Admin Assistance: 7 Gluten-Free Whole Grains for Business Lunches (No Special Plate Required)

Posted by on Thursday, July 24th, 2014 with Comments Off on Admin Assistance: 7 Gluten-Free Whole Grains for Business Lunches (No Special Plate Required) Comments

“Catering planner” probably isn’t in the job description of many administrative assistants, but in small to mid-sized companies, we all know it happens anyway. Business lunches, meeting snacks, group delivery orders, lunch-and-learns: there are plenty of occasions where an outside catering company isn’t required, but someone has to get food into the office! And anyone who has filled that role knows that planning meals for a group can be a juggling act — especially thanks to the proliferation of dietary restrictions in today’s culture.

Accommodating special requests (vegetarian/vegan/paleo/gluten-free/low-carb/you-name-it) can make the simple act of ordering lunch for your colleagues quite the complicated equation… especially if your company is zeroing in on workplace wellness and has guidelines for serving healthy meals in the office.

And focusing on healthy dining — usually described as containing whole grains, lean proteins, and vegetables — is an admirable goal, and one that many companies are adopting as part of a workplace nutrition policy. But what happens when an office nutrition goal conflicts with an employee’s dietary restriction?

quinoa and chickpea pilaf

Gluten-free whole grains – like quinoa – can be a natural part of your business lunches and office meals – no special plates required.
Image source: Flickr user MiramKato

The vegetarian won’t eat the lean protein, the low-carb dieter refuses to touch the whole grains… this is where the headaches begin for admin assistants trying to solve the puzzle. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to plan special exceptions for every meal. It’s possible to reconcile many potential conflicts between nutrition goals and special requests — and today, we’re tackling the world of gluten-free diets and whole grains.

That’s right — even if your workplace wellness plan mandates that whole grains are served at business lunches or office meals, you can still provide a naturally gluten-free option that will fit everyone’s requirements. After all, “whole grain” doesn’t have to mean whole-wheat bread, and gluten-free doesn’t necessarily require special products. (One disclaimer: gluten hides in many unexpected places, so just check with your chosen restaurant or catering company to ensure the foods that should be naturally gluten-free haven’t had any extra wheat flour or gluten product added in.)

With that being said, consider these gluten-free whole grains, and how they can be a part of a wellness-minded office meal:

1) Buckwheat

Despite the name, buckwheat flour is naturally gluten-free, and used to make delicious, earthy Japanese noodles called soba. Served chilled in a salad or hot in a soup, buckwheat noodles are a fantastic addition to the lunch table.

2) Corn tortillas

The easiest way to get gluten-free whole grains on a Mexican menu? Skip the flour tortillas, and order corn instead.

3) Quinoa

No longer a quirk of Peruvian cuisine or health-food stores, quinoa has been embraced by mainstream restaurants and can be easily found on menus. It’s especially tasty added to salads, from a Southwestern-style black bean salad to leafy kale salads… and some restaurants may even offer gluten-free quinoa pasta dishes!

4) Steel-cut oats 

Watch out for sneaky gluten in some varieties, but many of the better brands of oats and oatmeal (like Bob’s Red Mill) ensure their oats are gluten-free. For healthier breakfast meetings, skip the toast and provide gluten-free oatmeal with dried fruit for a hearty, whole-grain start to the day.

5) Brown rice

From Chinese places to sushi spots to traditional American eateries, brown rice is one of the easiest gluten-free whole grains to find on restaurant menus. Order it instead of white rice (or instead of whole-wheat dinner rolls) to provide a healthy whole-grain side dish.

6) Polenta

Made from corn, certain kinds of polenta are whole-grain — and the hearty dish is a nice substitute for traditional pasta on an Italian menu.

7) Popcorn

Need a healthy, whole-grain, gluten-free meeting snack? You don’t have to go out searching for special crackers that half the attendees won’t touch — good, old-fashioned popcorn will do the trick beautifully!

Gluten-free business lunches don’t require a ton of special planning — just a little know-how and creativity (and, don’t forget, a few minutes of follow-up with every restaurant or vendor to ensure there aren’t sneaky gluten sources hiding in foods that don’t naturally contain them). And to make your life as a busy admin assistant even easier, the food delivery experts at offers online ordering, prompt delivery, and recurring meals from our Virtual Cafeteria Service!

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

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