I expect gluten free meal planning is here to stay.   When it comes to menu planning in long term care facilities this often presents challenges.  A consumer can pop into the grocery store and find a variety of options,  but it’s not always that easy for us. We purchase foods in bulk from our suppliers who source products that are in large amounts.  We might be menu planning for 150 or more residents and may have 1 resident who is on a gluten free diet.  So, what to do?

If you come into one of our long term care homes and request a gluten free diet you will likely be asked if you have a gluten intolerance or a medically confirmed diagnosis of celiac disease. If diagnosed with celiac disease, the product and recipe selection needs to be quite specific.  If gluten intolerant, there is a bit more flexibility.

Bread and baked products pose the biggest challenge.  The commercial products are very expensive and not always nutritious or flavourful. As I said in an earlier blog, we pride ourselves on “Fresh is Best” and we want to be preparing tasty and nutritious meals for all those under our care no matter what diet they are on.  “Food is only nutritious if eaten”. Our suppliers aren’t always able to provide the more boutique items. They need to have a good turnover or those products just sit in the warehouse and go out of date. So, we need to go out and purchase items at the local grocery or health food store and work with our cooks to prepare yet another version of a recipe.  These are just some of the challenges.

Having said that, I made a beef bourguignon last night which called for the beef cubes to be tossed in seasoned all purpose flour to create flavour and thicken the gravy.  So, I put my thinking cap on and decided to use chickpea flour instead.  Chickpea flour has a stronger taste than some of the other gluten free ones but it goes well with beef especially when you are using red wine as the liquid for cooking the beef.  I’m sure there are several of the gluten free flours that would also have worked well.  I know chickpea and sorghum flours do and these are definitely transferable to our long term care kitchens.