When I was in the US in January, I stayed at my sister in law, Michelle's house. She wanted me to write a post about how it was when I stayed there, that the biggest lesson for her was that, though it sounds scary for her at first to make food for me that I'd be able to eat, being on a gluten free, dairy free diet, in the end she realized it wasn't so difficult at all, and she even served me food that she would regularly serve her family. It was enlightening, she said, to see that anyone could make gluten free dairy free meals without going crazy, without needing to buy expensive, special ingredients, etc...
And then quite a few people told me recently that they want to go on gluten free dairy free diets, but they don't know what they'd be able to eat, what they'd be able to cook and feed their families...
I've also had many people ask me "I'm having guests that are gluten free/dairy free- what can I serve them?"
And then to top it off, someone told me that she wanted to make me a meal for after birth, but is scared that she'll accidentally give me something I'm not allowed to eat and make me sick.
So, I figured, why not to a short sum up of what is gluten free dairy free, and what is not, and some "normal foods" that people know how to make that are naturally gluten free and dairy free.
Hopefully, this post will be helpful to anyone who wants to cook for someone gluten free and dairy free, but doesn't want to chance getting them sick.
Note that what I'm saying is not endorsed by the Celiac associations, etc... because many of them say to avoid things that might possibly possibly have been made in the same factory as gluten items, so avoid things with even the possibility of traces of gluten. I just don't eat gluten or things that touched gluten. I am sensitive to traces, but not the minute traces from being produced in the same factory. If you have to make a meal for someone gluten free, check with them if you need to avoid traces from stuff made in the same factories.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in one of 4 grains- wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. Anything made with these ingredients are NOT gluten free.
Wheat berries, whole wheat, all purpose flour, bulgur, cracked wheat, wheat grass, most pasta/noodles, bread, bread crumbs, couscous, bagels, pretzels, croutons, soup nuts, cakes, cookies, crackers, cereals, doughs and things made with them like bourekas, bran, wheat germ, barley malt, packaged foods made with bread crumbs, like fish sticks, etc...
Things that you might not have known are made with gluten, but are almost always made with gluten, unless they specifically say otherwise:
Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, cereal, beer, zaatar spice mix, Worcestershire sauce, marmite, whiskey, some vinegars, some vodkas, miso unless made without wheat or barley.
Oats themselves aren't gluten, but nearly all oats are gluten contaminated and gluten free people can't eat them, unless you buy specially certified (and expensive) gluten free oats. But even those, many gluten free people, like myself, can't tolerate.
What is dairy?
Things that are dairy are milk, butter, yogurt, milk powder, cheeses, and whey. Some people who can't eat dairy can eat goat or sheep dairy even if they can't eat cow dairy, but don't assume that- ask first. I am not sure whether or not other types of dairy make me sick, so I avoid it entirely.
The most important thing to know when making food for someone that is gluten free and/or dairy free is that processed foods- mixes, bottled sauces, etc... hold the biggest likelihood of having gluten in them, but if you stick to whole ingredients, and make food from scratch, as long as you avoid the ingredients in bold above, you're good to go.
If you are using a packaged item, don't assume that it is gluten free just because it would make sense.
Someone once gave my kids some "potato snacks" because, obviously, if its potato, its gluten free. But no, its not. 4th ingredient down was wheat flour, and my kids reacted badly to it. Pringles, for example, are another "potato" gluten filled food.
Soup mixes often have gluten. Things like corn flakes and rice crispies and most boxed cereals contain barley malt, so even if you'd think it was gluten free, because it was corn based, the malt makes it unsafe for gluten free people. There are gluten free corn flakes and rice crispies as well- so just check the ingredient list (especially be on the look out for "malt"). Things like hot dogs or hamburgers often have wheat in them.
Things that say something ambiguous like "starch" should be avoided since it might be wheat starch. The only items I'd use that say "starch" without specifying which are items that list "starch" as an ingredient, but then list allergens below the ingredients but don't write gluten there.
Many many snacks are dairy or contain dairy. Don't assume it is dairy free unless you check. Even things like dark chocolate are often made with dairy.
What is gluten free and dairy free?
Rice- brown rice and white and short grain and all other varieties, rice cakes (but check ingredients because some contain other grains as well)
Corn and corn based foods like polenta, canned corn, popcorn, corn meal, corn starch, corn flake crumbs if they are labeled as being gluten free
Potatoes and potato starch and in many cases potato flakes (but it is important that you check the packaging, because these sometimes have gluten), French fries (that come prepackaged generally are- but check the ingredients. You nearly always can't buy ready made French fries, though, because they are cooked in a way that contaminates them- see info on cross contamination below.)
Butternut squash, spaghetti squash
Most cellophane noodles are- those thin, white noodles that they sell in most grocery stores and are used for Chinese foods- some made from rice, some from "mung bean", etc. Just make sure to read the ingredients and see that they're wheat free.
All fresh! Frozen and canned and dried should be fine as well- just read labels. I can't list every single bit of produce that is out there, but some of the many-
Cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, garlic, scallions, zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, lettuce, kale, kohlrabi, avocado, squash, pumpkin, asparagus, green beans, peas, corn, swiss chard, apples, bananas, pears, oranges, grapes, grapefruits, plums, lemons, nectarines, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, persimmons, cherries, mangoes, melons, etc...
