The summer months are just around the corner, and considering the healthy anxiety around gluten cross-contamination at restaurants and in your own kitchen, things step up to a whole new level.
This is because summertime is a far more social time, and that means a lot of dining and snacking in unfamiliar locations.
Barbecues and social gatherings where you’re trying to eat gluten-free can be difficult. During the summer, you need to be even more vigilant.
Whether you are on a spur of the moment road trip or headed to a friend’s backyard BBQ, you don’t have to stress about your gluten-free needs when you follow our ten tips for a happy and healthy gluten-free summer…
- Offer to bring a substantial dish. Why not ensure that there is plenty there for you to eat by offering to bring something that would work like a side dish or main course? You probably have plenty of gluten-free pasta dishes, main course salads, and other hefty recipes that could keep you safe and satisfied.
- Do your research. Many gluten-free eaters know which chain restaurants have truly gluten-free dishes. Go online and research your favorites (and even print out their menus if available). Stash a list of locations and menus in the car, and you will be fully prepared for any sort of road trip. You can also get your free copy of The Ultimate Gluten-Free Fast Food Guide to reference when you’re in a pinch and need to eat quickly.
- Offer to help organize. Reach out to the person running the BBQ or social activity to see what they’re making or having others bring. If you get even a little bit involved, you’ll ensure that you’ll have something to eat.
- Keep snacks on hand. Whether you keep a supply of snacks in your bag or your car, it can make life easier during those times when you are not sure that the foods available are actually safe for you to consume. Small, sealed packets of nuts, snack bars, beef jerky, or other snacks can help you manage hunger pangs when the other offerings are questionable.
- Bake now and freeze. When a cold or rainy day hits, spend a few hours baking so you can fill your freezer with gluten-free baked goods. You can rely on this supply when you want to have desserts or snacks at a BBQ or other social activity. You may even meet a gluten-free guy or gal that you make very happy with your delicious gluten-free cookies or brownies!
- Bags of condiments. As the summer weather entices you to head outdoors, don’t forget that loads of condiments are chock full of gluten. Invest in small containers to keep your gluten-free BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, and other condiments readily available for when you need them.
- Ask about gluten-free options (beforehand). Many airlines, restaurants, hotels, and even your average Joe hosting an afternoon BBQ now ask upfront if guests have allergies. The key is to ask well in advance so that if they don’t, you can make your own arrangements. For a casual social gathering, it’s even a nice segue into asking what you can contribute for the group.
- Understand misunderstandings. You say “gluten-free” and the server could deduce that “wheat-free” works. Make sure you are clear about gluten-free, even if you feel like a pest about it. Your health is at stake, so don’t hesitate to ask if they understand that you mean gluten-free and not something else. It’s also important that you tell servers that you eat gluten-free for medical reasons. I’ve personally heard servers ask my fellow gluten-free diners if they are following the diet for medical or other reasons. They may treat your food differently depending on what you tell them (or don’t tell them).
- Dive into the harvest. Keep in mind that the summer season opens up a lot of opportunities for new fruits and vegetables. Head to the Farmer’s Market and fill your basket!
- Stay home. A “staycation” is a growing trend. You could choose to spend your upcoming vacation as a staycation, experimenting with gluten-free foods and recipes and really expand your dine-in options!
These are the top 10 keys to having a happy and healthy gluten-free summer.
You want to get excited about summer, without the anxiety. All it takes is a little bit more thought and planning, and you’ll have a fantastic summer – without the headache!
Do you recommend any other tips in addition to what you read above? Feel free to add your tips and ideas for other gluten-free eaters in the comments below!