Gluten Free Lunch consists of a carefully chosen collection of food items, free of any gluten containing elements, specifically created so as to make it fit for consumption by individuals who are gluten intolerant. Gluten is the protein present in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and contaminated oats and is mainly responsible for the binding and thickening properties of these foods. Gluten intolerance may be manifested in the form of Celiac Sprue, or more commonly as wheat allergy.
For Gluten intolerant individuals, exposure to gluten from any source (above the standard limits), can cause serious immune reactions with typical symptoms like hives, breathing difficulties, and a multitude of digestive problems. In Celiac disease, inflammation and damage to the intestines, with concurrent bloating, headache, fatigue, weight loss may occur.
The term ‘gluten-free’ indicates a level of gluten in the food that is safe for consumption by such persons without any abnormal reactions. It does not necessarily point out to a complete elimination of gluten from a food but a reduction to seemingly harmless levels. According to International Codex Alimentarius, a standard allowance of 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten in a particular food makes it "gluten-free" so-to speak.
Common Gluten-Free Ingredients
Rice, Corn, Potato, cassava or tapioca are most common foods. Other grains include arrowroot, millet, quinoa, sorghum, teff, taro and yam. A variety of bean-based flours like soy bean flour, nut flours like almond flour may also be used to make gluten free foods. Similarly gram-flour derived from chickpeas is a good option. Oats, owing to their propensity for cross contamination, are best avoided unless ascertained to be pure. Completely safe foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, meat and dairy products. All wheat associated products are forbidden.
Gluten Free Lunch Options
• Soup: Clear mixed vegetable soup with no sauces or thickeners, garnished with parsley, flavoured with pepper and a dash of lime juice.
• Appetizer: Cream cheese and spinach filled mini wraps made with home-made gluten-free corn tortillas.
• Main dish: Devilled eggs on a bed of onion, garlic sautéed fried rice or Thai Style mixed rice noodles with veggies and chicken or Quinoa pasta with vegetables. Alternatively, marinated and grilled salmon on a bed of sautéed greens would be a great option.
• Side dish: Tofu in Red cabbage packets (using gluten free soy sauce and tomato sauce) or Grilled vegetable sticks with hummus and herbed cottage cheese.
• Salad: Moroccan lentil salad or Three bean (white, red and black) salad with gluten-free vinegar dressing or olive oil and herb dressing.
• Dessert: Apple crumble made with almond flour instead of wheat flour, using pure honey and cinnamon powder or Gluten-free waffles made with dried polenta (grits), gluten-free flour and topped with flaked caramelized almonds and cherry sauce.
• Drink: Pure wine.
Since wheat proteins are completely eliminated from the Lunch and the diet overall, other high quality protein, vitamin and mineral sources need to be incorporated to prevent any deficiencies.
Use of plenty of vegetables, greens, fruits, poultry, fish, meats, eggs and specific dairy products makes up for the iron, folate, fibre, protein, B-vitamin, calcium and vitamin D.
Likewise the use of soy flours, cornmeal, nut flours, pure uncontaminated oats, beans, legumes that supply proteins and nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium and zinc needed by the body for vital functions, is recommended.
Tips on going ‘Gluten Free’
• Certain major brands like Frito Lay, Kraft, Heinz etc., offer gluten-free product options which can be adopted by individuals wanting to go on a gluten free diet.
• Reading food labels carefully does help but sometimes certain ingredients may themselves contain gluten. Hence investing on a Vitamix that helps one to make flours (like soy bean flour, chickpea flour, almond or quinoa flours) right at home would make the process safe and cost effective.
• Likewise investing in a bread making machine that has a special GF i.e. Gluten Free option can help prepare delicious bread in one’s own kitchen.