Gluten-Free at Work & On the Go

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How do you live gluten free when you are away from the comfort of your gluten free kitchen? Specifically, while at work? Are your colleagues cool about your dietary restrictions or are they less than sensitive? Do you go out for work lunches or eat alone at your desk? How do you successfully snack, or do you somehow always feel hungry?

eating lunch at your deskTo some, these may seem like silly questions. They may seem mundane or even petty. But to those of us who live strictly gluten free, they are questions that can consume and perplex us on a daily basis.

I remember when I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, and the lunch spots my coworkers and I used to enjoy on a weekly, and sometimes even daily basis, were no longer friendly to me. There was nothing on the menu I could eat, and sitting watching my friends eat was no picnic (pun intended).

It soon became better for everyone if I simply stayed back at the office come lunch time. Not only did this isolate me socially from my work colleagues, but the much-needed mid-day break away from work I used to enjoy was no longer part of my routine. To say that I was frustrated and bitter is an understatement.

It wasn’t my colleagues’ fault, and I didn’t feel they should have to miss out just because I did, so I downplayed the effect it had on me and on my stress level. To make matters worse, nothing I could pack from home for lunch or snacks was enticing or satisfying, so I often ate only simple carbs like plain gluten-free pretzels … for lunch! Needless to say my body was running on empty much of the time.

I’m not saying I’m proud of how I handled this shift in circumstances, but as I look back, it’s clear to me that my celiac diagnosis had a ripple effect on many aspects of my life and happiness. At least at first.

gluten free pizza boxFast forward two decades and there are far more choices for us gluten free folks. From gluten free menus to delicious breads and nutritious snacks. But with more awareness and options sometimes comes risk. Thinking you’re just a fad dieter, the waiter might not take your food restrictions seriously, or your co-workers might bring in food for you from a contaminated kitchen. You get the idea.

Below are some of my tips, favorite gluten free products and go-to recipes to help make it through the modern work day. What are yours? I’d love to hear what you pack for lunch, how you snack smart or what you do about business lunches and catered meetings.

OWYN in bag gfJules

✤My purse, desk, car, briefcase and fridge … are all always stocked with gluten free snacks like homemade gluten free granola bars, protein bars, nuts, trail mix, protein drinks, fruit or even fresh-baked gluten free muffins. Snacking urges hit when they are least expected, and I never want to be distracted from work by a grumbly tummy. It’s just good diet sense to eat more small meals throughout the day anyway, so incorporating healthy snacks is a smart part of this strategy.

✤Some of my favorite snacks include fresh fruit like apples or bananas with peanut or almond butter, washed berries, applesauce, coconut yogurt, hummus and red peppers, trail mix, dry cereals like granola, and nutrition bars. I keep a variety of these bars in my purse and car year-round, so I’m never bored with my choices. In the summer months, I tend towards bars without chocolate, so there’s no chance of them melting from the heat, but come fall and winter, the chocolate dipped ones are fun treats to look forward to.

EB popcorn✤Popcorn is also a naturally gluten-free snack that provides a surprising amount of dietary fiber. Be sure that no gluten was added in random flavorings by checking package labels.

Popcorn chips are another baked (not fried) snack on their own or with hummus, peanut butter or salsa. (For those with corn sensitivities, check out Mini Pops: popped sorghum grains!)

Traveling gluten free with muffins gfJules

my gfJules Gluten Free Muffin Mix not only makes great gluten free muffins of any flavor, it makes it easy to travel with them!

✤I often bring homemade gluten free muffins with me wherever I might be going, be it on a plane or into the office. Bring a couple extra to share though – word will get around that you have the best muffins in the building.

✤Leftovers are no longer a dirty word. We grill at least a couple of times every week. There is nothing that isn’t better the next day with leftover grilled veggies: gluten free pita sandwiches; gluten free pizza; quinoa dishes; crustless quiche; gluten free pasta … you get the idea. Make plenty of extra and you’ve got lunches planned for the week!

gluten free pita or flatbreads sandwich thin

✤I also love veggie burgers. They are so easy to toss into a lunchbox if you have ready access to a microwave. Add a gluten-free bun, tortilla or bread, or just pair with some yummy sweet potato chips — they are a filling and nutritious way to grab a satisfying lunch. I have a couple of great gluten free veggie burger recipes on my site — check them out!

