Celiac disease – an autoimmune disorder that results in damage to the lining of the small intestine when foods with gluten are consumed – is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. For those adhering to a gluten-free diet, planning safe and healthy weekly menus can be overwhelming.
“Cooking can be a daunting task when preparing meals and snacks for adults and children with celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities,” noted William Stevens, a seasoned professional chef and owner/operator of Chef on Demand. The company caters to Bergen County residents by offering in-home personal chef services. “Fortunately, there are more options than ever before to help individuals and families maintain a well-balanced gluten-free diet without sacrificing nutrition or taste.”
Chef on Demand accommodates a range of food allergies and other special dietary requests for its customers including gluten- and dairy-free, diabetic, low-sodium, vegetarian, Paleo and more. Chef Stevens uses farm fresh and locally grown ingredients and he handles the shopping for all menu items to prepare customized gourmet meals and home-style dinners in his clients’ home kitchens.
“We provide a very specialized and personal service,” said Chef Stevens. “No two requirements are ever the same.” For example, he prepares bi-weekly gluten-free meals for a child with celiac disease in Haworth, as well as weekly meals for two busy families in Upper Saddle River. Detailed reheating instructions are provided with each meal.
For those following a gluten-free diet, Chef Stevens offers a number of tips in the following Q&A. For more information, visit the company’s Website athttp://www.thechefondemand.com.
Q: Are pre-packaged foods clearly labeled as gluten free?
A: Not always. In fact the word “gluten” is rarely seen on product labels, and foods labeled “wheat-free” may still contain gluten. Always read labels to be aware of both obvious and hidden gluten-containing ingredients, as well as nutritional information. People with celiac disease must avoid eating products that contain wheat and wheat varieties/derivatives, triticale, rye, barley, malt, brewer’s yeast and yeast starch. If unsure whether or not a pre-packaged food contains gluten, either don’t buy it or check with the product manufacturer.
Q: Which foods are safe for a gluten-free diet?
A: Fortunately many healthy, delicious (and affordable) foods are naturally gluten free. Weekly menu planning should focus on incorporating a wide variety of these items including fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry, nuts, beans, fish and dairy. Some grains also are naturally gluten free and can be incorporated into many great recipes including quinoa, polenta, buckwheat (or soba), flax, corn, tapioca and rice.
Q: What is cross-contamination and how can it be prevented?
A: Cross-contamination occurs when gluten-free foods come in contact with gluten. In the home kitchen especially it’s particularly important to keep things clean and separated, especially if someone with celiac disease is living alongside family members who do not have this condition. Clean all surfaces and countertops before preparing gluten-free food and make sure cooking equipment – pots and pans, utensils, knives and cutting boards – has been cleaned before use. Using the same toaster and “double-dipping” into condiment and food jars (mayonnaise, peanut butter, jelly, etc.) also can result in cross contamination. To avoid this, use “squeeze” bottles whenever possible or have gluten-free family members use their own dedicated condiment jars and toaster.
Q: What are hidden sources of gluten?
A: Many sauces, marinades and gravies sold in stores and used in restaurant cooking may contain gluten as a thickening agent. At home, some of these foods can be thickened using arrowroot, cornstarch or potato starch. There are many great tasting gluten-free flours available as well which can be used as a thickener.
Q: Where can gluten-free foods be purchased?
A: In recent years many mainstream manufacturers have started producing an assortment of gluten-free items, including breads, cereals, pasta, pizza and baking mixes. Supermarkets, discount retailers and health food chains also are responding to the increased demand for gluten-free products, and carry a wider selection of these items than ever before. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, The Fresh Market and Wegmans are a few of the standouts.
Q: Are alcoholic beverages gluten free?
A: Alcoholic beverages often are overlooked but must be considered into a gluten-free diet as well. Most alcohol is naturally gluten free, including hard alcohol, liqueurs, wine, port and hard cider. Beer naturally does contain gluten but there are many companies today that offer gluten-free varieties as well.
Q: Does eating gluten free mean the end of restaurant dining?
A: Absolutely not. Call restaurants ahead of time, ask to speak with a manager and let them know of your dietary restrictions. Many restaurants, including popular chain restaurants, offer gluten-free menu choices, and have properly trained their staff on safely preparing/handling guests’ gluten-free food.
Q: Where can someone find more information on living and eating gluten free?
A: There are many wonderful resources available to the gluten-free community, including http://www.gluten.org, the Website of the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG). The site includes recipes, diet and nutrition tips, lifestyle advice and more.
For more information on Chef on Demand’s services, including gluten-free menu planning, or to schedule a free consultation, contact Stevens at (774) 200-3369 or (201) 391-0288. Potential customers also can “Like” the company on Facebook at “Chef on Demand North Jersey.” Chef on Demand’s additional services include catering for small dinner parties and barbecues, personal food shopping, private in-home cooking classes and cooking parties.