Tips & Tricks

Living Social Gluten Freely

We know how you feel, birdie. We know how you feel.

It’s a pretty well established fact that the ultimate objective of college is to get a degree in something. However, that certainly does not mean that college is all about classes. I’d say that for most students, it’s about 50% class/education, and 50% social stuff. But hey, what else would you expect from several thousand 20-somethings all in one place together? For the sake of our collective college student mental health, we all need to get out and do some fun stuff every once in a while!

Seeing as eating is probably one of the top social activities that we humans partake in, us gluten free eaters need to be prepared for just about every occasion where food will be present, and we may or may not be able to eat it. Whether it be a tailgate BBQ or a nice dinner out with your girlfriends, here are some scenarios that I have come up with, and how you might approach them…

{You and Your Friends Want to Go Out for a Meal}
Have a repertoire of restaurants that you can safely eat at in the area of your campus. This way, you’ll be able to make suggestions as to where you can eat out- most of the time, your friends will actually appreciate this because no one really likes the burden of having to make executive decisions. For example, when my friends want to go out for dinner, I will immediately suggest Chipotle, Garbanzos, or Tokyo Joes, because I know that I can eat safely at all of these places. They are also fast and relatively inexpensive, which is a plus for college students.

{You Go to a Restaurant with Friends, and There Are No Gluten Free Options}
Avoid this anxiety and discomfort altogether by always having a snack with you. It will give you peace of mind to know that you won’t starve to death, and it makes you (and your eating friends) feel less awkward if you have at least a little something to nosh on. A Larabar might not fill that void in your heart that is just craving some chicken wings, but it will most certainly be better than eating nothing at all.

{You Are Invited to A BBQ, Dinner Party, Team Picnic, etc.}
Do not, do not, do not, turn down an invitation just because you are nervous about the food options. I remember when I was a new celiac and I turned into a hermit of sorts because I was overly nervous about not having any food options and/or getting sick from food prepared by others. When in doubt, simply eat a large meal beforehand so that you are not hungry and just get a soda or something else to drink. Eating is great, but it doesn’t determine whether or not you will have a good time. Another thing you can do is bring some gluten free food with you to contribute. Everyone loves free food, and it will be a great conversation starter when you say that it is gluten free.

{Someone Has Invited You to a Birthday Party Dinner}
First step is to bug the person about where this dinner will take place. Get the name and location of the restaurant, and Google like a mad man! Do some undercover work– check out the online menu, see if anyone has eaten gluten free there before, and try to get a vibe of how nice/expensive the restaurant is (oftentimes, the fancier the restaurant, the more they know about gluten free). Also, be sure to Google the name of the restaurant along with the term gluten free. For example: “Hacienda, gluten free”. This will pull up any reviews or postings about the restaurant and their gluten free friendliness level. If there is zilch online, either call or email the chef at the restaurant so that you can at least warn them of your special dietary needs so that they aren’t overwhelmed when you get there for the birthday party.

{You Are Eating Somewhere with an Interactive Food Element}
Take for example, Benihanas or the Melting Pot. These places both feature dining that is mixed with entertainment, and they also present an eating environment that is waiting for cross contamination. At a place like the Melting Pot, be sure to notify the waiter of you gluten free-ness. If you don’t you will be sharing a pot of cheese with people who are dipping bread into the same cheese that you are dipping your gluten free foods into. NOT GOOD. If you are going to a place like Beni Hanas (with an open grill and mass cooking), be sure to tell them that you want your food cooked before everyone else’s so that you don’t have any soy sauce or other sauces on your food. Just be careful of places where your food is cooked with everyone else’s food. It can get sketchy.

{Tailgate Time}
I don’t really know how it goes at other schools, but at my school, we have a grilling society that basically makes a bunch of grilled foods in bulk at hockey game tailgates/BBQs. They are fantastic, and their food is always amazing, but unfortunately it’s hard to tell if I can always eat it or not. Sometimes it is slathered in mysterious BBQ sauce, slapped on a bun, or cooked in too-close-to-call proximity with glutenous foods. When in doubt, just don’t do it. I know that those ribs look amazing, and you could really go for a hot dog, but just don’t do it. Bring your own food with you, or just get a soda. If there are roasted veggies available as an option, go for it! Otherwise, be weary of BBQ food.

Bottom line: dont be a hermit just because you can’t eat gluten. That would mean you are letting the gluten win. Gluten sucks. Let’s show gluten that we can do just fine without it.


One thought on “Living Social Gluten Freely

  1. ok so maybe this is dumb, but i always forget that soy is a no-no 😦 bummer about that one!also, i get excited whenever i see gluten-free at restaurants, like that shmancy pasta place in cherry creek we went on our "date" hahaha

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