This is very simple. Do you want to start or maintain a safe gluten-free lifestyle? If you are not sure about it, take some time to think but let me ask you something: are you tired of getting sick after eating certain food? Let me guess, those food are mostly bread, cookies, pastas and anything made with flour? You may have a gluten intolerance, meaning you can’t eat gluten. And if you can’t eat those proteins found in wheat, rye and barley, you should prevent yourself from eating cross-contaminated food. If you are not familiar with cross-contamination, you should know that this is something very common that happens when one food comes into contact with another food, kitchen utensils, countertop or even your hands. When this happens, gluten is transferred from one food to another, and even a tiny amount of gluten can cause a harmful reaction in your body. So if you want to have a safe gluten-free diet, let’s start by following these step-by-step guide to avoid cross-contamination and eat safe meals.
Be aware and well-informed of the repercussions gluten can cause to your health. Even a tiny portion of gluten transferred from one food to another can cause cross-contamination. Sometimes you can’t even see those gluten proteins, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Always keep in mind that the risk of cross-contamination is very high so you must take actions to remove gluten from your diet.
Making a grocery list with all the food and ingredients you need to buy at the store for preparing your meals is very helpful when sticking to a gluten-free diet. It is even more helpful if you write down a menu with your meal options for the week or month so you can plan your grocery list. Try including naturally gluten-free food to your diet, that way you will know for sure they were not processed in facilities that also process wheat. The best naturally gluten-free food options you should include in your menus are fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, meat and seafood. Once you have written down the list of ingredients you will need for cooking, it will make you save time at the supermarket, and you’ll visualize better at the store the safest food options for you.
Most celiacs don’t know that cross-contamination can happen when buying a food product they think it is gluten-free but it really isn’t. When going food shopping you must read labels properly and carefully. Some food products state on their labels “may contain traces of wheat”, “made in the same facility as wheat-containing foods" or "made on shared equipment with wheat-containing foods". If a product states any of those claims on its label, there is a risk of cross-contamination that you should avoid. Go with the food products that were not processed in same facilities that process wheat.
If you are celiac you may have already tried a lot of different gluten-free brands looking for the safest ones. Stick to the brands that are good for your stomach, and if you are looking to buy a new one, don’t forget to read the label and research about the company. My husband who is gluten intolerant prefers brands that are owned by families who are related to celiacs because their commitment to making safer food options are higher.
I know once in a while we feel lazy and we don’t feel like cooking. All we think about is going out and eating at a restaurant. But when this happens, keep in mind that the risk of cross-contamination at restaurants is very high. In one kitchen the cooks and chefs prepare many different meals per minute. Most of them contain wheat. One knife cuts bread, and that same knife cuts your food. The waiters come and go from the kitchen with different plates on their hands until they serve yours. A tiny amount of gluten transferred from a piece of bread to your food is more than enough to make you sick, so you better think twice before eating at a restaurant.
If you eat a restaurant let the cook and waiter know that you are celiac and that your health can be compromised by a simple cross-contamination.
Let them know the following:
- They must change their gloves when touching your food. - They can’t use the same serving utensils for your food than for other food. - Ask them what ingredients they used for making your dish (if the waiter doesn’t know, ask the manager or chef).
Don’t trust a restaurant just because they have a gluten-free menu. Sometimes they will tell you they do have options safe for celiacs but they may be cross-contaminated.
The best way for you to feel safe is for your kitchen to be 100% gluten-free. When you have wheat-based ingredients in your kitchen like flour, the risk of cross-contamination can be high because crumbles may be all over the counter top or near your plates and you won’t even realize it. If you have the possibility to not share your kitchen with someone who eats gluten, that will be better! Avoid cross-contamination by excluding gluten from your fridge, tupperwares, pantry and pots.
A very important step you should follow to avoid cross-contamination is to wash your hands thoroughly before manipulating food. Use soap and dry your hands with a clean towel. If you share a kitchen with someone who cooks with wheat-based ingredients, you should ask him/her to adopt this safety action, because cross-contamination could happen even through the towel.
The best way for you to know if what you are about to eat is cross-contaminated is by cooking your own meals, this way you will know for sure they are safe. When you go to restaurants or to a friends’ house to eat homemade food, the risk of cross-contamination can be very high. You should take care of making your own meals because that way you’ll know which ingredients were used for your meal, and how was your food prepared.
If you share a kitchen with someone who cooks gluten-containing food, cook your gluten-free meals first. This way the other person won’t leave the kitchen dirty with possible cross-contamination before you use it. Before cooking, always clean everything thoroughly first. After you’re done using the kitchen, the other person can use his pots for cooking his gluten-based food.
When you have people coming over to your house and they bring snacks that contain gluten, place those appetizers on plastic trays, and ask them to use plastic plates when eating. This way you won’t have to worry about the crumbs being on your plates. You will simply throw out the plastic plates when the party is over and done, no headache cleaning up.
Unfortunately, if you share a kitchen with people who cook food that contains gluten, you need to take extra safety actions to avoid cross-contamination. Keep your gluten-free food stored and sealed separated from food that contains gluten and make the other person seal and stored far away from yours their food too.
Clean thoroughly any surfaces you are going to use to make the meals before starting to cook. Sometimes we place our food on the countertop instead of using a plate or tray. For avoiding any possible risk of cross-contamination, clean the surfaces before cooking.
If possible, buy brand new kitchen utensils and appliances. Especially a toaster because the crumbs tend to stick. New pots, new silverware, anything will be helpful to avoid cross-contamination in your kitchen.
If you want to avoid cross-contamination and eat safe meals, do not share your kitchen utensils, pots, silverware, appliances or chopping boards with people who eat gluten, and have your own knife for spreading butter or different creams on your food.
Try to use stainless steel cookware because nonstick pans can absorb gluten.
Use a brand new special non-porous cutting board because crumbs tend to stick to the ones that have porous. Even if you wash them thoroughly, the crumbs can still be in the porous.
It’s important when avoiding cross-contamination in your kitchen to buy new dishwashing supplies such as sponges, scrubs and gloves. Do not use them on anything that has touched gluten. This way your plates won’t be washed by sponges full of gluten crumbs.
Keep one sponge or scrubber for your pots, pans, and utensils just for washing your dishes. Don’t use them to wash other people’s plates if they previously had gluten-based food on. Be as strict as you can!
The most effective way to cleaning and washing your pots, plates and silverware is to use hot water. If you sterilize your kitchen utensils, you will be avoiding cross-contamination by removing gluten in a more effective way.
You won’t believe that even through your lips you can get cross-contamination, so be a little selfish and do not share with anyone else your food. By giving a sample of your food to someone who previously ate gluten, and then putting that same fork or spoon in your mouth, you will be getting cross-contamination. So keep your gluten-free food for yourself and don’t let anyone contaminated with gluten. Follow this step-by-step guide to avoid cross-contamination and you’ll start eating the safest gluten-free meals you were aiming for!
Mariana graduated from Communications & Journalism in Caracas, Venezuela, and has over 10 years of experience as a writer. She has worked on Digital Marketing, and for over 10 prestigious Cable Television Channels aired in Latin America. Matt graduated from Cornell University in New York. He started his own company in 2010, and has been running it by himself since then. Matt is an expert in Marketing, Sales, and creating 6-Figure Funnels for online businesses.
Over the past year we decided to start a company together and created "Vookies", that later expanded and became "Be Breader". We have been helping celiacs around the world to optimize and improve their health by incorporating safe and delicious meals into their daily menus.