What is a Gluten-Free Meal?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A gluten-free meal is a meal that does not contain any gluten. Gluten is a protein comprised of glutenin and gliadin that is found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Some people are allergic to this protein and can experience severe physical reactions if they are exposed to it. Others are gluten intolerant and may have difficulty digesting gluten. Gluten-free meals are designed for these individuals.

Vegetables are typically gluten-free.
Vegetables are typically gluten-free.

For people with gluten allergies, gluten exposure can come with serious health risks. The most serious allergies may result in anaphylactic shock in response to gluten exposure, and if medical aid is not provided quickly, the patient can die. Lower-level allergies can cause problems like skin rashes, difficulty breathing, and chronic rhinitis. For people with gluten intolerance, the inability to digest foods that contain gluten can contribute to malnutrition and other chronic health problems. If medical testing reveals that someone has gluten allergies or an intolerance, the patient will need to eat a gluten-free diet for life.

Meat with fresh vegetables is a gluten-free meal.
Meat with fresh vegetables is a gluten-free meal.

At home, gluten-free meal preparation can be accomplished by carefully controlling ingredients that enter the house. A number of companies specifically make gluten-free foods that people can use in meal preparation. For common ingredients like condiments, it is important to read labels carefully to ensure that a food does not contain gluten, because wheat is a common filler material. If foods aren't explicitly labeled as being gluten-free, it should not be assumed that they are safe.

A gluten-free meal can still contain bread if it is made with a wheat flour substitute, like millet flour.
A gluten-free meal can still contain bread if it is made with a wheat flour substitute, like millet flour.

Eating a gluten-free meal out can be more complicated. Some restaurants are sensitive to food allergies and intolerances and are aware of all possible sources of allergens in their kitchen. They can accommodate people who need to avoid gluten and other types of allergens. In other cases, restaurant staff may confuse gluten and wheat allergies, not realizing that foods containing rye and barley are also dangerous, or staff might not think to check condiment labels with care. Reminding staff that customers are willing to wait while a staffer confirms that a meal will be gluten-free can ensure that people are fed appropriately.

Millet can be used to make gluten-free flours.
Millet can be used to make gluten-free flours.

Hospitals and other institutions as well as catering services can prepare gluten-free meal service by request. People usually need to make arrangements ahead of time, as when airline passengers request a gluten-free meal with their ticket. These services have extensive training in preparing food suitable for special diets and mistakes are rarely made, especially in hospital environments where prescription diets can play a critical role in treatment.

Almond flour contains no gluten.
Almond flour contains no gluten.
Rice noodles can be served as part of a gluten-free meal.
Rice noodles can be served as part of a gluten-free meal.
Customers should read labels carefully to ensure the products they are buying are gluten free.
Customers should read labels carefully to ensure the products they are buying are gluten free.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

closerfan12

@Charlie89 -- Aren't you sweet! Well, the chicken isn't going to be your problem, unless you want to make fried chicken or something like that. Just make sure whatever sauce you use is gluten-free as well. It's pretty easy to tell which ones are and aren't since most gluten free sauces print a "gluten free" label on the bottle.

The pasta can be tricker, but there are a lot of gluten-free pastas out there. Just look for any pasta made of rice, potato, or corn blends.

And if you get really stuck for ideas, there are tons of websites with gluten-free meal recipes, and many of them allow you to search by ingredient.

Best of luck!

googlefanz

Some of the larger restaurants even have entire gluten free menus available if you ask for them, just like they would have a vegetarian menu available on request.

Of course, you do have to kind of experiment and ask around until you find out which restaurants in your area have them, but it never hurts to ask.

And of course, almost every airline has a gluten free menu; I know that all of the US lines offer at least one gluten free meal on their regular menus as well. So don't be shy, speak up!

Charlie89

Does anybody have some good gluten-free chicken and pasta recipes?

I'm dating a woman who is highly allergic to gluten, but I want to have her over and cook a meal for her. So I've been trawling the internet for gluten free meal ideas.

I know that she likes chicken, and I'm pretty good at making pasta, so I thought it could be good to combine the two -- does anybody have a good gluten-free recipe involving chicken and pasta that's not too hard for a bachelor to make?

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