Thursday, October 25, 2012

Farewell to Florida -- Tips for Making Gluten-Free Guests Feel At Home

It's been real, Florida. And we'll be back.

6 days in Fleming Island, Fl. Complete with Winn Dixie stores that have separate gluten-free sections, a Mellow Mushroom, Chick-Fil-A, and... oh yeah.. beaches. Beaches are good.

We ate well here. Mostly in my sister-in-law's kitchen. Grilled ribs, twice baked potatoes, gluten-free pancakes, gluten-free pulled pork barbecue, coleslaw, homemade black-eyed peas... I could go on!

And we not only ate well here, we were welcomed here. We felt at home.

Want to know how to make a Celiac or somebody who's gluten sensitive or allergic... or ANYBODY with food allergies --> feel at home?  Here are a few tips, all of which were put into practice without any help from me by my husband's wonderful sister Lisa and her family:

  • Offer naturally gluten-free foods for meals that the whole family can enjoy.
  • Going out to eat? Ask the gluten-free guest where they would like to eat. If you have favorite places in your area call them ahead of time and ask if they have a gluten-free menu. 
  • Ask your gluten-free guest ahead of time what types of snacks they enjoy. If you can find gluten-free crackers, chips, and even cookies available in your local stores: surprise your guest with a gluten-free item. 
  • Have lots of healthy, naturally gluten-free snacks available such as: fresh fruits and vegetables, roasted nuts like pecans, peanuts, or cashews, boiled eggs and/or cheese sticks in the fridge, etc... 
  • If you are making regular meals WITH gluten along with gluten-free meals... make SURE to prepare the gluten-free meals FIRST with clean utensils, bowls, chopping boards, and cookware, on a freshly cleaned surface. 
  • Don't make a big deal about it. Sure, it takes some preparation and extra thought, but help your guests to feel normal by not making a big deal out their dietary restrictions. If they want to talk about it and share with you, awesome! But many gluten-free folks can feel like they are "putting people out" or making things difficult by having to be different. This is especially important when you have gluten-free kids visiting! They need to feel like normal kids, not "the problem" kid... 
  • Relax. Many people have multiple food sensitivities and/or food allergies that can be a challenge. If that's the case, ask your guest if they would prefer to cook for themselves and ask for suggestions on how you can help (ie... purchasing certain groceries, what special equipment they might need, etc...) In some cases it may be easier to allow your guest to have full control over his or her menu while they are visiting. Don't be offended if they cannot eat your food, they are simply looking out for their health and don't want to be sick while they are enjoying your company! 

What are your tips for feeding guests with strict dietary requirements? Do you cook for them? Buy groceries? Allow them to cook for themselves? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

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