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Food Prep/storage Convincing Family To Go gluten-free

6 posts in this topic

Due to numerous circumstances I have been forced to start living with my grandmother.

I need to save the money, but more importantly, SHE NEEDS HELP.

Not only is only is her home in general disarray (a nightmare for the design major)

But I have become very concerned about the food she eats, how she prepares/cooks the food, and how she stores the leftovers. I'll get to how these things affect my IBS + Digestive issues later.

These things complicate and conflict with my gluten free diet, and ultimately I would like to try to convince her to make the switch.

I have been completely gluten free since september 2012, and had reduced my gluten intake since july 2012.

Since going gluten free I have found that I also am sensitive to many different foods.

Eggs and Peanut Butter make my stomach cramp and causes constipation,

Corn and Potato make my throat dry and causes brain fog/dizziness.

Foods containing processed ingredients are to be avoided for obvious reasons related to the above.

Milk and Butter don't seem to be a problem. But I still try to avoid

My Grandmothers children (and several of her grand children) each display symptoms of food sensitivity.

Her first daughter (my mother) has had kidney stones, a gallbladder attack, and emotional outbreaks.

Her second daughter has severe arthritis.

Her son has terrible acid reflux.

She, herself, remains more or less convinced that has no sensitivities and that her stomach can withstand nearly anything.

I'm unconvinced and very skeptical of this notion.

She has had a terrible cough since her mid/late 20's. A strange respiratory problem that has never ceased.

She complains about her arthritic knee.

Today when we finished with dinner she mentioned felt really tired. While she just finished getting over a fever that lasted a week, her dinner included breaded fried chicken, and she seemed to be full of energy before the meal.

She eats things that I can't eat.

She prepares food and I have to be extremely vigilant to avoid major cross contamination.

She cooks most vegetables to the point where they become discolored and slightly mushy.

Finally, this is the part that disturbs me & my intestines the most.

She stores leftovers in the refrigerator by either

A. Wrapping it up in tin foil or wax paper

B. Leaving it in an OPEN pot, bowl, or Tupperware

In addition…

Many of the items in the freezer suffer from severe freezer burn.

especially the red meat for which she uses to make stew.


A. What is your experience/opinion of dehydrated leftovers and freezer burned foods?

-- I refuse to eat leftovers after 2.5 days max provided they are in a sealed bag or plastic tub. Brown rice is an exception, 7 days max.

-- I do not eat freezer burned food.

B. How can I convince my grandma and my acid reflux uncle to go gluten free as a means of improving their overall health and well being?

-- Avoiding cross contamination seems next to impossible in a wheat eating household. While I don't think I'm a super sensitive celiac, I'm concerned about ANY trace amounts of gluten sneaking into my body. It is poisonous. I probably have to consider getting my own toaster oven or no longer eating gluten-free bread.

-- The Green Revolution took place in their lifetime. Mankind has lived for roughly 200,000 years and has only eaten from the monoculture for the past 60.

-- Any links to websites/resources explaining/summarizing the relationship between gluten, health problems, agricultural revolution, economy, politics, etc.

-- Anything that establishes context for the human/animal diet and its relationship to history + evolution.

-- Gluten horror stories are also great.

Thanks for reading and responding!


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Hi, there's a lot of issues in your post and you may need various responses to cover them all, I will attempt to respond.

Firstly. It is difficult to get family members to get tested for celiac disease, as you cannot force people to do things they do not want to do. All you can do is provide information on celiac disease and how important it is to go gluten free if you have it, and the effects on your health if you don't. I know from experience, family do not always want to be tested - one family member refusing to accept that she possibly may have it.

As a rule if thumb, I would always cover food up in the fridge, regardless of whether I have Celiacs disease or not, as firstly food deteriorates quicker when exposed to air and there is always the risk of cross contamination from other things, not just gluten. I would normally keep things in airtight containers for up to 3 days (unless otherwise stated) but quite the opposite with rice (I would only keep for 1 or 2 days and make sure it is thoroughly heated up before eating as there is a risk of salmonella).

