Celiac-Friendly Work Lunches & Events

by | G+ Amy Leger

Yikes! Is there such a thing? Earlier this month I posted a blog about navigating work lunches, parties and happy hours with the gluten-free diet. I asked readers to chime in on what they do. I was genuinely surprised at most of the answers. I thought more people would talk about their stealth-like ways they would get a gluten-free meal without letting the boss know. Instead what I’m hearing is that many people still avoid eating at these functions. But as I am writing and editing this post I find I am asking many more questions about myself and the future for my celiac daughter and exchange student.

Opting for a Gluten-Free Snack

Most people who offered feedback on this topic said they eat before or after the work event. Laura told me she was diagnosed with celiac disease in April, so this will be her first holiday season eating gluten-free. “So far I’ve managed through the summer barbecues by eating beforehand so as to avoid being hungry and tempted,” Laura said. “At weddings I hover over the raw vegetable platters and eat mostly shrimp cocktail.”

“Easy, I try to stay full,” JB told me. He says he does this by having many snacks with him wherever he goes. This includes Trader Joe’s dark chocolate with almonds, Pamela’s Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Minis, a “trail mix” of sorts including almonds, banana chips and raisins. He also keeps LaraBars handy at all times. “The hard part is avoiding feeling sorry for myself. Ironically, that seems to be easier when I’m talking about it – those sharing/teaching conversations are fulfilling and help remind me how lucky I am,” JB wrote. “I’m so much more aware about nutrition (now) than most of the rest of the crowd at the Holiday Trough of Excess!”

Mary tells me she makes sure she has a gluten-free snack with her also – her choice is pumpkin seeds. “I will generally bring something to share [at] parties.” Mary also mentioned, “…although avoiding cross contamination in these cases can be difficult.”

Karen considers these holiday parties a great time to meet people instead of eating. “I eat before every event…then I don’t even look at what is being served and I network or have a glass of wine, relax and enjoy.”

Susan did mention trying to influence the menu at times. “I like to either help with the arrangement to ensure a few gluten-free contributions,” she says. Susan also recommends bringing something gluten-free to share with others, “…this helps others understand that gluten-free can be good and brings more awareness for the next holiday get-together.” These recommendations are all good tips and hopefully will help many celiacs.

Realities of Living with Celiac Disease

Alright, in all honesty, I really can’t help my astonishment that many people still avoid even trying to eat at these functions. I took the StrengthFinder 2.0 test this year and I found out I am an Includer, Responsibility, Consistency, Harmony, and Relator. These are all things that I think breed “the principle of the thing” that fires up in me on this issue. So please know this is where my surprise comes from.

So what is keeping some celiacs from asking for gluten-free accommodations? Is it that many celiacs have been shot down so many times from different restaurants? Or maybe they have “paid for it” by trying to order gluten-free only for to later have a reaction? Or it could be as plain and simple as many celiacs want to be in control of their own destiny.

After all this discussion, I now find myself asking, am I the one who’s not realistic? My exchange student with celiac disease eats before or after going out with her friends about 50% of the time. She even went with friends to a restaurant that had a gluten-free menu, but she didn’t ask for it once she got there, and didn’t eat. Will Emma eventually do something similar; not feel confident enough to ask — or worse –not eat if Mom isn’t around to help with the “gluten-free stuff”? So I think I’m raising strong, smart young ladies with celiac disease who I hope will ask about accommodations for a gluten-free meal – at an event or work lunch. But now I am wondering does society beat it out of them as they get out into the real world?

This is an extremely interesting topic to me. I still welcome your feedback. Since I’m not the celiac in my family I know you may think it’s easy for me to judge from the outside. I am a strong believer in equality. If I were organizing a work lunch or party, I would want someone to tell me if they had diet restrictions, so they could enjoy the event as much as anyone else.

I am going gluten-free starting in January. I want to see if it helps with my migraines and if the diet will help me get healthier in general. I plan to talk about this often after the holidays. In the meantime, I am going to investigate further and check in with organizers for big work events to see what they think about specialized diets and how they would want food-sensitive employees to handle these situations.

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One Response to “Celiac-Friendly Work Lunches & Events”

  1. Dear Savvy Celiac,

    Thanks for your article! I thought I could make a helpful comment about why so many people don’t ask for accommodations and choose to eat at home. It probably is because most of them have become sick as a result of things like a “gluten free” peanut butter cookie made by a friend at a party because there were bread crumbs in the PB used for the cookie. Also, a lot of us can’t even bother with a gluten free menu items are in a contaminated kitchen like the Outback or PF Changs. Since you mentioned you just started your GF diet in Jan. you may see over time that you become more sensitive to gluten. Then you can’t tolerate the contamination any more and it is really just not worth the risk anymore. I’m tired of losing a week of my life so I choose to not eat most of the time too at events.

    Thanks and Good luck!!

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