All the Vegan Gluten-Free Yums at the Free From and Allergy Shows, Melbourne

Spending the day at the Free From and Allergy Shows last weekend was an eye-opener. Allergies and life-threatening illnesses relating to diet are still on the increase in Australia. The number of people who then attend shows like the Free From and Allergy Shows brings this point home.

Many Melburnians braved the wintery wet weather outside to travel to the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre to experience the show. There were talks from leading health and media experts and vendors spruiking new products and information. There was also the overhanging vibe that allergies and illnesses can be remedied or managed with the help of a specific diet.

A Plant-Based Diet can transform your health

Dr Malcolm Mackay of Plant Based Health Australia started the day with his talk. He delivered one simple message which has always made sense to me. We choose what we put in our mouths, and what we choose can either be a benefit or a detriment to our overall health. Optimise your health with a wholefood plant-based diet and you can reap the benefits. Overall health begins in the gut where around 60 to 70% of our immune cells are found. Unhealthy microbiome can then lead to allergies and auto-immune issues.  So, a wholefood plant-based diet is the most effective treatment for many of the illnesses we’re seeing in our current world. The key is to promote good microbiome in the gut and reduce inflammation in the body with two key actions:

  • Avoid highly-processed foods
  • Minimise, even eliminate, the oils your diet
  • Cut dairy and meat out of your diet

To maintain microbiome diversity, you should observe a diet that’s made up of half non-starch foods and half starchy grains.

Businesses are acknowledging the rise and power of the vegan diet

It’s common knowledge that Australia is one of the world’s fastest growing markets for vegan products; currently third in the world. Food businesses have been quick to take note: developing vegan products for their existing product lines. There hasn’t been a time in history when consumers have been more informed about their food, the benefits, the cruelty suffered by animals, and the effects of production on our environment. But there’s still a long way to go if businesses want to move towards all-vegan ranges.

From the vendors on show at the Free From and Allergy Shows, there is hope. From sauces and condiments, to breads, plant milks and snacks, the possibilities are endless. Even the coffee stand at the shows offered plant-based milks for coffee and sold vegan gluten-free slices. Whether businesses decide to heed the current trends of people shifting to a plant-based diet will be interesting to observe in years to come. The current state of our world is making it clear that businesses need to prepare for the reality of shifting to fully plant-based, vegan, business models. They need to start preparing now!

Just don’t forget the ‘yum’ factor

I was keen to sit in on Olivia Jackson’s presentation about the steps to take when you’re diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. As you know, I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease a couple of years ago so Olivia’s talk naturally piqued my interest. Olivia is the owner and publisher of yum. Gluten Free, an Australian resource for all things gluten-free. Foremost, I need to mention that yum. Gluten Free does not have a vegan focus, but there are some points from Olivia’s talk that can translate to vegans with Coeliac Disease.

It can be hard to travel with Coeliac Disease, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. It’s just a matter of being informed about Coeliac Disease, what kitchens need to be aware of, and what travellers need to do in order to have an amazing experience without being ‘glutened’. Olivia revealed that 50% of people don’t dine out after being diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, but luckily Australia has some of the toughest food labelling standards in the world.

To give people with Coeliac Disease the confidence to dine out again, she believes communication is the most important element:

  • Do your research and talk in groups specific to gluten-free social groups or follow hashtags
  • Gluten-free is the most important label so avoid ‘may contain’ foods
  • Incorporate a gluten supplement in your travels to break down gluten in the body
  • Communicate to restaurants effectively e.g. ‘airbourne flour is like glitter’
  • Talk to a restaurant on the phone in the days leading up to your visit; can they cater for you?
  • Re-confirm your order once it’s delivered to the table
  • Educate and change the way we talk about Coeliac Disease with concise messaging

As a vegan who is Coeliac Disease, I have discovered food businesses need to be educated about the vegan diet; it’s not the same as gluten-free. I will echo Olivia’s thoughts that you need to disclose your condition as concisely as possible. However, your vegan requirements need to be communicated just as thoroughly and effectively.  If I can quote Olivia: “knowledge is power”.

Disclaimer: Justine de Jonge of Fire & Tea was a guest of the Free From Show and Allergy Show, and received a complimentary double pass. All views and reporting expressed above are that of her own. Justine did not receive any payments from any companies mentioned or photographed for this blog post.

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