For those who follow a wheat free or gluten free diet, getting your dietary needs right in your own home is usually fairly manageable. The greatest difficulties are often experienced when eating away from home and coming up with ideas for between meal snacks. It can often be difficult to ensure your food definitely meets your dietary requirements and also that you have a variety of choices available to you.
So, what to eat? Fortunately, wheat free/ gluten free breads, pastas and breakfast cereals are readily available and these can ensure that breakfast, lunch and dinner have a nutritious base. However, snack foods can be often be a problematic part of a wheat free diet… what are some good snack ideas? This edition of LivingNow features back-to-school lunch box treats that are wheat-free. Other suggestions include :
Any fresh fruit eg. bananas, oranges, mandarins, grapes, passionfruit, kiwi fruit, strawberries, pineapple, melon, plums and peaches or any dried fruit.
Any vegetables eg raw carrot, celery, capsicum, mushrooms, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, corn on the cob.
gluten free/wheat free crisp bread, rice cakes, small crackers, corn thins
peanut butter, meat, fish, egg, cheese, grated or sliced vegetables, avocado, creamed corn, cottage cheese.
hard cheese, cheese sticks, cheese triangles, cheese slices or mini cheeses.
Pre packed ‘every day’ treats:
sultanas, packet of dried fruit, snack pack container of fruit, yoghurt, fruche, popcorn, mixed nuts.
Home made ‘sometimes’ treats:
gluten free/wheat free muffins, cakes, biscuits, scones, pikelets
Commercial ‘sometimes’ treats:
gluten free chocolate, chips, lollies, ice-cream etc
People with food restrictions seek delicious substitutes, and unfortunately a piece of fruit won’t always satisfy as a snack! Although ‘sometimes’ foods should remain a small contribution to the diet, it is important that people do not feel deprived. Eating is a social experience and should be a pleasure. Although you may have a condition that requires a wheat free /gluten free diet, it does not mean that cakes, muffins, and other baked goods disappear from the diet altogether. They can be included in small amounts, on the background of a nutritious eating plan. The psychological pleasure of enjoying a great tasting wheat/gluten free ‘sometimes’ food is good for mental health too.
Dining at a restaurant – recommendations
Eating at a restaurant should be an enjoyable social experience. But it can be a minefield of potential problems unless carefully investigated. Although a spontaneous decision to eat out for a meal can still be successfully gluten/wheat free, if planning to dine at a restaurant, you may wish to investigate options in advance.
• Where possible, phone in advance and ask to speak to the chef, learn what is offered on the menu
• Explain to the chef what you cannot eat, ask about ingredients in specific meals
• S/he may be able to advise you on what meals would be suitable or even prepare a special dish.
• Re-iterate requirements when you arrive at the restaurant
Ask the waiter or waitress about ingredients in menu items and explain that you are intolerant to gluten and/or wheat.
Request the waitress/waiter confirm gluten/wheat-free status of the meal with the chef.
Discuss relevant cross contamination issues such as those listed above.
This prevents any problems when you get to the restaurant, and you can relax, knowing you will enjoy a gluten/wheat free meal.
Avoiding cross contamination in food preparation and cooking
Although a meal may be prepared with gluten free/wheat free ingredients, the way in which the meal is prepared, stored and served can potentially make it unsuitable. People with coeliac disease are advised to follow a strict gluten free diet, avoiding sources of crumb contamination. The suggestions listed below are all relevant. People with wheat intolerances, however, may be able to tolerate small amounts of wheat (due to the broad spectrum of individual sensitivities), and therefore suggestions below should be incorporated as strictly as you personally require.
• Grilled and pan-fried meat, fish and chicken dishes may be floured or seasoned before cooking, and can also become contaminated with gluten/wheat if cooked on the same grills or pans as floured or crumbed foods.
• Deep fried food will be contaminated by crumbed, floured or battered items fried in the same oil. Ensure clean oil just used to fry chips.
• It is not suitable to eat the middle out of a pie and leave the pastry behind, nor peel the batter of some fried fish or potato cakes, nor eat the topping off a pizza or cheesecake and leaving the base. Residual gluten/wheat will remain in the consumed portion.
• Request croutons, wafers, crackers, etc are left off the dish as garnishes.
• Crumbs are sources of gluten. It is important pots, pans, appliances and utensils are clean.
Request bread boards, knives and plates are clean and free from regular breadcrumbs before using gluten/wheat-free foods.
Check for regular breadcrumbs in spread containers such as butter, margarine and other spreads.
Ideally, separate toasters should be used for gluten/wheat-free and regular toast.
Consider that crumbs may remain in pizza pans, baking trays and tins.
Pans must be washed properly between dishes
Utensils should not be shared between dishes (in the kitchen and in buffet setting)
Ensure grillers, sandwich, waffle and foccacia makers are clean before using with gluten/wheat-free breads and other foods.
If the restaurant offers gluten/wheat free pasta, ask that a separate colander is used.
Foods which contain ‘hidden’ gluten
• Soft icing sugar and icing sugar mixture may contain (wheaten) cornflour, and therefore is not suitable. Pure icing sugar is gluten/wheat-free.
Commercial mayonnaises, dressings or sauces
• May contain starch-based thickeners, malt vinegar, and other gluten or wheat based ingredients.
• Seasoning mixes and flavoured salts may contain flour or breadcrumbs, in which case they are not suitable. Salt, pepper, garlic and single-ingredient herbs and spices can be used.
• Cooked chicken with regular stuffing is not gluten/wheat-free. The stuffing will permeate through the whole chicken carcass. In addition the seasoning mix sprinkled over the chicken is usually not gluten/wheat-free. Plain, unseasoned, unstuffed cooked chicken is suitable.
• (e.g crab sticks, seafood cocktail, some forms of crab meat) may be made with a wheat-starch binder, therefore the products will not be suitable. Ensure seafood mixes e.g. in seafood salads and marinara mixes, do not contain any imitation seafood.
Foods containing soy sauce
• Most brands contain wheat as an ingredient and are therefore not suitable.
• Foods which contain soy sauce should therefore be avoided unless the ingredients of the soy sauce are confirmed gluten/wheat-free.
• Deli meats that are ‘manufactured’ or ‘processed’ may contain cereal fillers that contain gluten/wheat. Check ingredients where available, or avoid if ingredients cannot be ascertained. Fresh cooked or cured meats (e.g. cold roast meats, ham off the bone) are generally suitable.
Accredited Practising Dietitians can give good dietary advice, and many specialise in food intolerances and food allergies. Food allergies are different to food intolerances, and often involve food triggers other than those listed above. Speaking with a dietitian specialising in these areas may assist you to make the most of your special dietary needs.
Following a wheat or gluten free diet does not condemn you to a life of a hermit. You can eat away from home successfully – it just requires a little insight into where pitfalls may lie. Use the above suggestions as a guide – enjoy food and life!
Share this post