Cooking for someone with celiac disease can be challenging. There are a lot of foods to avoid. You may find yourself having to account for things you never thought about before when it comes to preparing food.
However, if you have a loved one with celiac disease, it is important they eat properly to manage their condition. Celiac disease does not need to be a major disruption to their life as long as they are doing the right things to keep symptoms under control.
A large part of this will be food preparation. Cooking for someone with celiac disease does not need to be a frightening prospect, however. It can be a fun opportunity to get closer to someone you care about and learn a few new recipes in the process.
Keep reading to find 5 tips for cooking for someone with celiac disease.
What is Celiac Disease?
First, what is celiac disease?
People with celiac disease should not eat gluten, as it activates an immune response. This immune response unfortunately attacks their small intestines, which can lead to long term damage. In a healthy intestine, the villi, small fingerlike projections, can help with digestion and absorption, for a person with celiac disease this is not the case. The villi get damaged, preventing nutrients from being absorbed.
This is why cooking for someone with celiac disease is so important. There are no surefire treatments for celiac disease. Rather, people who have the disease must avoid eating gluten. This diet can be very strict, excluding all foods with wheat, rye, and barley.
Even gluten that is leftover on a cutting board can trigger a reaction in a person with celiac disease, making it extra important to think about tools and equipment when cooking for someone with celiac disease.
If celiac disease is not managed properly, it can lead to coronary artery disease or even some small bowel cancers. If changes to diet and lifestyle are not made, a person with celiac disease can develop Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, dermatitis, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, and neurological conditions. It’s important that all gluten is kept strictly out of the diet for this reason.
1. Look for Gluten Free Options
Fortunately, these days it is easier than ever to avoid gluten in food. Many grocery stores are fully stocked with gluten-free options, from chips to breads to beers. You can even buy gluten-free pizza in the frozen aisle of many grocery stores.
Next time you are at the grocery store, check the frozen aisle for gluten-free options. You may also find gluten-free alternatives in the health food section. However, gluten-free does not necessarily mean healthy. Often, things like gluten-free chips are shelved right beside conventional chips.
Other gluten-free foods aren’t even labeled gluten-free at all. These are foods that have always been gluten-free and therefore never advertised it. This includes things like tofu, brown rice, oats, fruits and vegetables, legumes, poultry, seafood, milk, butter, cheese, and coconut oil. You might also try wholesale Mexican food, which makes use of many of these base, gluten-free ingredients.
Many of these foods naturally offer great alternatives if you are cooking for someone with celiac disease. For example, you might think a little harder about your cooking oil and choose coconut or avocado oil instead of a cooking spray that may or may not contain some gluten.
It’s always good to double-check any food you are buying if you intend to do some cooking for someone with celiac disease. You don’t want to make a mistake that could put them in pain.
Having celiac disease and needing to eat gluten-free does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t still have a healthy diet. As shown here, there are many, many foods that don’t contain gluten and are safe to eat. Your loved one with celiac disease should still get a healthy diet, including a proper breakfast. A recent Food Insight survey revealed that while most of us (93 percent) consider breakfast the most important meal of the day, few of us (44 percent) actually eat it every day.
Don’t be part of the majority who are skipping such an important meal. Even living gluten-free, you can still eat well and healthy and get three good meals per day.
2. Have Gluten Free Tools
Just as important as the food itself is the tools you are using to prepare. The gluten in food doesn’t just stay in the food. If you cut a loaf of bread, for example, the crumbs and residue can get on the knife and the cutting board.
This can be dangerous for people with celiac disease. Even a few crumbs left on a cutting board can trigger an immune response in someone with celiac disease. If you are cooking for someone with celiac disease, try to make sure you have things like knives and cutting boards that are strictly gluten-free in order to protect them.
It doesn’t stop just at the preparation tools, either. To the extent possible, you should even have plates, cups, bowls, and utensils that are set aside as gluten-free. Just like residue can linger on a knife, it can linger on a fork. Your loved one could unwittingly be consuming gluten every time they use a certain fork or plate.
Part of your loved one’s health care needs now include a very clean kitchen. Think about the surfaces, the counters, the strainer and dishcloths and sponges and oven. Try to consider all the places where gluten might be lingering because of past use and either clean or replace them.
These preparations are crucial if you are cooking for someone with celiac disease. It could not only save them a lot of pain in the short term, but spare them from more serious conditions later on.
