- Being Vegan with Food Allergies/Intolerance -
Veganism and being gluten free are two separate worlds. Although being vegan can be a health choice, it’s the ethical awareness of animal welfare and the environment that distinguishes it from a ‘plant-based diet.’ Following a gluten free diet is entirely a health oriented position.
I made the decision to go gluten free based on how it helped my eczema. I read about the benefits of omitting gluten and wheat products from your diet which could alleviate the discomfort of the dry, irritable red patches. There was no general consensus on whether it worked.
I gave it a go because I thought, well the worst that could happen is that I will go a week or two without pasta or bread. I noticed results almost immediately and kept going with it. Now I notice a significant impact on my skin and my gut when I consume gluten.
The two, being vegan and gluten free, often collide with frustration. Vegans rejoiced when Ben and Jerry’s released its new lines of dairy free ice creams - imagine my dismay when I learned most of them contain wheat flour. Yes, gluten free ice cream is a thing! A lot of the gluten free Quorn products are only vegetarian, and their vegan products usually have wheat. And unfortunately I can’t avail of the seitan revolution.
It isn’t necessarily a difficult combination. It just requires some planning. The only times I’ve found myself really stuck is when I’m in need of a snack in work, or I forgot to pack lunch. Vegan sandwiches and wraps in shops and supermarkets are fantastic, it’s just a shame I can’t eat them. Oh that pesky gluten. We worry that restaurants will only be able to serve us up a plate of salad leaves, despite there being a full vegan menu.
- Working it Out -
Restaurants, food companies and yes even individual vegans are often unaware of food allergies. Vegan food, especially pre-made or in restaurants can often be inaccessible to people like me with such intolerances. For veganism to be truly accessible to all, there needs to be an onus on addressing this. A friend with a soya allergy commented that she wished she could eat the Oumph range that had become popular. Allergies to nuts and soya among many others, are a reality. Not everyone can eat tofu or tempeh or have cheese made from nuts.
I was looking at the gluten free and vegan menus for a restaurant in Belfast. How many options overlapped? One. But it's not all bad. Some vegan establishments have taken this into consideration and easily accommodate gluten free requirements. Eat Street in Belfast and the newly established The Vegan Rocket in Lisburn have both been super helpful. The latter has occasionally done burgers with gluten free flour, and offered gluten free spaghetti and breads.
Many of us turn our kitchens into havens, because this is usually the only source of a substantial meal. Not necessarily healthy, but more filling than a salad. Sometimes it’s too expensive to constantly rely on the supermarket. Part of this dual experience is reading vegan cook books and thinking how to swap out the gluten. Sometimes it feels like I’m a chemist working out whether buckwheat and chickpea flours would work in lieu.
Thanks to the dedication and creativity of bloggers on Instagram, my home cooking is getting better. With lots of gluten free and vegan dishes making the rounds on social media, inspiration abounds. My kitchen is stocked up with different flours, nuts and starches.
One of my favourite discoveries is buckwheat. I've used it in breads, risottos and stews. the name is rather misleading, as it's a seed and completely safe for those on a gluten free diet.
The only downside is the motivation to cook!