken style chunks are wheat free, not too sure whether there are other forms of gluten in them though

    • Kevin Gollop May 20, 2014 at 8:32 am #

      The mince contains barley but the chicken style chunks have no gluten containing ingredients, though they are made in a factory that handles wheat and I’ve reacted to them before so now avoid them

      • gerrysmum May 20, 2014 at 8:36 am #

        That’s a shame. I’ve stopped using quorn because of the cost and spend a fair bit of time in my local Indian supermarket buying lentils instead, I make a mean lentil curry 🙂 if your wife likes aubergine, I’ve got a great recipe for an Afghani “casserole” that’s naturally gluten free and extremely tasty

  5. Mary May 20, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    3 out of 5 in our family have coeliac disease, all diagnosed in the last 12 months, I’m vegetarian too so it’s fairly tough. I’ve recently come across Dragonfly Foods which make gluten free vegetarian sausages, I’ve not tried them yet but they are on the list!

  6. josiemakes May 28, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    I recently went veggie too, I thought I’d find it really hard because I couldn’t find any vegetarian foods that were also gluten free!!! I did a mass shop of gf veggie pies on Goodness direct and keep those in the freezer, and I found sainsburys chilled section do great spinach and mushroom burgers and bubble and squeak sausages! I have started making more food from scratch too, and I take multivitamins and it’s going well so far, started off doing meat free march but now been 3 months! Just went to the Isle of Wight last week and managed to eat something nice and different every day, not a jacket potato in sight!

  7. Katherine June 8, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    Really enjoyed reading this post. I’m a vegetarian for the same reasons and recently diagnosed coeliac. I’m new to the gluten free lifestyle so learning lots! I’m heading to padstow in a couple of months and was wondering where it was that you ate?

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