Don’t Get Glutened! Use These 35 Strategies to Protect Yourself
Getting glutened sucks and it happens far too often. Gluten is a tricky sneaky little particle that finds its way into many things we use every day. Thus, it can wreak havok for those sensitive to it, so it's crucial to know how to protect yourself and your family from it. If you (or a family member) have gluten sensitivities, Celiac disease, or any autoimmune disease, you’re likely spending a lot of time and energy avoiding it. In this post, I’ll answer a few common questions on the topic and give you 35 actionable approaches for keeping the gluten out.
**Just a quick heads up- this post contains affiliate links which means if you click on them and buy something, I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) to help continue maintaining this site.
Let’s first define this word which isn't a proper word but more of an expression. It simply means accidental ingestion of gluten resulting in undesirable symptoms because of a gluten allergy like Celiac Disease or a sensitivity. It's also referred to as being "glutenized," having a "gluten-attack" or "gluten poisoning," among other things.
What is Cross-Contact?
Cross-contact warrants a quick definition as well since I’ll use it quite a bit in this post. Cross-contact is what happens when gluten particles accidentally get transferred from one surface to another. It’s similar to cross-contamination, except cross-contamination has more to do with bacteria and other microorganisms causing food-borne illnesses.
What Happens if you Get Glutened?
There’s a long list of things that can happen if accidentally ingest this pesky little protein and this, like many things is very individualized. Of course, a lot of it depends on how sensitive you are. For example, if you’re on the less sensitive end of the spectrum, you may not even notice you’ve been exposed or you may have some very subtle symptoms. On the other hand, if you have Celiac disease, your symptoms will likely be more severe.
Symptoms of Gluten Exposure May Include:
Diarrhea or Constipation
Rashes or Acne
And Now For 35 Ways to Not Get Glutened:
Steer Clear of Buffets
Don't eat at buffets or restaurants where they serve you but are still set up buffet style. As gorgeous and enticing as they may be, it is too easy for cross-contact to happen.
One example of this is Mexican grill type restaurants where you can get salads, burritos, rice bowls, and fajitas to go. One near us advertises that most items are gluten-free (except for the tortillas of course), which is awesome but the problem comes from cross-contact.
If you watch the employees making the food, you’ll notice as they make a burrito, they scoop up some chicken with tongs, put it on the tortilla while also touching the tortilla with the tongs, then the tongs go back in the chicken along with those gluten particles making the chicken no longer “gluten-free.” This is of course just one example- it happens in many many places.
If you have an event/party at home with a buffet, make sure everything is gluten-free to prevent cross-contact.
2. Bring Your Own Food to Social Events
While this isn’t very fun, it does cut down on the possibility of getting accidentally exposed to this sneaky little particle. If you’re doing AIP, bringing your own food may be necessary anyway to stay compliant.
3. Read Labels Closely- It's Not Just About Food
There’s hidden gluten in many packaged foods and in personal care products, If you’re following a strict elimination phase AIP diet, you’re probably already checking labels but it’s still worth mentioning. To read up on exactly what foods contain gluten, you can check out this article.
While you have to actually ingest it for it to cause issues, it’s easy to see how gluten on your hands, body, or face could end up in your mouth. So, of course, it’s important to make sure your personal care products are gluten-free.
Here are a few tricky items to look out for:
Vitamins and Supplements
Over the Counter Medications
Lipstick/Lip Gloss/Lip Balm and other Makeup
4. Color-Code Your Dishes, Cookware, and Cutting Boards
Color coding some of the items you use regularly for gluten-free foods may help to cut down on the risk of cross-contact occurring. For example, in the restaurant industry, a kitchen will sometimes have a gluten-free kit that contains a designated cutting board, knives, and some other things. They are all purple so there is no mistaking what they are used for.
If you decide to color code dishes in your home, I would suggest picking one very stand-out color that is completely different from all your other dishes, so it easily reminds everyone in the house that those are specifically for gluten-free foods only.
Residual gluten is only eliminated above 500 degrees for 30 mins, so it's best to be on the safe side and cover any shared grill surfaces.
6. Use Separate Wooden Cutting Boards, Dishes, or Cooking Utensils
Use separate wooden items for gluten-free foods or switch to a different material. Metal is a better option because it is much less likely to hold onto food particles or bacteria, so you can use it for a wide variety of food with less risk of cross-contact.
