Sunday, 11 August 2013

Trying out a Gluten-Free Diet and the ilumiNation Challenge^

Having just returned from a fortnight on holiday in which I consumed predominantly bread, the timing couldn't have been better. A couple of weeks ago, the lovely people from ilumi got in touch with me to ask whether I'd like to try out their Allergen-savvy Eating Challenge. Naturally, I was super keen to give it a try.

Apparently, a lot of people suffer from regular bloating or a lack of energy without realising that it might be food that's causing the problem. As a bit of a bloat-sufferer myself, I was really interested to find out if changing my diet might  make a difference.

Gluten-free diets are all the rage right now, whether you're actually coeliac or not, with high profile people from Gwyneth Paltrow to Novak Djokovic singing the praises of going gluten-free. Recently, a good friend of mine discovered she's a coeliac (remember Stef, from her yummy ginger crunch creams?), and everyone can see she looks so much better for having switched up her diet.

So, ilumi sent me a huuuuge box of goodies, which was very exciting indeed. Inside, they'd included a very helpful recommended eating plan for two weeks, hints and tips, recommended snacks and loads of their own dishes.

The idea is that you eat three regular meals and up to three snacks a day - the portions aren't meagre either, but I suppose this was never meant to be a weightloss plan.

All the ilumi recipes are entirely free from gluten, lactose and nuts, so perfect for anyone with tricky allergies. And what did I get? Well, no boring plain dinners, that's for sure. How do you like the sound of slow cooked chicken casserole, spanish rice with vegetables, kerala chicken curry and thom kha gai (Thai chicken) soup?

The Spanish rice with vegetables
Interestingly, most of the dishes were very low-calorie, but still big enough. I got into the habit of having soups for lunch, despite the summery weather - I loved the Thai chicken and tomato & red pepper ones, but have to say the sweet & spicy butternut squash soup was too spicy for me!

They'd also included various sauces for doing your own cooking.

So, how have I found it and what have I learnt? Well, being gluten-free is HARD! You have to check the ingredients on everything! And sometimes the labelling isn't clear. I got into a bit of trouble when I tweeted happily that Crunchy Nut Cornflakes were gluten-free, only to be told that there's gluten in barley. Oops.

I know you can buy gluten-free breads, pasta and the like, but I didn't really want to have to buy loads of stuff in case I decided I wasn't going to carry on being gluten-free.

As someone who doesn't need to be gluten-free, there've been a couple of slightly rubbish moments. For example, we went out to Zizzi for dinner, and while the rest of my family had scrummy pizzas, I had to make do with the only coeliac-friendly option on the menu - gluten-free fusilli in a tomato/vegetable sauce. Woo. It was nice, but it wasn't pizza. Just goes to show how little restaurants cater for gluten-free diets. However, I did feel distinctly less bloated than I would usually.

Instead of my usual bread-based lunches, I got more into falafel alongside my soup, and roasted vegetable crisps instead of normal ones. It was a bit of a challenge when we went on our day trip to Windsor and took packed lunches - I couldn't take soup, and when sandwiches are off the cards, what do you do? This gluten-free malarkey isn't easy.

Accidentally made cookies the size of my face.
Not being able to have my usual afternoon tea and cake was a bit of a bummer, but I decided to make the most of the opportunity to try out some gluten-free baking. I'm not going to lie to you, the cookies I made turned out a bit weird, so the recipe isn't going to make the blog, but I still like them anyway.

So, I've realised that gluten-free eating isn't easy, and after trying the diet I really feel for anyone with a food allergy. I tell you what, the ilumi meals definitely made it all a lot easier too. While I definitely feel a little less stodgy and bloated as a result of following a gluten-free diet, I don't think I'll carry on with it. I just miss normal bread and cake too much.

That said, if you're considering switching to a gluten-free diet, I think ilumi meals will really help you, at least to kick start your diet and ease you into it all.

Click over to their website for a trial offer!

Does anyone have a gluten-free experience they can share with me? Anyone tempted to try it?

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