You must certainly have your own (separate) bread toaster as you must never share a toaster that has been used for ordinary (gluten) bread for the sake of your own health. Also, it would be a good idea, if possible, to have your own gluten free preparation area in the kitchen, that everyone knows is for you only, to help prevent cross contamination. If not, you should wipe the counter surface down twice, before preparing your food. (You could use a wash cloth used for general washing up for the first wipe, followed by another wipe over with one saved for your washing up. Alternatively a disposable cleaning cloth could be used).

Personally, I would not use food which has freezer burn because generally it means the quality of the food has deteriorated. I regularly go through my freezer to check food over and I also use it 'in rotation' so that food put in first (i.e. has been there the longest) gets used first. Just because food is in the freezer, it doesn't mean that it will keep indefinitely. All food in the freezer expires and depending on your own particular freezer, has a recommended life span (you will need to refer to the manufacturers hand book for your grandmother's particular freezer). These guidelines are there to protect you.

You don't mention your grandmother's age, depending on that and other factors, her eyes may not be as good as they once were, she may not be able to tell if the food has freezer burn. Perhaps you could offer help with the preparation and storing of food, so that you are at no further risk. I have not admit, that I prefer to cook/prepare all food myself, to ensure that it is done to my own standard, as I find (some) other people do not take the same safety precautions when it comes to gluten/non-gluten foods and don't want to jeopardise my own health by eating something that has been contaminated.

I hope this helps you. Perhaps other people on the forum can make some other suggestions?


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Can you offer to prepare the evening meals? Perhaps she would like a break from this duty -- you can show rather than tell her.

If she doesn't want to relinquish this duty - make your own.

Living safely with gluten eaters is possible, but takes diligence on your part -- until things change -- keep a set of pots, pans and cooking utensils in a safe separate area and use a barrier like your own cutting board or foil on counters to avoid cc.

I suggest making changes slowly - again show how changing your eating habits has improved your health, not tell.


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I would suggest that you protect yourself first. Do you have a part of the house that you can set up for your own personal mini kitchen? Set up a dorm fridge, microwave, and toaster oven. Keep your food completely separate and keep away from the kitchen.

Changing the way that other people eat is very challenging. This is especially true for older people. My 80 year old father made the transition, but it took some time. I started out by sharing the genetic facts with him. The fact that had it made the chances of him having it pretty significant etc. Then I shared the symptoms that improved when I stopped eating gluten. Finally he decided to try it and hasn't turned back. The decision had to be his.

Best wishes and it is nice of you to try to help your grandmother and other family members.


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My husband and I live with my MIL. Despite the fact that she has a strong family medical history that can be linked to celiac and herself has cancer linked to celiac she tells me at least once a week that she couldn't do what I do, it would just be too hard, she just wouldn't do it. She has little to no understanding of CC after a year. First, I don't do the whole, I think the whole family has celiac thing. Yeah, her life could be significantly improved (imo) and possibly lengthened if she would get tested and stop eating crap but with the conversations we've had about it I know that that simply isn't going to happen. Period. I harass my husband about it, because he is my responsibility. The rest of the family can do what they will with their own health, which is pretty much nothing. I'm not going to beat my head off a wall in frustration for people who won't listen, and once you've made the suggestion to be tested I recommend the same.

I think it is possible maybe that your grandmother can't get the lids off of her tupperware? I would suggest some of those easy to open "disposable" containers that she could open easily. If getting the lids off isn't the problem, simply start lidding them. Heck, lid them anyway. I'm not sure where to find an article but.. EWWWWW!!!!!! That is just disgusting. The only thing I ever put in the fridge wrapped in foil is pizza because what the heck else am I supposed to do with it? Oh, they also make these little shower cap type lids you can buy where the ziploc bags are. You can wash and reuse until the elastic wears out.