Gluten-free pizza is a family favorite of ours and leftover pizza is delicious whether cold or hot. I use non-dairy cheese and no meat, so there’s really no reason not to pack a piece of pizza to take with you, no matter where you’re headed. Gluten free calzones or gluten free thick crust or stuffed crust pizza are easy to hold, hearty lunch options, anytime!

This Gluten Free Stuffed Crust Pizza wo

✤Soups, chilis, stews and casseroles are perfect for lunches and are easily frozen in containers that can be grabbed from the freezer in the morning to be thawed by noon. Summer gazpachos to wintertime veggie chili – there is no end to the varieties of soups for every season and palate. Even homemade ravioli is easily packed as a portable lunch option, and it’s easier to make than you might think!

oats 4 breakfastGluten-free instant oatmeal is a staple in my life. I never leave home without it, actually! It’s wonderful to take on trips or just to the office, since all you need to find is a cup or a bowl and some boiling water. Healthy, filling and easy to make on the go, instant oatmeal is a great go-to food.

Be sure to always buy purity protocol, certified gluten-free oats, however, since regular oats are contaminated with gluten grains. Also buy only the instant oats variety, so that no cooking is required. Instant oats allow you to simply stir in boiling water to prepare them.

Gluten Free Graham Crackers from Mix

✤Graham Crackers. These two simple words evoke all kinds of happy childhood memories for most, but gluten free graham crackers have historically been elusive. After having devised my own homemade recipe, I now make a huge batch of these treats and pack them in baggies that go straight into my freezer. Grab-and-go baggies like this are perfect for snacks or lunches for anyone. These crackers are actually even delicious cold! (As a side note, sending in a big bag of homemade GF graham crackers for your child’s teacher to keep in the teacher’s lounge freezer, ensures that your child will never miss out on class snacks or treats!)

Eating out gluten free doesn’t have to be a hassle if you call ahead. For business lunches, try to pick the place or call in advance if you can. A salad is nearly always available, but many restaurants now offer gluten-free menus with far more enticing entrées. Satisfy yourself that the restaurant really understands and can prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen – a task far easier to undertake by phone with the manager before you go than at the table with your waiter and business colleagues.

glutenfree menu✤If you can’t choose the restaurant or call ahead, go with the simplest things you can find on the menu: a burger without the bun, grilled fish, salads or a veggie plate. Skip anything from the fryer and be cautious of sauces and dressings. Don’t compromise on your safety just because you’re not with family or close friends who understand.

If necessary, excuse yourself and have a conversation with the manager away from the table. Always make sure the waiter and/or the manager know you need a totally gluten-free meal, even if you are already ordering off the gluten-free menu. If you have to use the “A” word (allergy) to get your point across, so be it. These are not times to get picky about disease versus allergy; what’s most important is that they take your needs seriously.

✤Use my free restaurant cook cards translated into 5 languages to help get your point across in nearly any type of restaurant, at home or abroad.

✤Catered lunches can pose more of a problem because they are often comprised simply of sandwiches and chips or pasta salad. This is where having a stocked desk drawer or purse comes in handy. If you’ve already eaten, you won’t feel tempted to cheat by picking the lunch meat off the bread, and you won’t feel depressed or left out of the free food feeding frenzy because you won’t be hungry. If your HR department is receptive to it, however, educate them on your needs and on how to include foods safe for your dietary restrictions in their next order.

*In some cases, manufacturers have provided me with samples of their products to review; in others, I have purchased the products or otherwise sampled them at tradeshows. I have not been compensated for my reviews or recommendations. My opinions are my own.

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0 thoughts on “Gluten-Free at Work & On the Go

  1. Pingback: New Year New Gluten Free - gfJules

  2. I purchased the “Graham Cracker & Gingerbread Mix”. I would like the recipes for gingersnaps, gingerbread, and graham cracker crust or where to find them on your website. Thank you.

    • Hi Ellen, any time you need a recipe like that, just search on my site! If you search for “gingerbread,” for example, all those recipes come up. And the recipe for my graham cracker crust is linked here, but you could also search under the “recipes” tab for it as well. Enjoy the mix!!!
      ~jules

  3. I ALWAYS keep a jar of peanut butter, almonds, a bag of microwave popcorn, and assorted GF candy in my desk drawer. Additionally, I keep fruit snacks, granola bars and candy in my purse and car as a back up.

    If your work has a refrigerator/freezer, keep some GF muffins/cupcakes in the freezer for those impromptu donut/bagel runs!

    Also if there is a sign-up for bringing in goodies, sign up to bring in something GF– and show them just how good it can be!

