A gluten and wheat free diet: Eating Hale and Hearty

Switching to a gluten and dairy free diet can be both rewarding and challenging. Whether out of necessity for reasons that include intolerance, IBS and Coeliac disease, or out of choice for weight management, a gluten free diet can be beneficial to digestion and wellbeing as well as encouraging you to consider less processed meal options. In addition, a dairy free diet can also encourage a healthier lifestyle; not only have dairy products been linked to worsening acne, they also increase mucus production in the body which can be very troublesome for conditions like asthma, hayfever and in my case chronic sinusitis. For me, a gluten and dairy free diet encourages me to read the label of everything I eat, to make better choices about which refined foods I put into my body.

Despite the health benefits and increasing popularity, gluten and dairy free products are still relatively limited and many lack both taste and potential nutrition. Hale and Hearty provide the answer with their easy to use mixes available in both sweet and savoury home baking favourites. They focus on the nutritional values of their healthier-than-most Free From products, with the majority being high in fibre, protein and wholegrains, and many containing omega-3 flax and organic ingredients. Eggs and butter are required for most recipes, but on the packages you'll find helpful dairy free substitute ideas; as a bonus their mixes contain no fructose or inverted sugars, so great if you're on the Low FODMAP Diet. I've been trying out a couple of mixes from Hale and Hearty to see whether how they deliver on taste, texture and ease of use.

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix (£2.19) is oat based and contains 8 certified organic ingredients. The box contains one big pack of dry ingredients which is to be mixed with 1 egg and 50g of soft butter (I used sunflower margarine), but also provides substitute ideas to make the cookies suitable for vegans. The ingredients blended together incredibly easily and within 2 minutes I was pressing walnut-sized mixture balls onto greaseproof paper as instructed. After 10 minutes in the oven I was presented with 8 chewy and oaty cookies. They were still soft in the middle even after cooling, something which so many gluten free biscuits lack, and had a chocolatey flapjack-like taste which meant they didn't last long before being eaten!

The Classic Vanilla Sponge Mix (£2.59) is also presented in one pack of ingredients, but is made with a blend of 3 gluten free flours and organic chocolate chips. I added 2 eggs and 90g margarine as directed and blended the ingredients into a batter, but was fancying muffins over a big sponge cake so spooned the mixture into 5 silicone cases rather than a tin. This change in method meant I had to guess the cooking time and they took a little longer than expected at 20 minutes, but the tops were golden and a skewer came out clean. I was very impressed with the texture of these muffins - they were moist rather than crumbly and surprisingly filling for a cake. With the inclusion of vanilla these do have more flavour than a plain sponge, but next time when using this mix for muffins I think I would follow one of the suggestions on the box to add lemon zest or fresh raspberries for added flavour.

The Hale and Hearty brand not only offer sweet mixes but also mixes for Falafel, Pizza Bases, Stuffing and Bread. If you're new to a Free From diet and looking for something to ease you into the home cooking side, or are just looking for different Free From foods to taste, I would recommend Hale and Hearty's range for something new.

Selections of Hale and Hearty products are available at Sainsburys, Tesco and Ocado, while a larger choice is available online at Auravita and Planet Organic.

Written by Kirsty Paterson

1 comment

  1. One thing I'd raise as a point is that unless you HAVE TO give up or largely avoid gluten, going wheat or gluten free may well not be the best bet. Having done it completely for six months on the recommendation of my GP, I now largely avoid gluten although will make allowances for special occasions and Ivan tell you it's a lot harder than it appears to be. Most ready meals contain gluten either because they're past abased, contain soy sauce (yes, soy sauce contains gluten) or simply use it as a thickener. Most sausages contain gluten which caught me out more than once, as did Hagen Daaz ice cream. It's not a quick and easy way to lose weight, contrary to what a lot of celebs might say and can lead to certain vitamins and minerals being avoided. Like most things, as a part of a balanced diet, there is nothing wrong with wheat or gluten so unless you have been diagnosed by a professional don't bother trying to exclude wheat or gluten for your diet.


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