Coeliac Awareness Week 13 – 20 March
The number of requests for aged care facilities to prepare gluten free diets is increasing. Do you and your staff have the skills, knowledge, equipment and ingredients to prepare a gluten-free diet?
People with Coeliac disease react abnormally to gluten causing small bowel damage. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barely, rye and oats. If left untreated, some of the long-term consequences include chronic systematic inflammation, poor nutrition and malabsorption of nutrients. Currently there is no cure so the only treatment for Coeliac disease is a strict gluten free diet. By avoiding gluten, this allows the small bowel lining to heal which optimises health and quality of life.
Where to start?
Take a moment and think about where gluten features in your facility menu.
Start by thinking about breakfast: gluten is found in many breakfast cereals, breads, some soy milks and the all-time Australian favourite Vegemite.
For mid meal snacks: many of the cakes, biscuits, scones, mini pies and pizzas will contain gluten.
At lunch & dinner: some items with gluten include soup stocks and boosters, crumbed or battered meats, pastries, some sauces and many desserts.
Document any gluten-free menu items and ensure that there is a separate recipe where gluten-free is an alternative option to the regular menu. Some recipes can be easily adjusted and made gluten free for all residents within your facility without it affecting the taste/texture. For example, gravies and stocks work well in this situation.
Remember there are many foods that are naturally gluten-free:
- Fresh fruit & Vegetables
- Fresh meats
- Nuts and legumes
- Margarines, butter and oils
- Gluten free grains (such as rice, corn/maize, tapioca, quinoa)
You won’t need to find gluten-free alternatives for these food items unless there is a risk of cross-contamination or small traces of gluten.
Label Reading – an important skill
The Australia New Zealand Food Standard’s Code set strict food labelling laws. Australian-made products that are labelled “gluten free” will not contain any detectable gluten. All food labels will also declare wheat, oats, barley and rye in the ingredients. You can also look for products using the Coeliac Australia Endorsement Logo as these products have been endorsed by Coeliac Australia and have been tested to be suitable for people with Coeliac Disease. Remember that “If there is no news, it’s good news”.
Contamination – Catering has it’s risks
Did you know that as little as 50mg of gluten can damage the lining of the small intestine in people with Coeliac Disease? Therefore, it is very important that when preparing gluten-free diets, to avoid cross contamination.
- It is mandatory to clearly label all gluten-free ingredients and finished products.
- It is also best practice to store gluten free ingredients separately, or above the gluten-containing products. Clean all appliances, utensils and workstations thoroughly before preparing gluten free foods.
- Use a separate toaster for gluten-free toast to prevent cross-contamination from crumbs.
- If baking, start with something easy, such as a gluten free packet mix. Just be sure not to dust your cake-tin with ordinary flour or sprinkle your cake with an icing mixture that contains gluten.
- Remember to consider the ingredients in medications, foods prepared on special occasions (barbeques, happy hour and birthday events) and alcohol.
Gluten-free catering in aged care can be difficult. If you need assistance please get in contact with a Leading Nutrition dietitian. We can provide assistance in menu planning and staff education for preparing gluten-free diets. Call us on 1300 722 712 or contact us below.
You may also find our Aged Care Diet Manual handy with gluten free menu plans and suitable gluten free options for aged care facilities.