As is true with my family, most households are not completely gluten-free. Though research bounces back and forth, there seems to be a general consensus that completely eliminating gluten from your diet if you’re not suffering from a gluten intolerance is not necessary, and can actually be detrimental to proper nutrient consumption. Thus the question arises: how do you keep up the gluten-free habits for the sake of one family member, while maintaining a healthy, well-rounded diet for gluten-eating members of your family?
Here are three tips for cooking for your gluten-free family member in a generally gluten-filled house:
- Keep the “Gluten-Free” for Yourself. For a variety of reasons, so many people start on a gluten-free diet without first doing the proper research. A huge misconception about gluten-free is that it is, in all cases, better for you. Interestingly, however, is the fact that many gluten-free products are actually higher in carbohydrate and calorie due to the different grains that have to be used and processed to make sure they’re gluten-free. Many people think “gluten-free” means “healthy,” but that’s not necessarily true. So tell your friends to stop breaking the bank if they don’t need to be gluten-free. One trick my family uses is cooking everything separately. When we make shrimp scampi, for example, we use one pan for the olive oil, garlic, shrimp, and lemon juice (all gluten-free!) and then make two pots of pasta – one wheat, one corn. Instead of mixing everything together all at once, everyone can enjoy the same meal without being forced to eat (or not eat) gluten!
- Don’t be a gluten-free martyr. One piece of information I’m constantly working to emphasize with my friends and family is that many whole, unprocessed foods are naturally gluten-free. A meal of roasted potatoes, grilled chicken, and sautéed or steamed vegetables with olive oil, which is a fairly common meal, is completely gluten-free with no special gluten-free labels.
- When storing food, be sure to keep the Tupperware separate! In my refrigerator, we have transitioned from B-shaped post-it notes that said a food was “Bridget-Friendly” to keeping different colored tops (green for “Go! Gluten-free,” red for “STOP! Gluten-filled!”) or shapes for different contents. Most Tupperware containers are either circular or square. If cross-contamination is an issue for the gluten intolerant in your household, keep all gluten-free food in circular containers, and gluten-containing food in squares and rectangles. This serves as a quick and easy way to know what is (and isn’t) safe to eat.
Cooking for your whole family can seem like a daunting challenge when you suddenly feel like you need to cook different meals for different people. But paying attention to foods that are gluten-free for all, and knowing how to bridge the gluten-free gap can help streamline the process to keep your family meals healthy and happy!