Many of the newcomers to the Te Atatu Toasted community are buying our cereals because they want or need to follow a gluten-free diet. Our Gluten-Free and Paleo muesli blends and our Grain-Free Porridge are all gluten-free so we have your breakfast covered! But for more tips on going gluten-free, we asked Te Atatu Toasted fan Sheryl Blythen to share what’s she’s discovered after being diagnosed with Coeliac disease three years ago. Part two covers eating out and cross contamination.
Finding out I had Coeliac disease certainly brought some big changes in my life but I wasn’t prepared to completely give up the social element of food that comes with eating out in cafes or restaurants, dining at a friend’s home or going away for weekends where group catering is the norm. Here are some tips that I hope will help you whether you are sharing food in a social setting, living with people who are not gluten-free or just want to grab some food you haven’t cooked yourself.
Research and preparation are key – go online and find places that are recommended as being coeliac safe or good for gluten-free.
Be prepared to be the organiser-in-chief for a night out with your friends so that you can find somewhere you can eat. If you are going somewhere new for a weekend or holiday, research places you can eat before you get there. It’s awful turning up starving and wandering in and out of cafés looking for something you can eat.
Sometimes menus say a dish is gluten free but when you dig down it’s not safe. If chips are cooked in the same frier as crumbed chicken, they are not gluten free. Cross-contamination can be a real issue for coeliacs when eating out or in a shared kitchen at home. See the section below. Some restaurants have a separate frier for gluten free food and that’s like the holy grail for coeliacs.
If you are invited to a restaurant or café by someone who says “there are heaps of gluten-free options on the menu”, it pays to check it out yourself ahead of time. If all the gluten-free options are deep-fried in a shared fryer they are not safe for people who are completely eliminating gluten.
Fast food is hard to find but there are a few places that cater for gluten-free eaters or people with Coeliac disease really well – Pita Pit will change their gloves and cook your ingredients on baking paper or foil, Hell’s Pizza is accredited as a safe coeliac restaurant (as long as you tell them you are coeliac when you order) and St Pierre’s have detailed ingredients available online and instore to help you get safe sushi.
If you have local Asian takeaways you use often, it’s worth going in before they get busy one night and chatting to the staff about what you can have or what dishes they can make safe for you.
Always tell the staff at a café or restaurant that you are coeliac, even if a dish says it’s gluten free. It means the kitchen can take extra care when preparing your meal.
Watch out for gluten-free food in a shared cabinet at a café –it should be covered or at least on the top shelf so gluten crumbs can’t fall on it and they should have separate tongs to serve it. And if the gluten-free cake is touching the non-gluten free food you can assume the staff have no idea about cross-contamination.
If you see food labelled gluten friendly or low gluten, ask what this means. Usually, it means the food is made with gluten-free ingredients but because it’s not a completely gluten-free kitchen, it’s not labelled gluten-free. But always ask so you don’t end up consuming something that will make you sick.
If you don’t have coeliac disease, you probably don’t have to be too concerned with this. But for coeliacs, there is a risk even gluten-free food can become unsafe if it comes in contact with gluten.
If you live with people who are going to continue to eat gluten-containing foods, you will need to educate them about cross contamination. Food needs to be kept in separate containers and you will need to have separate condiments such as butter and spreads so you don’t end up eating gluten crumbs.
You will need your own toaster – you can buy toaster bags which are great when you go away and don’t have a dedicated gluten-free toaster, but they do slow down the cooking process so it’s best to have your own at home.
Replace any kitchen equipment that is porous with your own dedicated gluten-free versions – this includes chopping boards and wooden spoons etc. You will also need separate baking trays and tins (or cook with baking paper) as it’s impossible to remove all cooking residue from those.
Barbecues are a major source of cross-contamination because you can’t clean them thoroughly and lots of marinades, sausages etc contain gluten. I bought some non-stick barbecue mats from Bunnings for home and I ask people to cook my meat on a piece of foil when I’m at a barbecue somewhere else.
It’s difficult to avoid cross-contamination when you eat at other people’s homes. If you have close friends you dine with often, you can educate them about cross-contamination and ask them to use baking paper on chopping boards and cooking vessels etc and tell them about the sneaky places gluten hides. Otherwise if might be easier to take your own food, eat before you go, offer to do the cooking or suggest eating out somewhere that caters for gluten-free.
Part one of our Going Gluten-free Guide covers getting started and shopping for food.