Tips to make holiday parties and dinners easier when you’re gluten-free

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for parties, dinners, and social gatherings. Unless, of course, you’re someone with food allergies, and then it quickly becomes a very stressful time of year. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make the social season easier and safer, food-wise, so that you can go out and have a good time with friends and loved ones. Try these tips:

Going to a party?

  • Eat before you arrive. That way, you’re full of yummy gluten-free food, and won’t be too hungry once you’re at the party.
  • Bring a dish to share. Ask the host if you can bring a gluten-free dish to share. Once you arrive, serve yourself from the dish first. Once you put it out on the table, the food might get cross-contaminated, so be sure to give yourself a generous serving! (See below for a list of easy gluten-free items to bring.)
  • Offer to help set up. That way, you’ll likely have first crack at the food. If your host has you opening and setting out delicious gluten-free chips and salsa, for instance, take the opportunity to create a plate for yourself before anyone else has touched the food.
  • Bring snacks with you. Think like a squirrel. Store your favorite treats inside your handbag. (See below for a list of easy-to-pack gluten-free goodies.)

Attending a dinner?

  • Let the host know of any food allergies. She may not be able or willing to accommodate, but at least you’ll know this from the get-go.
  • Ask if you can bring your own meal. Most hosts will be fine with this—after all, it’s less work for them! I suggest bringing something you can easily microwave (my go-to is Perdue gluten-free chicken tenders, brown rice, and a veggie, all in one covered microwaveable dish).
  • Suggest safe dishes. If your host is willing to work with you and create some dishes that you can safely eat, give her some ideas. Or, better yet, go over ahead of time and help her make them. This may also help you ensure they’re being made safely.
  • Provide helpful tips. If your host is making a dish that you can eat, talk through the dish with her and make sure she’s not inadvertently including an ingredient that you can’t have. For example, many non-GF people don’t know that there’s gluten in soy sauce and many marinades. So if your host is planning to make some chicken teriyaki for you, she’ll need to know to find a gluten-free soy sauce or marinade. Don’t be afraid to suggest a certain brand and tell her where she can get it, or even buy that special ingredient and bring it to her yourself.

Gluten-free snacks to stash in your purse

Here are a few fun gluten-free snacks to squirrel away when you’re headed to a function that includes food:

  • Fill a snack baggie with one of your favorite snacks (mine are Glutino vanilla crème sandwich cookies or popcorn with sea salt)
  • A 3-pack of holiday-themed Peeps
  • Justin’s almond butter/pretzel pack (you can buy these at Target)
  • Bars like KIND Bars and Larabars
  • Annie’s fruit snacks
  • Small chocolate bars, or Alter Eco truffles
  • Gum or hard candy
  • Beef jerky
  • Snack-size pack of nuts
  • Snack-sized pack of raisins or other dried fruit

Tip: Be sure to pack snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated so that your food stays safe throughout the party.

Gluten-free dishes to bring and share

There are plenty of safe, simple dishes you can bring to someone’s party. Just remember to serve yourself first so that you can avoid cross-contamination! Try these ideas:

  • Veggie platter with hummus
  • Sliced or cubed cheese with gluten-free crackers
  • Fruit platter with yogurt dip
  • Tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole
  • Your favorite homemade gluten-free chili or soup
  • A fun beverage, like spiced apple cider (hot or chilled), or fruit-infused water

To save money, slice your own veggies, fruits, and cheeses. It might take a little time, but it’s definitely cheaper than buying them pre-cut at the grocery store!

One last tip…

Although going to parties and social gatherings is often stressful when you’re gluten-free, try to focus on other things than just food. By using some of these tips, you’re upping your chances of being able to eat safely at the function. So let some of your worries fade away, and instead focus on having a good time with your friends and loved ones. Focus on conversation just as much—if not more than—the food. After all, the reason you’re there is really to socialize and spend quality time with other people!

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