Food Sensitivities: How to Cook with Certain Dietary Needs

Story by Katherine Hunan
Photo by Ashley Schafer

Anyone who has ever walked into a restaurant or cafeteria with a food allergy in tow knows that finding something delicious and healthy can seem nearly impossible, at times. For those with a food intolerance or autoimmune disorder, such as lactose intolerance or Celiac disease, the task of finding something safe and appetizing can be even more difficult.

Many foods often appear that they are completely free of dairy and gluten, unless labeled by the Food and Drug Administration. To an untrained eye, who would have guessed that Twizzlers and certain types of salad dressings containing malt-vinegar or soy sauce have traces of gluten in them? When we think of gluten, wheat products come to mind.

Or, that even lactose-free milk can cause a reaction in those with more restrictive forms of lactose intolerance and allergies? Even an uninformed employee can increase the difficulty of finding safe foods to eat if they are not aware of the cooking process of a meal.

Gluten can present a broad-spectrum of issues when it comes to finding foods to eat. It is often hidden in foods that don’t always seem like they would contain gluten.

For those with Celiac Disease, the consequences of accidentally ingesting an item containing gluten can be much more severe than simply an achy, bloated stomach. Long-term, consistent consumption of gluten is believed to trigger other health issues later on in life, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies and several central nervous system disorders. Even cross-contaminated items can present issues, hence why it is so important for cafeterias to have separate stations for gluten-free preparation.

Despite the many challenges, enjoying food on a gluten and/or dairy-free diet is still a possibility. The food industry is recognizing the demand for special foods. Also, it’s fun to create unique and easy dishes on your own, with special ingredients.

Apple Pie Oatmeal

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 apple chopped in small pieces
  • 1/8 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • Honey, to taste
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Prepare oats per directions on packet, with the addition of cinnamon and apple pieces.
  2. Add pinch of salt, walnuts and honey to taste.

Create-Your-Own Buddha Bowl

  • 1 pack of one-minute quinoa
  • 1 chicken breast chopped and grilled
  • Canned or fresh veggies of your choice
  • Seasonings of your choice


  1. Combine all ingredients into a large, microwavable bowl and stir.
  2. For additional flavor, add seasonings and sauces of your choice. Be creative!

Pie in a Mug
For crust:

  • 1 gluten-free graham cracker
  • 1 teaspoon dairy-free butter or shortening
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon

For pie filling:

  • 6 ounces coconut-milk yogurt
  • 1/2 of a 3 ounce instant Jello powder (flavor of your choice)
  • 1 heap of dairy-free whipped topping


  1. For crust, combine ingredients and press into bottom of mug.
  2. For pie, dissolve Jello, then mix in yogurt and whipped-topping.
  3. Refrigerate for at least one hour.