There was a great amount of interest in this topic for a blog, and I have to say that makes me a happy dietitian. The closer each of us can be to following the recommendations provided in the Australian Dietary Guidelines (hereinafter referred to ‘The Guidelines’), the greater amount of nutrients we’ll have access to and this should reflect in our overall Wellness.
In today’s blog we’ll just look a brief intro to The Guidelines as it’s an enormous topic that I intend to break down into smaller blogs along the way. In one of our posts this week someone asked “How do we count the nutrients we’re eating?” In a nutshell, the way we do that is by aiming to meet the recommended serves in each of the five food groups to provide us with those precious nutrients. That’s precisely what the Australian Dietary Guidelines was designed to do!
Let’s get started
The latest version of The Guidelines was released only last year and provides scientific evidence (comprising more than 1100 references) for makes up healthy Australian diets. They’re aimed at the general population and remind us that “diet is arguably the single most important behavioural risk factor that can be improved to have a significant impact on health”.
There are 5 overall guidelines . I won’t be covering those in today’s blog because it’s not the focus but I do encourage you to read them.
As recently highlighted in a post in our group by APD Zoe Nicholson, “Most food is naturally GF and even within the top 10 grains humans consume, all are GF except for wheat which makes gluten a tiny tiny part of what humans actually consume.”
Only one of The Five Food Groups contains gluten – the Grains (cereal) foods group. This means that the other groups should be relatively easy to meet. If you’re on a low-FODMAP diet then you may need more assistance with the other groups too, but if we’re just thinking about avoiding gluten it’s only the Grains (cereals) group that we need to pay extra attention to.
And if you further break that down to look at which grains (cereals) are included in that group they are mostly made from wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, millet, quinoa and corn. Obviously 4 of those listed contain gluten (wheat, oats, rye and barley) and the other 4 don’t but in fact we can also add buckwheat, sorghum and amaranth to this list, and potentially more.
So to meet your 3-6 serves of grain (cereal) foods per day (depending on your age and gender) it’s isn’t too hard to do the counting. Here are some ideas to help you meet them.
You might include 1-2 serves in your breakfast meal. That might be a couple of pieces of grainy/seeded or low-GI toast with some protein to keep your hunger satisfied through to lunchtime to provide you 2 serves, or a high-fibre, preferably low-GI cereal such as :
Lunch is a good time to tick a couple of grain serves off your list.
If you’re including a sandwich (preferably made with low-GI GF bread) then you’ve got 2 serves right there.
If you’re not having sandwiches then other easy options are including grains such as quinoa, brown Basmati rice, GF pasta or buckwheat in salads, soups and casseroles.
Of course, left-overs from yesterday’s main meal will often be a good lunch idea.
If you’re short in reaching your daily target then building grains into a snack is a good way of making it up. You could go that other fruit smoothie to add half a serve from earlier, or a piece of toast with peanut butter on it works well too.
You’re better off avoiding the GF crackers, rice crackers and rice/corn thins due to their high glycemic index. The old bowl of cereal trick as a snack also works well here.
Whether you have your main meal at lunch or in the evening, if you’re still low in consuming your grain serves some good options are:
A low-GI pasta dish – My two favourite types of GF pasta right now are Barilla (just like wheat pasta with a reasonable GI of 60) and Coles Simply GF pasta which has a low GI. One serve is only half a cup of cooked pasta so you won’t need much to top up your numbers.
Of course rice works well with curries and stir fries, and quinoa for salads and as a side dish. Again we’re talking half a cup of cooked rice or quinoa equals a serve.
Lots more to come
I hope you’ve found this blog helpful. As mentioned earlier there are lots of topics that I intend to cover here, and I have your helpful suggestions made earlier.
I will finish here with a reminder to please speak to your own Accredited Practising Dietitian for a personalised consultation to know what’s right for you based on your medical conditions. Please don’t make changes to your own diet before doing that as this is population level advice not aimed at individuals.
Good on you for taking the effort to Be Well Gluten Free!
Sally is the owner of her private practice, Marchini Nutrition , has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too. She is also Social Media Dietitian with Diabetes Counselling Online , and the dietitian on The Moon and You App .
The holiday season is a wonderful time for socialising with family and friends. Of course that means our intake of ‘sometimes’ foods can become a little out of control, which can cause later regret. We know that eating a balanced diet contributes to a healthy body and a healthy brain which also means greater vitality and a better quality of life as we grow older. So, although it’s the holiday season, try to remain focussed on healthy habits.
