I love pastry. I love pasta. I love pizza. Gluten is my b*tch and I’m not willing to give it up without a fight! But that’s not to say I’m not open to a little convincing; after all, plenty of my friends have given up the bad grain, so surely there are some benefits to a pizza, pasta and bread-free life. To find out more, I went to Living Alive’s Gluten Is My B*tch workshop, in the very cool PMQ (check out our guide to PMQ here!).
The workshop took place at A Day With Fé, which in its normal life is a very cute fashion boutique set up by one of our fabulous That Mamas, Fe Valvekens. On this particular evening however, it provided an airy yet intimate space to learn (while admiring yoga wear!). So, with a glass of coconut water and a notepad in hand, I was ready and eager to hear from Living Alive Founder, Kanch Panjabi, a professional nutritionist and gluten-free advocate. She and fellow workshop host Fe made us all feel very welcome and at ease, and were great ambassadors for the session; both beaming with health and looking incredibly slim!
After group introductions it was time to get down to the facts. What is gluten, in which foods is it found, and what does it do to your body? Well, gluten literally translated means ‘glue’ in Latin and is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye to help bind foods together. For some people known as celiacs, gluten can cause serious problems in the small intestine leading to malabsorption and a lot of nasty side effects. Eek!
There is no denying that celiacs and those affected by IBS can suffer severely from ingesting gluten, but for those of us who get a bloated tummy at worst, maybe a complete eradication is not necessary? Kanch agrees that it is not necessary for everyone to go cold turkey, but of course there are many benefits that come with giving up gluten – such as enjoying a deeper sleep, improved alertness and less bloating, for starters. Kanch was neither fear mongering nor preachy, which I loved; she simply expressed the need to be more in touch with your body, the food you eat and how it makes you feel both physically and emotionally.
One hour in and everyone was in need of a break and eager to try some of the delicious-looking snacks adorning the tables behind us. Spinach pesto with corn chips and homemade flapjacks made with honey and peanut butter were both to die for, and there were plenty of dried fruits and crackers to give us all a much needed boost while we chatted and shared gluten tales.
Getting back to work, we were treated to some great tips on avoiding ‘sneaky’ gluten – yup, it’s everywhere! Watch out for soy sauce and blue cheese especially. But it’s not all bad, you can still have M&Ms! Yay! This was followed by a ‘how to’ guide on preparing for a gluten-free life change, starting with the kitchen. Getting the right equipment (a blender for one) is essential and storing the right gluten-free goodies from your fridge to your cupboards is a must. You don’t want to get tempted into old, bad habits! Finally, Kanch shared some all-important gluten-free suppliers, bakeries, supermarkets, restaurants and online stores to help those living gluten-free to avoid starvation at all times.
To top the night off, attendees were presented with beautiful goody bags filled with recipes, herbal tea bags, a folder for our plethora of factsheets, a very cute notepad and some millet to experiment with. It was a lovely touch to a very enjoyable evening.
For those suffering from gluten intolerance, the workshop provided a great forum for sharing experiences, food buying tips and the all-important, what to do at airports and on flights – a celiac’s worst nightmare! For me, I went home eager to try out some of the recipes for my gluten-intolerant friends (which I also love!) but I’ll still be indulging a little in the three P’s – pizza, pasta and pastries.
Kanch and Fe host a variety of food, yoga, style and cooking workshops in Hong Kong, so if you fancy boosting your health and wellbeing, be sure to check the Living Alive website for more details!