Often, those of us with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or even gluten avoidance can feel uniquely singled out in families or living situations where those around us are all on that gluten hype. While adjusting to shopping for and cooking gluten-free meals eventually becomes second nature to us, we’re often met with the additional hurdle of navigating a kitchen bursting with gluten-filled items from our well-meaning but rye bread loving friends and family.

No one wants to make a family member or friend sick, but the same care and gluten consciousness we possess doesn’t always hold true for our families. As such, it can be difficult to manage our dietary needs when those around us don’t have the same dietary priorities for themselves. With the potential to be in daily contact with various gluten products and residues at a high; knowing how to share a home, kitchen, and dinner table with gluten consumers is of paramount importance to both a healthy body and a good family dynamic.

Eradicate Kitchen Cross Contamination

For those with gluten related health issues, the kitchen can become a primary battle ground in the fight against cross-contamination. Sharing a refrigerator, sink, and appliances with gluten consuming people could end up being a one way ticket to illness without the proper precautions. 

Errors and oversights can happen in multiple ways, and they don’t necessarily have to be grand. Something as simple as absentmindedly using the same knife to slice both gluten and gluten-free sandwiches one after the other is enough to do the trick.

Here are some easy-to-remember pointers when sharing a kitchen:

·       Avoid preparing gluten-free foods on the same surfaces used to prepare standard foods, unless you can guarantee that the area has been carefully cleansed.

·       If you share utensils, make sure that they are thoroughly cleaned after preparing foods that contain gluten to avoid leaving behind tiny bits of gluten.

·       To ensure food safety, abolish the use of preparing your gluten-free foods on any wooden surfaces, even if you have your own wooden cutting boards. Wood can easily absorb gluten and is not worth the risk of using when plastic, metal, and other surface materials are much safer and easily available.

·       Relegate gluten-free items to a designated space in the kitchen — such as a separate counter or cabinet — to safeguard contaminating the items by placing them near standard foods.

·       If an often used appliance comes into daily contact with gluten AND is difficult to clean, it’s time to invest in your own personal version. Yes, friends, that means a toaster all to yourself.

·       Claim the top shelf of the refrigerator as solely yours, to avoid the risk of gluten bits falling down on your food.

·       Label all gluten-free items as yours (even if they are doubles of what’s already in the fridge) to ensure that no one accidentally slathers your mayo on wheat bread and transfers crumbs back into the jar with the knife.

·       Don’t forget that the kitchen sink also has gluten contamination potential and you’ll need your own sponges and dish towels to ensure that they don’t absorb any gluten particles by being used to wash gluten containing foods off. Color and design coding the gluten and gluten-free sponges and towels as well as keeping them in your area of the kitchen is a great way to instantly visually differentiate yours from your family’s.

Remember, even a tiny amount of gluten can make you sick and the substance has a nasty way of easily spreading and sticking, so doing your due diligence by dividing and conquering in the kitchen is of the utmost importance.

Avoid Cross-Contamination at the Table

Although we might think that we’re out of the woods once we leave the kitchen and head into the dining room, the risk of cross contamination remains at the dining table and requires our continued vigilance. Just like in the kitchen, keeping our gluten-free food away from gluten containing foods is important, especially in a big family where food is constantly being passed around the table and hands are reaching in all directions. Designating gluten-free food by certain colored plates or putting gluten free dishes on a sideboard is a great way for you to easily differentiate which foods are safe to eat.

Made a gluten-free dip that the whole family can enjoy? Place a separate amount in a bowl for yourself to ensure that the dip you use isn’t corrupted by gluten containing chip crumbs. Large table? Ask that gluten heavy foods are placed away from your plate to minimize the risk of cross contamination and place neutral family items like water, salt, and pepper near your spot instead. With a little practice, these precautions will become second nature and help ensure that you remain as safe as possible while still being able to enjoy some quality time at the table with your family.

Teach Your Family About Gluten Free Living and Enlist Help

While changes to health and diet are often difficult for us — and those around us — to accept, making sure everyone in your household understands what gluten is and the importance of keeping it out of your system is crucial to both your health and a happy family life. Explaining to family that even a small amount of gluten is forbidden due to health concerns, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with celiac, will make them much more receptive to the new household changes in storing, preparing, and eating food. 

Teaching them to check before they cook and avoid cross-contamination will help you stay safe while making them feel that they are positively contributing to your health. Oftentimes, they’ll be more than happy to help accommodate your needs, especially if there’s a delicious gluten-free dish (or a whole meal!) as a reward.

Go over the dinner menu together. Are there dishes that can easily be gluten free and safe to be enjoyed by all? Grilled potatoes with greens and a nice pork roast sounds like a meal that even the most adamant gluten fan will love. And if it’s easy to prepare a dish gluten free (for example, placing croutons on the side vs. in the salad), ask your family to make it a regular habit to ensure more quality time at the table and less time in the kitchen preparing two separate meals.

Ready to make some easy and delicious gluten-free recipes for all to enjoy? Check out our recipe page for mouthwatering ideas for every meal and explore our online store for your gluten-free pantry staples — trust us, your family won’t be able to taste the difference!