Eating well over the holiday season

By Sally Marchini, Accredited Practising Dietitian at Marchini Nutrition (

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:

  • Summer fruits (that we all love!)
  • Fresh or roasted unsalted nuts
  • Brightly-coloured vegetables and salads
  • Tasty homemade dips
  • Quality lean protein sources such as fresh seafood, ham on the bone and lean turkey.

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:

  • Before you go, eat a good balanced meal. Include low-GI carbs, lean protein and a good serve or two of extra vegetables to take the edge off your hunger. This will help you to make better choices when you’re at the party and help you to avoid overeating of foods you know you’re better off without. It also means more time to socialise, without having to worry about eating for satisfy a grumbling stomach.
  • Watch your alcohol intake. Take a bottle of water or fizzy water with you to either mix with your alcoholic drink or at least to have as an alternate between the alcoholic ones. One of the downsides to drinking too much alcohol is that it often makes your food choices less desirable and while your body is processing the alcohol, the less desirable foods are stored as fat.
  • Offer healthy options (if you’re the host) or take a healthy plate (if you’re a guest). If it’s your party or if you’re taking a plate to someone else’s, you can choose to offer:
    • Lots of fresh vegetables such as blanched asparagus tips and snow peas and flavour burst baby tomatoes
    • Top quality wholegrain gluten free crackers with fresh homemade dips such as an avocado guacamole, hummus and tzatziki. Whenever I take these kinds of dips and dippers, they’re always the first to be finished!
    • Big bowls of roasted unsalted nuts
    • Selections of wonderfully marinated olives and roasted vegetables
    • Tasty and easy to make canapes such as Vietnamese rice paper rolls filled with prawns and fresh grated veggies and vermicelli noodles with a dipping sauce, or gluten free blinis with smoked salmon and a small dollop of Greek Yogurt on top flavoured with lemon zest, black pepper and finely chopped chives as just a few easy ideas.
    • Fresh prawns and oysters are also a great favourite and are lower in calories than you might think!

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!

Family traditions

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:

  • Fresh sliced tomatoes with torn mozzarella and fresh basil topped with ground black pepper and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil
  • Baby potatoes served warm tossed in fresh mint leaves and olive oil
  • A quinoa salad with lots of flavourful ingredients such as rocket, toasted pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and fetta or halloumi cheese.
  • Fresh blanched asparagus with quality shaved parmesan on top
  • Steamed green beans topped with slithered almonds
  • A mixed green leaf and avocado salad dressed with fresh herbs and white balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil

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:,301?ref=zone,christmas-sides-salads

Gluten free diets are better with nuts

We’re very fortunate to have this blog written for us at Be Well Gluten Free by By Lisa Yates, Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and Program Manager Nuts for Life. It’s special that we’re still in March as this is the month when nuts are harvested so are at their best! Over to you Lisa!

Lisa Yates image

If there is one thing you need to remember when following a gluten free diet it’s don’t forget your nuts!

Despite the current fad, gluten free diets are not every day diets for everyone. They are a medical nutrition therapy for those with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance. People with these conditions need to avoid gluten for their entire lifetime. People on a low FODMAP diet need to remove it just to tolerance for those gluten-containing grains. But removing gluten-containing foods from diets can also have long term health consequences so finding the balance is key. The month of March is the Nuts for Life #nuts30days30ways challenge to get Aussies eating a handful of nuts each day. Here’s why eating nuts is always a good idea.

Gluten free foods and diets can be:
Low in fibre – gluten containing cereal grains wheat, rye, barley and triticale contain a fibre rich outer husk so it’s important to seek out gluten-free, fibre-rich alternatives to maintain a healthy bowel function and gut microbiome
High glycaemic index (GI) – gluten-free, low-fibre foods and diets tend to have a high GI which can affect blood glucose control, increase hunger and increase the risk of chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. (See this blog on tips to follow a low-GI diet gluten free)
High in additives – replacing gluten or gluten containing ingredients in processed foods often means a number of additives are required in its place. Gluten-free foods may appear in the Health Food aisles of supermarkets but it doesn’t always mean they are health foods.

