Restaurant Review: ZPIZZA – Gluten-free, vegan options

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I have not had a ‘real’ pizza in so long. It has been SO long that when I took a bit out of this pizza, I actually had tears in my eyes. Serving in US, Vietnam, South Korea and UAE, this pizza joint has stolen my heart (and my stomach). Thin gluten-free crust that tastes delicious, fresh tomato sauce, topped with delicious zucchini and olives – ah, pizza pizza pizza! Guys, you have definitely got to give this gluten-free pizza a try! The crust was so delicious. I wouldn’t even mind eating it plain! It was that good! They even give you the option of having vegan cheese, which I have yet to try. They were out of it the last two times I visited. Here are the pizzas I tried:

  • California Veggie Pizza: My favourite out of the three. Topped with zucchini, tomatoes, and olives.
  • Tuscan Mushroom Pizza: Had it without mushrooms since I’m not so fond of them. The caramelized onions and garlic sauce was fantastic! Tasted so good! A little too garlic-y and onion-y for me but still pretty damn good.
  • Napoli Pizza: I’m guessing it would’ve tasted much much better with the cheese but since they were out of vegan cheese, it was basically garlic sauce, and tomatoes so I didn’t enjoy it all that much.

Located in Dubai Marina. Gluten-free crusts available in Regular size only. Ingredients and prices listed on the website here.

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Gluten Free Muesli! Finally!

Gluten Free Muesli - Food For Health

Gluten Free Muesli – Food For Health

I am so glad that I have finally found gluten free, corn free, AND oat free muesli! This muesli is AMAZING! I absolutely love it. Ever since I started eating it, digestion has felt a little better. It’s so good to snack on during the day as well. Perfect for the munchies and if you need to increase calorie intake like I did. It tastes amazing! I can’t go a single day without eating it anymore. I tried it with some goat yogurt but I didn’t like the taste all that much. Haven’t tried it with camel milk yet. I just eat it as is! Sooooo goooood! With 3.9g of protein per serving, this is fantastic for vegetarians/vegans!

Available in Spinney’s and Waitrose for AED 33.

Hello!

Wow, it’s been a LONG time since my last post! I’ve been so insanely busy these past couple of months!

I’ve been to a new doctor here, after hearing lots of recommendations. The doctor did this test called NLS-Oberon Screening and the test showed that I have a parasitic infection. *Eek*

Before all of these stomach troubles began, I had experienced food poisoning and caught a stomach virus. This happened 3 times, and after the third time, I started feeling unwell a lot. The doctor believed this may be what caused it. Further reading led me to believe that bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and intestinal parasites/worms can cause a lot of these symptoms that I experience, which the doctor referred to as IBS-like symptoms. She said that my stomach is inflamed and all of this is what has caused several food intolerances.

Right now, I am undergoing treatment – lots of herbal medicines coupled with homeopathic treatment. It’s hard to tell whether I am feeling better, because of the side effects of the herbal medicines, but the tests show improvement. I am no longer vegan. The doctor has advised introducing eggs and camel milk to my diet. My body has been having such a tough time digesting food. Apparently, camel milk works wonders and is suitable for lactose intolerant people as well. I am off sugar and starch (it feeds bacteria) and I really wish I could go grain-free but I don’t know what I’d eat :S I’m already terribly underweight! The good news is that since starting treatment and making these dietary changes, I’ve gained 2 kilos.

There is a hypo-allergenic digestive enzyme that the doctor recommended which has been really helpful. I take a pill after each meal three times a day. I used to have this heavy feeling in my upper stomach right after eating but after having started these pills, I don’t feel that anymore.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Click on image to buy from Amazon

I also learned that raw garlic is a natural cure for both SIBO and intestinal parasites. I’ve been consuming a lot of it. However, be warned, it is a diuretic. No fun if you have to be outdoors! It would be worth reading into this – it could help you feel better!

Gluten Free 2-Ingredient Breakfast/Snack Idea

I have been eating this so often! It is so incredibly easy to whip up and doesn’t take any time at all! Perfect for kids as well and one of the greatest allergy friendly snack ideas I’ve ever had.

You just need 2 ingredients: Rice cakes and jam.

