OK In Health - Gluten Free Goodness

I’m the Only Celiac in the House - December 2020

Avoiding cross contamination at home

By Cathy Lauer

family creating a gluten free kitchen

            How do I make my kitchen safe enough for me to eat in when I am the only one who is celiac? My family is very respectful but they really don’t understand just how careful they have to be. This is the lament of the newly diagnosed celiac. They already feel overwhelmed by the prospect of living a gluten free lifestyle and now they have to deal with worrying whether they can even eat safely in their own kitchen.

          Since celiac disease is an auto-immune disease its markers can actually be found in your genes. If there is one celiac in your biological family there is a good possibility that there will be others, as it is an inherited gene. Not all of those who carry the gene show signs of celiac disease, but the potential is there for it to appear. Regular screening is usually recommended if you are in the at-risk category. An increasing number of people who do not carry the gene still have difficulty with wheat and gluten. These people are often labelled gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive. There is a lengthy research study posted on the Canadian Celiac Association web site if you want more information about gluten sensitivity and how it is different medically from celiac disease. The treatment for both however is the same. Stay on your gluten free diet. celiac.ca

        If after some medical research you are still the only celiac or gluten sensitive person in the house, here are some ways to keep you safe while not having to throw out everything in your kitchen that the rest of the family can still eat.

        The first thing that you need to find is a closed space where you can keep your dry goods away from everyone else’s. This will help minimize the chances of cross contamination and prevent your more expensive things from disappearing because someone decides they taste pretty good. This is a great opportunity to go through your kitchen cupboards and throw out all the expired goods that have ended up at the back of the cupboard where no one can reach. If you have unopened packages that are not outdated but you know no one will eat the contents, put them in a box and donate them to the food bank.

        If you have pots and pans or dishes that don’t even get used for holidays send them to your favourite thrift store. You may be amazed at how much free cupboard space you have when you are done. Don’t however, get rid of things you will only have to go and replace later with new ones. That is not the point of this exercise. You will want to save your money so you can fill YOUR cupboard with gluten free things that are just for you. If the person who is gluten free is one of your children have them help you with this cleaning process. Giving away the foods that make them sick and filling a cupboard with food just for them will help with the transition to embracing a gluten-free lifestyle.

        When that process is done take a look in your fridge. Is there room to make a gluten-free zone? Possibly in the door or a drawer or even a bin that fits on the shelf. Label that space or drawer with a large GF so everyone knows this is off limits to all except the gluten-free person. If buying separate margarine, nut butter, jam, mayo etc is not an option then take a new unopened container of that specific product and put a large GF on the lid with permanent marker. It will remind everyone that you too need to use this and it has to be kept gluten free. This may be a challenge at first and having your own condiments may be a simple option, but we successfully manage this now. The other alternative is to put a small amount of the item, from a freshly opened jar, into a small container to keep in your designated GF zone in the fridge. Mark the container GF in case it ends up in the other part of the fridge.

        The only thing we do not share is the toaster. We bought a separate one and keep it up high so no one is tempted to use it. If there is room in your newly cleaned GF cupboard you could keep it in there. You may even want to put a large GF on it so if you have guests in your house they don’t use it by accident. If you have a toaster oven for your toaster, be sure to wash off the rack before you put your gluten free bread on it.

        So just how do you get your family to understand about cross contamination and how serious it can be to your health? This may require a family meeting or a discussion over dinner with all the family present. For those who have never felt a “gluten attack” it can be difficult for them to understand. You may need to explain what it is like for you when you eat gluten even if it is by accident. Everyone knows what a stomach ache feels like so have them imagine that multiplied by ten and lasting for several days.

        Next you may want to provide your family with a list of things they can do to help eliminate the risk of cross contamination such as “only use a clean knife or spoon to get spreads out of shared condiment jars”.  Some families find squeeze bottles are a good way to eliminate “double dipping”. Just be sure to wipe the tip before you use it in case it touched their glutinous product. For the first little while you might even want to put up reminder notes until everyone gets the hang of the new system. Soon it will become second nature to everyone and you may even find them being extra careful not to do anything to make you sick.

        Be sure you wipe your counters regularly. In our house the gluten-free eaters NEVER let their food touch the counter. We put it on a clean plate or the designated GF cutting board. Pots that contained wheat pasta are always washed last, well scrubbed and double rinsed.

        A good resource to help you through this process is “Living Gluten Free for Dummies.” It is a humorous book with practical advice from a Mom who has been there. She gives some great tips on how to make this process work smoothly for everyone. Sharing a kitchen with wheat-eaters can be a bit of a challenge at first but with a respectful attitude from both sides and a well laid out plan both wheat eaters and gluten-free eaters can live in safety and harmony.

Cathy LauerCathy's Bio: Cathy Lauer has been cooking/baking gluten/dairy free for 17 years. She has written 3 all baking cookbooks and has a gluten free baking blog/store. In her spare time she loves to garden in a big way with fruit, vegetable and flower gardens. She is a classically trained singer and loves to read and collect recipe books. She homeschools her youngest son (11) and has 3 grown children and is grandmother of 2. Cathy's Gluten Free Creations Ltd. Gourmet Gluten Free Baking. Cookbooks and Baking Mixes. 250-758-5232 - Cathy Lauer Website - Email

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