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Cuisines of the world

Being gluten-free doesn’t mean that you have to restrict the types of cuisines you eat.

When I was newly diagnosed as gluten-intolerant, I immediately retreated into a very safe food place with a very narrow range of ingredients. That lasted about, oh, three days until I got bored. Then I started thinking about what sort of foods I could eat. At first, I was very discouraged. Standard European cuisine was a bust, unless I did a lot of conversion. But there was a light on the horizon – ethnic foods. Let’s review some of the really, really good ones!


This is top of my list. Apart from naan bread, you can eat almost anything at an Indian restaurant and because very little of it contains gluten, the environment in the kitchen is reasonably gluten-free. Think about it for a minute – pakora are normally made of chickpea flour, poppadums are pea flour. Most of the sauces are thickened with almonds or cashews, or simply by long, slow cooking. And they’re served with rice. Yes, they’re sometimes a high-fat option, but you can choose a saag – spinach – based curry rather than a richer dish like butter chicken or chicken tikka masala.

What to watch out for

Poppadums aren’t always made with pea flour, so do check the ingredients list. Ditto pakora – always ask what flour they’ve used. And as always, double-check the ingredients.


Healthy, flavourful and often gluten-free. Obviously flour tortillas are no good. But corn tortilla are generally fine, and it’s becoming easier to find soft corn tortilla – although nothing rivalling the 50 white corn tortilla I found in the US for $2.95! Mexican is fresh and colourful and the coriander and cumin flavours which are most prevalent sit nicely on the tongue. Nachos, tacos, even enchiladas. Fresh salsa, guacamole – yum, yum, yum and as we come into summer, even more yum.

What to watch out for

Flavoured corn chips! Nachos looks like a safe enough dish, but even checking with the kitchen staff that the chips are plain does not always guarantee they are. Most flavoured corn chips use a flour-based flavour.


Sushi, donburi and a variety of stir fries. Especially if you’re making this at home, Japanese is a great idea. If you’re eating out, it can also be a pretty good option.

What to watch out for

Soy sauce is the biggest thing. Most soy sauce contains wheat, although it is relatively easy to find brands which don’t. Teriyaki sauces generally have a large soy component. Also, sometimes in sushi the vinegar contains gluten. If they’ve used rice wine, you’re normally fine.

Middle Eastern

Okay, so I know we say Middle Eastern and the first thing most of us think of is couscous. I’ve had restaurants try and serve me a dish with couscous in it and say that it is gluten-free. For the record, couscous is made from crushed durum WHEAT, so is absolutely not gluten-free! However, I’ve found that you can substitute quinoa very successfully for couscous with little change in taste or texture. Some wonderful Middle Eastern options include falafels, which again you can make at home very easily or buy. There are some commercial falafel mixes available from the local supermarket. Sweet and savoury are the keynotes of Middle Eastern food, so cinnamon combined with chilli, prunes combined with almonds and chicken, and lots of fresh tastes. And the kebabs on rice with salad are normally fine too. Kofte (meatballs), kebabs on skewers and lovely fresh salads as we come into summer. Yum.

What to watch out for

Falafels are easily made without flour. However, some mixes do contain wheat and some commercially available ones do too. As with anything you buy, always ask. Check what marinade is used on the big meat kebabs in case it includes soy.

These are some of my favourites, which are very accessible both eating out and making at home. And who said gluten-free had to be tasteless?
What are your favourites?

Weight loss update

I’m sitting on 13kg lost to date, and people are starting to notice that I’m looking skinnier. I look at my ID badge photo at work which was taken in early May and there is a noticeable difference. I now have a whole new wardrobe – those clothes I haven’t been able to wear for the last couple of years. So I’m really seeing a significant change. Another 9kgs to go, but I feel I can make that. In the last couple of weeks I have successfully given up chocolate bars, largely because they take up so much of my daily food allowance if I eat them. I feel I should stand up here and say, “Hi. My name is Lisa and it’s been 23 days since I ate a chocolate bar”. I really feel like I’m getting the hang of how to eat the right amount, and I’m not as resentful of the restrictions because I’m choosing what those restrictions are.

The 10,000 Steps Challenge at work is really helping with this. I’ve worn a pedometer before and was always interested to see how many steps I did. But now that I’m part of a team and they’re relying on me to do my 10,000 steps, I feel a real impetus. So much so that I am getting up most mornings at 6am to go walking. Yep. In the cold and dark. And I am not a morning person. The upshot of this is that I can eat a little more because I’m exercising more. Week 3 of the Step Challenge, and it’s going well. The knock on benefit is that the other day I could see I was a long way from my target, so took my smallest boys to the park. We played cops and robbers, ambled around, looked at the Waterview tunnel works, came home the long way and bought them an ice cream. The boys were really proud of themselves for helping me do another 3,000 steps, and wanted to do it again. Have any of you worn a pedometer, and did it help you to exercise regularly?


For those wanting more information on coeliac disease, check out the NZ Coeliac Society website www.coeliac.org.nz.

This blog is the opinion and experiences of its author and should not be taken as medical or dietetic advice. Healthy Food Guide has not verified the content and cannot endorse any advice given. Healthy Food Guide recommends seeking professional health advice for specific complaints or symptoms.

Date modified: February 22 2021
First published: Sep 2013

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