Gluten-Free Office/Workplace

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You’ve mastered the gluten-free home, but what about your workplace? If you work outside the home, you likely spend most of your weekdays in an environment with people who eat gluten and who may know very little about living gluten-free.

How can you ensure that you stay as safely gluten-free at work as you do at home?

Start with your manager. Part of creating a safe, gluten-free environment for yourself is educating others who may be less familiar with how to keep gluten away from people who are sensitive to it or who have been diagnosed with celiac disease. Be clear about your need to avoid gluten.

To make things easier, provide informational resources—like this article—to the person who can help spread the word as well as develop and implement new procedures for keeping shared spaces and shared food situations safe for gluten-free eaters. Once your manager acknowledges that changes can be made, find out how you can help inform and educate your co-workers. Your organization may have an established process for making these types of changes but offer to help if you can.

Here are some things to look out for when you’re looking to reduce the risk of gluten exposure.

 

Breakroom

Like any shared space, your workplace breakroom is full of potential risk for cross-contact. Check these spaces and things to keep clear and free of gluten crumbs.

Fridge – Store gluten-free items on the top shelf and keep them well-packaged or sealed, and clearly labeled

Cupboards – Ask if you can dedicate one cupboard or specific upper shelves for the storage of gluten-free food or utensils.

Dishes and Utensils – Wash thoroughly with soap and water or check with your office manager to see if the company can supply extras of anything that is difficult to thoroughly clean. You could also bring a few of your own from home for your exclusive use. Store separately. See our list of common kitchen utensils and how to handle them to avoid cross-contact.

Tables and Counters – If you are eating gluten-free, take a moment to thoroughly wipe down any surfaces where you might prepare or lay out your meal to ensure residual crumbs from gluten-containing foods do not get into your food. If you are unsure of the safety of a surface you are preparing your food on or eating off, lay down a fresh paper towel, disposable paper placemat, or even a flexible plastic cutting board that you can keep clean and separate from other utensils.

 

Snack Machines/Snack Boxes

Does your workplace have vending machines with snacks? Most vending machines with snacks are filled with gluten-containing foods. Some may have snacks that you recognize immediately as gluten-free such as plain nuts or corn chips.

The good news is that the snacks are typically individually wrapped which helps prevent cross-contact with gluten in the vending machine or the machine dispenser. The challenge is being able to read the label to verify the gluten-free status of a snack before you pay for it. If your office has a snack box, read the packaging for any snack that looks tempting.

Your options for checking the gluten-free status of snacks in a vending machine can include:

  1. Contacting the vending machine company and asking them for ingredient information. You could also request that some labeled or certified gluten-free snacks be included in the machine. The same goes for the snack box company.
  2. Doing an online search for the snack brand and checking the ingredients on the snack company website.
  3. Emailing the snack company through their website to ask questions about the snack contents if ingredients are not spelled out or you don’t see a statement that the product is gluten-free.
  4. Finding out the refund policy on the vending machine snacks. If you can get a refund if you find that the item contains gluten, purchase it, check it, and either return it or snack away. An easier solution is to offer it to a co-worker who doesn’t have any dietary restrictions.

 

Lunch Deliveries

If you and your co-workers are ordering from the same place, double-check that all foods are individually wrapped such as sandwiches or baked goods. Verify that the restaurant where the order is placed has gluten-free options and ask that they be packaged separately from the other orders in a bag or box.

Do you know of a great gluten-free restaurant or Validated Gluten Free Safe Spot in your area? Suggest this as an option to your co-workers to introduce them to delicious gluten-free options and to minimize your worries about cross-contact with gluten.

 

Catered Meetings

Have you been to a meeting where a nice, serve-yourself lunch spread is laid out with sandwich fixings and gluten-containing bread, not to mention gluten-containing desserts? If you can keep some gluten-free bread in your office fridge, grab a couple of slices to make your own gluten-free sandwich with lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes. Be the first to access the spread, before any possible cross-contact has occurred between the items on the table. Or load up your plate with a selection of veggies intended for sandwiches to make yourself a salad with cheese slices on the side. Add gluten-free crackers that you keep in the break room or at your desk.

If you know in advance that a meeting will be catered, put in a request early for a gluten-free option such as a prepared and packaged salad without dressing.

If you didn’t have advance notice, this would be a good time when you might benefit from having some well-packaged gluten-free options in the office fridge, cupboard, or desk.

 

Office Parties

Impromptu and planned office parties often feature a cake, cupcakes, cookies, or other celebratory baked goods. Often, they are not gluten-free. If you know a party is being planned, request a gluten-free option or offer to bring one. If impromptu, you can fall back on your personal stash of gluten-free fare.

 

You can minimize cross-contact at the office by letting your manager and co-workers know your dietary restrictions, helping to educate them about what constitutes gluten-free, setting up the right environment, and setting up some alternatives in advance in case accommodations aren’t made. As with any situation, being prepared is the best defense against getting “glutened.”

 

 

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.

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