Include rolling pins in this list- use a separate one for gluten-free items.
7. Use a Separate Cutting Board for Gluten-Free Foods
Since cutting boards by nature get cuts in them, they can easily hang on to food particles regardless of their material. As such, you should have at least one designated cutting board for gluten-free foods only.
8. Don’t Use Plastic Dishes and Utensils
Plastic scratches easily which leave room for unwanted tiny food fragments to hide. If your kitchen is not exclusively gluten-free, either use a different material like metal or buy new plastic dishes/utensils and designate them as gluten-free.
9. Clean Your Oven
If your oven is used for baking glutenous foods, those residual crumbs could prove to be a hazard. Cut down on your risk by cleaning it out more frequently.
10. Keep Your Refrigerator Door Clean
Gluten residue can easily be left on the refrigerator door and transferred to others.
11. Watch Out for Those Silicone Spatulas
Similar to many other cooking utensils, those awesome little spatulas have the potential to harbor harmful food particles. This most often happens where food residue gets trapped in the space where the handle meets the actual spatula blade, especially if the handle is wooden. They can also get stuck in little knicks and scratches on the spatula blade.
12. Use a Separate Waffle Maker, Bread Maker, or Toaster
Sometimes appliances like these can be taken apart and washed in the dishwasher but if not, you’ll want to have a designated one for gluten-free foods. Alternatively, you can use toaster bags like these. They are also handy for travel.
Convection ovens are a risk for cross-contact as well. If using a convection oven where regular foods are prepared, be sure to cover your gluten-free food with foil to protect it.
12. Use Squeezable Condiment Containers
Assuming others in your house eat gluten, this will reduce the chances of gluten getting transferred into the condiments. If not a squeezable container, use separate condiments and label them as being for gluten-free use only.
13. Keep Gluten-Free Foods on the Top Shelf
As with typical food safety standards (like not storing raw meat above ready-to-eat foods), the same goes for gluten-free foods. Keep them on the top shelf of the fridge, freezer, or pantry to avoid unwanted crumbs from falling/dripping down on them accidentally.
14. Don’t Buy Foods From Bulk Bins
Avoid buying trail mix, candies, nuts, etc. from the bulk bins at the grocery store. It’s too easy for the scoops to touch other food items when customers are transferring foods from the bins to their bags. If there happen to be cookies, crackers, and pretzels in some of the bins, you run the risk of having an accidental exposure.
15. Buy Only Certified Gluten-Free Grains
If you're eating grains, make sure to buy certified gluten-free grains. Look for a symbol somewhere on the package that says "Gluten-Gree" or "GF" or "Certified Gluten-Free."
There are several different symbols because there are a few different organizations that certify products and companies as gluten-free. The three certifying agencies are The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), BRC Global Standards (BRCGS), and NSF International. Buying a certified product ensures that cross-contact didn’t occur during production or processing.
16. Replace Your Sifter
It’s just too difficult to get gluten particles out of a sifter, so it’s best to get a new one..
17. Use a Separate Colander for Gluten-Free Foods
I’d recommend using a separate colander as well because, as with many other kitchen items, particles easily get stuck. They cling along the sides of all those tiny holes and it’s very difficult to get every fragment off of them...probably impossible.
If you must use the same colander for all your household foods, make it a metal one and scrub it really well between uses. However, there's still no guarantee you'll be able to get every little gluten particle.
18. Avoid Purchasing Imported Foods
Gluten-free standards are not the same in every country, so it can difficult to know if a given product is truly gluten-free.
19. Don’t Always Trust When Someone Tells You Their Dish is Gluten-Free
A well-meaning friend or family member at a gathering or potluck may insist their dish is gluten-free but it’s always possible they don’t know all the foods that contain gluten or that their dish accidentally came into contact with gluten during prep.
20. Wash Your Hands
If you’re preparing or handling gluten-containing foods, wash your hands afterward, or better yet, wear gloves and wash your hands afterward just in case.
21. Use Stainless Steel and Aluminum Cookware
These are best if you’re preparing regular and gluten-free foods because they wash up well to prevent cross-contact. If you use non-stick cookware, be aware that as they get scratched up, it’s easier for unwanted food particles to stick to them
22. Replace Scratched Baking Sheets and Muffin Tins (or Cover Them)
23. Replace Cast Iron Pans and Pizza Stones
Cast iron pans and pizza stones are slightly porous like many other kitchen materials. This means if you've been using these items for regular foods, you will need to get new ones and designate them as gluten-free.
