Following a Gluten Free Diet at Social Gatherings: How Nick Overcomes This Challenge

Following a strict gluten free diet is hard enough at home and out at restaurants. How about at various social gatherings likes birthday parties, banquets, family barbecues or at sports stadiums?

As you might imagine all these can pose a pretty good challenge since 99% to 100% of the people at these places don’t need to worry about eating gluten or cross contamination.

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Nick has done all of the above and much more over the past 8 years. Below is how he has dealt with each of these challenges:

Holidays - This usually is not too bad since we spend our holidays with family members that are very aware of the requirements of Nick’s gluten free diet.

Nick’s solution: Most of our family members will prepare separate gluten free dishes for Nick. For example they will make separate meatballs with Nick’s own gluten free bread crumbs. Another example would be preparing his own GF pasta or meats without sauces or bread crumbs. We even can make his own GF gravy! Most other items like vegetables, salads are all common foods that are safe. For dessert we will bring his own GF pastry and pies that have GF pie shells.

Birthday Parties - Most of the common food items at birthday parties are cake, ice cream and pizza. We know that birthday cake and pizza contain gluten and so does many ice creams other than plain vanilla.

Nick’s solution: He brings his own gluten free brownies or cake and his own gluten free pizza. He will eat potato chips and plain ice cream. Sometimes he’ll just eat at home before he goes to the party.

School Lunches - Most school’s cafeteria's probably don’t cater to students that need to follow a gluten free diet, therefore the selection is very limited.

Nick’s solution: He brings his own lunch. He will usually bring leftovers from home or eat a gluten free sandwich made with GF bread. Items at the school cafeteria like potato chips or salad are ok.

Family Barbecues - The concern here is cross contamination of gluten ingredients mixing with what ever is being grilled. Also, hamburger and hot dog buns contain gluten.

Nick’s solution: He will bring his own gluten free hamburger or hot rolls. We also make sure that the grill is thoroughly scrapped clean and that Nick’s food on the grill stay far away from other meats that might contain barbecue sauce or bread crumbs etc.. Potato chips, salad, cheese and pepperoni are favorite gluten free items that he eats in addition to the main food at the barbecue.

Sports Stadiums - This one is a challenge. Most cooked items are prepared on common grills so the risk of gluten contamination is high.

Nick’s solution: At a professional baseball stadium, Nick had steak tips on a skewer. Fortunately the grilling was happening right in front of us and we could visibly see how he was preparing the meat. We asked the cook if there were any sauces or marinate added to the meat. He said no and we could also see that there was no other food shared on the grill. He ate the steak tips and had no problem. This is one example how you can avoid gluten at stadiums. The key here is to ask questions. Finally popcorn, potato chips, nacho chips and soft serve plain ice cream are favorite gluten free items at stadiums also.

Catered Events - Another tough one because most items are not gluten free or are contaminated with gluten.

Nick’s solution: Fortunately these are only occasional events not regular events. Nick usually will either eat before he attends the event just so he won’t be hungry in case there is little he can have to eat. We have also called the caterer ahead of time to find out what was being served so we had an idea. Most of the gluten free food Nick has had at catered events were plain hamburger patties, mashed or baked potatoes, plain chicken (with no sauces – we would verify that), non marinated beef, plain fish, grilled shrimp, vegetables, and plain salads. We will usually ask how the grilled items were prepared to avoid the risk of gluten contamination.

What about traveling on vacation or business? Click to read about gluten free travel tips and suggestions.

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