Saturday, February 24, 2018

Gluten Related Disorders

April 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 2.45.37 PMPicture a warm, sunny day on your boat. You’re relaxing with friends until someone aboard has a gastro-intestinal attack and you have to race to shore.

If your friend has celiac disease and accidently ate something with gluten in it, he or she could have a severe reaction lasting from hours to days. Gluten, the trigger for symptoms in those with celiac disease, might have gotten into the gluten-free foods you served from just the slightest amount of accidental cross-contamination (for those with this medical condition, as little as a crumb’s worth of gluten is enough to trigger a reaction).

Planning ahead with preventive strategies can make the difference between a wonderful day at sea and a disaster. If you have someone aboard following a gluten-free diet or who suffers from extreme food allergies, you have a responsibility to not just throw food together with a one-size-fits-all approach. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on gluten-free diets, but the principles of checking food labels and preventing cross-contamination are the same for those with food allergies.

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley. Obvious sources of gluten include bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, cakes, and cereals, but gluten can also be found in sauces, gravies, salad dressings, marinades, beer, and candy. It is also added to many food products as a filler, anticaking agent, or stabilizer.  When gluten is clearly indicated on food labels, it’s easier to avoid. However, gluten-free food labeling laws are elective, and many safe foods are still not categorized as gluten-free.

When you are planning a menu ask your guests what safe gluten-free choices they would like you to bring on the boat and how restrictive their needs are (some guests are casually gluten-free while others are doing it for a medical reason).  If you use soy sauce, other sauces, or broths in cooking, make sure the ones you use are labeled gluten-free. Include lots of naturally gluten-free fresh fruits and vegetables, pick up gluten-free energy bars, cookies, and cakes, and bring rolls and sandwich breads that are labeled gluten-free. Ensure that sandwich fillings are gluten-free; buy plain, unseasoned meat selections and marinate them yourself in condiments that are marked gluten-free.  Don’t buy pre-made burgers, as they may have added breadcrumbs or other ingredients, and don’t boil hot dogs in beer that isn’t gluten-free.

To prevent cross-contamination, have fresh water and paper towels available with which to wash your hands prior to food preparation. Clean your boat’s preparation and serving surfaces with disposable wipes. Keep condiments and dressings in squeeze bottles, and set out gluten-free foods such as shellfish or sliced cheese on separate platters from crackers and bread (store and offer gluten-free bread separately from regular breads).  Don’t place gluten-free foods on the same grill, in the same toaster, or in a fryer that previously held gluten-containing foods.

If you are serving dips, only put out gluten-free chips and crackers to prevent contamination from dipping.  If you entertain buffet-style, keep gluten-free foods as far away from other foods as possible.  Don’t rely on your memory or that of your guests — clearly mark which foods are gluten-free.

If you’re planning to dock and dine, make a list of possible restaurant stops with phone numbers and websites so guests can call ahead.  If you visit the same restaurants frequently, ask if there’s a gluten-free menu with foods prepared in a separate area.  Are gluten-free bread or crackers available, and are condiments, dressings, marinades, sauces, and broths free of gluten?  Inquire if food preparers change gloves and take extra precautions when guests request it.  Acquiring information and visiting restaurants based on your guests’ needs will always make for a safer and more enjoyable trip.

Marlisa Brown MS, RD, CDE, CDN, is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, chef, and author of Gluten-Free, Hassle-Free and Easy, Gluten-Free.  She is also president of Total Wellness Inc., a private nutritional consulting company.  For more information about gluten-free diets or Marlisa Brown, go to and

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