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Is there an easy way to eat gluten-free at lunchtimes?

Lunch is the bane of my existence. Of all the meals I’ve worked on since I was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant, lunch has consistently been the most difficult.

It’s okay if I have planned and prepared, if I have leftovers from the day before. But if I have run out of the house in the morning, or just have nothing planned, it can be very difficult to buy lunch in the light industrial area where I work.

From my years of frustration, here are some ideas both for making sure you have a fall back and also for when you do end up buying food.

Tips for office lunches

Far and away the easiest option is to make your lunch and take it with you. There are lots of gluten-free breads around now that are reasonably nice to eat, or you can make your own loaf. A good idea is to slice it up and freeze it in smaller packets. Take as many as you need each day to make sandwiches. Leftovers are also great, as is homemade sushi, salads, soup and crust-free quiches.

If you have access to a freezer at work, you can keep a stash of food at hand for the days when you just don’t have time to prepare anything. Here are some ideas for freezer food and items which will keep under your desk!

  • Bread – pop a loaf of sliced gluten-free bread in the freezer. It’s easy to take a couple of pieces at a time and either toast them or make a toasted sandwich. Keep a small bag of grated cheese in the freezer as well to put in the sandwich. Keep some hummus in the fridge to have on the toast.
     
  • Frozen soup – either premade (there are several brands who do lovely gluten-free soups) or homemade.
     
  • Gluten-free crackers and hummus – I’d use homemade hummus as it’s a lot more economical and you can guarantee what goes into it. However, there are a number of commercial brands of hummus which are gluten-free. With a container of crackers under your desk and some hummus in the fridge, you have a great emergency meal.
     
  • Baked beans – I’m not a fan, but they’re a good, nutritious meal. Keep a can under your desk – they’re not going to go off!
     
  • Quiches/frittatas – make individual serves of these in Texas muffin tins. Gladwrap them and freeze as individual portions. Either keep them in the freezer at work, or grab them from the freezer at home on your way out to work.
     
  • Scones – I often knock together a batch of scones for a quick and easy weekend lunch. As I'm the only gluten-intolerant person in my house, there are always leftover scones. Wrap these individually and throw them in the freezer, too. Microwaving them makes them very edible.

Obviously these ideas only work if you are in an office type environment where you have access to a freezer, fridge and microwave. If you're a road worker, a gardener or work somewhere that you don't have access to these things, I'd love to know what you do for gluten-free lunches. Leave your comments below.

Picnic lunches are basically horrible if they include pre-made sandwiches – I learnt the hard way that you can’t make a sandwich of frozen bread in the morning and hope that it has defrosted by lunchtime, because it won’t have! For picnics, go with cold meat, cheese and gluten-free crackers, quiches, frittatas and gluten-free muffins, along with plenty of fresh fruit.

Some days though, you just have no time (or inclination) to make lunch and you realise you’ve used up your emergency stash of freezer food. What then?

Eating out

Stay away from most fast food joints, pubs, bakeries.

Good places to buy food (although not every day obviously!):

  • Sushi outlets – but always check whether they have used malt vinegar in the rice, and stay away from the soy sauce, because it normally contains wheat.
     
  • Japanese – there’s an increasing number of places which do donburi (rice, veges and meat). Provided the meat isn’t coated with batter (or check as it might be a tempura batter using cornflour) or cooked with soy, this might be a reasonable option.
     
  • Curry – obviously you can’t eat the naan, but most curries and even some bhaji and pakora are gluten-free. And of course, they’re served on rice.
     
  • Roast palace type places – just check they haven’t given you gravy and that they haven’t coated the meat with soy sauce, Worcester or HP sauces.
     
  • Hell Pizza – who do very nice gluten-free bases.
     
  • Mexican food outlets – like Mexicali Fresh, where almost everything is gluten-free and also very healthy and fresh.

As with everything else to do with gluten-free eating, planning is key, tiresome though it can be. What are your suggestions for easy and sensible gluten-free lunches? Share your comments below.

Weight loss update

It’s taken me six weeks, but I’m finally beginning to settle into the idea that eating well and healthily is not restrictive nor is it especially onerous. The plan I am using lets me have an occasional chocolate snack or chips (in very small doses) so when I have a night like Saturday when I’m movie-watching with my daughters and we all indulge a little too much in the treats, I can compensate and adjust without feeling like I’ve completely failed. This is very useful for me as someone who is already restricted in what I eat, because it means I don’t feel as if I’m depriving myself.

So, I’m down 6.3kgs, which is about a dress size. I’ve lost 7cm off my waist and a bit less off everywhere else, and I am back wearing my ‘middle-size’ jeans. I’m only managing exercise a couple of times a week (soccer with Master 7, and water polo and swimming with the oldest three children) so my next step is to add in a walk or some yoga as a regular component of the week.

Helping me out at the moment is that I’ve just completed week 1 of Dry July, giving up alcohol for July to raise money for cancer sufferers. So far I haven’t missed it, but if you’d like to help encourage me and support a great cause, you can sponsor me here.

Lisa

Lisa Rose combines parenting six children and working full-time in the IT industry with indulging her loves of writing and food by blogging. In 2010 she was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, causing severe eczema. In frustration at not being able to find relevant information, she started her own blog with the aim of providing a resource to others in the same situation. You can find Lisa's blog, Being Gluten Free in NZ, at glutenfreenz.wordpress.com. For those wanting more information on coeliac disease, check out the NZ Coeliac Society website www.coeliac.org.nz.

 

Gluten Free Food & Allergy Shows
Auckland / Waikato / Christchurch (2013)

New Zealand’s only exhibitions dedicated to delivering ideas and solutions for allergy and intolerance issues. www.glutenallergy.co.nz

This blog is the opinion and experiences of its author and should not be taken as medical or dietetic advice. Healthy Food Guide has not verified the content and cannot endorse any advice given. Healthy Food Guide recommends seeking professional health advice for specific complaints or symptoms.

First published: Jul 2013
Last updated: April 3 2017
Last science review: October 10 2016



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