With Christmas around the corner, that means lots of food and parties! Of course those of us who need to be on a strict gluten free diet don’t attend parties and intentionally eat gluten! However, whenever eating gluten free food that has been prepared in the same kitchen as gluten, we always run the risk of cross-contamination.
Trust me, I know attending parties centered around food when you’re gluten free can be stressful, but they don’t need to be! It’s normal that you don’t want to stand out as the weird person that’s paranoid about food… I get it more than you know! I follow these rules when going to parties and don’t have to worry about getting sick!
Tips on Avoiding Cross-Contamination at Parties:
Call Ahead of Time: Don’t forget to be prepared and plan ahead! If you’re invited to a party at someone’s house call ahead and see what they’re serving. This way you can have an idea if there is anything you can eat. Also, ask the host if you can bring a dish for everyone (this way you know for sure you can eat something!). If you’re attending a party at a restaurant, call ahead and speak to the manager about gluten free meal options. If you don’t feel comfortable with their options or preparation, let the manager know you will be bringing in outside food due to your dietary restrictions (I do this all the time and have never had an issue).
Avoid the Wood Cutting Board: Don’t eat anything that has been cut on a wood cutting board, or even if it’s just being used for cheese and fruit. The reason for this is because wood is porous, so no matter how much they’ve been scrubbed small amounts of gluten can stay in them.
Pass on the Butter: Even if you know the butter is gluten free and you’re eating a gluten free dinner roll, chances are the butter at someone’s house (a non-gf kitchen) contains bread crumbs on it (kind of gross.. I know!) even if you can’t see any. Always ask for a new stick of butter.
Bring an Appetizer or Dessert for Everyone: Even if the host says you don’t need to bring anything, bring something! This way you know you can safely eat and I guarantee everyone will love that you did. I always bring gluten free dessert to parties, and I’ve never had a host be upset about it! Chances are people will say “wow this is gluten free?!”.
Pack Your Own Meal: If you don’t think there are safe gluten free options for you, just pack your own meal! It’s best for you to call the host ahead of time to see what they’re serving so you can do something similar. I don’t mean cook the same meal, but if it’s a party with just appetizers and drinks, then I would just pack that.
Eat Ahead of Time: That’s right! Never go to a party on an empty stomach because just incase there are no safe gluten free options, you don’t want to get tempted to try something!
Avoid the Dips: Even if you think you’re just dipping your veggies into the bowl of hummus or guac, don’t do it! Someone may have just dipped their gluten containing chip/cracker into the same dip, leaving traces of gluten in it! I always pack individual packets of hummus with me.
Serve yourself First: If they’re serving buffet style, always be in the front of the line. I know this sounds rude, but really who cares! You need to worry about not getting sick and this is important so that you can use clean serving utensils for gluten free items first and not have to worry about them being used on gluten items.
Know your Alcohol: Avoid beer, unless it’s labeled “gluten free”. Stick to wine and distilled alcohol. Avoid pre-made mixtures and try to use soda or fresh fruit juice.
Over the years I’ve learned not to make it a big deal and just to have fun. If you’re in control and act like it’s not a big deal, chances are others will too! Just plan ahead and be prepared so you can enjoy yourself and not have to worry about what you can eat! Remember why you’re there… it’s not about the food, it’s about enjoying the company of other people!
And… as always…when in doubt, go without!