One solution to these problems is of course adding nuts such as almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts.


• Nuts contain 5-10g of fibre per 100g or about 1.3-3g per 30g healthy handful – especially nuts with brown skins or testas. If buying nut meals as gluten free flour alternatives look out for nut meals with a brown fleck it means the skins were left on before they were ground. Nuts skins are rich in phytochemicals with antioxidant properties and they are thought to act as foods (prebiotics) for gut bacteria (probiotics). Research shows eating nuts can alter gut bacteria by stimulating the growth of specific types of beneficial bacteria (1-5) and the nut fibre may play a role in helping external probiotics survive stomach acid reaching the large intestine intact.(6) Use almonds, chestnut and hazelnut meals or whole nuts as snacks.

• Only cashews and chestnuts contain enough carbohydrate to be GI tested and they rank low GI which means they cause a slow rise in blood glucose after eating. For all other nuts they have a GI lowering effect. The complicated structure and high fat and fibre content of nuts means they are digested more slowly. When combined with foods and meals that also contain carbohydrate they slow the digestion of carbohydrate too. This means a slower rise in blood glucose(7), sustain energy and appetite control. Low GI diets reduce the risk of chronic diseases too. Thinking add almonds and cashews to a stir fry with rice or adding nuts to a gluten free breakfast cereal.

• Raw and roasted nuts are gluten free provided they don’t have any other flavourings added. Always check the ingredients list for any gluten containing additives such as thickeners or maltodextrins if nuts have been coated. Nuts, straight off the tree, are nutrient-rich whole foods with minimal processing so are guaranteed health foods.

• Daily nut consumption has been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease and deaths (8) and type 2 diabetes risk (8), and they also help control cholesterol (9). Despite their high fat content do not cause weight gain and may help promote weight loss (10,11).

Did you know?
Chestnuts are not like other the other tree nuts – they are more like a grain or potato than true tree nuts. Chestnuts are a fresh produce item with a distinct season. They are low in fat but rich in low GI carbs and fibre (8g/100g). Surprisingly for chestnuts they are a source of vitamin C with about 10% of the RDI for vitamin C even after roasting. Chestnut meal is also a perfect gluten free flour alternative. It’s chestnut season right now so enjoy them while they last.

How many nuts should we be eating?
A 30g healthy handful each day either as a snack or as ingredients in meals is an easy health investment to make especially if you have coeliac disease or are gluten intolerant.


What does 30g of nuts equal?
• 20 almonds
• 10 Brazil nuts
• 15 cashews
• 4 chestnuts
• 20 hazelnuts
• 15 macadamias
• 15 pecans
• 2 tb pine nuts
• 30 pistachio kernels out of shell
• 9 walnuts
• a small handful of mixed nuts

What about FODMAPs?
If you are following a low FODMAP diet then you will need to avoid some nuts but can eat others. Pistachios and cashews are high in FODMAPs while almonds and hazelnuts are low FODMAP provided fewer than 10 nuts are eaten in a serve.(12) And it all depends on your personal tolerance levels, so check with your Accredited Practising Dietitian about which are suitable for you.

For more information and recipes visit and to join in on the #nuts30days30ways challenge visit , follow @nutsforlife on twitter, @nuts_for_life on Instagram or search nuts4life on Facebook.

