Toolkit: Preparing Gluten-Free Senior Meals Parts 1 & 2

Part 1: Making the Case for Gluten-Free Seniors Meals

Celiac disease (CD) is a serious autoimmune condition that can develop at any stage in life and can often go undiagnosed. Awareness is increasing as diagnostic methods improve, and studies show that between 20% and 34% of new CD diagnosis occur in individuals aged 60 and over. The only treatment for CD is permanent adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. This can be complicated, socially isolating and expensive for vulnerable seniors to navigate. Exclusion from home-delivered and congregate meals programs because of lack of availability of medically suitable meals can substantially add to these issues. In addition to those with CD, it is estimated a further 6% of the population suffers from non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), a medical condition which is also treated with a gluten-free diet.

Attendees of this webinar learned to:

  • Describe medical aspects of celiac disease including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and complications;
  • Identify other medical conditions that require a gluten-free diet;
  • Recognize the importance of the gluten-free diet in the treatment of celiac disease; and
  • Recognize the complexity of the gluten-free diet and challenges (medical, nutritional, psychosocial, and financial) that seniors with gluten-related disorders are faced with.

Part 2: Operational Considerations for Providing Gluten-Free Meals

For individuals with celiac disease (CD), adherence to a gluten-free (GF) diet is the only way to manage this serious medical condition. This means avoiding all foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, and all foods that may have had contact with gluten in the production process. Many commercial food establishments successfully produce safe GF meals even in kitchens where gluten-containing ingredients are also used. With the right training, policy and procedures you can safely and inexpensively produce GF meals in a non-dedicated facility, and avoid excluding vulnerable seniors who have a medical need to eat gluten-free.

Attendees of this webinar learned to:

  • Describe what the term gluten-free means on product labels;
  • Identify foods that are gluten-free; and
  • Identify key risk areas in the kitchen, and understand how to prevent cross-contact and keep food gluten-free from purchasing to serving


  • Nicola Harrington, Gluten-Free Foodbank Director, National Celiac Association
  • Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN, Director of Education, National Celiac Association

Downloads and Webinar Recording

Part 1:

Part 2:

Key Resources

US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Food Allergen Labeling And Consumer Labeling Act of 2004, Questions And Answers

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Questions & Answers: Gluten-Free Food Labeling Final Rule.

NCA-NRCNA Factsheet

Thompson T. How Much Gluten Is 20 Parts Per Million? Gluten Free Dietitian website

Celiac disease in Older Adults

Confusing Ingredients Listing

Gluten-Free Food Bank website

NCA-NRCNA Operational Guidelines Factsheet

Meals on Wheels America has hosted the National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging (NRCNA) as part of a cooperative agreement since 2011 with the Administration for Community Living (ACL) ending on December 31, 2020. Please stay tuned for future updates as website changes are coming soon.