“The availability of gluten free food has really improved.” Steph Ricketts, 28

Steph RickettsSteph was diagnosed with coeliac disease 14 years ago, and for the past six years she has also been vegetarian. So how easy is it to follow a strict gluten free and vegetarian diet at Christmas?

“I found my first Christmas challenging! It was all new to me and my family, and I was still learning what I could and could not eat. At 14 years old, I also found it a bit embarrassing because I had to eat differently to everyone else.

“Convenience food wasn’t as easy to find as it is now. Personally, I still find it best to make things from scratch, so it’s a good job I like cooking! However, sometimes, especially at Christmas, when everything can be so hectic, it’s nice to have things already prepared.

“14 years on, and the choices and availability of gluten free foods in all the supermarkets has really improved. I’ve been so excited to find gluten free mince pies and chocolate logs in the past few years. Coeliac UK’s Gluten Free Food Checker app helps me shop for new products, and I get very excited to see what new items are launched each year.

“Becoming a vegetarian has added another degree of difficulty to an already restricted gluten free diet, but it gives me a challenge to discover new options which I enjoy! I would love to find a ready made gluten free nut roast to just pop in the oven but no luck, so I will be making my own this year from scratch.

“Luckily my family and friends have always been super supportive, and in recent years, I've also found eating out is so much easier too. A couple of Christmases ago we went to a restaurant called The Green House, and they catered so well for a gluten free and veggie diet!

“Last Christmas I didn’t have such a good experience. I’d been travelling across Asia and was in Thailand on Christmas Day. Unfortunately, I had a very bad reaction to gluten, which was either down to the language barrier or cross contamination, because the food made me so ill. To add to the drama, we had a power cut and were locked out of our room, so I was unable to make it to the bathroom. Definitely one to remember!

“I love to travel and my trips abroad encouraged me to create my @tamaritravels Instagram page so I can share my gluten free experiences with others.

“I would encourage everyone on a gluten free diet to embrace it! There are so many tasty alternatives on the market now and love the challenge of finding new things. But do be careful with buffets – they are a nightmare for cross contamination!”