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Whole Foods Salad Buffet


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#1 margotb

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 02:47 PM

I meet people for lunches often and there are not many places now where I feel safe going to eat. San Francisco only has two totally gluten-free places.

As a compromise, lately I have been meeting folks at Whole Foods and eating from the salad bar. I picked from things like spinach, tomatoes, almond slivers, tuna, and shredded carrot today. All naked items. BUT it's a buffet and who knows what is lurking inside. I looked at the feta cheese and croutons were sitting next door and one crouton was in the feta so obviously I did not take any feta.

So my question is: Would you eat from a buffet after examining for obvious bits of contamination? It doesn't seem any different in risk level than ordering a salad from a restaurant, and in some ways is less risky because I can see whether there is obvious cross-contamination. But it made me feel nervous nonetheless and wondered how others feel about salad buffets.

I will talk to the Whole Foods manager asking them to segregate the croutons and bread.

Lordy this all makes me feel OCD but this level of caution is apparently necessary (I am very newly diagnosed and figuring this out.)
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#2 CarolinaKip

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 03:40 PM

I meet people for lunches often and there are not many places now where I feel safe going to eat. San Francisco only has two totally gluten-free places.

As a compromise, lately I have been meeting folks at Whole Foods and eating from the salad bar. I picked from things like spinach, tomatoes, almond slivers, tuna, and shredded carrot today. All naked items. BUT it's a buffet and who knows what is lurking inside. I looked at the feta cheese and croutons were sitting next door and one crouton was in the feta so obviously I did not take any feta.

So my question is: Would you eat from a buffet after examining for obvious bits of contamination? It doesn't seem any different in risk level than ordering a salad from a restaurant, and in some ways is less risky because I can see whether there is obvious cross-contamination. But it made me feel nervous nonetheless and wondered how others feel about salad buffets.

I will talk to the Whole Foods manager asking them to segregate the croutons and bread.

Lordy this all makes me feel OCD but this level of caution is apparently necessary (I am very newly diagnosed and figuring this out.)



I would not eat from a buffet because when I am glutened, I am in so much pain I cannot function right. I'm too scared of them and the risk of CC. If there is gluten on the buffet there is the risk. How do you feel after eating it? Are you sensitive to CC?
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#3 anabananakins

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 03:58 PM

So my question is: Would you eat from a buffet after examining for obvious bits of contamination? It doesn't seem any different in risk level than ordering a salad from a restaurant, and in some ways is less risky because I can see whether there is obvious cross-contamination. But it made me feel nervous nonetheless and wondered how others feel about salad buffets.

I will talk to the Whole Foods manager asking them to segregate the croutons and bread.

Lordy this all makes me feel OCD but this level of caution is apparently necessary (I am very newly diagnosed and figuring this out.)


I have eaten food from the Whole Foods salad buffet, but I was pretty nervous about it. I don't like salad buffets at the best of times - too many people have disgusting food safety practices as it is - and the chances of cc are very high. I think it is riskier than a restaurant because they tend to keep the different prep areas more separated (less likely to get someone making pasta right next to the salads, but in a salad bar, they are right there).

I did the best I could by foods that had barriers of other safe foods around them, staying well clear of couscous, pasta salad, croutons etc. I think I was ok, but I was getting glutened by cc in my friend's kitchen that whole trip anyway, so I'm not sure if would've been able to pinpoint a particular culprit.

Good idea speaking to the manager about the croutons. It's so much easier if there's no chance of people using the same spoon, and it wouldn't be too hard for them to keep the safe foods and the bad foods together when they set up the bar.
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#4 WW340

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 06:47 PM

I really try to avoid buffets. Even at our large family gatherings, we have all the celiacs get their food first to avoid getting contaminated food. And that is with a large group of people trying to keep from contaminating the line, yet it is easy for them to make a mistake.

I always try to order the most likely to be safe item I can find on the menu and then question the server and give necessary instructions. I always order my salad with dressing on the side. That way, I can inspect and make sure there are no croutons hiding there.
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#5 Juliebove

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 11:38 PM

I've never been to a Whole Foods so I am unfamiliar with their salad bar. I do eat from some salad bars but I am careful. I do not take anything that is bordering my allergens nor do I take anything that looks like it has other food slopped into it.

What my daughter and I do if we eat at Central Market is get a small bag of baby carrots and some hummus for a meal. We might also get fruit, nuts and rice crackers.
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#6 hopefulinmybody

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 12:02 AM

Right--my question is, if I am not going to eat at the salad buffet, then what should I eat if I go to a Whole Foods-type-place and want to eat on the spot for lunch?

I thought about buying rice cakes and prosciutto and that was about as far as I got. These ideas are good--any other ideas?

I've never been to a Whole Foods so I am unfamiliar with their salad bar. I do eat from some salad bars but I am careful. I do not take anything that is bordering my allergens nor do I take anything that looks like it has other food slopped into it.

What my daughter and I do if we eat at Central Market is get a small bag of baby carrots and some hummus for a meal. We might also get fruit, nuts and rice crackers.


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#7 modiddly16

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 04:19 AM

Honestly when I lived near a Whole Foods I ate their salad bar items all the time and never had a problem. If it looks like there was something else mixed in it, I didn't eat it. I used to love when they had their fajita bar because I'd make my own little bowl with rice and beans and some lettuce with sour cream, it was my favorite. Whole Foods generally labels well and keeps their area clean, so I wouldn't compare it to a buffet like Golden Corrall or anything. Honestly, its a personal choice you have to make based on how comfortable you feel after checking it out! They also have some sushi that you can have and some premade soups and salads. You could always buy gluten free crackers and try out some of their cheeses, the selection is pretty vast!
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#8 seezee

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 06:57 AM

At whole foods my daughter usually gets a frozen entree and heats it up in the microwave. They have many gluten-free frozen entrees to choose from and there's a microwave in the cafe area.
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#9 Gemini

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 07:18 AM

I meet people for lunches often and there are not many places now where I feel safe going to eat. San Francisco only has two totally gluten-free places.

