Last week, we spoke to Andy Kun, founder of Urban Health Group Limited about what it means to gluten-free, the definition of celiac’s and the controversies surrounding wheat. This week, we continue our Q&A, covering topics like the best gluten-free snacks and where to eat out.
What foods/products do those following a gluten-free diet need to avoid at the supermarket?
I am starting to sound like a broken record but my number one piece of advice is: avoid processed products and foods! Most things in a packet are processed, even canned items. Read labels carefully too. Some products might not mention gluten or wheat, yet can still contain gluten due to poor labeling laws. Ingredients to watch out for: modified starch (can come from various sources, including wheat), natural/artificial flavoring/seasonings (can come from barley), vegetable protein/hydrolyzed vegetable protein (can come from wheat) and dextrin/maltodextrin (both sometimes made from wheat). An easier rule? No processed foods!
What are your basic gluten-free pantry tips?
Don’t skimp. Buy trusted and certified gluten-free brands such as Bob’s Red Mill, Udi’s Gluten Free, Tolerant Foods, Kelp Noodles, Thai Kitchen, Orgran, Lundberg, etc…If you have a mixed household, store your gluten-free products separately from those containing gluten. What we do is keep a sealed container of products containing gluten on our bottom shelf and our gluten-free products go on the top shelves.
What are your go-to
Convenience-wise, I love Health Essential, Just Green and Organic Plus. I get all my staples there like rice, flours and bread. I go to Spicebox Organics for organic spices, taco mix and Wholesome Chow cake mix. Their mixes are fab- the instructions are so easy and the finished product is super delish! Plus they are GMO-free.
What are your favourite gluten-free snacks?
I have many favorites but these make the top of my list: Nana’s cookies, Glutino Gluten Free Cookies, Dr Schaer Cereal Biscuits, Cialde Plain Wafers, Lucy’s Cookies, Ener-G Cinnamon Crackers and kale chips from Anything But Salads or Nood Food.
December 2016 Update: Anything But Salads has closed down.
What foods/dishes should be avoided when eating out?
Avoid all deep-fried items- whilst they might not use wheat-based flour as a coating, most restaurants have only one deep-fryer, which means the gluten-containing foods will contaminate everything, making the finished product unsafe for you. When ordering rice noodles or pasta, ask if they boil them in a separate pot. Basically, you need to find out if gluten-free dishes are prepared in a separate area, which minimizes/prevents cross-contact with ingredients containing gluten. It is very important to take this seriously- cross contamination can be lethal to celiac patients. This is also why it is often easier to choose restaurants that have specially designated gluten-free menus/kitchens.
What are some family friendly AND gluten-free friendly eating out options?
We are so lucky- Hong Kong is changing and there are now many more options than even just a year ago. Obviously, we do recommend the Urban Health Pop-Up Kitchen- we put together many awesome allergy-friendly events and we also do private chef bookings. When I am not in the kitchen, the places I frequent regularly are:
Andy’s Final Words Of Encouragement
To those who are new to the gluten-free lifestyle, I would like to say: it is absolutely a blessing in disguise. Being on a strict gluten-free diet means that you will start to pay attention to what goes into your diet. You will end up avoiding processed foods. You will learn to read labels. You will cook more. You will eat more fresh foods. You will become more aware of your body and its needs. You will heal your gut.
The incorrect assumption that being on a gluten-free diet means no more delicious foods is simply not true. There are countless, healthy options to keep you full year-round. Make sure to make use of Urban Health’s Gluten Free Map to find shops and restaurants n Hong Kong that have been verified by our team as gluten-free friendly. There is also a plethora of resources online for those who want to learn more. Keep an open mind and you may be surprised to find that you are healthier both in body and mind!