Educating family & friends about gluten-free
04/01/12 17:36 Filed in: Lifestyle Management
Holidays and special family events are supposed to be filled with fun, laughter, and lightheartedness. For those of us with dietary requirements, often times it is met with dread and fear - with good reason.
Easter is only one week away. In many families, this means Easter Dinner at someone's house other than your own. Oh, the humanity...
Not only was today Palm Sunday, but it was also First Communion in our church. The kitchen and fellowship hall was a-buzz with activity.
A family was holding their First Communion celebration in the fellowship hall, and everyone was bringing their contributions to the feast: deviled eggs, sliced ham, calico beans, sloppy joes, cakes, pies and desserts of all types. OH MY!
As I was watching all of this food pour in, I'm thinking...OMG, what a gluten-free nightmare...
Peggy [my wife] and I were in the kitchen cleaning up from communion, we were invited to take part in the celebratory feast. A family member knows I am gluten-free and said: "Oh gosh, I'm sorry, we don't have any gluten-free buns, but there's plenty of other things for you...". We politely declined, but really appreciated the heartfelt invitation.
Dining out in a restaurant is hard, but I think eating at someone's house or a hosted event is even harder. Most times the host or hostess is unfamiliar with the gluten-free diet and the concept of cross contact. Also, professionally trained chefs may not always know the ins-and-outs of a gluten-free diet.
It's all about education.
I don't blame friends, family and loved ones for not knowing about gluten-free. In fact, it's our [the gluten-free community] responsibility to impart that knowledge to them. If we don't do the education, who will?
In the end, if the people in our lives do not know how to accommodate our needs, we have no one else to blame but ourselves - to a certain degree.
Of course, some people just don't get it no matter how hard we try. If we've done our best to educate and it is just not sticking - at least we gave it our best shot. Sometimes family members present us with the most significant challenges.
The whole education process doesn't happen overnight. It takes time to re-wire decades-old engrained thoughts, actions, and behaviors. Sometimes - they will forget. It might be frustrating, for you and your students, but please remember: be kind and be patient. Remember, all of this is new to them - just as it was new to you. How long did it take you to adjust to your new normal? Don’t forget, you live with this 24x7x365 - probably not the case for your friends or family members.
During their metamorphosis, we have to make allowances [bring our own food, eat beforehand, etc.] until we are comfortable in their knowledge and abilities. Sadly, in some cases, that day may never come, despite our best efforts.
Since 2003, I've had a lot of "educational opportunities" with our friends and family. They now know and understand cross-contact, they will verify products/ingredients with me, even save the labels for me to inspect. My family and friends have been open to learning and making things safe for me. I connect with enough of the gluten-free community to know their behavior is not the norm. I am lucky...or...have I merely done an excellent job at educating them. I suspect it's a little of both.
Even though my family and friends are exceptional, I always bring at least one dish that I know is safe. Often times, I'll bring a second dish of the same food just for me that won't be put out for the masses. Also, we try to host as many family events as we can so we have as much control as possible.
I'd like to share some of the tools I've used to educate my friends and family members...
Gluten-Free Living - Explaining the Gluten-Free Diet - “While the holiday season should be an uplifting time of year, you may be dreading what your family has to say about your gluten-free diet. Sure, some loved ones support your dietary requirements, but others just don’t get it. In fact, some can be downright rude. How do you cope?”
GIG of ECW - Becoming a Gluten-Free Champion - “Today, there are a lot of resources available to those who are gluten-free. However, very few are designed to help you – the person who loves and cares for their gluten-free loved ones – the gluten-free champion.
You may not know it, but hiding beneath your street clothes is a superhero’s suit just waiting to be called into action.
We have a few tips and wealth of information in The Gluten-Free Champion’s Academy (see below) to help you make the leap.”
BeyondCeliac.org: Seriously, Celiac Disease - This is an effort to educate non-diagnosed family members about the importance of getting tested. As we’ve [often] discussed, our own families can be the most difficult. We talk, we educate, we lead by example. Whatever we do, has no effect. They just don’t listen to us. Celiac disease is genetic, it runs in families. If one person in the family has it, there is a chance someone else in the family has it too (1 in 22 for a mother/father/sibling) - they may not even know it. It’s very possible they could have it, and not have any symptoms at all! Be aware a single negative test does not absolve a person for life. Celiac Disease can be triggered at any age - at any time. And so the struggle begins… Family members need to be tested, but getting them to do it is another story. This is where Seriously, Celiac Disease campaign comes in.
Living Gluten Free for Dummies by Danna Korn - I highly recommend this book. I see this book as a continuation or update of her Wheat free Worry Free book. It also goes a bit further in depth on certain subjects. There is no need to own both. Get this one if you don't have either book. Again, a great book to loan out.
Wheat Free Worry Free by Danna Korn - I got this book shortly after I went GF. Danna has a great persona in her books. Her style is very conversational, easy to read and fun! She includes humor in her books, which I think is a great idea. This is a great book to give to friends and loved ones. Often times they have a hard time understanding what you're going thru and why you have to do it. I lent this to my Mom, after that, she seemed to "get it"...or at least stopped questioning why I couldn't have ___________ ;).
A Celiac is Coming For Dinner - This is an excellent article from Caryn Taity about accommodating gluten-free guests. I have given this article to several family and friends.
Cooking for Gluten-Free Family or Friends - Amy Leger [aka The Savvy Celiac], covers some of the basics.
GIG of ECW - Gluten-Free Diet Boot Camp - I often get asked for information on celiac disease and gluten-free. Either it's someone that is just starting to investigate gluten as the source of their health issues, or it's someone that is just newly diagnosed and looking at how/where to start. This is a collection of many different links.
GIG of ECW - Guide to Gluten Cross-Contact - This guide strictly addresses gluten cross-contact and how to minimize the risk.
GIG of ECW - A Day in the Life - Living in a Mixed House - This is an article I had written several years ago for this support group. It explains how we handle having gluten in the house. This is knowledge and experience I have gained over the years - much of it I've imparted to friends and family members.
So, You Want to Bake Gluten-Free Cookies - I created this for a few non-gluten-free people that wanted to bake GF cookies. We put together a GF Cookie Baking Kit: This document that included the recipes, the proper amount of GF flour for a specific amount of cookies. I cover the basics of gluten, gluten-free baking and cross contact - enough information so they can safely make GF cookies for someone. Note: You can tell by the logo, this was done before we became a Gluten Intolerance Group branch in May 2011.
Celiac Disease - Stuff you should know, but didn't know to ask - A presentation I did for our church. Since our Pastor is also gluten-free, I wanted to educate the other members. This presentation covers the history of celiac disease, what it is, what is gluten, is there a safe amount of gluten, cross-contact. Our church now has an entirely gluten-free communion. Since the host is gluten-free so there is no chance of cross-contact. Note: You can tell by the logo, this was done before we became a Gluten Intolerance Group branch in May 2011.
01/21/198 - Fix broken and update links.
07/21/18 - Added Gluten-Free Living’s article & GIGECW Becoming a GF Champion
12/16/16 - Added BeyondCeliac.org's Seriously, Celiac Disease
10/29/13 - Added Gluten-Free Diet Camp.
6/24/2013 - Added Guide to Gluten Cross Contamination.