Eating a gluten-free meal at someone’s house can be challenging, particularly if they don’t know a gluten-free diet protocol. However, if you don’t share information with your host about your dietary needs, uncomfortable situations are bound to occur. You’ll get used to providing verbal dissertations on what you can and can’t eat, but frankly, you’ll get tired of giving the spiel over and over again, particularly if your lifestyle involves a great deal of social engagements.
While each situation is different and will call for a personalized approach, it can be worthwhile to have a ready-made mini-reference handout you’ve created for this type of situation. When the host asks you what you can and cannot eat, you can give them a brief primer on the diet but also offer to send them your handout when you feel it’s appropriate and not impolite to do so. In fact, the host may be appreciative of the help. This handout will be handy for your hosts’ menu planning whether they are friends, family or acquaintances.
When designing your handout, consider including the following:
• A simple definition of gluten and some common names for wheat and gluten.
• A list of common foods where gluten is found. For example, be sure to mention pasta as a culprit for lunch or dinner, and cereal, toast, and pancakes for breakfast.
• Common ingredients found in the refrigerator and cupboard where hidden gluten can be found (i.e. soy sauce, prepared meats, marinades, and ice cream).
• Recommendations for certain gluten-free versions of foods that can be found at a nearby store.
• Offer to bring a dish or specific ingredient.
• A list of gluten-free recipe websites you recommend, and foods or recipes you enjoy.
• A note about cross-contamination and how to avoid it. Include a list of quick and polite reminders, such as leaving off the croutons from the salad.
• A warm note of appreciation at the end for taking the time to accommodate your dietary needs. Let them know they can call you should they have questions.
• Make the handout look pretty so that it’s fun to read and softens the hard news.