24. Use Separate Sponges and Scrubbers When You Wash Dishes
If possible, keep a separate sponge or scrubber for your gluten-free dishes.
25. Make Sure Your Dish Water is Gluten-Free
Similar to the above tip, you want to make sure you don’t wash your gluten-free dishes in the same water as your other dishes. Wash your gluten-free dishes first in fresh water, then wash your other dishes (either in the same water or new water).
This order of washing makes the most sense to me but if you decided to wash your regular dishes first, just be sure to empty and scrub the sink, then refill it before moving on to the gluten-free dishes. Also, be sure to switch to a gluten-free scrubber.
Along the same lines- make sure you scrub down your sink plug and/or strainer before switching to gluten-free dishwashing.
Don’t share water bottles, straws, cups, or utensils with family members or friends that are eating crackers, bread, cookies, etc. This may seem obvious but it can happen so easily! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed a water bottle off the kitchen table to take a quick swig then thought “oh crap, one of the kids was probably drinking out of this.” My kids don’t generally eat gluten-free except at dinner time, so odds are pretty good there’s gluten on most of their water bottles.
27. Avoid Baking Gluten Containing Foods and Hanging Out in Bakeries
It is possible to inhale gluten particles and have them get into the digestive tract if you’re baking using regular flour or hanging out in a bakery. If you have Celiac disease, it’s advisable to avoid baking gluten-containing items if possible. According to Beyond Celiac, regular flour can actually say airborne for 12-24 hours. It’s best to avoid areas where there’s been regular flour in the air for about 24 hours to allow the air to clear.
28. Clean Out Your Utensil Drawers
This is important especially if you are new to being gluten-free. If you think about all the random crumbs that can accumulate in silverware drawers and drawers where you keep your larger kitchen utensils, there’s likely gluten lurking in there. Dummies shares some more gluten-free kitchen cleaning tips here.
29. Be Careful When Dining Out
- If possible, choose a restaurant that has a gluten-free menu
- Talk directly to the chef or manager to clarify how foods are prepared and talk through potential cross-contact issues. This could include things like a shared grill or oven surfaces, not changing gloves between prepping regular foods and gluten-free foods, using shared bowls for mixing salads that may have pieces of croutons left-over, etc.
- Ask the server to keep your food away from the breadbasket
- Ask, ask, and ask...Whenever you’re unsure of something, get clarification. If someone other than your server brings your food to the table, confirm that it is in fact the gluten-free meal you ordered.
30. Use Separate Oil for Frying
Be sure not to fry your gluten-free food in the same oil as glutenous foods. Along the same lines, don’t order fried foods unless you’re sure the restaurant has a dedicated gluten-free fryer.
31. Clean to Tops of Cans and Other Containers Before Opening Them
If cans happen to be stored under some flour or regular bread crumbs, some of it could fall on the can and get into the food when it’s opened. In general, it’s not a bad idea to wipe down cans before opening them anyway.
32. Use Caution with Arts and Crafts
If you’re doing arts and crafts activities with your kids, take note of items that contain gluten, and be sure to wash your hands after handling them. Some common gluten-containing arts and crafts items include play dough, kinetic sand, finger paints, paper mâché, and craft paste.
33. Be Careful When Kissing Someone Who Has Been Eating (or Drinking) Gluten
It is very possible to be accidentally exposed by kissing your partner who’s been snacking on pretzels or drinking a beer. To reduce your chances of this happening, ask him or her to brush their teeth (with gluten-free toothpaste), use gluten-free mouthwash, and floss. Also, if he has facial hair, it should be washed and combed in case there are any trace particles hanging out there.
34. Find Out About Your Communion Wafers
If you take communion at church, find out if your church offers gluten-free wafers. Some do and some don’t.
35. Buy Self-Adhesive Envelopes and Peel and Stick Stamps
Most USPS Stamps are peel n' stick anyway and supposedly gluten-free but if you ever have any other types of stamps (or envelopes) that need licking, it’s worth noting some adhesives contain gluten.
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I hope you found this post useful. If you think of any other tips to add to this list, please leave a comment below!
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