1 Ukhanova M et al Effects of almond and pistachio consumption on gut microbiota composition in a randomised cross-over human feeding study. Br J Nutr. 2014 Jun 28;111(12):2146-52.
2 Mandalari G et al Potential prebiotic properties of almond (Amygdalus communis L.) seeds. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Jul;74(14):4264-70
3 Liu Z et al In vitro and in vivo evaluation of the prebiotic effect of raw and roasted almonds (Prunus amygdalus). J Sci Food Agric. 2016 Mar;96(5):1836-43.
4 Calani L et al Colonic metabolism of polyphenols from coffee, green tea, and hazelnut skins. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012 Oct;46 Suppl:S95-9.
5 Liu Z et al Prebiotic effects of almonds and almond skins on intestinal microbiota in healthy adult humans. Anaerobe. 2014 Apr;26:1-6.
6 Blaiotta G et al Effect of chestnut extract and chestnut fiber on viability of potential probiotic Lactobacillus strains under gastrointestinal tract conditions. Food Microbiol. 2013 Dec;36(2):161-9.
7 Viguiliouk E et al Effect of tree nuts on glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled dietary trials. PLoS One. 2014 Jul 30;9(7):e103376.
8 Afshin A et al Consumption of nuts and legumes and risk of incident ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;100(1):278-88.
9 Del Gobbo LC et al. Effects of tree nuts on blood lipids, apolipoproteins, and blood pressure: systematic review, meta-analysis, and dose-response of 61 controlled intervention trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Dec;102(6):1347-56.
10 Flores-Mateo G et al Nut intake and adiposity: meta-analysis of clinical trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jun;97(6):1346-55.
11 Mattes RD, Dreher ML. Nuts and healthy body weight maintenance mechanisms. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2010;19(1):137-41.

My Holy Trio for Life Balance

This morning on Facebook, a page I follow asked the question, “What are some of your greatest qualities?”. I answered with just one word – “Balance”. I know, it’s only one word so doesn’t fit the question asking for the plural. It’s more like a headline.


Life Balance helps to keep my world in a manageable place and allows the extra qualities to shine through. I see it as the very top of my Tree of Life.

And there three main factors (in my opinion) that allow my Life Balance to flourish. These are Sleep, Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Many of us take all of these, or one or two of these for granted. We know that without that factor, our life is much harder to deal with than if we had it included on a regular basis.

Others, like many I see in my dietetic practice, just don’t seem to grasp this concept. If these three, my holy trio, become routine in everyday life then life itself it so much easier to deal with.

Of course there are challenges that make this difficult for some to manage. Many of these can be overcome with the help of health professionals and counsellors. As a dietitian of course, I help people develop better routines in the food they choose to eat, to suit their medical conditions in many instances. And there is support for the other two aspects if you feel you need it.

You may feel that this is totally over-simplified, and that’s where its beauty lies. It is about life balance. Life is not a game of perfect in so many, many ways. But if you have routine in these aspects of your life it can allow any imperfections greater chance of improvement, and so much more. It’s about what you do MOST of the time that really counts.

I see this as the foundation of a happy, healthy life which allows for ‘break-outs’ and faster recoveries from them and greater enjoyment of them when they happen.

As mentioned, there is lots of support available if you feel you need it. Please check with your own healthcare provider if you feel your life is out of balance. Just to mention too that I’m the dietitian on a fabulous app for women to help them live with the emotional side of their hormonal changes. The Moon & You app’s tagline is “When I am aware, I am in control” which relates well to my story of Life Balance. It’s a fabulous resource and I’m so proud to be associated with it.

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, runs a closed group called Be Well Gluten Free, and is the dietitian on The Moon and You App.




Reblogging “But does it contain gluten?”

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.

  1. Naturally gluten free foods.

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.

  1. Gluten free declaration.NIP

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.

  1. Gluten Free by ingredient

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.

