Nick Allen mastered his diet to help combat multiple sclerosis, so who better to review the best gluten and dairy-free dehy meals for trampers?
For those with dietary requirements, foods for tramping can be boring. At the end of a long day, you just want to pull out a good freeze-dried meal and eat. No fuss, just something tasty and nutritious that won’t play havoc with your gut.
I have dairy-lactose and gluten allergies. After years of eating the same few freeze-dried meals, I am pretty bored. My girlfriend adheres to a FODMAP diet (avoids foods with fermentable, poorly absorbed short-chain carbs), which further limits our options. We need alternatives.
I enlisted two helpers to taste-test five gluten- and dairy-free meals.
The first helper randomly chose the meals, while I and the other helper blind-evaluated them. We did not know which brand or dish we were tasting.
To judge taste, we considered the smell, look, texture, flavour, and richness of the food. We worked independently and the results shown are the average of our two scores.
I also assessed the meals by four additional criteria. For nutritional value, I considered the energy, fat content, and protein per 100g, forming a baseline to compare the meals across serving sizes. The use of preservatives, sulphites, and artificial colours were counted negatively. Cooking time was 10 minutes for all the meals, but water use varied. More water means longer boiling times, heavier gas use, and more liquid to carry if you are on the tops. The less the water, weight and cost, the better the score.
Back Country Cuisine Mexican Chicken $14.95 (two-serve)
This Mexican Chicken is a fun and colourful dish. It smelled great and the flavours developed nicely in the mouth – until the spice kicked in. The dish had a good variety of textures in the kidney beans, corn, onion and peppers. However, the chicken wasn’t great – like foam, as my assistant put it. Although the dish was slightly too spicy for our liking, it comes with nacho chips, which are a nice touch.
This two-serve pouch weighs 135g and required 360ml of water to prepare. Meal sizes are on the small side and most people eat a two-serve on their own.
Back Country Cuisine offers a small range of dairy- and gluten-free meals but no Coeliac NZ certified or FODMAP options.
Absolute Wilderness Wilderness Stew $11.95 (single serve)
Absolute Wilderness, based in Nelson, vacuum-pack some of their meals. This cuts down on bulk and is a nice touch. The stew weighed 135g in the pack and required 375ml of water.
In a bowl, the meal looked somewhat unappetising and the flavour was uncomplex The texture of the beef mince in the dish was good, but had a strong savoury flavour that was almost too rich. Nevertheless, it has reasonable nutritional value, is well-sized and good value.
Absolute Wilderness offers a small range of dairy- and gluten-free meals, but no Coeliac NZ certified or FODMAP options.
Outdoor Gourmet Company Beef Bourguignon $16.95 (two-serve)
Because the Outdoor Gourmet Company does not offer any dairy- or gluten-free dishes, I had to remove the mashed potato (containing dairy) component. This two-serve meal provides slightly more food than one person could comfortably eat, but not enough for two people.
The food smelled good and looked fantastic, with easily recognisable ingredients. The flavour is not particularly complex in the mouth but the meal provides a pleasant variety of textures, though the beef was chewy and bland. The sauce was a bit too rich, the result of excluding the potato base.
The pouch weighs 190g and required 300ml of water.
I would recommend substituting the potato with instant rice, but this would require spending more on what is already an expensive meal.
Radix Nutrition Mexican Beef Chili $16 (single serve)
Radix Nutrition, a Waiuku-based company, uses all-natural and mostly organic ingredients. In the bowl, the meal smelled good and looked appetising. In the mouth, the meatballs were tender and the sauce was smooth (which I enjoyed, but my assistant didn’t), with bits of vegetables adding texture.
The underlying pumpkin flavour was delicate and developed nicely. Those expecting a spicy Mexican flavour may be disappointed as this beef chili was not spicy at all. However, it was nutritious and tasty; exactly what you’d want at the end of a long day.
These meals are the lightest in this review, weighing 110g and requiring 350ml of water.
All Radix meals are Coeliac NZ certified (gluten free) and all dinners are dairy free with FODMAP compatible options.