Rice Cakes and Jam

Rice Cakes and Jam

I usually have 4 small sized rice cakes with 1 tablespoon of jam. It is DELICIOUS! Even my gluten eating friend has now fallen in love with rice cakes and cannot wait to try it with jam! Perfect alternative to crackers-and-cream or crackers-and-jam! I have these for breakfast sometimes as well. Needless to say, I’m never disappointed with it! Great to pack for kids’ school lunches as a little treat. If you can have dairy, slather on some cheese and butter and jam. If you eat meat, put some slices of turkey or chicken on it. Use it instead of bread! Make a sandwich using rice cakes! Did you know that McDonald’s offers burgers that replace the bread buns with rice cakes in Asia to cater to the market? Pretty interesting, huh? 🙂

 

 

 

Where to buy Gluten Free/Lactose Free in Dubai

Buying allergy friendly food is so much easier than it was a few years ago. Here’s where you can find gluten free and lactose free products in Dubai:

  • SPINNEYS: You will find a range of dairy free milks here. They stock soy milk, rice milk and almond milk. They also have a jam that is labelled gluten free, by a company called Duerr’s. They stock quinoa, gluten free rice cakes, gluten free flours, and other gluten free snacks like cookies, macaroons and tomato-cheese sticks by Mrs Crimble’s. They also have some gluten free pastas and rice noodles as well as rice paper wrappers. I use those for samosas! I’ve also seen some small crisp sized packets containing flavoured gluten free rice cakes. These were in the section for food for infants. They even stock products by Waitrose. The most amazing think I saw was gluten free vegetable stock by Kallo! I can’t have these due to other allergies, but if you can, then hooray!
  • CHOITHRAM: The Choithram that I’ve been to in Dubai Silicon Oasis has an aisle for health conscious people. They have rice cakes, quinoa, and dairy free milk.
  • CARREFOUR: I always buy my gluten free spaghetti from here. They stock this brand called Peacock’s and have a variety of gluten free spaghetti noodles which are white rice noodles, brown rice noodles and vermicelli noodles. This is the cheapest (7-8 AED) brand of gluten free spaghetti I have found in Dubai. Most cost over 20 AED and contain corn which is something I cannot have. Carrefour also stocks lactose free milk by Al Marai. Look for it in the UHT section. They also sell soy milk but I have never seen any almond milk there.
  • LULU HYPERMARKET: I have heard about Lulu’s stocking lots of gluten free food but I don’t usually go there so I don’t know what they have. I recently found out that they stock almond milk by a brand that I’ve heard about repeatedly, especially from consumers in the US: Almond Breeze. I don’t drink this because apparently there is some amount of soy in it, but everyone gives it great reviews!
  • HYPERPANDA: They have a tiny little section dedicated to gluten free food, which makes me so pleased. There, I have seen rice crackers, Peacock’s gluten free spaghetti, and quinoa.
  • HOLLAND & BARRETT: This is a small, nifty little store just outside Hyperpanda in Dubai Festival City. They’ve got quinoa and lots of gluten free grains and flours.

You can always also go to ORGANIC FOODS AND CAFE in Dubai Mall but I don’t usually go to Dubai Mall. (Can you blame me? It’s always so crowded and takes ages to get from one end of the mall to the other!) There is also a Waitrose store there. In both stores, you will find a range of allergy friendly products. I haven’t listed any here because I’ve never been there.

For quick reference, use the lists below when you go shopping. The first list is sorted by product type, and the second is by store.

SHOPPING LIST

  • Gluten free/lactose free rice cakes in Spinneys and Choithram
  • Dairy free milk in Spinneys, Choithram, Lulu Hypermarket and Carrefour
  • Lactose free milk in Carrefour
  • Gluten free spaghetti (Peacock’s) in Carrefour and Hyperpanda
  • Gluten free flours in Spinneys and Holland & Barrett
  • Gluten free jam (Duerr’s) in Spinneys
  • Quinoa in Spinneys, Choithram, Holland & Barrett and Hyperpanda
  • Gluten free snacks and treats in Spinneys
  • Rice paper in Spinneys
  • Rice noodles in Spinneys
  • Gluten free vegetable stock in Spinneys

SHOPPING LIST

  • SPINNEYS: Gluten free/lactose free rice cakes, dairy free milk, gluten free flours, gluten free jam, quinoa, gluten free snacks, rice paper, rice noodles, gluten free vegetable stock
  • CHOITHRAM: Gluten free/lactose free rice cakes, dairy free milk, quinoa
  • CARREFOUR: Dairy free milk, lactose free milk, gluten free spaghetti
  • LULU HYPERMARKET: Dairy free milk
  • HYPERPANDA: Quinoa, gluten free spaghetti
  • HOLLAND & BARRETT: Gluten free flours, quinoa

10 Gluten Free, Allergy Friendly Survival Tips

After having been gluten free, dairy free, almost Top 8 free for a year now, I have come up with some survival tips that I hope will help some of you.