IMG_4782 copy_Fotor

There are 2 important considerations here:

  • “E-numbers” given to thickeners, colours, preservative and emulsifiers, only identify the function of the ingredient, they do not identify the source of the ingredient. In this case if the ingredient is sourced from wheat it may be labelled as “thickener E1420 (wheat)” or “thickener E1420”. In the first statement the thickener was sourced from wheat and is labelled as such, in the second statement the thickener is not sourced from wheat and is a gluten free ingredient.
  • Glucose syrup is often sourced from wheat and since wheat must be identified is often labelled as “glucose syrup (wheat)” or “wheat glucose syrup”. All sugars ending in “-ose” (e.g. glucose, dextrose) have been highly processed and they no longer contain gluten. Coeliac Australia deems these ingredients as safe for people with coeliac disease. This is also the case for “Caramel Colour”.
  1. Allergen statements
  • “This product contains” statements: As I said earlier according to Australian law certain allergens, including wheat and gluten, must be clearly labelled, you can read about the ingredients covered by this law here (). These statements are usually near the ingredients list or nutrition information panel. If a product has an allergen statement for wheat or gluten, look back over the ingredients list to identify which ingredients are the source of wheat or gluten. In the situation that the only source of wheat or gluten is glucose syrup or caramel colour, you can ignore this statement. If however you are unable to identify the source of the wheat or gluten, the product should be avoided.
  • “May contain” statements: these are used when an item is processed in a manner that it may have come into contact with wheat or gluten during processing and the manufacturer can not exclude cross contamination. Coeliac Australia recommends not eating these products.
  1. Two golden rules
  • “No News is Good News” – if there is no mention of gluten or gluten containing ingredients you can assume the product is safe.
  • “If in Doubt, leave it out” – Don’t take unnecessary risks with your health. If you are unsure leave it out.

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.

Three Top Tips when you’re newly diagnosed with Coeliac disease

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.


It’s almost fourteen years now since I was diagnosed with coeliac disease, without symptoms, on top of my type 1 diabetes. It was that diagnosis that inspired me to go to university and study to be an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD). For the last two years I’ve been working with the Australian charity Diabetes Counselling Online, where they provide fabulous support for people with diabetes. I love the work they do for people with diabetes, providing evidence-based and practical advice. It was this work that made me appreciate that people with coeliac disease, as well as others on a gluten free diet for other reasons, also need this type of support as diagnosis does have a massive impact on your life. I’m not trained as a counsellor or social worker, but I do try to understand the pressures people have to deal with in life with a diagnosis of coeliac disease on top of life itself.

Here are three tips that will be a great starting point when you’re first diagnosed:

Tip 1:  Join Coeliac Australia – This organisation is a tremendous advantage when you’re diagnosed with coeliac disease. The website itself has lots of helpful information. I find the quarterly magazines they send to be important on so many levels. You get to hear stories about other members, read about the latest research and issues relating to coeliac disease, learn about travel destinations and how to best enjoy them gluten free, as well as many recipes, cooking tips, eating out tips and so much more.

Tip 2:  Find an Accredited Practising Dietitian with coeliac disease listed as an ‘area of practice’   – You can read more about dietitians here.

Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) have the qualifications and skills to provide expert nutrition and dietary advice. APDs are university-qualified professionals that undertake ongoing training and education programs to ensure that they are your most up-to-date and credible source of nutrition information, in line with DAA Professional Standards.

As coeliac disease is a chronic medical condition, your GP can refer you with a Medicare Enhanced Primary Care Plan to see a dietitian. This gives you $52.95 per visit to a dietitian, for up to five visits per calendar year. You can also choose to use private health insurance or just pay privately if you’d prefer to meet with a dietitian online, such as those listed in the files section of our closed Facebook group Be Well Gluten Free who have expressed their special interest in helping those on a gluten free diet. An APD can help you to implement the strict gluten free diet by teaching about what you can and can’t eat, how to decide if a food is suitable, learning to label read and ensuring your diet is nutritionally balanced at the same time.


Tip 3:  Join Be Well Gluten Free – We also publish blogs especially for the group by a range of dietitians on topics such as ‘Following the Australian Dietary Guidelines gluten free’, ‘The glycaemic index and why it’s important’, ‘5 easy tips for healthy GF meal planning’ and ‘Label reading tips to be well gluten free’. Here’s a link to a list of the blogs to help you Be Well Gluten Free. Our closed Facebook group is run by APDs for Australians who are gluten free for various reasons. The dietitians involved in the group have a special interest in coeliac disease and other food intolerances. We’ve set it up to help you live a happy and healthy life despite your diagnosis. We remind people that there’s no such thing as a silly question, and we’re living it and helping others who live with it every day.

