This is rather different to the blog posts I usually do, but as it’s Awareness Week I thought I’d write a blog post aimed at non-Coeliacs. This post of course applies to anyone living with a dietary restriction, not just Coeliacs, but as it’s CAW, I’ve kept it specific to Coeliacs.
A small disclaimer before I begin, just to stem any negative comments – this is my own experience and observations, I do not speak for all Coeliacs/gluten intolerant individuals. I am aware of how lucky we are in comparison to Coeliacs who were diagnosed 10+ years ago – and compared to some others with far more debilitating chronic illnesses – but that does not mean that we should settle for what we have and stop campaigning for better options, availability and awareness.
It’s no exaggeration that “free from” is a growing market – the free from aisles are expanding and the range of products is increasing periodically. Even so, it can be a disheartening experience for someone who knows they can never eat gluten again without being seriously ill to walk through a supermarket.
Above is a few snapshots of part of ASDA’s “normal” bakery and cake section. 99% of these parts of the supermarket will either contain gluten, or be unsafe for Coeliacs due to manufacturing processes. If you’re not Coeliac and you want chocolate trifle, tear n share garlic bread, freshly baked chocolate chip pancakes, Smarties cookies, sesame seed buns, potato cakes, scones, eccles cakes, English muffins, crumpets etc etc etc for just a few pounds per packet – it’s all right there, with very little fear of it being out of stock or becoming discontinued. This is something I took for granted before diagnosis and I never realised the regret I would feel for not trying each and every item!
For a little perspective, here are the two snaps I took of the “free from” aisle in ASDA today. Compared to a few years ago this is massively expanded, yet I ask you to really consider the range of choice here – no poppy seed bagels, chocolate crepes or Star Wars Birthday cakes for those of us with Coeliac disease. “My store has a much wider range,” I hear you say – but that’s precisely the issue – the range on offer is inconsistent, and sometimes I can’t even buy bread at my local supermarket if they haven’t had a delivery in. What’s more if you really look at what is on offer here, you will see an array on snacks, biscuits, rice cakes, but very little substantial. This is something most supermarkets are aware of and are working to change – for example Marks and Spencer’s and Tesco’s have introduced a huge amount of new free from products this year.
Even with an expanded range, due to the supply issues and niche demand for gluten free food, the prices of free from food are out of a lot of people’s budgets. A loaf of bread can be anywhere from £2-4 depending on the brand.
Don’t get me wrong – nobody should be basing their entire diet on the free from aisle. And whilst I quite enjoy living on a diet based around fruit, vegetables, rice and dairy, it would be nice to walk to into a supermarket and be able to grab something which non-coeliacs take for granted.
I want to make it clear that I don’t mean to bemoan supermarkets – after all they are working on a supply and demand basis – but sometimes you have to walk in someone’s shoes to start to experience their life. I hope this blog post has helped to provoke someone’s thoughts or even just give some insight into gluten free living.