Cooking up ideas for gluten-free treats

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Mother and daughter Zoe and Eva Huggett, of Wanaka, are helping make Easter easier for children with coeliac disease.

Mrs Huggett said Eva (9) was diagnosed with coeliac disease at an early age.

‘‘I took her to the doctor when she was 4 because she was falling asleep in the morning and she was very tired.

‘‘I was worried she wouldn’t make it through a school day when she started school.’’

The autoimmune disorder damaged the lining of the intestine and reduced the ability of the body to absorb nutrients.

Symptoms could include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting and joint pain.

A strict, lifelong gluten free diet was important to effectively treat the disease.

Food in general was a challenge for people with coeliac disease, Mrs Huggett said.

‘‘We certainly have to be careful reading labels for everything, really.’’

When Easter eggs began to appear on supermarket shelves it was important to specifically read each label to make sure it was suitable.

Eva was also learning how to read labels.

The acronym ‘‘brown’’ — barley, rye, oats, wheat and never —helped remind her of the ingredients she needed to make sure were absent from her diet.

Eva also looked out for labels that said ‘‘gluten free’’ or ‘‘may contain traces of gluten’’.

She was able to enjoy some Easter treats like chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, but only if she could identify they were gluten free.

Eva has been helping her mother make Easter biscuits that were tasty but would not cause problems for people with the condition.

Ingredients included gluten-free flour and baking powder, xanthan gum, butter and sugar.

Information from Coeliac New Zealand showed an estimated 65,000 people in the country had coeliac disease, but about 80% did not know they had the condition.

However, it could be diagnosed at any time and if left undiagnosed it could lead to infertility, poor growth, depression or in some cases bowel cancer.

Mrs Huggett has started the Wanaka Coeliac Kids Club to raise awareness and help connect with other families affected by the disease.

She and her daughter will be hosting an Easter biscuitmaking session on Saturday, March 27, from 10am.

‘‘It is so difficult with food so it is nice for children to come and not worry about what they can and can’t eat.’’

Interested families can email wanakakids@coeliac.org.nz for more details.