Animal proteins- Chicken (whole, slices, or ground), turkey (whole, slices, or ground), beef (whole, slices, or ground), fish (including canned fish like tuna- but if its a processed food like fish sticks or surimi, no- needs to be pure fish), eggs (I personally don't eat eggs, but here and there I can have an egg in a dish, like to hold meatballs together, just no egg based meals like quiches or fritatas or omelets).
Legumes- all including canned (but check labels for ingredients), including chickpeas/garbanzo beans, black beans, white beans, navy beans, pinto beans, lentils (red, green, brown, black, etc...), mung beans, soy beans and soy products like tofu and tempeh (I try to avoid these because too many give me a stomach ache), peanuts and peanut butter, etc...
Nuts and seeds- all are ok, provided they are pure and not mixed with other ingredients. Tahini and nut butters are also fine. This includes almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, etc...
Pure spices are always ok. Spice mixes you need to check ingredients or see if it is labeled gluten free.
Bottled sauces like ketchup, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, mustard, and mayonnaise are usually ok, but check ingredients, and see note about cross contamination. Remember that soy sauce, terriyaki sauce, and worcestershire are off limits.
Oils and fats are almost always fine (just not some more obscure oils like ghee which is made from dairy, or wheat germ oil- standard oils are gluten free and dairy free).
Lemon juice is fine. Vinegars such as wine, rice, apple cider, balsamic, and synthetic are fine. Grain vinegars are not.
Sweeteners are all fine, other than the issues of cross contamination.
If you want to make food for someone gluten free, for most people, it's not enough for them to just not eat the actual gluten, they can't eat food that was cooked with or was touching gluten. Like no making chicken soup with noodles and just not serving the gluten free person the noodles- the whole pot is off limits. I felt so bad that once, before I explained this to someone, she made fish loaf- two fish loaves actually- one gluten free, and one not... but boiled them together, and despite her extra work, I couldn't eat the food she made especially for me. If you put croutons in salad, you can't just pick them off and give them to someone gluten free.
For someone like myself, who gets sick from crumbs or traces of gluten, I avoid things like condiments from other people's houses that most likely have traces of gluten in them. For example, if there is something like peanut butter or other spreads that people tend to spread on bread, then stick the knife back into the container to get more of the spread, etc... I will not eat that from their house. Many people say "Oh, we never do that, we never dip stuff back in, because we're concerned about germs", this isn't about germs- even if something wasn't "double dipped" because no one touched the dirty knife or spoon with their mouth, etc... if it so much touched bread and then was dipped back into the container, it would be germ free, but gluten contaminated. And even if you think you don't do this, unless you are literally obsessive about not doing so, you likely are. (I've had people tell me "I never dip knives back into the container that I used already to spread on bread" while they're literally in the middle of doing so.)
Things that are, in most households, gluten contaminated, and therefore shouldn't be used for someone gluten free unless it is a brand new container: mayonnaise, honey, mustard, peanut butter, nut butter, tahini, hummus, etc... If these are squeeze bottles, no such issue.
Other issues of gluten contamination- make sure work surfaces are washed clean before cutting on them, without crumbs or flour dripping, etc...
Normal Foods that are Gluten Free and Dairy Free (or can be made so easily):
So, what can you make?
All veggies and fruit and proteins in salads, so long as you leave out the soy sauce, questionable vinegars, croutons, cheeses, and cross contaminated things. You can make a big chef salad with chicken breast or fish, for example. Use homemade salad dressings (or ones that you checked the ingredients of) and you're fine!
Chili, with or without rice and other fixings- leave out the cheese and sour cream.
Most types of chicken or fish or beef- just not marinated in problematic ingredients like soy sauce or terriyaki, or breaded. Baked, grilled, fried, boiled- all is good.
Chicken soup with veggies and/or rice.
Indian foods such as curried lentils or veggies or meat, with rice- just make sure that if you use curry spice mix, that the mix is gluten free.
Quinoa, rice, mashed potatoes (made without milk or butter), or gluten free pasta with meatballs- just leave out the breadcrumbs and/or flour when making meatballs- you can use potato flakes, cooked rice, grated carrots or potatoes or sweet potatoes, or gluten free corn flake crumbs (made from corn flakes that are gluten free) or gluten free rice crispies instead of the breadcrumbs, or just leave them out entirely.
Meatloaf- made the same way as meatballs.
Sauces like gravies can be made, just thickened with corn starch or potato starch instead of flour.
Stuffed veggies like stuffed cabbage, stuffed peppers, stuffed zucchini, etc... made without breadcrumbs (you can use rice instead) or cheese.
Legume soups like split pea soup, lentil soup, bean soup, etc... so long as it is without cheese or milk or sour cream or grains like barley or noodles, etc...
Cooked veggies as a side dish- whether roasted or sauted or fried- just leave out the soy sauce and other problematic sauces.
Fritatas and other egg based dishes, like shakshouka are great for most people, but since I try not to eat egg based dishes, they wouldn't work for me.
When I went to my sister in law, she served sliced baked sweet potatoes, green beans, baked chicken, rice with herbs, a veggie salad, and a few other things- don't remember exactly what.
Desserts are the hardest to make gluten free and dairy free, unless you have special ingredients, so best to just leave them out. The safest bet is just fresh fruit made into a fruit salad.
Hope this helps!
If you're gluten free and dairy free, what tips would you give to others that want to know how to cook gluten free/dairy free for someone? What do you find are standard meals that most people know how to make that are naturally gluten free/dairy free or can easily be made so? What would you add to my list?
If you're new to the gluten free/dairy free scene, do you have any questions that you'd like me to answer to help clarify things?