Those of us with Celiac Disease, a Gluten Intolerance or Sensitivity, or any other health concern which excludes Gluten from the diet know how difficult and stressful it can be to attend parties hosted by family and friends, knowing what we can eat and wondering whether the food has been cross-contaminated.
I have been to 2 parties since my diagnoses more than 2 weeks ago. The first, I was able to explain to the man at the grill (thankfully my Stepfather) that my hamburger was to be cooked first on a clean grill, and not touching any of the hot dogs – so preferably before anyone even opened the hot dog bag (a hidden source of gluten). I helped prepare the fruit, so I dished myself out a bowl full and set it aside where it would be sure not to be contaminated by any well-meaning visitor. I had no problems, although I did drool a bit looking at all the food on the table and mourning my favorite dishes that I will need to learn how to cook Gluten-free.
Then today my cousin threw a party for her daughter. I knew there would be potato salad there that I could eat, because it was the contribution from my Grandmother and I, but I was not the first one at the party. Instead, because I am not yet comfortable dealing with the risks of cross-contamination, I brought along an Ensure Plus and a small bag of Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. I did not stay very long at the party.
I have sat down to think of ways to make attending parties less stressful and more enjoyable for those of us on a GF lifestyle. First, make sure you are bringing a dish that is Gluten-free and that you dish out some for yourself before anyone else touches with a clean utensil. The earlier you get to the party, the better. Offer to help set up and put food out on the table so you know if the fruits and vegetables are clean and you can set some aside for yourself before little grubby fingers that just ate a sandwich get all over it with their Gluten-filled invisible crumbs.
I also bring Ensure Plus with me wherever I go. Those liquid nutritional drinks are wonderful. They are Gluten-free, they taste great, and they are nutritionally complete. If I get hungry and am tempted to ‘cheat’ – knowing I’ll get sick if I do, but not caring – I’ll have a back up plan. I buy them in bulk when there are sales on CVS.com to stock up.
But the best advice I can give to others who are in the same boat, is to eat before you go to the parties. Fill up on all of your wholesome foods so you won’t be as tempted to make bad decisions you will later regret. We all know the danger of cross-contamination. It can be there even if the dish has no Gluten ingredients and you can’t see it. And if a family member says “I made this dish just for you – it’s Gluten-free”, I don’t know how to let them down gently but I’d be careful eating it just because the ingredients don’t say ‘wheat’. Not many people know what Celiac Disease is, or what Gluten is in. They have no idea most soy sauce and teriyaki sauce has gluten, that it is in most processed-foods, soups, etc. They also do not know that if they are using wooden spoons that have EVER touched gluten in the past that they are forever contaminated, and that colindars and toasters are all contaminated if they have ever touched gluten. Remember – it’s your health. I paid the price at a Japanese Restaurant by trying to be polite, and was sick for 2 days tossing and turning, in the bath, popping tylenol and Benadryl, not sure what to do. I wish now I would have put more squeak in my wheel. (The squeaky wheel gets the grease – we learn quick that we have to be persistent. Even if it embarasses family and friends.)
Those of you who have been on the diet longer, if you have any of your own tips for party gathering please share. I am a sponge soaking up as much information and advice as I can.