  4. I am SO grateful for LARA bars and 180 snacks, that seemed to be the worst hurdle when first discovering gluten/dairy issues. If we’re going on a road trip (which is often) i also like to hard boil eggs and take GF turkey lunchmeat as a quick snack!

  5. I always have my salad with Bragg’s liquid aminos and Nutritional Yeast. Extra snacks include pumpkin seeds or Udi’s chia bread smothered in coconut oil. I always have a small jar of coconut oil at work!

  6. I make a lush salad with tuna or chicken in it; apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing. Simple. Or if dashing out at last minute, I take those individual packets of tuna and a spoon and some fruit or trail mix. Keep a can of nuts in the car and a Larabar in my purse. Leftovers are ALWAYS a candidate for lunch on the go. And then there’s my cornbread, the glutino pretzels, the gf pita from Jules’ recipe (not all at once!)

  7. I keep almonds in my desk, car and purse so I always have a source of protein. I also have a stash of peanut butter and rice cakes for a crunchy, satisfying lunch. I also have some dark chocolate squares that keep my sweet tooth satisfied when others are eating cupcakes or cookies! All of these items will last months!
    I keep cheese sticks and yogurt in the office fridge and I bring cherry tomatoes, celery, carrots and gf ranch dip for a savory and healthy lunch. If I plan ahead, I’ll bring leftover grilled chicken or steak and enjoy a real meal!
    For take-out (because it’s close to my office and sometimes necessary!) Outback Steakhouse has an awesome side salad for under $5. They are great about gf and will add extra tomatoes and cucumbers at no charge!

  8. This is a GREAT article! My only problem is that I am never “in the mood” for the food/snacks in my stash on the days when there is nothing safe available for lunch…. How do you cope on those days?!?!?!

  9. I eat Sahale Snacks Valdosta Pecans with Sweet Cranberries, Black Pepper, and Orange Zest for a mid-morning snack. I always keep cheese in my lunch box in the fridge, and GF Snyder’s Pretzels, Popcorners Popped Corn Chips, and Crunchmaster crackers in my classroom.

  10. My co workers are cruel! They order pizza, sandwiches, Chinese, etc. None of which I can trust would be good. Then they look at me and ask “what happens if you eat just a little?” I have a really nasty reply. So my hubby has a smoker, and we grill up tri-tip and ribs and when I open my lunch the smoky flavor permeates the area. And I do not share. I make my own salads and have GF croutons, nuts, fruit that I grow, and munch away. Luna bars and rice chex cereal to crunch on.

    • I am new at my work and just got added to the social committee and am hosting a breakfast. What are some gluten free products that I can get to serve my gluten free office-mates?

      There are so many great recipe’s out there, but it would be great to have some ideas of how to include gluten-free items in office parties/luncheons/breakfasts. Especially when I can’t bake things for it but need to go to a grocery store.

      I’d love some advice! Also, which restaurants (preferably chains) offer great gluten-free catering options?

      I don’t want to leave someone out because they are gluten free, but there don’t seem to be any convenient options out there, and definitely not enough info.

      • Wonderful questions, Gen, and so thoughtful of you to ask! I have several ideas but I’m going to post this to my Facebook followers to get their opinions too, so I can give you a more well-rounded answer! Stay tuned!

      • If you have a Whole Foods Market nearby, they have fabulous GF muffins in several flavors & biscuits & english muffins & bagels. Combine those with jellies, meats, cheeses……..

      • Many foods are naturally gluten free, and loved by all. Everyone would learn that gluten free is not hard or tasteless. Fruit and vegetables – either whole (a bowl of shiny apples at this time of year or baby carrots) or a fruit or vegetable tray from your local store. Add a “dip – just check the ingredient list – a “true” caramel, melted chocolate, or a savory dip. Diced cheese, salami, with a box of gluten free crackers.

      • Ok Gen, I’ve got lots of helpful answers for you! The easiest way to review them all is to hop to these two links and review the comments to my Facebook posts: http://on.fb.me/19kHFjX and http://on.fb.me/19ol0Sv
        Other comments I received from Twitter included Glutino toaster pastries & naturally gluten-free foods like fresh fruit and veggies.
        Everyone has expressed how wonderful it is that someone in your position would be so actively seeking ways to provide snacks and meals to the gluten-free folks in your office. Thanks for caring enough to reach out for answers to your questions!

  11. Roasted chick peas! High in protein and fiber, they keep me feeling full. Crunchy and salty, they’re a healthy substitute for chips.