We’re spoilt in Australia at this time of year with so many wonderful fresh foods around. They’re full of flavours, textures and nutrients that will keep us bouncing out of our skins. So revel in those delicious foods and lead by example by sharing fresh seasonal foods at social occasions and at home on a day to day basis.
Managing the lead up to Christmas
When it comes to your food shopping over the holiday season, remember that Christmas day itself is just one day. This means you’re better off avoiding tempted by the likes of fruit mince pies, rum balls, Christmas choccies or shortbreads in the lead up to The Big Day, and save your purchases of these ‘sometimes’ foods for your shop for Christmas Day if you really do want them. If you buy them earlier, chances are that you’ll be tempted to have them beforehand. Everyone knows that if you don’t have something in the pantry at home you can’t be tempted to snack on it.
When you consider that these ‘sometimes’ foods that some people associate with Christmas are also considered luxurious, why not fill your shopping trolley with healthy luxurious fresh foods such as:
People will appreciate the food even more if they know that you’ve gone to the trouble of preparing fresh and healthy foods that will satisfy the flavour cravings and fill those tummies while also looking after their health.
If you feel that it’s important to have a Christmas cake on hand to serve guests, then why not make your own. That way, you know what’s going into it and your loved ones will appreciate that you made with love by your own hands. This also gives you the opportunity to modify the recipe to include more nutritious gluten free flours such as lentil and chickpea flour rather than refined flours, a little less sugar and healthier fats that are higher in mono- or poly-unsaturated fats such as canola or light olive oil (light in flavour) or even Greek yogurt rather than saturated fats such as butter.
How do we manage Christmas parties?
In the lead up to Christmas Day we look forward to the series of Christmas parties that we all love to attend. Some really helpful tips include:
One of my favourite dips to take to Christmas parties just uses a drained tin of cannellini beans with zest and juice of a lemon or lime, a big handful of fresh parsley, a fresh chilli or two and a clove of fresh garlic or two, salt and pepper to taste, and extra virgin olive oil and water to loosen – just whizz it all together and serve. I find this is very popular with the men with the bold chilli and garlic flavour! The green colour adds to the Christmassy feel when served with green blanched veggies and bright red baby sweet tomatoes. It also works as a good dip for fresh prawns!
For Christmas Day do you have family traditions? Many of us do. In Australia, many families are changing the old fashioned cooked hot Christmas meal for a lighter, cooler option. If your family is one like that does the old-fashioned cooked option and after Christmas day you’re left feeling bloated and heavy, perhaps it’s time to suggest a lighter Christmassy alternative.
It’s also easier to prepare as most if it can be done in advance and stored in the refrigerator, and just brought out on the day to make a delicious smorgasbord of fresh luxurious ingredients that everyone will remember and talk about with their friends. Not to mention, they’ll be left with extra energy and vitality to get on with enjoying our beautiful Australian outdoors.
A nice idea is to start the celebration off with a glass of bubbly to help get everyone in the mood. This can be accompanied by fresh summer fruits such as plump cherries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries and for something savoury try deliciously marinated olives and macadamia nuts (or whichever nuts you prefer).
For the entrée, try something light and fresh that might be as simple as slices of rockmelon wrapped in prosciutto, or a duo of cold Christmas coloured veggie soups (my family’s favourite). We make a green zucchini soup which is just zucchini, potato and fresh tarragon cooked in chicken stock then cooled and whizzed into a smooth soup. It’s delicious and popular with the whole family! And a red soup of course is a tomato based soup full of fresh herbs for added flavour.
For the main, you might still serve the traditional meats, but they can be served cold. In our family, we have a choice of two: a whole leg of ham with a special glaze, and cold turkey with cranberry sauce. Cold seafood selections also work well here. These are served alongside a wonderful array of salads including:
And then we finish off with a small serve of home-made Christmas cake and a selection of spectacular cheeses served with rye bread or wholegrain crackers, quince paste and summer grapes and figs.
Remember to keep in mind basic food safety tips at Christmas time to avoid food poisoning. The NSW Food Authority has some handy hints, including a fact sheet on ‘Summer Eating’.
All this wonderful, nutrient-rich food will leave you and your guests with very happy tastebuds, tummies and will contribute to everyone’s wellbeing. You’ll be the star of Christmas for sure!
