Lately, I find myself in numerous discussions and questions involving gluten-free foods. While chatting with a dear friend, Jan Phillips (a local health educator), she shared several frustrations that she and her recently diagnosed daughter have been experiencing.
The market research group Packaged Facts says that gluten-free products retail sales reached $2.6 billion in 2010. It is one of the fastest-growing food categories in the food industry and expected to grow higher.
According to Phillips, Many are starting to cook with an eye toward making gluten-free meals for friends or family members who are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive.
Restaurants are also starting to include gluten-free options on their menus. Her concern is that many dont realize that eliminating gluten ingredients in menus and recipes may not be enough. The Celiac Disease Foundation indicates that cross-contamination with gluten-containing foods, during preparation, plating or serving, can produce a reaction such as painful intestinal or neurological reactions including dizziness, bloating, exhaustion and even depression.
The Durango Celiac Support group and Jess Kelley have a restaurant training program for Durango-area restaurants interested in offering gluten-free foods served from a gluten-free kitchen.
Phillips shared from personal experience a few guidelines that make a significant difference. Label reading takes a new dimension. Individuals who are gluten intolerant avoid wheat, barley and rye flours. Derivatives are equally troubling such as bulgur, matzo meal, spelt or malt. She reminds us that gluten is also in croutons, breading, couscous, soy sauce, orzo, pasta, buns, rolls, matzo and malt vinegar. Though oats do not contain gluten, they must be avoided unless the package says that they were grown and processed gluten-free. Other hidden sources are binders, fillers, food starch, hydrolyzed vegetable or plant protein (HVP or HPP) or textured vegetable protein.
There are several safe foods for the gluten-intolerant individual including rice, corn, potatoes, tapioca, soy, beans, amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, nut flours and distilled alcohols. Nongrain products are all gluten-free in their natural, unprocessed state. However, be reminded that sauces, breaded items, gravy, glazes, soups and some seasoning combinations are often made with flour.
Avoid cross-contamination. Those who live with this disease identify it as a significant issue. To avoid:
b Thoroughly clean with hot soapy water any surface or utensil that has been exposed to bread, crack, crumb or flour before using it for gluten-free cooking. It might be easier to keep separate utensils for gluten-free use such as cutting boards, knives, meat slicers, colanders, pots, measuring spoons and grill. A handy trick I learned years ago was color-coding pans, utensils and towels to be used only for that specific need. For example, use red towels and utensils for gluten-free dishes and cleaning them.
b Double dipping. Phillips reminded me of the need for separate containers for butter, mayonnaise, peanut butter or anything one might dip into to spread on gluten items. Squeeze bottles!
b When cooking gluten and gluten-free foods for a meal, cross-contamination is reduced if the gluten-free food is cooked first. Lining pans or grills with foil can be helpful.
It isnt difficult to help make someone comfortable in your home or restaurant, but a small thing can slip by and make a notable impact.
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.