Beetle Juice and the Sand Snake
It's easy to feel like food controls your life when you live with a restricted diet due to allergies, food intolerances, or other medical issues. At home, it’s easy because YOU are in control, know your kitchen, your utensils, WHO IS WASHING THEIR HANDS. You know where there could be possibilities of cross-contamination (if you don’t have a dedicated gluten-free household). But leave the house and suddenly the world becomes like that scene in Beetlejuice when Adam leaves the house for the first time and suddenly the outside turns into the desert with the Sand Snake that is trying to eat him. The world outside of their home feel unsafe. Sometimes, that’s how I feel. The world outside of the house can feel scary for people that have allergies and other issues with food ...Ok, so maybe not Sand-Snake-scary, but social situations can be unsettling to say the least.
I'll be damned if I let our restrictive diet restrict our lives. There are so many things we can’t eat already, it’s easy to find yourself in a pity party when you are invited out for the night and find your options rather limited. “Thank you I’ll just have some iceberg lettuce with a side of lemon” I think all of us have been there at one point or another. It’s beyond annoying and frustrating if you haven’t planned right.
So yeah, this lifestyle can really put a crimp in your social life, can’t it? Eventually you just feel like giving up going out anymore. Birthday parties, sporting events, a weekend away with friend, school parties, weddings, benefits and fundraising events, baby showers, etc. They all have this added layer of anxiety with you trying to figure out what/if/how you are going to eat without getting sick. Right? It’s hard.
So What Do You Do When You Have an Event That Involves Food?
Do you contact the host and ask if “allergy” accommodations will be available and hope they don’t cross contaminate? Voice your concerns to the organizer? Eat before, suck it up and watch everyone else eat and indulge? Do you chance it and see if they have anything safe? (NO! This is never an option). Do you bring your own food? And if you bring it yourself, will you be offending anyone? And if you offend anyone, do you care?
FOMO Like most moms, I don’t want my boys to feel left out. They feel left out SO OFTEN as it is….because on top of the fact that they can’t do a combination of gluten, dairy, oats, peanuts, or tree nuts, I also don’t want them eating sugary, packaged crap filled with food dye. Oh does it make their booty’s belch, their behavior reaches a level of crazy I can't manage, and the lack of impulse control is mind-boggling. And when booty's are letting off some anal acoustics you know their intestines are having a hard time digesting whatever it is they just ate. Pay attention, people…our body tells us so much if we just listen and observe.....but I digress....
So, you know what we do to alleviate the whole issue? We bring our own food. Yes. I. Do. Is it a PIA, yeah, kind of but it's also like...
A Picnic Wherever You Go You could say I am a master at packing for picnics. It’s like we pack for a picnic wherever we go. Weddings, birthday parties, school parties, you name it, we bring our own food. And yep, it does take some extra effort to pre-plan and prep, and call ahead to make sure I’m not stepping on any toes, and for everyone to be aware that I'm bringing our own food due to "medically restricted diets". I have never had an issue as long as I am friendly, direct, and firm. Don’t Be Afraid to Advocate for Yourself The alternatives are as follows (I have experienced these way too many times): Not eating and getting hangry and resentful that everyone else is eating delicious food and cake...and the only thing you remember about that event was being irritated that there was nothing to eat and you were hangry the whole night.
Or you could eat something risking cross-contamination and feeling sick for the rest of the event (and ensuing weeks).
Seriously, who wants to spend evening sneaking away from their date at an event, in a fancy cocktail dress, hobbling down the street to the Burger King, to find a bathroom because you had to make like Snoop and ‘drop it like it’s hot’? I mean, been there, don’t wanna find myself in that bathroom situation again thank you very much.
Sorry for that tangent, and visual for that matter (#notsorry)
How to Prep We had a family wedding last weekend here in town. I prepped the night before and I cooked a whole chicken in the instant pot and made a yummy kale and cabbage salad filled with veggies (my kids favorite to ensure they would eat it). Gluten-free rolls were on the menu, but I forgot them. (#onlyhuman) I put together an appetizer platter of gluten-free cured meats, veggies, hummus and homemade tzatziki with gluten-free crackers. We brought a small cooler. LOL. At the reception, I became intimate and on a first name basis with the kitchen staff. Charm, kindness, and the ability to stay out of their way went a long way. Just for these type of occasions I bought some reusable, BPA-free bento boxes like these below (I learned that glass containers can get REALLY HEAVY). I found these to be the most convenient and easy to use over the past 7 years of experimentation. This doesn’t go for just weddings, but also birthday parties, bat mitzvahs, sporting events (call ahead to speak with someone about accommodation’s to be on the safe side), family gatherings, hangin’ with the girls, ANYTIME there is food involved, we bring our own. BUT, as an added bonus, we often times bring enough to share! It’s fun to introduce people to healthier options while celebrating and showing them that there are a lot of delicious choices when you eat gluten-free!
Food restrictions really forces you out of your comfort zone. Now, I realize that not everyone may feel comfortable doing this. We often care too much about what others think of us or think that you are a bother..... You are not. Shift your mindset. You are advocating for your (and/or your family’s) health and unless that establishment can guarantee your safety, you have every right BY THE U.S. COURT OF LAW that states “it may be necessary and reasonable to allow a person to being in a safe food when they are unable to safely consume the food served at a venue.” This is a big win for us folks. You can and should read more about that awesome initiative here . Use your opportunity to gently educate those around you, you may get a lot of strange looks and “why did you bring your own food?” questions. Instead of getting offended or embarrassed, take the time to explain your issues, what happens if you are exposed to just a crumb or dust (or even <20ppm).
Educate, advocate. Share with them the difference between an allergy and Celiac Disease. Explain cross contamination and the challenges you face and hopefully you can create a new ally. Let them know that just because you have to eat a restricted diet, doesn’t mean you have to live a restricted life. PS - Please keep in mind that there are SO MANY restaurants these days have allergy and gluten-free protocols in place to ensure a safe dining experience for you. It definitely is a bit easier to dine out with a restricted diet these day! However, you still may not feel quite confident enough to advocate for yourself or don't know what questions to ask. Because we don't know what we don't know, right? Here, grab my cheat-sheet for dining out gluten-free: Top Four Tips to Dining-Out Gluten Free