By Anna Sonnenberg, NFCA Blogger Ambassador and the voice behind Gluten-Free Jet Set
Managing your gluten-free needs at home can be easy, once you learn the ropes. But what about when you’re out to dinner with friends or on vacation with extended family? When you’re dining with a group and food options are outside of your control, eating gluten-free can be a challenge.
After putting in so much time and effort to stick to a gluten-free diet, the last thing you want is to slip up—especially when you should be having fun. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to increase the chances that your needs are met so you can stay happy and healthy. Here’s how to share your gluten-free needs in a group setting.
Try this: Call ahead to speak with a restaurant manager
Instead of: Making a last-minute request at a restaurant
When you go out to dinner with friends, family, or colleagues, you might not always have the luxury of choosing the location. Just because the restaurant doesn’t have a gluten-free menu doesn’t mean that all is lost, though. Call the restaurant during a slow time and speak with a manager about your gluten-free needs. Inquire about ordering off-menu if possible, and be sure to have the manager note your dietary needs in your reservation. After arriving at the restaurant, check in with the manager to confirm your gluten-free request. When your group goes to order, simply explain that you’ve ordered a special meal that meets your dietary needs.
Try this: Pack your own healthy gluten-free snacks
Instead of: Foraging at rest stops
Road trips with family or friends should be fun, but they can be stressful if you haven’t planned ahead. Since traffic and opportunities to stop can be unpredictable, it’s best to approach road trips from two angles. It’s never a bad idea to suggest a convenient place to refuel and grab a bite to eat at a trusted gluten-free spot, especially if there’s food that everyone in the car will enjoy. In case other opinions may overrule yours, though, be sure to pack plenty of gluten-free snacks as a backup. You’ll get bonus points if your gluten-free road trip snacks are better than everyone else’s gluten-ful ones, so bring enough to share.
Try this: Create a map of trustworthy places to eat
Instead of: Getting hangry while sightseeing
When you’re on vacation with the family, there’s only so much sightseeing you can do or beach time you can indulge in without stressing about finding safe, healthy food. Instead of focusing all of the trip planning around your food needs, try compiling a list of a few trustworthy places to eat in and around your destination. Save them on a Google map that you can access on your smartphone. Wherever you are, you’ll be able to suggest a safe spot nearby where everyone can eat, saving everyone the hassle of making a group decision or traveling all the way across town.
Try this: Be the first in the buffet line
Instead of: Worrying about eating cross-contaminated food
Though you might be tempted just to eat a meal before attending a party or a potluck, there are steps you can take to make sure you don’t eat any cross-contaminated food. Connect with the host beforehand to let him or her know that you have dietary needs. Insist on bringing your own safe dish to share, and label it accordingly. When it’s time to eat, be at the front of the line for the potluck or the first to dig into your party food. Use clean utensils, and fill your plate with your own gluten-free dish.
If you continue to struggle with making your gluten-free needs known in a group setting, don’t get frustrated. Remember that it gets easier with time, and advance research and preparation go a long way. Beyond Celiac is here to guide you through your journey with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Connect with us and our community on social media to get the support and resources you need to eat without fear and live your life to the fullest!