Managing Gluten in The Kitchen

Supporting a gluten free diet can be a bit overwhelming at first especially with the large number of foods we would normally see on the supermarket shelves. However it is possible with good planning and organisation. By following a gluten free diet we are avoiding grains that contain gluten, namely barley, wheat and rye.

What we eat is the most important aspect of gluten free living and the eating habits of the vast majority of families revolve around both the kitchen and where we shop for groceries.

It sounds good to buy gluten free food however if cross contamination is allowed to happen in the kitchen it is pointless. To be exact, cross contamination in the kitchen can be as little as a few breadcrumbs from a wheat based loaf.

In a way it is easier to change to a gluten free diet as a family, then contamination is not an issue. If the motivation for following a gluten free diet is purely a lifestyle change as opposed to a verifiable medical condition such as celiac disease, then a little contamination will not be a problem.

However, if one or more family members have a medical condition then gluten free and gluten containing foods should not be prepared and cooked together. Likewise, utensils should not be shared and the food should not be fried in the same oil. Different breadboards should be used and surfaces need to be washed down.

A toaster just for preparing gluten free breads and muffins is a necessity along with separate spreads such as butter and jam. Other products such as mayonnaise and ketchup should also be kept separate as they are susceptible to cross contamination.

Checking food labels of all bought foods and condiments for gluten (unless they are marked gluten free) is required since many foods, particularly those that are processed, contain gluten through additives and emulsifiers, such as malt flavouring and modified food starch.

It is important to note that wheat free is not the same as gluten free since these items could still have rye and barley which would affect someone with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. In those cases it is worth contacting the manufacturer to verify the ingredients.

There are a number of common acronyms to watch for when reading food labels as they often indicate gluten; Fu-dried wheat gluten; MSG-monosodium glutamate; HPP-hydrolysed plant protein;
TPP-textured plant protein; HVP-hydrolyzed vegetable protein; and TVP-textured vegetable protein.

Unfortunately this does result in the kiss of death for the majority of takeaways unless they indicate that their food ingredients are gluten free and have been prepared in a gluten free environment. MSG is often added to food, especially Chinese, to give it more flavour and it is found in many soya sauces.

Luckily, there are a number of foods which do not naturally contain gluten including most dairy products such as cheese, butter and milk; fresh fruit and vegetables, potatoes, corn, rice, meat and fish as long as they are not breaded or marinated at the store.

Other foods need to be checked to see whether they qualify as gluten free. Common offenders with gluten include canned soups, instant cocoa, bread, pasta, cereals, biscuits, pies, cakes, gravies, sauces, rice mixes, sliced lunch meats and sausages which are filled with wheat based fillers.

If you have children then outside factors need to be examined. Again this is more of an issue if they have a medical condition or if you are adamant in following a complete gluten free diet. Acceptable foods would need to be discussed with staff at their schools or day cares as well as steps to take in the event of an episode or illness if they have celiac disease. Parties and going on vacation should also be reviewed. Unfortunately, you may be in your child’s bad books since crisps contain some form of gluten often hidden. So unless it is marked gluten free it needs to be avoided.

Accepting and following a gluten free diet is becoming easier for people, especially now, with many of the larger supermarket chains sourcing a greater variety of gluten free foods for people to choose from. Also there are more and more people considering such an approach to their food intake and it is much easier to find support and ideas with the invention of websites and social networking.

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