So come and join in our support discussion, to help provide others with the support you’ve learned in your journey as well learning more for your own wellbeing.  Being part of our support group can help you if you’re feeling down, as others will have experienced similar feelings too and can probably offer suggestions of how they’ve got through.

Life with coeliac disease holds every opportunity that it did before diagnosis. It just requires a little more specific knowledge about foods, and learning to be mindful of the food you’re choosing plus being organised so you don’t go hungry along the way.

Here’s to a fabulous and delicious life!

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.




Reblogging ‘Gluten Free: A go to brekkie guide’ by Leigh Reeve AdvAPD

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):


  • Gluten Free Deluxe Muesli (contains rice puffs/flakes)


  • Nutri-Grain liquid breakfast drink
  • Coco Pops liquid breakfast drink

Freedom Foods:

  • Crafted Blends Lemon Myrtle – GF flakes
  • Crafted Blends Berries – GF flakes
  • Toasted Muesli
  • Rainbow Crunch
  • XO Crunch
  • Multigrain Sultana flakes
  • Active Balance Multigrain & Cranberry
  • Active Balance Buckwheat & Quinoa
  • Maple Crunch
  • Berry Good Morning
  • Ancient Grain Flakes
  • Corn Flakes
  • Rice Puffs
  • Rice Flakes
  • Ancient Grains Muesli
  • Fruit & Seeds Muesli


  • Gluten Free Weet-Bix
  • Gluten Free Weet-Bix with sunflower seeds & puffed rice
  • Up&GO Gluten Free

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.

October 2015

Leigh suit cereal variety IMG_0882Leigh 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.

Label Reading Tips to Be Well Gluten Free

Please welcome to Be Well Gluten Free a new guest blogger and newly qualified Accredited Dietitian, Joanna Baker, who has coeliac disease herself.


After years working as a nurse in the acute setting, Joanna is intensely aware of the impact of lifestyle choices on health and quality of life. She directed her career towards nutrition and dietetics with the goal of combining her passion for food and health with her education and experience. She is motivated and enthusiastic about supporting individuals to improve their health though evidence-based and practical dietary advice.

Joanna is still employed part time as a nurse and enjoy the balance and skill mix of nursing and nutrition. Her nursing specialty is in anaesthetic and post-anaesthetic care with an emphasis on general surgery, gynaecology, obstetrics, gastro-intestinal and bariatric surgery.

Today Joanna has kindly prepared this guest blog to help us to Be Well Gluten Free when we’re trying to choose between products that will be help us to be our best. Over to you Joanna!

Label Reading tips to Be Well Gluten Free

What should you do if you want to be a savvy shopper? Learning to read a label is really to only way to know for sure you are making the best choice for you. Below are my 5 top tips aimed at giving you the confidence to know that you are selecting the most nutritious options next time you are deliberating in the supermarket.

Tip 1 – Ignore the front of the box.

That means the illustrations, logos, words, symbols, illustrations, endorsements and health claims. These do not necessarily mean the product inside is a more nutritious choice, or that another product isn’t just as good or even better. Marketers spend hours designing the box to make it the most appealing to the consumer. Although some laws bind them when it comes to wording of health or ingredient claims, their goal is primarily to sell their product by making it appear healthier, tastier or better than the other options.

Tip 2 – Read the ingredient list.   