Some useful sites in building your healthy Christmas:
Thanks to Accredited Practising Dietitian Joanna Baker of Everyday Nutrition for this helpful blog on identifying gluten on labels, helping us to Be Well Gluten Free :
If you have Coeliac disease, the only way to allow your gut to heal and to avoid symptoms is to follow a strict gluten free diet. Since gluten can be hidden in all sorts of unexpected places, learning to read a label will become one of your most essential skills. It may seem overwhelming at first, but with a little practise you will be able to take charge of your health and find freedom in being able to confidently decide for yourself if something is safe to eat or not.
Many foods are naturally gluten free. They are usually cheap to buy and can easily make up a large portion of a healthy diet. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed and un-marinated cuts of fresh meat, poultry and fish, eggs, bottled water, plain cows milk (flavoured or soy milks may contain gluten), nuts and legumes, fats and oils, plain rice and other gluten free grains. These products may or may not be labelled as “Gluten Free” and unless they are contaminated in processing (see “allergen statements” below) are all suitable for a gluten free diet.
2. Gluten free declaration.
If a product is labelled clearly as “gluten free” this overrides all other statements. To carry this statement, the product must have been tested and gluten should be listed as 0g/100g in the nutrition information panel, as shown in the image to the right.
Gluten is the protein found in Wheat, Barley, Rye, and Oats. In some countries, Oats are considered as suitable for a gluten free diet, however Coeliac Australia recommends Oats are not included as part of a gluten free diet, unless the person has undergone a supervised Oat challenge including biopsy. You can read more about Oats here .
Some foods are gluten free because they don’t include any gluten containing ingredients. Read the ingredients list and look for wheat (including spelt, semolina and durum), barley (malt), rye, oats and their derivatives. Since Australian law specifies that certain allergens including Wheat or Gluten must clearly be labelled, these are often listed in bold, as shown below.
There are 2 important considerations here:
If you are after more information about a product credible sources of information include your local chapter of the Coeliac Society, your own Accredited Practising Dietitian, or the manufacturer of the product. Facebook, twitter, Instagram etc are not reliable sources of information for basing healthcare decisions.
Being diagnosed with coeliac disease can come as a relief if you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired all the time. At the other end of the spectrum it can be a shock for people who don’t suffer with symptoms and feel perfectly well. Either way there’s quite a steep learning curve and old habits can be hard to break.
It can also be a big adjustment for the other people in your family and other parts of your life. You may feel that it’s all about you, but for people who love you it can be quite traumatic, so try to be mindful of that. It’s important too that blood relatives know that they’re in a high risk group for developing coeliac disease too. Especially if they’re suffering any symptoms they should be tested before starting a gluten free diet. You can find a letter about family screening on the left hand-side of the screen when you follow this link .
It is a large learning curve for you and for others in your life, which can seem overwhelming at first. The good news is that there is lots of support out there for you and your loved ones.
The other good news is that you have been diagnosed! This puts you a very strong position to move forward and learn how to be well gluten free and still enjoy a delicious range of foods.
For some years now, gluten free diets have been a huge trend and one that continues to grow.
News from the CSIRO , recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia, called the trend a “real phenomenon” and stated that in a CSIRO study as many as one in seven Australian respondents , not diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, reported avoiding wheat or dairy foods.
This is in addition to the one in 70 Australians with medically diagnosed Coeliac Disease.
For those living gluten free or avoiding wheat, breakfast is often the toughest meal to master.
So here’s a reference that outlines the facts about going gluten free and easy options for brekkie, including details to clear up confusion about whether oats are in or out.
Who needs to go gluten free?
A strict lifelong gluten free diet is required for treatment of medically diagnosed Coeliac Disease . People who have a medically diagnosed wheat allergy also find gluten free foods helpful because gluten free foods are always wheat free.
A gluten free diet may be used for non-coeliac gluten sensitivity , but the diagnosis and treatment of this is controversial.
The CSIRO study , which identified one in seven Australian respondents followed a wheat or dairy free diet, confirmed the dietary change was largely self-initiated as a result of an adverse food reaction. It also outlined the resulting risks, including nutritional imbalance and delayed diagnosis of potentially serious medical conditions.
It is extremely important to ensure adverse reactions to gluten are medically diagnosed because self-diagnosis does not work. Even if you feel better reducing gluten, it may not be the cause of your symptoms and you need to identify the real problem and get the right treatment.
For example, for people with gastrointestinal symptoms, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the cause is often a group of food components called FODMAPS .
