7 Tips for Safe Gluten Free Eating in the Workplace

If you work in an office and you live gluten-free you will undoubtedly face a few challenges.  There are many things that people who eat gluten may never even think about and that you will need to master for gluten free eating.

It’s not impossible to eat safely at work and work events.  Think about all of the activities and locations of where food is served and eaten such as:

onsite corporate cafeterias

break rooms

hall kitchens

meetings and parties


business lunches out

You’ll need strategies for each and you’ll want them before they happen.  There will always be co-workers who leave crumbs all over surfaces, eat at their desk, grab their gluten filled food and then offer you something that could be gluten-free but they’ve just contaminated it. Then they will try to persuade you into having just one bite because what harm could that do (A LOT).  The list goes on and on.  It seems that besides working, eating happens a lot at work.

Valerie from City Life Eats, a fellow food blogger who was also featured in the same Washingtonian article as me, lives gluten-free and goes to work everyday in Washington, DC.  Here is her advice.

It can be difficult to manage dietary restrictions with the demands on being a professional woman. When I learned I could not eat gluten, dairy, eggs and a host of other foods, I was concerned about how to manage these new restrictions, particularly with regards to my professional life as an attorney.  Over the years though, I have become adept at managing business lunches, conferences and other travel, as well as team meetings.  My colleagues have been very understanding and often ask me to suggest restaurants. I am also grateful that the office manager always makes sure I have a gluten-free vegan cupcake when cake or other treats are served, All that said, on a day to day basis, I usually bring my lunch (which can always be quickly stowed back into the office fridge if colleagues invite me to eat lunch out) and for over a year, I wrote a lunchbox series and developed some favorite combinations for quick lunches. I love kale salads, which hold up well to packing, as well as a variety of hummus and bean dips and quinoa-based dishes such as this one with peas and mushrooms.

To stay safe and be social here are 7 tips for safe gluten-free eating in the workplace:

  • Bring your own lunch, snacks and desserts so you’re always prepared.  This of course saves you money and you will know exactly what is in your food.
  • Talk with your corporate kitchen head chef and find out how they can keep your food safe.  If they don’t have good practices in hand or an understanding of them, keep yourself safe and don’t eat the food.
  • Educate your coworkers by brining in samples of gluten-free foods, cooking for them, sharing articles and even news reports on gluten-free living.  Leave a copy of The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide where people can look through for an option that fits everyone’s needs.
  • If you need to use the same countertops, microwaves and other surfaces where your food might touch that are now filled with gluten consider cleaning them so you’re safe.   Not as convenient but you’ll be safe. If there are common utensils and cutting boards remember not to use them as they will be contaminated.  Do your cooking at home or bring in your own supplies including your own sponge.
  • Keep your food separate.  If you are leaving items in a shared area consider gluten-free stickers such as the ones from Triumph Dining.
  • Volunteer to be a part of planning events with food that you’ll be attending or at least talk with that person making the decisions so you can convey your needs.
  • When all else fails always carry something to eat that will satisfy you until you can get somewhere that you can get a safe meal.

Now I’d like to hear from you.  What tips do you have for staying safe and making working gluten-free easy?

4 Responses to 7 Tips for Safe Gluten Free Eating in the Workplace

  1. Amy April 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    GREAT tips/suggestions. I carry my own snacks with me 99% of the time. I have been caught without a snack bar before. I now tend to carry a Tanka Bar with me. Protein and cranberries. YUM.

    I know of no one with a corporate chef at their places of business. It is a good suggestion for conferences, trips, etc.

  2. glutenfreegidget April 25, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    I am very lucky to work for a GF company. We even have a dedicated GF toaster in the kitchen! That being said, I still travel with snacks and pack my lunch almost every day. When I'm traveling, I frequent grocery stores instead of restaurants. Sometimes I do take risks, but I have been relatively lucky thus far!

  3. Gena May 3, 2012 at 12:38 am #

    I have learned the hard way to carry my own food, everywhere I go. My place of employment is not accommodating to people with special dietary needs. The location I live is far from gluten free also. I pretty much do a lot of planning and prep work. I carry almonds,Lara bars,fruit,and of course whenever I can ,boiled eggs.

  4. Jason @GFDFNJ May 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    I keep a snack drawer in my desk at work and include a couple of shelf stable gluten free meals (A Taste of Thai mostly) in that drawer just in case.