  1. Step away from the food that anyone else offers you
    It might be rude but trust me, it’s not worth it. They could tell you that it’s gluten free but did you know that there are quite a few people who don’t know what items contain gluten? What if they added soy sauce to it? Or maybe some oats? What if it actually is gluten free but they packed the food without having washed their hands after making a sandwich? Not worth it, my friend.
  2. Beware of restaurants
    Avoid eating at restaurants unless they have a clear understanding of what it means to be gluten free. Regular restaurants will be sharing kitchen equipment, utensils, space, etc. all contributing to cross contamination.
  3. Salad dressing is your enemy
    If I go out to eat, I will sometimes have salads but skip the dressing. Unless the waiter/waitress can provide you with an ingredient/allergen list for the dressing, you’re not going to know what’s in it. Keep it simple – drizzle with olive oil or squeeze a lemon over it but skip the dressing.
  4. Always read the ingredients
    With the above being said, I cannot stress the importance of knowing what’s in your food. Even at restaurants that have allergy friendly/gluten free food, always double check the ingredients. Also, don’t forget to read the ingredients on other products like handwash, body wash, shampoos, creams and makeup. You might be surprised to see that they contain ingredients like gluten, milk, and oats. To make matters worse, they use the technical names of these items, making it harder for the common person to identify. I have gone to the extent of googling each and every single ingredient on a product to make sure that none of them are derived from offending foods. Don’t just go by the sticker that says “gluten free.” Some gluten free foods STILL contain gluten, but those amounts are apparently ‘negligible.’ Tell that to my stomach.
  5. Take note of gluten free restaurants
    Google for a list of restaurants in places that you are likely to visit often. If you have pro memory skills, store this data mentally. Otherwise, a list on your phone or in your diary/wallet will suffice. Go to the websites of these restaurants and have a look at their gluten-free menu online. If you find meals that are suitable for you, make a note of it. If you wish to call the restaurant for further clarification, do so. This way, the next time you go out with your friends, you can suggest a restaurant where you can also (finally) eat a meal with them, instead of sitting in the corner of the table away from all the gluten with an empty plate, trying hard not to let your tears fall onto it.
  6. Carry plastic spoons, hand sanitizer and tissues/wipes
    This has been a life saver. Sometimes, I carry food with me when I know I’m going to be out for long hours. Because of this, I bought a set of plastic spoons and take them with me, so that I can avoid using spoons in my friends’ houses. The reason is that sometimes, it just gets a bit awkward to have to wash the spoons in someone else’s house before eating. Also, when you’re being served and you’re given a spoon at the table, you’re just not sure whether the person handing it to you has gluten on their hands or not. It would be really weird if you’re served at the table and then get up to go wash the spoon and come back. It also helps when you’re out and you want to avoid eating with your hands (like I often do, in case I might have some gluten on me from shaking hands with people or something). The hand sanitizer and tissues or wipes work well for when you want to clean your hands before eating or after handling items that may be contaminated. It’s not always convenient to find a place to wash your hands (and honestly, I can’t always be bothered to wash my hands after coming in contact with things).
  7. Carry snacks with you
    Have you ever been at school or work, packing up, ready to go home and then you’re told that you need to put in an extra couple hours? Then your stomach starts rumbling in rebellion. Go grocery shopping and look for little snacks that you can nibble on when you’re on the go. Lately, I’ve been carrying Mrs Crimble’s Apple Flavour Rice Cakes since they come in convenient travel packs. ALWAYS carry snacks with you when you go out. Keep some in the car, throw some in your purse. You never know when you might be stuck outdoors, and for how long, without an allergen-free bite to eat. Sometimes you get so hungry that you think that you can afford to risk it and try to order a supposedly gluten free meal at a restaurant and then your stomach punishes you for it later. I used to do that. If my friends were going somewhere to eat, I’d just order fries thinking it would be safe. Potatoes, vegetable oil, salt. That seems pretty safe. Except that it wasn’t. I found out the hard way later. It’s not worth risking. It would be wise to invest in some travel sized airtight containers to pack your snacks in. I actually have a little bag that’s stacked with plastic spoons for when I eat outdoors. Pick a nice looking bag, stack it with tissues and plastic spoons and use it to carry food or snacks with you when you go out.
  8. Fruits are your friends
    When I went on holiday to India earlier this year, every time I got hungry, we’d stop by a fruit vendor and buy bananas and apples for me to eat. I still continue the practice here. Stop by any gas station or grocery store and buy bananas or any other fruit. Keeps you going for a few more hours at least! Great and healthy snack.
  9. Learn to cook
    Try replicating some of your old favourite meals without the allergens. It’s amazing that today, compared to several years ago, many allergy friendly recipes are available online. Tweak the recipes and experiment to find out what works for you. Bake cakes and indulge in cookies. Make smoothies. Give yourself a treat once in a while!
  10. Don’t cry
    I know it’s hard. I know you feel lonely. I feel awful every time I go out and can’t eat, or when I’m at a birthday celebration and everyone’s eating cake, while I stare. The good news is that over time, you will learn to cook for yourself and you will eventually come to realize that you are now eating so much healthier. Once I cut gluten out of my diet, I automatically ended up losing all the junk food. I never realized how much rubbish I had been putting into my body really. You get accustomed to living like this and then you find that it’s not so bad. You just have be a little more careful about your food choices but it’s worth it in the end. Nothing is worth the pain that comes with eating the offending foods. You’re feeling better and that’s all that matters. It’s difficult, but you can do this! 🙂