There are also many Australians who have adopted a gluten free diet (or are avoiding wheat or grain foods) to lose weight. There is no evidence to support this and you may lose or gain weight on a gluten free diet. Going gluten free unnecessarily is not the best option because many grains, especially wheat, are important sources of prebiotics that help create a healthy population of gut bacteria and protect long-term health.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in rye, barley, triticale, oats and wheat, including wheat varieties spelt, farro, kamut, durum, plus bulgur and semolina. It’s the very thing that keeps wheat bread light and fluffy after you bake it. A gluten free diet means avoiding all gluten-containing grains, all foods containing related ingredients and any food that may have been cross-contaminated with gluten e.g. a gluten free cake on the same plate as cakes containing gluten.
Eating gluten free
For people who need to follow a gluten free diet, the good news is there are plenty of grains that are naturally gluten free. These include corn, rice, millet, sorghum and teff, plus the ‘pseudo-cereals’ amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat. These grains are the basis of many gluten free foods.
Fresh plain fruit, vegetables, legumes, dairy foods, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fats and oils are also naturally gluten free. Gluten-containing ingredients may be added to these foods in recipes, in restaurants and in food manufacturing. It is best to check the ingredients list and Nutrition Information Panel and on all packaged foods or contact the food manufacturer or restaurant to be sure.
In Australia, foods labelled gluten free are required to contain no detectable gluten.
Confused about oats?
Oats and products containing oats cannot be labelled gluten free in Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, oats are not recommended for people with Coeliac Disease because some people with Coeliac Disease are not able to tolerate oats.
However, food standards in Europe and the USA do recognise gluten free oats as suitable for people with Coeliac Disease. More research is clearly required to identify who can or cannot tolerate oats.
Which breakfast cereals can I eat?
If you are eating gluten free or wheat-free, there are a wider range of products available than ever before, including new gluten free versions of family favourites and some liquid breakfast products for when you need brekkie on-the-go.
It can be more difficult to get enough fibre on a gluten free diet, so choose whole grain and higher fibre breakfast cereal options often. You can also add extra fibre by topping your cereal with nuts and seeds (chia, linseeds, sunflower) or gluten free grain products (rice bran, psyllium husks, buckwheat).
Here are some Australian made breakfast cereals to try (listed by manufacturer):
Always get the best advice
This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Please seek advice on your personal health and nutrition needs from your trusted medical advisor and an Accredited Practising Dietitian that specialises in treating Coeliac Disease and/or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Leigh Reeve is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and Director of the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum (ABCMF). Leigh has many years experience as a dietitian across a broad range of practice areas.
So that leaves us with fruit and veggies. These are two food groups where you can take the brakes off when it comes to being vigilant about making sure what you are eating is gluten free as fresh fruit and vegetables are all naturally gluten free! Of course if you are buying processed fruit and vegetables (like frozen potato wedges or yoghurt with fruit pieces), or you are eating out, you should always to check to make sure there is no hidden gluten or cross contamination.
When it comes to fruit, eating the whole fruit is a much better option than getting fruit in a juiced form. Eating a whole piece of fruit means you don’t miss out on any of the fibre or other nutrients that can be left behind when a piece of fruit is juiced. Eating a whole piece of fruit is also much more substantial than sipping on a juice and is more filling which helps to satisfy hunger. You can see in the image below that fruit juice and dried fruit are recommended only occasionally and this is due to their high sugar content.
For the most part, it is pretty simple working out what a serve of fruit is. If you eat a whole apple, banana, orange or pear, you have eaten a serve of fruit. It gets a little trickier when the piece of fruit is small (like plums or apricots) or is a type of fruit that you don’t eat by the ‘piece’ (like strawberries, blueberries and grapes). The following are also considered to be one serve of fruit:
How big is a serve?
We’re very fortunate to have one of our contributors to the Be Well Gluten Free Facebook group, who is very close to becoming a qualified APD, to cover the next couple of blogs for us. Thanks Nina Mills for your guidance on these sometimes tricky issues! And over to Nina:
Sally introduced the Australian Dietary Guidelines in her earlier post How to follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines Gluten Free and discussed in detail how to make gluten free choices from the Grains group. I am picking up where she left off to discuss one of the other topics requested on the Be Well Gluten Free Facebook page. And that was: what are the food groups and what is a healthy amount of each to eat?
In these posts we will be focussing on what is recommended for an adult in each of the food groups. Healthy eating guidelines for children and pregnancy are available on the Eat For Health website.
So, given that the grains group has been covered, over the next couple of blog posts let’s take a look at the other four food groups and what the best options are if we are aiming to be well, gluten free. Let’s kick things off with the food groups previously known as ‘meat’ and ‘dairy’.