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When you’re diagnosed with celiac disease and switching to a GF diet, first and foremost you address the obvious: what to eat in place of the gluten-containing foods you must now avoid. You start working hard at being gluten-free (GF), learning new things daily about what to eat, navigating social situations and even start to make your own baked goods. You feel good, most of the time. But there are days when you still feel sick. What gives?
While cross-contamination can be easy to track for many in the bulk food bins, at restaurants and in the packaged foods we enjoy, it’s often easy to overlook the issue of cross-contamination in our own kitchens. Cross-contamination is when gluten-free foods come in contact with gluten, causing accidental ingestion—requiring many months of healing for someone with celiac disease. Wayward wheat flour dust that lands on a countertop, rye bread crumbs in the butter, or wheat pasta residue lurking in your colander are all examples of how cross-contamination can happen.
What to do if you’re the only one in your household on a GF diet, and you suspect cross-contamination is making you sick? Before you head to the local Bed Bath and Beyond for an entire new kitchenware setup or try and persuade your spouse, roommate, or other members of your household to go GF too, consider the following tips to help you minimize or eliminate any potential for cross-contamination in your own kitchen.
- Toss out the gluten-containing flours Flour dust particles can stay airborne for several hours, perhaps up to 24 hours, and land on all kinds of surfaces, not to mention you’ll be inhaling it. Some folks are not so sensitive that this is an issue, but if you are experiencing symptoms, you may ask your roommate to lock up their gluten-containing flours for a few weeks to see if you improve.
- Use your own kitchen dishtowels It may seem a little far-fetched, but sometimes hands that contain gluten particles get wiped on the shared kitchen towel.
- GF above all else In your fridge and pantry, place all GF items on the top shelves to avoid falling crumbs.
- Don’t make your dishwasher do all the work! Scrub and rinse your plates, bowls, and eating utensils before placing them in the dishwasher to make sure you are removing stuck-on gluten particles. Seriously consider using your own set of dinnerware and utensils.
- Don’t share crumbs – part one Get your own toaster, use the broiler in the oven, or place foil in the pan of a shared toaster oven.
- Don’t share crumbs – part two Fans of Seinfeld, you know that double-dipping happens. Unless you are certain that members of your household never double-dip their knife covered with whole wheat bread crumbs in the peanut butter, consider keeping your condiments separate. If you do not want to buy two of everything, spoon a portion out of a new jar into a separate labeled GF container.
- Consider buying certain dedicated GF kitchen gadgets Think of porous surfaces that are difficult to clean such as: pasta strainer, cutting board, utensils such as wooden spoons and spatulas, dish scrubbies/brushes, pots and pans, and bread making machine.
- Label all GF gadgets, utensils, and foods well Educate your household on the importance of keeping GF items separate.
Remember that switching to a GF diet and lifestyle is a process that doesn’t happen overnight, and this is one step to consider as you travel on your path back to wellness. What’s your experience with cross-contamination at home? We want to hear your tips and advice.
Erin Hugus, MS, CN has a Master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. Erin is an expert in Diabetes care and is passionate about empowering people with realistic strategies for optimal health. She takes great pleasure in her time spent in the kitchen and loves cooking nourishing meals for her family.
Photo credit (bread): mystuart