Does your heart sink when someone invites you to a party? It would be nice to see everyone. But all that gluten! What can you safely eat or drink? Suddenly the party doesn’t seem so appealing and you think of turning down the invitation.
Don’t despair! With a little planning and preparation you can enjoy the party without worrying about accidentally eating gluten. Just because you’re adapting to a new gluten-free lifestyle doesn’t mean you need to give up being social and having fun!
How to Prepare for the Event
You should go the party, and you should be able to eat and drink like everyone else. But to enjoy yourself without obsessing about every little thing on a platter, you’ll need to do some sleuthing beforehand.
Find out as much as you can about the food and beverages that will be served. Will there be vegetable and cheese trays? Will you be drinking soda and juice, or just cocktails? Would the host or hostess mind if you bring your own (BYO) food and beverage?
The invitation might tell what they’re serving, or you might know from having been to their house before. But if you don’t know, don’t hesitate to call and explain your situation. You might feel a bit embarrassed, but for the safety of your health you really need to know more information.
If the party is small and intimate, talk to the host about what’s being served. If it’s held at a hotel or restaurant, or is being professionally catered, then call ahead of time and ask if they offer any gluten-free options. You might be pleasantly surprised to find they have gluten-free food on the menu, or how easily certain items can be modified to your specifications.
Now that you’ve done your detective work, you’ll need to figure out what to bring to the party.
What to Bring
Don’t assume there will be gluten-free options when dining outside your home. Be prepared to bring your own gluten-free food and beverages. My wife and I always keep a stash of non-perishable items in our cars (she even has some in her purse), and I recommend you do the same as it allows you more flexibility to join last-minute activities.
If you’ve followed the suggestions above you know what sort of food will be served. So the next step is to either buy or prepare food that fits your needs such as vegetables, fruit, cheese, and gluten-free crackers (or a main dish if it’s a sit-down dinner). If they do provide gluten-free options, you can bring a substitute if it doesn’t appeal to you.
You may already have something in mind from your kitchen (i.e., gluten-free crackers and a vegetable dip). Many dressings, corn chips and salsas are gluten-free, but you can bring your own to be safe.
Dessert is often served at parties, and you should have the opportunity to indulge in something sweet too! Gluten-free cupcakes, brownies, and cookies are great options. You can bake something fresh to bring, or buy something on the way to the party.
To recap, you can’t go wrong bringing gluten-free food such as:
- Vegetable tray
- Fruit salad
You won’t want to set your food next to something that could potentially contaminate yours, so don’t forget to label the containers with your name and “gluten-free.”
Now you know what to bring to the party. But what should you do when you show up with your own food?
What to Do When You Arrive
You show up ready to have a good time but what about all that food you brought? What should you do next?
First, say hello to the hosts and guests, and then head immediately to the kitchen.
If there’s room, store your food in the refrigerator or on a counter safely away from other food. If not, then get a plate and serve yourself first. You don’t have to eat it right away – you can set it aside somewhere out of the way. But if you’re food will be blended in with all the other trays of food then there is potential for accidental cross-contamination. You don’t want to get gluten after going to all that trouble to bring something safe! Keep everything low-key and don’t make a big deal out of it. Your health is your main priority.
If you are at a dinner party where there are gluten-free options, find the catering manager or the host and let them know you are one of the people who needs a special meal. They will likely have some additional information for you. Plus, they can answer any questions you have.
Finally, keep your eyes and ears open. You might find someone else at the party with special dietary needs – even if it isn’t gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. You could ask what sort of menu they’re following and how they handle their dietary restrictions. Any education is good education!
But hold on a minute. You have the gluten-free food figured out, but what can you drink?
What to Drink
Now that you’re settled in and are having a great time, you’ll probably want something to drink. Fortunately, many beverages are gluten-free.
You know water is safe (preferably bottled and not tap), but you have to watch out for tea. Did you know that barley is an ingredient in some brands? I didn’t either — I just assumed it was, well, tea. Unless you know what the ingredient label says, avoid it. By the way, coffee is fine.
Many sodas such as Coke, Pepsi and their diet versions are safe. Juice is safe as long as it is 100% juice. Capri Sun is safe for kids if they are at the party as well.
Wine is safe as are tonic and soda water. Many experts in the gluten-free community agree that alcohol products like vodka, whiskey, gin, and tequila are safe because the distillation process removes all gluten.
But avoid beer as it can contain hops, malt, barley and/or wheat grain. However, there are several good gluten-free ones on the market, so if beer is your drink of choice you could make some calls ahead to liquor stores to see what they carry. BYOB is totally acceptable at many parties and barbeques.
Relax and enjoy yourself. Eat, drink and be merry now that you know you can have fun without worrying about getting sick!
The key to having fun at a party while remaining gluten-free is being prepared ahead of time. Find out as much information as you can about what food and beverages will be served.
- Bring your own gluten-free pre-labeled food and beverages! Even a simple plate of crackers and cheese can make you feel physically more comfortable and less conspicuous.
- When you first arrive, find a safe place to keep your food. If the refrigerator is too crowded, serve yourself immediately to prevent cross-contamination.
- Many beverages are gluten-free, including sodas like Coke and Pepsi, wine, vodka and whiskey. Juice is also a great option.
You can be gluten-free and still enjoy food at parties. Make the effort to come prepared with gluten-free food and snack options. With every party and event you attend, you’ll become more educated about the right things to bring or to order beforehand.
Expectations from social events are different than eating at restaurants … or are they? Eating out or at a party can produce similar obstacles, which is what I’ll discuss in the next Lesson.