Originally published on Wellness Today.
You get an invitation to a dinner party and your first thought is, “Yes, I’ll be there! Let me RVSP now.” Then reality strikes, and the anxiety sets in: you want to go, but you “can’t” because you follow a gluten-free lifestyle.
Eating gluten-free has improved your health. You no longer experience abdominal bloating, fatigue, joint pain, numbness in the extremities, and headaches, and you’re full of vitality. However, it has put a damper on your social life. You’ve started declining invitations because you’re worried about whether or not there will be something for you to eat, you don’t want to be a nuisance to the host, and you don’t want to be badgered with questions about your food choices. But that’s no way to live, either! This mental toiling can be just as destructive to your social life as gluten is to your body.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat products that gives dough its elasticity. It affects those with celiac disease and non-celiac sensitivity to varying degrees, with the former being characterized by an autoimmune reaction. Six times as many Americans suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity than from celiac disease.
Whether or not you eat gluten shouldn’t determine how you RSVP to social engagements. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to embrace the beauty of bio-individuality and start responding “Yes!” to invitations. Here are 5 simple ways to set a stress-free tone for gluten-free mingling:
1. Scope Out the Situation
Asking the host ahead of time what will be served will empower you to plan ahead and ensure there’s something you can eat. Learn what gluten-free foods will be available, and fill in the gaps. For example, you could bring gluten-free gravy to top the main dish being served, or gluten-free tortillas as a base for the fajitas at a Mexican-themed party. “What will be on the menu?” is an inoffensive but powerful question that can eliminate the anxiety you experience when determining how to RSVP to social engagements.
2. Educate the Host
Your host wants to make sure everyone has a good time, and you were invited because your presence is important to the host. Call ahead of time and explain that you follow a gluten-free lifestyle to support your health. Be clear about what gluten is and where it’s found, and don’t be shy about mentioning cross-contamination. Don’t demand anything of the host, and tell them that you’re happy to bring your own food, but let them know precisely what they would need to do if they did want to accommodate you. Most hosts will ask questions because they want to do everything to guarantee you have a fun time.
3. BYOD (Bring Your Own Dish!)
Cook your favorite gluten-free dish and bring enough for everyone. The dish could complement whatever is being served, or it could be a gluten-free version of the main dish. Try a fabulous gluten-free pasta salad to go alongside BBQ fare, or gluten-free lasagna if that’s the main course. Whatever the theme or holiday, there’s a plethora of scrumptious gluten-free dishes that will have guests asking for seconds. It’ll also show skeptical folk that eating gluten-free can actually be delicious!
4. Don’t Skip Dessert!
This may mean that you get baking, or that you order your favorite treat from a gluten-free bakery (my favorite is Jennifer’s Way Bakery in NYC). I love when gluten-eating guests have a slice of gluten-free cake from a bakery and say that it’s better than any cake they’ve ever had. Pull out those gluten-free wild flours and put your creativity to work!
5. Make Some Memories
Enjoy yourself and the company around you! Just like anybody else, you deserve to relax and feel good about yourself. After all, human connection is at the heart of social engagements—not whatever is on your plate. With a little planning, you can feel well, keep your immune system and tummy happy, and nurture meaningful relationships with friends and family. You deserve to have a good time: so shift your mindset, be proactive, and RSVP “Yes!” to that 4th of July barbecue without any stress!