An Overview of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune ailment caused by intolerance to the protein gluten. Approximately 1% of Americans have the disease.* When gluten is consumed, the immune system reacts by damaging the lining of the small intestine — which prevents proper nutrient absorption. Symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Skin Rash
  • Gas
  • Weight Loss

Unfortunately there are no treatments or cures for the disease. The only way to prevent intestinal damage is to avoid gluten which can make dining out a challenge. To create a more inclusive dining experience, delivering more gluten-free choices is a smart tactic.

 

Common Foods and Ingredients

These are just a few of the common foods that contain gluten. You can see how difficult it would be to remove all of these from your diet:

  • Pasta
  • Breads
  • Baked Goods
  • Breading
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Beer
  • Sauces & Gravies
  • Tortillas
  • Consider replacing these gluten-containing grains:
    Wheat
    Barley
    Rye
    Oats
    Triticale
    Kamut
    Spelt
    Couscous
    Farro
    Bulgur
  • With these gluten-free
    grains:
    Amaranth
    Buckwheat
    Cornmeal/Polenta/Grits
    Millet
    Gluten Free Oats
    Quinoa
    Rice
    Sorghum
    Teff
    Wild Rice

Instead of gluten-free grains, you can also use other starches such as potatoes, beans, and sweet potatoes. For example, mashed potatoes make a great base for a stew instead of pasta.

 

Taking the Difficulty Out of Gluten-Free Cooking

Creating gluten-free dishes for your customers with celiac disease can be tricky. These tips make things a little easier.

 

Try Gluten-Free Flour Mix

Think of the texture you’re looking to replace before you think of flavor.

  • In baked goods, use a gluten-free flour mix.
  • For pasta, serve noodles made from spiralized vegetables. Or, experiment with pasta made from bean flours
  • For couscous, try millet or quinoa.

 

Use Big Flavors and Spices

Use bolder flavors with your gluten-free dishes to ensure guests are satisfied. Ethnic cuisines that rely on spices are great for this purpose.

  • Indian dosa (fermented rice pancakes) are great with curries.
  • Spicy arrabbiata sauce instead of marinara is welcome on flatbreads made from sorghum instead of wheat.
  • Dress up a gluten-free bun with grilled meats, veggies, and flavorful sauces. 
  • Pesto and roasted vegetable sauces stand up well to noodles made from brown rice flour.

 

Don’t Force It

Find dishes within a cuisine that are naturally gluten-free, such as tamales which are made with masa (corn dough), or enchiladas that traditionally use corn tortillas. A wild rice soup is a welcome change of pace from traditional chicken noodle soup. Or, experiment with chickpea or buckwheat crepes - common to French, Italian, and North African cuisines - as an unexpected alternative to savory wheat crepes. 

 

Toast or Pop Grains to Add Interest

Pop amaranth in a dry metal pan and use as a topping for gratins instead of breadcrumbs.

 

 

Call it Out

Denote gluten-free items on your menu so that diners can easily identify their options. In addition, make it clear which dishes can be prepared without gluten.

 

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Keep gluten-free products separate from those containing gluten and label products clearly. Store gluten-containing products in airtight containers so that they won’t let gluten into the air. Wash and sanitize all surfaces, equipment, and dishes when switching from cooking with gluten to GF cooking. Bake gluten-containing goods during prep so that flour can settle and be removed before service time. Clean hoods and vents regularly.

 

* BeyondCeliac.org, “Celiac Disease: Fast Facts”