As a compromise, lately I have been meeting folks at Whole Foods and eating from the salad bar. I picked from things like spinach, tomatoes, almond slivers, tuna, and shredded carrot today. All naked items. BUT it's a buffet and who knows what is lurking inside. I looked at the feta cheese and croutons were sitting next door and one crouton was in the feta so obviously I did not take any feta.

So my question is: Would you eat from a buffet after examining for obvious bits of contamination? It doesn't seem any different in risk level than ordering a salad from a restaurant, and in some ways is less risky because I can see whether there is obvious cross-contamination. But it made me feel nervous nonetheless and wondered how others feel about salad buffets.

I will talk to the Whole Foods manager asking them to segregate the croutons and bread.

Lordy this all makes me feel OCD but this level of caution is apparently necessary (I am very newly diagnosed and figuring this out.)



I am about as sensitive a Celiac as they come and react to minute amounts of gluten. I do eat from the Whole Foods salad bar but only when I am there when they first put everything out. They are very allergy friendly and their salad bars have always been safe for me, at least until the general public goes through. That's the only worry with the buffet....once the lunch time crowd gets there, you never know if they have shared tongs with non-gluten-free items. I also do not get anything which is right next to a gluten food item but they rarely do that. The greens are separate from the mixed salad items.

I have never gotten sick from managing the buffet this way. If things are picked over, I by-pass the salad bar.
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#10 kareng

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 07:19 AM

At whole foods my daughter usually gets a frozen entree and heats it up in the microwave. They have many gluten-free frozen entrees to choose from and there's a microwave in the cafe area.



I got some called EVOL (love spelled backwards) at WF. Not low cal but I love the bean enchilada bowl thingy. Never looked for a microwave.

You could always get a yogurt and a piece of fruit or some grapes. gluten-free muffins. A pack of pretzels or crackers and they have these little squeeze packs of PB, Almond butter, PB & chocolate, etc. Might be able to get a smoothie, would need to ask.
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#11 domesticactivist

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 07:26 AM

I used to be in charge of a salad buffet and let me tell you, people are disgusting. I think it's far more likely to be cross contaminated than safe.
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Our family is transitioning off the GAPS Intro Diet and into the Full GAPS Diet.
Gluten-Free since November 2010
GAPS Diet since January/February 2011
me - not tested for celiac - currently doing a gluten challenge since 11/26/2011
partner - not tested for celiac
ds - age 11, hospitalized 9/2010, celiac dx by gluten reaction & genetics. No biopsy or blood as we were already gluten-free by the time it was an option.
dd - age 12.5, not celiac, has Tourette's syndome
both kids have now-resolved attention issues.

#12 Gemini

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 10:10 AM

I used to be in charge of a salad buffet and let me tell you, people are disgusting. I think it's far more likely to be cross contaminated than safe.


I think it depends on where the salad bar is. The only grocery store I ever shop in is Whole Foods and wouldn't eat from any salad bar anywhere else.
Everything is labeled well and the one I go to is very clean. They are extremely allergy aware and cater to those with food issues.

I will agree that people are disgusting but if I can eat from them occasionally for 6 years and never be glutened, that's saying something.
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#13 Monklady123

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 12:58 PM

I think it depends on where the salad bar is. The only grocery store I ever shop in is Whole Foods and wouldn't eat from any salad bar anywhere else.
Everything is labeled well and the one I go to is very clean. They are extremely allergy aware and cater to those with food issues.

I will agree that people are disgusting but if I can eat from them occasionally for 6 years and never be glutened, that's saying something.

Yes, I agree about Whole Foods. Mine has every single ingredient listed, of every single salad. Including the pan of plain lettuce. Not kidding, the ingredients card says "ingredients: lettuce". rofl... Mine also has at least two people on duty there (during the lunch time anyway, which is the usual time that I go) just to clean up, watch out for things, answer questions, etc. I once expressed concern about a quinoa salad I wanted to try because it was next to something gluteny. The woman said "oh, don't take a chance, let me go get you some fresh quinoa salad." That's WF's customer service, at least at mine. :)

I eat at mine all the time and have never had any issues.
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#14 Juliebove

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 01:52 PM

Right--my question is, if I am not going to eat at the salad buffet, then what should I eat if I go to a Whole Foods-type-place and want to eat on the spot for lunch?

I thought about buying rice cakes and prosciutto and that was about as far as I got. These ideas are good--any other ideas?


Sorry, I just don't know what types of foods Whole Foods sells. Central Market does have a cold food bar and some prepared food that lists all allergens. For daughter we usually get chicken breast and white rice or potatoes. I believe they have a microwave there for heating but we've never used it.

At PCC Natural Market there is also chicken breast and several safe salads in the prepared food case. They are very careful there with cross contamination.
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#15 sfamor

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 06:46 PM

I'm from SF too, well actually just moved to Oakland, but SFer in my heart! I just heard about a new restaurant opening on 19th and Lexington in the Mission that's gonna have lots of gluten-free options (the menu is supposed to be "seasonal soul food". Can't wait for it to open! Also just found out the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in SOMA/South Beach has gluten-free bread and are aware of CC issues. I assume you probably know about Zadin in the Castro and Pica Pica in the Mission? Yum. Although this doesn't help for your lunches- if you're ever in Berkeley Rick and Anne's has the most amazing gluten free pancakes for breakfast and has gluten free rolls for hamburgers (I ask them to wash the grill & spatula prior to cooking as everything is cooked together and they always are happy to do it).
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