Gluten Free Guide for Hosts

I frequently get questions about what to buy, what I can eat, etc. when we’re traveling or visiting someone else’s home.  In an effort to make things easier on anyone looking for this type information, I thought I’d put together a post to help out the non-celiacs that want to play host!

The Basics and What Contains Gluten?

If you’re hosting someone with celiac disease, or a non-celiac gluten intolerance you need to be aware of what gluten is, and all the shady places that gluten hides.  Gluten is wheat, rye, barley, oats or foods made from them such as flour, bread, pasta, pancakes, flour tortillas, pastries, breaded or battered foods, croutons and oatmeal.  It’s not just in breads and pastas but also in things like beer, alcohols, some fat-free sour creams, blue cheese, salad dressings, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, root beer, vitamins and medicines — it loves to hide. It can be in peanuts, in boxed rice mixes, EVERYWHERE.

Cross-Contamination

A gluten free lifestyle isn’t always easy for your guest to follow, and one of the hardest things for outsiders to understand is that even a portion the size of half a crouton is enough to make most celiacs sick. It’s difficult for celiacs to eat anywhere outside their home and feel completely comfortable.  Even the most careful hosts can have difficulties making food that is 100% safe.  Something as simple as handling bread before switching to another dish could completely contaminate the dish for your celiac guest.  Here are a few things to be on the lookout for in your kitchen:

  • All surfaces coming in contact with food need to not only be clean, they also should not be porous.  Stick to stainless steel cooking utensils, as plastic, wood, and non-stick surfaces can absorb gluten over years of cooking and render a carefully prepared gluten free dish unsafe.
  • Never put gluten free food directly on a cooking surface you’ve been using for many years (i.e., oven racks, toasters).  On a similar topic, if you’re frying food it is not safe to fry anything gluten free in the same oil you’ve used for something containing gluten.  For example, french fries cooked in oil used for battered chicken would cross-contaminate the fries, even if they are just plain strips of potato.
  • Cooking utensils should not be transferred between dishes, the second a utensil touches gluten, it makes anything else it touches no longer gluten free.

Safe Bets

  • Fresh meats, poultry, and fish.  They can be seasoned with plain spices or marinated in gluten free sauces/dressings
  • Steamed or roasted vegetables, again, seasoned with spices.
  • Rice — NOT the prepackaged side dishes, you’ll have to get plain white or brown rice and season it yourself.
  • Homemade mashed potatoes — again, the prepackaged stuff is NOT safe to eat, it almost always has gluten.
  • Scrambled eggs.
  • Fresh fruits.
  • Homemade salads with fresh veggies

**if you couldn’t tell by now, just about everything is fresh. I probably go to the grocery store twice a week to get everything**

Sneaky Gluten Hiding Places

  • Processed foods such as cheeses, meats, bouillon, and packaged broths.  It’s important to always check the ingredients in these things, it might shock you what’s been added in!
  • If you see any of the following on a product label, it is likely NOT safe: malt, food coloring, natural or artificial flavorings, modified food starch, ANYTHING followed by flour.  When in doubt, either check with the company, your guest, or find another product.
  • Anything labeled as a seasoning needs to be verified that it’s safe, while spices are raw and safe for celiacs, seasonings can sometimes contain gluten, especially McCormick seasoning packs — most of them are full of gluten!
  • Be extra careful anytime you use condiments (i.e., jelly, peanut butter, butter — spray or squeeze butter is the best because it won’t be contaminated), anytime a utensil is dipped in a tub or jar condiment, touches gluten, and is placed back in the container it is no longer safe for a celiac to consume.  Your best bet is to use squeeze products, and eliminating the risk of cross contamination.
  • If it’s been processed in a plant or on equipment shared with gluten, it most likely is not safe.  This one however depends on the person, for example, I can’t eat anything from a shared facility without having a reaction, but others can.  Check with your guest to see how sensitive they are, and what else you need to look out for.

Above All Else

If you remember nothing else from this post, please remember this one thing: Don’t EVER think you are bothering your guest by asking them about ingredients or cooking/preparation plans.  If you doubt anything or have any questions, I speak for all of us when I say we’d rather have you ask than find out later when we’re doubled over in pain and suffering.

2 thoughts on “Gluten Free Guide for Hosts

  1. We have found that we usually eat before we visit anyone, just in case you can’t indulge at your host’s home….that way, you won’t starve! People usually try their best, but seem to be afraid of your “diet!” Awareness is the key! Very good tips for gluten-free living!

    • Double Talk – while your suggestion would be the ideal solution, we travel a lot, and unfortunately can’t eat beforehand when we’re out of town. This guide is meant to help those that are hosting celiacs for more than a few hours in their home. Glad you found it useful!

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