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5 Things You Can Do to Make a Gluten-Free Friend Feel Loved

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I’ve been gluten-free for nearly seven years. For me and millions of others, a gluten-free diet is a medical necessity, not a fad.

Do you know someone who’s gluten-free? Here are five simple ways to love on them.  

1. Choose a safe restaurant. Inviting me out to eat? Awesome! Look for restaurants with gluten-free menus or offerings and ask your friend if it is safe for them. Some places that advertise gluten-free food don’t actually know how to avoid gluten cross-contamination in their kitchens.

I actually had a chef at a pizza restaurant tell me that I could eat their gluten-free pizza even though it was prepared on the exact same surface as the regular wheat-filled pizzas because “our oven is really, really hot so it burns off the gluten.” *facepalm*  

2. Let them cook with you. Having your celiac buddy over for dinner? Awesome! For the first time or two, he may want to help you cook. It’s not that he doesn’t trust you, it’s just that it takes time to learn what contains gluten since it can end up in surprising places (salad dressings, wooden spoons and dishwashing sponges, to name just a few).

Many gluten-free folks have learned to cook pretty well out of necessity, and having them in your kitchen can simplify your ingredient-checking and cross-contamination worries. Plus, cooking together is fun!  

3. Don’t get offended. When I ask you a bazillion questions about how the meal was prepared, it isn’t about you — it’s about me. I’ve learned over the years how easy it is to slip up when you aren’t living gluten-free every day. My own parents (both “normal” eaters) make me sick from time to time, and they are ridiculously careful about preparing food for me.

Maybe you worked really hard on those gluten-free cookies, but when you put them on the platter with others containing wheat, they became glutened.

If I have to turn down food you worked hard on or a restaurant you love, please understand that it breaks my heart. You responding with grace and not anger? That helps a whole lot.  

4. Provide a prepackaged snack. I met a friend for a playdate this week, and she brought a muffin for my preschooler (he’s a “normal” eater) and a prepackaged bag of gluten-free pretzels for me. Being included in snack time by being provided safe food makes us feel SO loved. Odds are, if everyone else is hungry, we are, too.

Prepackaged gluten-free foods can’t have come in contact with gluten, so they give us peace of mind. I didn’t have to ask my friend if my pretzels had been near the muffin, or how they were prepared. You don’t even have to shop at a specialty store to buy gluten-free these days, since most mainstream groceries (and even gas stations!) carry a few things. Even naturally “wrapped” fruit like a banana or an orange will do.

5. Remember it’s just a small part of who they are. I don’t mind talking about my gluten intolerance, but it’s not all I want to talk about. I’m also a writer, a pastor, a mom, a runner and about a million other things. I’m happy to answer questions, but then let’s talk about other things, OK?

On behalf of gluten-free eaters everywhere: Thank you!

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Originally published: June 2, 2016
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