    1. Some imported products will have an additional sticker placed on or near the ingredients list. This is to ensure the product complies with Australia’s labeling laws and always overrides the labeling on the packet itself.
    2. This is also where you look for gluten containing ingredients such as sources of wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Since sources of gluten must be identified clearly on a product, these are often listed in bold on the ingredients list and/or in an allergen warning often beside the ingredients list.
    3. This is always in order of weight, therefore the ingredient listed first is present in the largest amount and the ingredient listed last is present in the smallest amount. By looking at the first 3-4 ingredients will give you a good idea of what the box really contains. If fat (oil, tallow, lard or anything ending in –glycerides), sugar (syrup or anything ending in –ose) or salt (sodium) are not one of the first ingredients you are probably on the right track.

Tip 3 – Check the Nutrition Information Panel. 

  1. Individual needs may vary, but as a general rule you can look for:
  2. This is listed in “serve sizes” and “per 100g”. Since serve sizes vary from product to product, and what you serve yourself may not always be the same serve size as the manufacturer suggests, when comparing products use the “per 100g” column. This way you will always be comparing apples with apples. (Note: ‘<’ = less than, and ‘<’ = more than)
Ingredient Good (per 100g) Great (per 100g)
Fat <10g <5g
Saturated Fat <1/3 total fat <2g
Sodium <400mg <120mg
Fibre >5g >8g

Tip 4 – ‘Allergen warning’ vs ‘May Contain’.

There are 8 common allergens recognized by food labeling laws in Australia and these must be declared on the label no matter how small the amount. Some products also have a ‘may contain’ statement. This is voluntary. Some manufacturers will process their products in the same area as they process allergen containing ingredients and cannot guarantee that traces of these allergens aren’t present.

Read here for more information on allergen labelling.

Tip 5 – Look for the nutrients you want

Of course food contains lots of nutritious ingredients too! So look for what you want out of your product. For example if you are buying milk (or milk alternatives), yoghurt or cheese, calcium is something you want to see, try to choose items with >120mg of calcium per 100g. This is especially important in considering milk alternatives, although they may be lactose free, some nut/rice milks are very low in calcium and protein making them nothing more than flavoured water. Many gluten free products are low in fibre and high in sugar, fat and salt. Look for options that contain ‘wholegrains’ (gluten free of course) and have plenty of fibre (>8g/100g is ideal).

The Health Star Rating

In the last few months you may have noticed a new symbol appearing on the front of some pre-packaged foods on the supermarket shelf. The Health Star Rating system (HSR) was recently launched with the aim of making it easier for people to make healthier choices at the supermarket. Like all initiatives it has pros and cons, and understanding these will help you get the most out of it.

New Picture

What is the HSR?

Basically the HSR rates packaged food from 0.5 stars to 5 stars much like a star rating on a fridge or washing machine. The more stars you see the healthier the food.

Stars are awarded based on a calculation that takes into account calories (or kilojoules), saturated fat, sugars and sodium balanced against protein, fibre, fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content.

How to use the HSR?

Sounds good at first glance, however there are a few factors to consider.

  • It’s simple and easy to read and understand at a glance.
  • The system is voluntary. This means that there will be both healthy and unhealthy choices that don’t have stars.
  • It doesn’t take into account additives, vitamins, minerals or how processed a food is.
  • It doesn’t tell you if the food is high or low GI, contains allergens or is gluten free.
  • Calculations are per 100g or 100ml. There is no consideration of portion size, either the recommended portion or the portion you choose to serve yourself.
  • It doesn’t tell you if the food is locally grown and manufactured.

In summary, the HSR is an easy way to compare two similar products in the same category e.g. choosing between two breakfast cereals, however, it’s not designed to be used in isolation or as the sole reason for making your food choices.

If you feel you’d to discuss any of these points or find out more about improving your own health now and in the long term, an Accredited Practicing Dietitian is the best way to go when looking for personalised advice on healthy eating. You can find one near you here with coeliac disease listed as an ‘area of interest’.

Joanna Baker is a university qualified Registered Nurse and Dietitian who believes that such a role is not just a job; instead it is a vocation. It’s one that she is passionate about, and also fits her own personal philosophy.  You can connect with Joanna via LinkedIn, Facebook or her website.