First Watch Gluten-Free Options for Athletes
It can be helpful for athletes following a gluten-free diet to know what menu items to order when dining out. Let’s take a look at what gluten is. Then we will explore the First Watch menu to identify gluten-free options athletes can enjoy at breakfast and lunch.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, as well as hybrids of these grains. It helps provide structure, texture, and elasticity to food products (1).
Gluten is heat stable and may be added into processed foods to help the product retain moisture, enhance texture, and maintain form. In addition to bread and baked goods, items such as processed meats, vegetarian meat substitutes, stuffings, dressings, marinades, and seasonings may contain added gluten (1).
Cross-Contact with Gluten
In addition to foods that contain gluten, it is important to note that cross-contact of gluten can also occur. Cross-contact refers to the transfer of gluten that occurs when gluten-free food comes into contact with a food containing gluten.
For example, cross-contact could occur if the same toaster, cutting board, or knife was used for both gluten-free bread and bread containing gluten. Many restaurants are starting to offer gluten-free options. However, it is common for restaurants to note the potential for cross-contact of these items with gluten-containing products during meal preparation and service.
Carbohydrates for Athletes
Carbohydrate-rich foods should be at the foundation of an athlete’s meal plan. Carbohydrates provide athletes with the energy needed to perform at their best during training and competition. Similar to gas used to fuel a car, carbohydrates provide fuel for the body to run on during activity.
Gluten-Free Carbohydrates for Athletes
For athletes with Celiac Disease and other gluten-related disorders, choosing gluten-free carbohydrates is important (2). Although athletes following a gluten-free diet must avoid grains that contain gluten, there are numerous other ways athletes can add carbohydrates to their diet, including:
- Starchy vegetables
- Beans and legumes
- Gluten-free grains
- Milk and yogurt (without added ingredients)
First Watch Gluten-Free Options for Athletes
All the nutrition and allergen information included in this article comes from the First Watch® website. Menu options and nutrition information may change as products are updated. For the most current nutrition and allergen information, refer to the First Watch website.
First Watch Allergen Guide
First Watch provides a detailed allergen guide that is available for download from their website. The allergen guide indicates items containing the most common allergens, including gluten. The First Watch allergen guide includes the statement below regarding the potential for cross-contact in their kitchen.
“Note we try to exercise caution and follow certain allergen procedures to prevent cross contact, but our ingredients containing milk, egg, fish, peanut, sesame, tree nut, shellfish, soy, wheat, and other allergens are made in the same kitchen and there is still a risk of cross contact with shared surfaces and equipment. Please consult your healthcare provider to determine the types of precautions you should take before enjoying any of our menu items.”
Understanding the potential for cross-contact at the restaurant, let’s explore the items currently available on the First Watch website that do not contain gluten.
First Watch Gluten-Free Breakfast Options
There are a variety of ways athletes following a gluten-free diet can build a breakfast at First Watch that meets their sports nutrition needs.
Gluten-Free Bread and Grains
First Watch offers a gluten-free bread, which can be substituted with meals in place of regular toast or requested for use in preparing breakfast sandwiches. First Watch also serves both regular and cheesy grits as side options, which are both listed as gluten-free.
Athletes who need to avoid gluten should not order the following items at First Watch, as they all contain gluten: pancakes, waffles, French toast, wraps, English muffins, biscuits, muffins, granola, and oatmeal.
Gluten-Free Breakfast Sides
In addition to the gluten-free bread and grits, the seasoned breakfast potatoes with onions, as well as the fresh seasonal fruit, are also gluten-free. Athletes looking to boost the carbohydrate content of their breakfast can enjoy either of these options as sides with their meal.
Gluten-Free Breakfast Proteins
Protein is also important in the diet for athletes. Protein has many important functions in the body, including supporting the building and maintenance of lean muscle mass. Athletes are encouraged to spread their protein intake throughout the day with several meals and snacks (3).
There are a variety of ways athletes following a gluten-free diet can add lean protein to their breakfast at First Watch. Each of the items below are gluten-free, lean protein options at First Watch.
- Egg whites
- Chicken sausage patties
- Turkey sausage links
The bacon and pork sausage links served at First Watch are also gluten-free. However, the bacon and pork sausage are higher in saturated fat content and less healthy options than the lean protein sources listed above.
Gluten-Free Power Bowl
The Power Breakfast Quinoa Bowl served at First Watch is a gluten-free option that athletes can enjoy at breakfast. The bowl features quinoa, Italian sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, and kale topped with two eggs.
Athletes can substitute chicken or turkey sausage for the Italian sausage to make the Power Breakfast Quinoa Bowl a healthier choice.
Gluten-Free Breakfast Meals
In addition to the Power Breakfast Quinoa Bowl, the breakfast meals listed below are healthy options for athletes. Athletes should request gluten-free bread be substituted for the whole grain artisan toast served with the meal to ensure the breakfast meets their dietary needs.
- Healthy Turkey: Egg white omelet with turkey, onions, tomatoes, spinach, and Feta cheese
- Tri-Athlete: Egg white omelet with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and green chilis
- Avocado Toast: Smashed avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and two eggs – request to be served on gluten-free bead.
First Watch Gluten-Free Lunch Options
Similar to the breakfast options, athletes following a gluten-free diet can request sandwiches be served on gluten-free bread. For a healthier sandwich with less saturated fat, consider requesting the bread be toasted without butter and the mayonnaise and other dressings be served on the side. In addition, athletes can order a side of fresh seasonal fruit to increase the carbohydrate and nutrient content of the meal.
The Baja Turkey Burger ordered on gluten-free bread is a healthy option for athletes. The burger includes a white-meat turkey patty as well as avocado, which provides both lean protein and healthy fats.
Athletes following a gluten-free diet should be aware that the Veggie Burger served at First Watch contains gluten. The gluten is in the veggie patty, not just the sandwich bread. Thus, athletes would not want to select this as a sandwich choice at lunch.
Gluten-Free Power Bowl
Similar to the breakfast Power Bowl, First Watch offers a Pesto Chicken Quinoa Power Bowl, which is a healthy, gluten-free lunch option. The bowl contains quinoa topped with chicken, kale, shredded carrots, tomatoes, Feta cheese, basil pesto, and herbs. For a healthier option, athletes should request the pesto be served on the side so they can control the amount added to their bowl.
First Watch offers a variety of salad options that are gluten-free. The salads are served with artisan ciabatta toast, which contains gluten. Therefore, athletes should request gluten-free bread be served with the salad to ensure the meal meets their dietary needs.
Athletes should also consider ordering the salad dressing on the side, and limit the amount used, to help decrease the salad’s saturated fat content. Ordering a side of fresh seasonal fruit to enjoy with the salad can help further increase the carbohydrate content of the meal.
My favorite salad option at First Watch is the Superfood Kale Salad. The salad contains a base of kale and organic mixed greens topped with chicken, dried cranberries, roasted carrots, shredded Parmesan cheese, and slivered almonds. This salad is a great way for athletes to enjoy a variety of fresh vegetables, dried fruit, as well as lean protein with their lunch.
Ready to Eat at First Watch
You now have a variety of ideas for building a gluten-free meal at First Watch. As a reminder, nutrition and allergen information as well as products may change at any time. Before ordering, it is always best to check the First Watch website and visit with the restaurant manager to ensure the meal meets your specific dietary needs.
For additional gluten-free dining out tips for athletes, check out my blog: Chipotle Gluten-Free Options for Athletes.
Join the Nutrition By Mandy Email List
Click HERE to sign-up for the Nutrition By Mandy e-mail list.
About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy has experience working with athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. She believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.