Celiac Disease Program | At Home

A Gluten-Free Home: Part I

Tips making your home a gluten-free environment:

A Gluten-Free Home: Part II

Tips making your home a gluten-free environment:

Make your home gluten-free

There are several ways to approach life in the kitchen after a member of the family has been diagnosed with celiac disease. Some families choose the extreme, albeit safe, method of christening the kitchen a gluten-free environment. I have great respect for these hardy souls. Other families contrive various methods of the separate-but-equal approach to the contents of their cupboards.

If you are of the latter category, and your kitchen resembles a war zone between the gluten and non-gluten containing foods, here are a few guidelines to help eliminate any cross contamination that may inadvertently be occurring.

Tips for a Gluten-Free (GF) Kitchen

  • Empty out a cabinet and designate it as a gluten-free space. Some people have a few different places in the kitchen just for gluten-free products. It is especially important to keep the treats (cookies, etc.) in a different location from the gluten containing varieties. This simplifies explaining the "safe" from the unsafe to temporary caregivers and friends.
  • Many people find it helpful to label all gluten-free products in the kitchen with a marker or colored sticker. You may consider marking the items as they are put away from the market.
  • Purchase a separate colander to be used exclusively for draining gluten-free pasta and rinsing all of the fruits and vegetables in the house.
  • Use either a toaster oven or conventional oven and cook placing the gluten-free item on top of a clean piece of aluminum foil. Do not share a regular toaster. There is no way to avoid contaminating the gluten-free bread

Easily contaminated items

There are several ways you can deal with easily contaminated foods such as butter, margarine, cream cheese, peanut butter, jams and jellies, mayonnaise, mustards, etc.

  • Establish the "only dip once" rule. Family members are allowed to place a spoon or knife into the jar only one time if spreading it onto gluten containing bread.
  • Or you can simply place an amount on the side of each plate to eliminate the need to continually dip into the jar.
  • The alternative is to have duplicates of these common products, identified only for gluten-free eating.

Other tips and tricks

  • Use as many squeeze top containers as possible. To decrease the costs, keep refilling the designated gluten-free container.
  • Try to use as many gluten-free brands for the entire family as possible so that the family member with gluten intolerance feels less emotionally isolated.

Gluten-free baking

  • When baking gluten-free muffins, cupcakes, bread, etc., freeze and label the extra in small freezer bags for quick and easy eating later.
  • If you find the effort of endless gluten-free baking daunting, try to build it into your weekly schedule. For example, set aside every Saturday or Sunday morning to do the weekly baking.
  • If using a bread maker or electric mixer for gluten-free food preparations, think carefully about the possibility of cross contamination before using it to bake gluten-containing foods. The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America suggests waiting 24 hours after baking with gluten containing flours before baking any gluten-free products. This allows time for all the dust to settle. Then, wipe all surfaces again before gluten-free baking.
  • Designate your kitchen as a gluten-free baking environment and only cook with gluten-free flours.
  • Be sure to use clean muffins tins, cookie sheets, etc. You can also consider using muffin cups and aluminum to help reduce any possibility of cross contamination.

A team effort

  • Don't forget to explain the kitchen rules and regulations to the occasional house guest the night before so an early riser doesn't contaminate the kitchen.
  • Warn any midnight snackers not to drink directly from the milk container after eating those gluten-containing goodies.

Storage Needs for the Gluten-Free Home

Food Storage Space

  • Since many gluten-free foods are acquired via mail order, you may find that you need to consider extra storage space besides that in the kitchen. Many families have built a food pantry in the basement to hold the extra gluten-free foods that have been ordered by the caseload.
  • With a newly diagnosed child, you will want to start by ordering a variety of mixes and ready-made products to allow for sampling. There is nothing worse than a case of gluten- free cookies staring at you that your child spit out after one bite. Children can be particular eaters under the best of circumstances, so don't expect them to love everything they try now just because it is safe to eat.
  • A large freezer section or additional freezer is a great investment to preserve many foods that are pre-made and shipped fresh to your doorstep. It is also a place where you can store the extra gluten- free items you baked!
  • When you do purchase mail order items, consider if it is wise for you to buy in bulk. Bulk purchases usually receive a case discount and pay fewer shipping fees.

Information Storage Space

  • You will soon discover that keeping abreast of the newest commercial product lists of gluten- free foods, not to mention general information on the disease and diet management, requires a space of its own.
  • As you receive new and updated gluten-free product lists, carry them with you to the market for a few weeks, highlighting the foods you want to locate. After that, you may want to consider purchasing a filing system to store them. Make sure you continuously remove outdated materials and replace them with new ones every six months.
  • Gluten-free lists of brand name products can be stored on a PDA device or in a notebook and then accessed as you walk down the aisle of a store.

Making the Rest of Your Home Gluten-Free

Besides the kitchen and pantry, there are other places in your home that may contain gluten.

Medicine Cabinet

Both prescription and non-prescription medications often contain gluten as one or more of the inactive ingredients. You must make sure that they are gluten-free. It is always a good idea to keep an extra container of gluten-free pain and cough & cold medication on hand. The same methods of inquiry apply to generic brands and name brands. Contact the manufacturer for a gluten-free list.

Prescription Medication Warning: Please note that when a medication is prescribed it is important to have the doctor note the following directly on the actual prescription: Medication must be gluten-free. NO SUBSTITUTIONS unless gluten-free.

Shampoos & Soaps

Gluten is not absorbed through the skin. However, if your child is in the habit of putting his hands and/or hair in his mouth, or likes to play in their bath water, you may want to be sure that these products are gluten-free as well. Unfortunately, wheat germ is a relatively common ingredient in shampoos although, fortunately, not as common in children's shampoo. Please read ingredients before use. If your child develops chicken pox, remember that an oatmeal bath may not be a safe method to soothe his itching.

Toothpaste, Mouthwash, & Dental Products

Even though a child is not supposed to swallow these items, small amounts may find their way down their throat. Call to confirm they are gluten-free before using.

Lip Stick & Lip Balm

Lip products (including natural brands) can be made from unsafe ingredients. They must be read carefully before being applied.

Other Rooms in Your Home

Stamps, Envelopes & Stickers — The glue on stamps, envelopes and stickers often contains gluten. Do not allow your child to lick these items. Purchase the self-seal varieties or use a sponge to moisten.

Art Supplies — Play-doh is made from wheat flour and should be used only under strict supervision. A safer alternative is to purchase or make your own gluten-free substitute.