People who are new to the gluten-free diet often find they are having reactions but don’t know where they are picking up gluten. If that’s the case with you, the problem might be contamination in your own home. If you don’t have a totally gluten-free kitchen, there are several things you can do to greatly decrease the risk of contamination.
1. Separate the non refrigerated gluten filled products. Things like bread, cereal, and crackers make crumbs, and crumbs equal contamination. If at all possible, I recommend having dedicated cabinet and counter space for gluten-free food preparation. In my case, since I’m the cook and the gluten-free eater, it means that most of my kitchen is gluten free with a portable island cabinet at one end of the kitchen for gluten items. Sandwiches, bagels, etc. are prepared on that cabinet top, carried on a plate to the table, then the plate is taken directly to the dishwasher or sink. In some households it might be the other way around where the gluten-free items are kept in a small separate area.
2. Label gluten-free refrigerated foods. Most of the food in my refrigerator is naturally gluten free, but some items are used in combination with wheat products such as condiments or cheese slices. If a knife is used to spread mayonnaise on a piece of bread and then put back into the container for more, the mayo is likely to be contaminated. If one of my kids puts bread on his plate then takes out a piece of cheese, the cheese could become contaminated. To avoid this problem, I use brightly colored yard sale stickers with “GF” on them to indicate items that are not to be contaminated. I also use a Sharpie to label containers.
3. Clean counters and tables well. There is a trick to doing this. Wipe your table, then get down at eye level with it. Chances are good you will see a few (or not so few) stray crumbs that you would have never guessed were still there. While I don’t do the eye-level test every time I clean a surface, I try to do it often because it reminds me to do the job well.
Constantly being aware of contamination risks is one part of the gluten-free diet I don’t like, but as a person with celiac disease, it is a fact of life. If you’re new to this, I will say that it gets easier, but you have to be careful and not grow lazy about it. It’s also important to educate the other people in your home. Kids are capable of understanding the idea at a pretty young age, but even after being gluten free for 9 years, I have to remind my teenagers to be careful with their crumbs at times.
I’m sure some of you have tips for managing gluten in the kitchen. Feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you do.