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Completely avoiding gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, kamut, and triticale, is vital for good health if you're dealing with celiac disease, and can play a role in managing other autoimmune conditions, such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. Some folks may wish to avoid gluten simply because it doesn't agree with their digestive tract.
Regardless of the reason, barbecuing may require a few special precautions when you're gluten-free, but this doesn't mean you need to forgo great grilled meals altogether. Learning a few tricks of the trade will go a long way toward keeping your gluten-free barbecue safe and healthy.
Keeping it gluten-free
If you're planning a barbecue that isn't 100% gluten-free, it's important to take precautions so other foods don't contaminate your gluten-free foods:
Clean the grill. Eliminate any bits of gluten-containing food by cleaning the grill with a wire grill brush and plenty of soap and water. Scrub food surfaces thoroughly and rinse well. If you can remove the grill's food-contact surfaces, take them out for cleaning.
Plan for the park. If you're meeting friends in the park and plan to cook on a public grill, use caution. Chicken, fish, beef, and pork are naturally gluten-free, but if someone toasted hamburger or hot dog buns on the grill, gluten may be left behind. Bring safe, gluten-free back-up foods that don't require grilling, or a portable grill of your own, just in case.
Designate a gluten-free grill space. When you designate your gluten-free grill space at home, pick an area on the highest level of the grill, to prevent crumbs or food particles from regular food dropping onto your gluten-free fare.
Designate a gluten-free food prep space. Bring a table cloth of a particular color and let everyone in your group know that it's a gluten-free area.
Use separate utensils. Do not use the same tongs or fork to handle gluten-free food and breaded items or buns. Be careful not to reuse the bun and bread plate for gluten-free items you're removing from the grill.
Fix gluten-free barbecue foods first. You'll start with a clean kitchen, reducing the risk that gluten-containing crumbs or food come in contact with gluten-free food.
Planning your menu
Go homemade. For barbecue sauce, your best option may be to make your own. Many sauces and dressings contain flavorings and thickeners that contain gluten. Unless the label clearly states that a product is gluten-free, it may not be.
Substitute smartly. Instead of pasta salad, try a side dish based on rice, millet, or quinoa. These grains pair well with beans and chickpeas for delicious, hearty salads.
Vary your veggies. Turn to the vegetable crisper for plenty of gluten-free barbecue options. For example, marinate asparagus and zucchini in balsamic or fruit vinegar-based sauces, and pop on the grill just before the main course foods are finished.
Get creative with kebobs. Vegetable and meat kebabs are a great way to enjoy gluten-free barbecuing with endless combinations of chicken, beef, tofu, onions, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, and so on. Be sure to use clean skewers that have not been in contact with gluten-containing foods.
Don't forget the fruit. When people think barbecue, they automatically think burgers, dogs, and chicken, but grilled fruit, such as pineapples, apples, and mangos, can make a wonderful addition to any barbecue. It's a healthy sweet treat to end the meal.
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.
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