As for actual dining. I would either A: cook the meals you eat together or B: eat separately and cook while she isn't cooking. I noticed that while my husband was eating gluten and we cooked at the same time my incidence of being contaminated was quite high. When I told him that if he was going to eat something unsafe for me he would have to cook when I was done cooking (thus forcing him to wait, which generally lead so eating together :lol:) my incidence of being contaminated immediately dropped to near zero. Maybe if you start cooking though she'll stop having no energy after dinner and also realize that food can in fact have flavor and be enjoyable. The idea of vegetables boiled into oblivion makes me shudder. :ph34r:

Have a separate section of the counter that is "yours" and some dishtowels just for you. I also have my own dishcloths because of how many I go through. Prep to begin cooking includes washing the counter, twice, washing the stove surface, washing the stove knobs, washing the microwave handle and buttons, washing the oven handle, washing the fridge handle and washing the pantry door knob. Does that look excessive as you read it? Sure. But think about everything someone is touching as they prepare breaded chicken. Get to scrubbing before you begin cooking or your hands will crack and bleed from washing them so much.

I also have my own separate set of storage containers. I am the only one who uses ones with red lids. Red is gluten free in our house. (Which also means Rubbermaid is mine mwahaha.) No one but me can open these containers in the fridge to see what is inside, no one else touches my dirty dishes. No else touches my everything I have separate.

You may, I have never looked, be able to find a good rule on leftovers online. The 2.5 days seems silly. I worked in a restaurant that had very strict rules and while some things were 2 days, many were 3 or 4 or even 5 days. I'm going to say most were 3, a lot were 4. We also went through a full 40 hour food safety training course to be able to work there, so they took that stuff quite seriously. A quicky google brings up a mayo clinic article listing 3-4 days, and I see no reason not to trust them.

Best of luck to you. Living in a mixed house is rough at times. (This fall I had a toaster incident which lead to a hand injury that took more than a month to heal and the knowledge that I can throw a toaster quite some distance.) But living with family also has many blessings and can be quite wonderful. It takes time to find how it all works, and it will be different for every family.


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Thanks For The Replies All!

@Adalaide You make a fantastic point about wiping down all areas of possible contamination and about keeping very specific tupperware for gluten free foods. The later had crossed my mind as the first cross contamination experience I had (before I realized cross contamination was even an issue) was from eating cereal out of a plastic bowl that my old roommate used to use for baking. Minutes later I felt like crap and went to google and was devastated when I realized my whole kitchen was a gluten bomb due to the excessive baking of my old roommate. Gave the stove, countertops, cabinet doors a good scrub. I'll probably look into getting some form of disposable handy wipes, to avoid possibly sharing a dish rag. I imagine someone even eating a few daily slices of wheat toast could leave crumbs/residue on frequently touched surfaces.

@Flowerqueen Thanks for the warning about salmonella. I'm totally clueless so its something for me to research. Generally I the only leftovers I have refrigerated (other than rice) are what I cooked the day before. Fish/Chicken/Turkey cooked for dinner eaten with breakfast and mixed vegetables cooked for dinner eaten with lunch.

For Clarification Grandma is 85, and Grandpa passed away at 86 less than a year ago. He grew quite senile and deteriorated over a period of time. Grandma was working overtime to take care of him, with help only two days out of the week. Not enough help to housekeep & look after herself. ie throw out aging food & keep the kitchen uncluttered/organized.

Convincing her to clean out the fridge + freezer might prove to be somewhat difficult. She hates wasting food. I realize that she's used to taking care of herself in her own way and that this is a routine that keeps her going. The last thing I want to do is to impose myself onto her. However, I REALLY want to be the one responsible for washing dishes, cooking, storing food, and cleaning up. I think it would be best for both of us.

Convincing her that the gluten free diet is more than just a fad diet is going to be hard. I printed her out some information for her to read through ASAP and she put it to the side to read later. She read the first page and then told me to get tested. Try again tomorrow. I'm here for the holidays and don't move in until February but every morning has been a tummy ache to varying degrees. I figure I'm not celiac+ or I'd be dead by now =P.

Here's to a Gluten Free new year!


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