Going Completely Gluten Free

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OK, we’ve covered quite a bit so far. We already learned the difference between celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergy, as well as other reasons people have for going gluten-free (there are hundreds!). We also covered PPM and cross contamination  and why we need to always be aware of what we are eating. Now, we get your home ready for some gluten free eating!

The most important thing to do when you become gluten free is to clean out your home, and more specifically, your kitchen, of all gluten-containing products. If you have gluten in your home, you are MUCH more likely to eat it, either accidentally or on purpose, so we need to get rid of it all. Even if you have people living in your home who are not embarking on the gluten free diet with you, you need to persuade them to allow you to get rid of everything that could make you sick. At the very least, they need to understand how serious it is for you to remain gluten free, so it is up to you to inform them of the situation and educate them the best you can. If your other family members won’t allow you to get rid of gluten-containing products, you definitely need to set up your own little space where gluten never, ever makes an appearance. Head to the bottom of this section if this is the case in your family.

Okay, let’s see what we need to do in order to accomplish our goal of a gluten free household:

1. Baking supplies – [Non gluten free] flour is the worst thing to keep in your household when you are gluten free. It spreads so easily and can easily contaminate food across the room if some gets in the air. I have heard of celiacs getting sick just from carrying a bag of regular flour that had been opened, because there is always a little bit “chilling” on the bag. Also, and I hate to do this to you guys and gals, but you should really throw away all the other baking supplies you have used before, like sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. While these ARE gluten free, they have almost certainly become contaminated with gluten from your previous cooking. So, if you are celiac or highly sensitive to gluten, I advise you to pitch ’em.

2. Breads – Next, we are going to be removing all the bread products from your kitchen. This means the traditional white and wheat breads, bagels, buns, biscuits, croissants, English muffins, and the like. Toss ’em all!

3. Fridge and Freezer – The overwhelming majority of frozen microwave dinners contain gluten. Get rid of the ones you are sure contain gluten/wheat (ones with pasta, bread, etc.). Fruits and vegetable are likely safe — we will learn more about that in the grocery section, so keep them for now. Condiments have their own section, #6 below. Most drinks – soda, milk, fruit juice, water – will be fine to keep, so don’t do anything with them.

4. Pantry Items – Now, we need to go through your pantry and get rid of all of those gluten-containing products. That means all the crackers, pasta, cookies, pretzels, most breakfast cereals, and anything else containing wheat, barley, or rye. If you absolutely cannot get your whole family to come on-board the gluten free train with you, absolutely make sure there is a separate, marked area that you can keep your gluten-free products and inform everyone that no gluten will ever make an appearance in that area.

5. Toasters, Cooking Supplies, and More – I know you are going to hate me after reading this section, but it is of the utmost importance when you are trying to live a gluten free life. Your family toaster has been coming in contact with gluten every day for years, and there are thousands of crumbs still inside it. You NEED to get rid of it – donate it, pitch it, give it to your neighbor, whatever! – and go out and buy a new one that will only come in contact with gluten free bread products. Some companies make heavy-duty, reusable bags that allow you to toast gluten-free bread in regular toasters, so if you are traveling it might be a good idea to buy those to use on the road.  Other kitchen items you should toss are anything that has been coming in constant contact with gluten for a long period of time – baking pans, pizza trays, skillets, rubber scrapers, etc.. If this is too expensive or you don’t want to part ways with your beloved pots and pans, do the best clean job of your life on them.

6. Condiments – I know what you are thinking…”Condiments?! I thought most of those are gluten-free?!”. You are right, many of them are gluten-free. But our old buddy cross-contamination is at work again, and almost all of them have more than likely come in contact with gluten over time. When someone dips a knife in a mayo jar, then put it on bread, then dip it back in the jar again, what just happened? That’s right, they put gluten breadcrumbs in the mayo and a celiac would almost certainly be affected. Same thing can happen when you squeeze ketchup and mustard on burger and hot dog buns. I recommend throwing out any condiments that could have possibly come in contact with gluten products and buying new ones. If you are still living with gluten-eating people, buy your own condiments and label them with your name. Geeky, maybe. But it’s better to be safe than sorry!

7. Oven – Your oven has been coming in contact with gluten for years, too. You can breathe a sigh of relief – I’m not telling you to replace your oven! The self-cleaning feature on ovens should do it at a temperature that destroys the gluten protein. If you have a non-cleaning oven though, it gets a little more difficult. You are going to have to clean VERY thoroughly – the racks most importantly, but also the sides and bottom, as well as the drawer under the oven where crumbs have been known to hide. Don’t just clean the racks once; do it multiple times to clean them as well as you possibly can.

8. Grill – Although your grill is likely outside, as it should be, many people have a small George Foreman grill in their kitchen. The grill is likely contaminated with gluten, unless you 100% haven’t used any gluten-containing foods on it. If you have used it to cook buns or breaded meats, you either need to replace it or use foil. I have heard of newly-gluten free people forgetting about their grills and getting sick from the cross contamination after using it.

After all this, make sure you do a thorough cleaning of the entire kitchen. The counters, floors, inside the fridge, and anywhere else you normally clean that might be housing gluten, clean it all. Airborne gluten can make you sick, so doing as much as possible to minimize the possibility of being “gluten-ed” is highly recommended.

Now, if your family is not going gluten free with you, there are some ways you can minimize the chance of ingesting gluten:

  • Having your own drawers and cabinet space.
  • Having your own fridge and freezer space, possibly just a compartment or two where gluten items never go.
  • Having a designated place for all the gluten foods as well, so that they don’t accidentally find their way into your area. There is a famous quote, “A place for everything and everything in its place”. Great advice for the kitchen.
  • Purchase glass or ceramic storage containers that ONLY store gluten free food. Why not plastic or metal? They are much better at attracting glutenous breadcrumbs or flour.
  • Use freezer wrap to store your gluten free food that you want to freeze.

Congratulations — You are now the proud owner of a gluten-less kitchen (or your own gluten free space in the kitchen)! Let’s move on!

Move to Section 5: Grocery Shopping