Summertime, the time of year when people are getting together for picnics and cookouts and family time, but one of the hardest things about family get-togethers when you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, is that you may have family members who just don’t get it. They accuse you of being picky or just following some new fad diet and tell you to suck it up and eat like a normal person! They just don’t get that you have to eat this way or possibly die!

So today, I’m going to offer up some ideas and tips to help make it easier to survive those family gatherings, whether they are summer get-togethers or holiday gatherings. My hope is that these tips will help you to have a more enjoyable experience and make these gatherings less awkward for everyone.

  1. Talk to the host

 Let the host know that you have a special diet that you MUST follow. Explain what it is and how gluten affects you and why you must stick to this diet without deviance. It may even be helpful to give the hostess a patient handout sheet that explains the gluten-free lifestyle. It may even give credibility to what you are telling them.   

  1. If possible, host the gathering

 You may want to think about hosting the gathering at  your own home. That way, you can ensure that a completely gluten-free meal is prepared with no risk of cross contamination.

  1. Eat before you go

 If you can’t host the event at your house, then make sure you eat before you go so that you are not starving, and tempted to eat food that could be potentially unsafe.

  1. Take snacks and drinks along

Take your own gluten-free snacks and drinks with you. If  you are planning on drinking alcoholic beverages, make sure you know what is safe and what isn’t

  1. Take a gluten-free dish along

I like to take a gluten-free dish along with me to the gathering. That way I know that there is at something there that I can eat. Just make sure that you serve yourself first so that you don’t have to worry about accidental cross contamination. For example, the last thing you want is the spoon from Aunt Mabel’s glutenous pasta salad end up in your gluten free one before you get to dish up yours.

  1. Be prepared for questions

No matter how hard you try, you may still end up with questions about why you are so difficult. It is very helpful to have another advocate for your need to stay gluten-free. For me, that is my husband. He looks out for me and is very fierce in his protection of my safety, because he has seen me at my most sick. I always know that he has my back and will support me no matter what!

  1. If in doubt, do not be afraid to say you cannot eat something

If your hostess no idea about cross contamination, it doesn’t matter how good her intentions are, if the gluten-free food that she prepared has been contaminated with gluten, you WILL get sick. So if in doubt, don’t be afraid to just eat your own food and snacks.