Eating Gluten Free on the Go can be challenging and difficult. Sitting at work hungry can be no different. Protecting one’s food in the shared fridge, trying to use the shared microwave or toaster oven; all can be a nightmare of glutening after glutening. Although I love my warming lunch box, it takes hours to warm up, in my job, I am never quite sure when I will be able to eat, of course I get a lunch break but the time varies; as a result my warming lunch box doesn’t quite work for me.
Sometimes, one can find an employer who takes health and cross contact of proteins seriously. Those of us on medically necessary GF diet need help carving out some food boundaries in an a shared employee breakroom. In my current full time job, I initially hid in a corner, utilizing a surface no one else used to place food on. Then, one day, the surface vanished! One of the owners has a family member with dietary restrictions, so I went to them. I asked if we could just find something to place in the corner so I could eat seperately where gluten glorious loving folks eat. Amazing! They had our crew bring out this table and they made the best sign for it! How kind to take the needs of special diets in the workplace seriously. Thanks Wendell’s Furniture!
Because this table is in a shared employee break room, it is sometimes a shared surface. I am grateful to have such great co-workers, they respectfully stay away from my eating area (and I stay away from theirs). To be safe, I dry wipe the surface with a dry paper towel, followed by a wet clean with paper towel, before sitting to eat.
The single best way to keep food airtight and ready to go, is in a mason jar with a tight fitting lid. Mason Jars keep food longer and the glass does not wear down like plastic in the dishwasher, or after having stored acidic foods. The jars are easy to store in the fridge and save so much room! At work, I store my food in a plastic bin that is labeled GF, I keep it on the top right section of our shared fridge. In an active fridge, if one can’t get the top shelf, I have used the bin lid. Grateful I have the luxury of special diet respect at work.
Before I begin, let me be clear. After many gluten free years, I find I can utilize shared warming equipment: ovens, toaster ovens, microwaves. I can do this ONLY if my food is completely sealed and has no chance of particulate matter from the oven air landing on it. Particulate matter in oven air means that the air has particles 20ppm or greater of gluten. I am not recommending anyone try this, I am merely explaining how I have worked with my GF special diet in a shared break room. I suggest others follow doctor advise.
I have long workdays and need to bring food with me. Also, I am never quite sure when I will break for lunch. My preferred method of warming food up in a lidded mason jar, with some water beneath it in a 3 cup rice cooker. Dense food warms in 15 minutes, 20 for hot and steamy.
To safely consume food heated in a shared microwave or toaster over, the food must be sealed. I do not recommend sharing microwaves and toaster ovens – but since I choose to: a minimum of triple wrapped aluminum foil is needed to seal the food and keep safe from PPM particulate matter in the shared toaster oven. The same triple wrap process with the microwave: parchment paper, plus two paper towel wraps in opposing directions to get the best seal, or a microwave safe tight fitting lid on a jar of food.
As we all know, gluten free food can be quite dry when the magical moisture and warmth ratio are not in sync. I live in a very cold climate and really need a warm lunch. I do not have the luxury of gluten free food establishments in proximity to my job for takeout.
I cook dinner for myself often and use the leftovers for lunches. When I have not had time to pre warm food in my hot lunchbox. I recently purchased a cup warmer and am loving it! I highly recommend it!
I bring my meals in a mason jar and keep a ceramic lid. This ceramic lid fits completely across the top of the jar and does NOT have an air hole. The air hole allows cross contact of proteins via particulate matter in the air of the shared warming device. I use the lid from a tea cup sold with the lid. I don’t really like microwaving my food, and don’t at home; however – work is different. I place a piece of paper towel beneath my jar to avoid getting gluten on my hand when removing the jar.
Sometimes I wrap my burritos and microwave or toaster oven warm them. It depends on time and which co-worker might be using what. I try to steer as clear from the shared toaster oven as it is ripe with gluten. This is why in a restaurant – one must find out if the oven is shared and if so, request one’s food be completely sealed. Many baking applications utlize an open and uncovered tray as part of the cooking process, which can be dangerous for those of us with gluten issues. As previously mentioned, I triple wrap exposed food. For example, I purchase or make GF burritos often. First it needs to be wrapped in parchment paper, then 2 wrappings of paper towel in opposing directions, then place on clean folded paper towel in microwave or a paper plate (which I never have.)
How to Keep Food Prep Surfaces GF in Shared Kitchens
GF Food Prep & Cross Contact in Shared Kitchens
“What Does GF in the Workplace look like?“(c)2023 by Liz Conforti