Let’s face it: even though you’ve made the commitment to be completely gluten-free (either from extreme necessity or just a healthy lifestyle choice), sometime this summer you’ll get invited to a party at a non-gluten-free household. Relatives, neighbors, friends–no matter how well-meaning they are, they don’t always understand what it means to live COMPLETELY gluten-free. At least, not at first.
Be patient with you relatives, neighbors, and friends–while they might not understand you this year, eventually they’ll come around the realization of your basic needs. For now, you need to focus on surviving that party!
Here are some tips to get you started:
So many things can go wrong with appetizers–gluten lurks undetectable in sauces and condiments–so it’s hard to discern what’s good and what’s not. One misstep can mean misery for the next week, leaving you wondering what went so wrong.
-Try tortilla chips and salsa. While some brands might contain trace amounts of gluten, gluten is not necessary ingredient in corn chips. More and more companies are becoming more sensitive to gluten intolerance–for extreme sensitivities, take a look a the packaging.
-Potato chips are also usually gluten-free–though some brands are not certified gluten-free. However, you usually can’t trust the sauces or dips for the same reason of cross contamination or added gluten. Again, look at the packaging to be certain.
-Fresh veggies or fruit platters are always a win–no embarrassment or confrontation of the cook necessary. Just beware of sauces.
–Sabra, a popular brand of hummus, is also gluten-free.
**Tip: Get to a party early and volunteer to help dish out the snacks–this allows you to get a look at the ingredients list, secretly, without offending your host/hostess.
At summer picnics and BBQs, the most common fare is beer, brats, coleslaw, hamburgers, and pasta salad–and a host of other salads that may or may not have harmful ingredients for the gluten-sensitive person.
-Beer is not gluten-free (quite the opposite!) However, there are some gluten-free options available, but not from traditional summer party favorites. Try hard apple cider instead–if you’ve never had it before, you’re in for a real treat. Wine is also gluten-free, but contains sulfites, which some people are sensitive to. If no other alcoholic opportunity presents itself, go without. There’s no shame in not drinking.
-Brats. Forgo these unless you’ve read the packaging. So many things could go wrong–don’t risk it.
-For hamburgers, get yours without the bun and stack it on some lettuce instead. Surprisingly, this is a going trend (and it still tastes amazing). Lucky for you, most condiments are left out in the original packaging for guests, so you can easily find toppings that work for you! If a cheeseburger is offered, don’t take it– “cheese products” disguised as American cheese slices often contain all kinds of bad news.
-Stick with salads that you know what’s in it. For potlucks, you can bring your own dish to share, meaning something that you can actually eat! Usually the appetizers are left out to be eaten with dinner, so sneak back and grab a few carrot sticks to fill up your plate. There’s nothing that distresses a host/hostess more than seeing their guests go hungry.
Thankfully, you can usually forgo dessert (if no gluten-free options present themselves) because you’re too busy with small talk or haven’t finished dinner when they cut the cake, etc.
-Ice cream or frozen yogurt are usually good options (though not cookies and cream or cookie dough, sadly). Most ice cream brands declare whether or not they have gluten in them. Regular flavors, such as chocolate or vanilla are your best bet.
While going to summer parties as a newly professed gluten-free person can be a stressful experience (and perhaps embarrassing) there is nothing wrong with confronting your host/hostess about ingredients that will make you sick. The best way to approach your host/hostess about your gluten sensitivities would be politely take them aside and quickly explain your recent diagnosis (without giving them a huge medical inventory–or as my dad would say: an organ recital) and ask to see the ingredients of a few things that will be served and ask them what you should avoid during dinner. Get it over quickly and politely–next time, they’ll remember.
Gluten-free is becoming more widely accepted as more and more people are being diagnosed with gluten sensitivities. The more nonchalant and comfortable you act when faced with public situations and having to decide what to eat, the more your friends will begin to understand you and try to help you. Stand your ground and be confident in your lifestyle choices.
And for goodness sake, don’t let your new lifestyle get in between you and your enjoyment of summer fun!