Supporting that Special Celiac in Your Life
When I first started blogging, my intentions were to provide resources and support for people with celiac disease and food allergies. However, I know from personal experience how difficult it is to follow a strict diet day in and day out. It helps a ton to have support from people in my life. It dawned on me that some of you might be visiting this site because someone close to you has celiac disease and you want to learn more about how to support their gluten free lifestyle. So I came up with some tips for you. I’ve divided them up based on the type of relationship you have with that special celiac in your life (family, friend, partner). But any and all of these tips could be useful.
Family: Don’t let your celiac be the odd one out
Having a food allergy can be isolating because you often have to watch people around you eat food you can’t have. I’ve gotten some major cases of food jealousy, having to hear someone rave about a treat that would make me sick. I think it’s important to help people with food allergies feel like they fit in, especially when they’re with family. One of the ways you can do this is by including everyone in the family in the gluten free fun.
If you have a gluten free child, I recommend that you avoid making separate meals just for them while the rest of the family eats a different meal. Instead, I encourage you to serve gluten free foods that the whole family can enjoy. Examples of gluten free crowd-pleasers are black bean brownies and gluten free wraps. You can find these recipes on my blog.
Black bean brownies: https://www.thesplendorousceliac.com/blog/bo3cn8jo16b0hvg3qid1uhf1fwcedm
With a bit of creativity, you can find ways to make meals gluten free, tasty, and fun for everyone. Even for adult members of the family. My siblings and I didn’t get diagnosed with celiac disease until we were adults. Now when we get together at the holidays, we have to figure out ways to have gluten free feasts. One of the ways we achieve this is our annual fondue. All the members of our family enjoy the fondue and it’s made up entirely of gluten free items, so no one ends up feeling left out.
Fondue - the Swiss version of hot pot. When we get together at the holidays, fonduing is the way my family bonds over a gluten free meal. You can make your fondue session a bit healthier by using broth in the pots instead of oil.
Friends: Try new things with your celiac
If you’ve done some reading up on celiac disease, you might’ve read that it takes just 20 ppm of gluten to cause a reaction. What does that even mean? Part per million (ppm) is a way of expressing concentration. To visualize 20 ppm, imagine taking 20 milligrams of gluten (remember, there are 1000 milligrams in a gram) and mixing it into 1 kilogram of sugar. If you put a scoop of that sugar into your celiac friend’s coffee, that’s enough to cause a response from their immune system (ie: a reaction). I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it is bananas!
One of the consequences of this bit of trivia is that contamination happens very easily. This means that, if your friend goes out for dinner, even if they order a gluten free dish, it can get contaminated and cause a reaction. This is a lot more likely to happen if you’re ordering from a restaurant that serves a lot of gluten-y items (like Boston Pizza, Bread Bar, etc). As a result, things can get tricky when you want to socialize with your celiac companion, because food and hanging out go hand in hand. Who doesn't like to treat themselves and go out to dinner with friends?
I know it can be difficult to figure out which restaurant to go to that’ll make everyone in your friend group happy. And having to find a gluten free spot can make it even harder. But please, don’t be that group of friends that picks a place with no safe options for your celiac. That puts them in the position of either having to skip out on the outing or ordering a drink while watching everyone else eat (been there, hated that).
If you’re open to trying different cuisines, it’ll make it easier and more enjoyable for your celiac to join your outings. Instead of going out for Italian, try going to an Indian or Thai restaurant. Places like these serve lots of dishes that are naturally gluten free, like curry. The more gluten free dishes a restaurant serves, the safer your friend’s meal will be from contamination.
Also, in my personal experience, independently owned restaurants tend to be less likely to contaminate my food, versus chains or franchises. I think this is because, for small businesses, accommodating service is key for drawing in and keeping customers. So they put in the extra effort to keep your food safe. Additionally, small businesses tend to get into niche markets, like gluten free and/or vegan cuisine. Some of these restaurants only have gluten items on the menu, which will make for a stress-free meal for your celiac.
If you’re a bit skeptical of whether you’ll enjoy going to establishments that only serve gluten free food, I have some recommendations that I think will change your mind. If you live in the Greater Hamilton Area or near Brantford, try any or all of these:
Planted (Hamilton, ON; gluten free & vegan): https://www.plantedin.ca/
Kelly’s Bake Shoppe (Burlington, ON; gluten free & vegan): https://www.kellysxo.com/
Paris Gluten Free Marketplace (Paris, ON; gluten free): http://www.parisglutenfreemarketplace.com/
I hope you’re as close with your celiac friend as these two donkey buddies - close enough that you’ll try new and interesting gluten free foods with them!
Partners: Have your celiac’s back
“Are you that sensitive to gluten?” “So what happens if you do eat gluten?” These are the sorts of rude and intrusive questions your celiac probably hears all the time. I’ve been in social situations where I’ve felt cornered by gluten free haters. Unfortunately, in the past I’ve had partners who would stay quiet while I had to defend my diet and my disease on my own. It made me feel like my partner didn’t really care about the issue that deeply impacts my everyday life. What means so much to me is when my partner has my back in these situations. Saying that yes, celiac disease is very serious and no, she can’t eat that cupcake if it was touching that gluten-filled muffin, makes me feel cared about and supported. And it’s actually kinda hot.
If you have your gluten free lover’s back, you’ll be as hot as Ryan Gosling. Image source: flickr.com
I hope these tips were helpful. Give your celiac a hug today and leave a comment answering this question:
What’s one thing you’ve learned about celiac disease or the gluten free diet that surprised you?