3. Choose Fresh Vegetables and Fruits
If you are just starting to get into cooking for someone with celiac disease, it’s perfectly fine to start really simple. You don’t need to cook a gourmet gluten-free meal right from the get-go.
If you’re looking for a simpler place to start, try fresh foods. Fruit, vegetables, fish, tofu, eggs, meat, cheese, and butter are all naturally gluten-free. There is a lot you can make just starting with these plain ingredients. As you begin to add things like sauces and spices, you will need to check the ingredient lists on those items. However, these days many foods proudly label whether or not they include gluten, so it is not as difficult a task as it once was.
Processed foods are always going to be trickier if you are cooking for someone with celiac disease. These foods have more ingredients and go through a food processing plant where things might be added you don’t know about.
Even things like fruits and vegetables should be carefully checked if they are processed. While fresh fruits and vegetables are safe, ones that are canned may include a syrup or something that can contain gluten. Always read the labels carefully when buying processed food.
If you are still at a loss, talk to your loved one’s doctor to get some advice on cooking for someone with celiac disease. They may have suggestions for simple recipes and ingredients to help get you started.
4. Look for Gluten Free Restaurants
Cooking for someone with celiac disease is a wonderful and loving act, but some nights you just don’t want the hassle of all that work. It’s fine to go out to eat, even when your loved one has celiac disease.
These days, many restaurants are proud to offer gluten-free options. This does not mean you have to go to a sit down fancy restaurant, either. There are even pizza places that now offer gluten-free options so anyone can eat there.
You may be able to do a simple google search to locate gluten-free restaurants near you. Depending on where you live, you might find there are a surprisingly high number of them available. Of course, this is going to hold truest closer to major cities.
Even if you live somewhere more remote, you may be able to find dining options. You could ask a local establishment how they prepare their food. When you become more proficient in cooking for someone with celiac disease, you’ll know what to look for and ask for when eating out.
5. Find Medicinal Foods
There may even be some foods that help to improve conditions for someone with celiac disease. The condition can be painful when not managed properly. Eating a healthy diet that lacks gluten can definitely improve some symptoms associated with celiac disease.
There are plenty of processed foods like chips, cookies, and frozen pizzas that are now offered free of gluten. While these won’t worsen your loved one’s condition, they also may not make it any better.
Eating healthy foods while also avoiding gluten is an additional challenge. However, a healthy and balanced diet can make symptoms better for someone with celiac disease. If you are cooking for someone with celiac disease, think about ways you can incorporate as many healthy choices as possible. It may be tempting to just have cheese and chips, but a healthy diet can make all the difference for someone suffering from this condition.
When symptoms do arise, there are some things that might help. In states where it is available, things like CBD are sometimes looked to for symptom relief. You should note, however, that while CBD is linked with decreased pain, there is no research currently on its effect on people with celiac disease. You should check ingredients carefully to ensure the product does not contain some sort of gluten.
What To Do If Something Goes Wrong
Despite all our best intentions, things don’t always go to plan. With something like celiac disease, which is a lifelong condition, it is always possible for complications to arise even when we are being careful. It’s all too easy for gluten to slip into someone’s diet without anyone happening to notice.
If you are cooking for someone with celiac disease, you should do all you can to keep them safe and to prepare food properly. It’s also great to include them in this process, however, so they can feel empowered when it comes to their diet. This is something they will live with their entire life, so it’s good for them to learn about cooking for someone with celiac disease at the same time you are.
However, you might also want to ensure both of you are included in things like medical care. The treatment for your loved one with celiac disease may need to change over time. They should be as aware of this as you are.
Whether your loved one is a child or an adult, they should learn how to manage their condition. And despite all this careful planning, cooking, and learning, mistakes may still happen. You might find that your loved one experiences symptoms or flare-ups despite your best efforts and intentions.
Try not to get discouraged at these times. This is a learning process for everyone involved. Manage the symptoms as best you can in the moment, then try to figure out the root cause of the problem. Cooking for someone with celiac disease involves a lot of potential sources of contamination in terms of gluten getting into food. Don’t beat yourself up too much if you make an honest mistake.
If you need more help figuring out what might be triggering symptoms, try finding a doctor at a family practice who can talk to both you and your loved one about managing this condition. They are likely to have knowledge and insight about how best to move forward and maintain a healthy lifestyle for your loved one with celiac disease.
You and your loved one are on this journey together. Cooking for someone with celiac disease is not something you need to or should do alone. Seek advice, input, and help wherever you can and you will be able to find the right healthy balance for you and your loved one.