Here are some tips for creating a safe, gluten-free summer:
- Communicate or remind your hosts when you accept their invitation that you are gluten-free. Follow up by asking what you can bring for the meal. Make some quick suggestions as a way of getting the conversation started and communicating that lots of food dishes are naturally gluten-free and require no special effort or expense.
If it is an event, such as a birthday party, with a set menu from the host, consider taking along a safe substitution for yourself or your child. When we go to a pizza and cupcake party, I order a GF pizza and pick up a GF cupcake. I generally inform the party host when we RSVP that we are GF and ask if they would be okay with us providing our own party food/s. Several times, the hosts have offered to provide it for us and have gone to great lengths to make us feel welcome without singling us out.
- At a cookout, approach the "grill master" and inform him/her that you are gluten-free and need help in making sure you safely enjoy your meal. Explain that sauces and marinades are a danger zone for you. Mention soy sauce in particular. Ask if you can request a cut of meat that has been simply seasoned and prepared on a clean grill. You can also ask that your meat be prepared first before any other marinated meats/sauces have a chance to cross-contaminate.
- Snacks may be one of the most challenging aspects of eating gluten-free away from home and on the go. The zoo and aquarium don't always cater to those requiring clean protein and fresh produce. As you plan your meals for summer weeks, plan for snacks too according to each outing. Make a list of the week's activities and add a column for snack ideas. Prepare them in advance on Saturday/Sunday, and store them in a bin in the fridge or pantry accordingly. Items to include: veggie sticks, fresh fruits, nuts/seeds, nut butters in portion cups, hummus, salsa, tortillas chips. You can also bake a few batches of cookies then freeze and store in individual snack bags. Trail mix, energy bites, macaroons, and oatcakes (with GF oats) are also other convenient options. Never leave home without safe snacks tucked in your purse or stowed in your car!
- When staying at someone else's home, find a safe spot in the kitchen and the refrigerator for stowing your foods. Label with your name any containers that someone may dip (or double-dip), such as mayo, butter, sour cream, peanut butter, and jelly. Also, take your own toaster with a label and cover. Discreetly wipe counters before preparing any meals/snacks. Avoid using wooden utensils (or take your own basics). In addition, be careful with cast iron and other absorbent or seasoned cookware such as stoneware. If refrigerator space is not available, travel with your own dorm fridge or keep a cooler iced.
- When hosting guests in your home, take a few minutes to coach on GF safe practices while you are giving a brief kitchen tour and showing guests everything you have prepared for their stay. Be sure to explain why they have their own designated toaster, condiment jars, etc. Let them know you are happy to answer any questions they may have about keeping the kitchen safe for everyone. Get kids involved with helping you prepare gluten-free meals and snacks. Give a favorite family meal a makeover and show your visiting family members that everyone can still come together around the table!
- Consider forming a co-op or snack share with other GF households in your circle. On one afternoon, host a prep party and trade snack bags with everyone in attendance. Multiply your efforts without working harder!
- Know before you go. Research menus online and even contact restaurants by phone or email beforehand. Many independent restaurants will go to great effort to prepare for your visit if you let them know with advance notice. They can also be sure to assign knowledgeable, well-trained waitstaff to look after you and your table, as well as let the kitchen know you are dining and remind them to be extra-vigilant with cross-contamination avoidance.
- There's an app for that...Make use of apps like Find Me Gluten Free, Is that Gluten Free?, iEatOut Gluten & Allergen Free, Gluten-Free Restaurant Cards from celiactravel.com.
- Join online foodie groups to get up-to-date tips and share ideas with link-minded GF eaters.
- Add supplemental digestive enzymes specifically-formulated for those with gluten issues. In the event of an unintended contamination, this can help ease the reaction, prevent damage, and speed recovery. Carry activated charcoal tablets and/or Neutra-tabs to take at the moment you realize you have been glutened.