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It’s that time of year…birthdays, weddings, graduations, holiday picnics, end-of-school-year parties, etc. A fun time for sure, but also difficult for those of us following a special diet, like the gluten-free, casein-free diet. However, there is no need to despair! You can succeed in both eating foods that won’t make you sick and have a good time. Here are four tips on how to do this –

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you accept an invitation or make plans to attend an event, don’t be afraid to ask the host or organizer what foods they plan to serve.  It may help to ask for very specific information about the ingredients or preparation, like, “Will the juice be 100% juice, or a juice drink?” Or, “Can I have my burger/hot dog without a bun?” By having the knowledge of the menu, you can better prepare yourself and determine if you need to bring alternatives. (You may feel more comfortable about this if you explain to the host that you and/or your family are on a special diet.) This does get easier the more you do it!

2. Don’t be afraid to take your own food to an event. If you find out that the menu is not going to be GFCF, or that there may only be one or 2 things that you can eat, be bold enough to pack your own cooler of food to the event. It’s actually more comfortable to take food that you can eat than standing around at the BBQ and eating lots of watermelon and nothing else due to your GFCF diet! I do recommend letting your host know that you are bringing your own food, and why, so that it’s not awkward when you show up with your own meal.

3. Talk with your children about the food at the event before you attend. This doesn’t have to be a difficult situation for your children, if you prepare them.  I always tell my son, before we go to the event, what types of food and drink will be offered and what we will be eating. If I am planning to take alternative foods, I try to encourage my son’s input in the decision process so I know he’ll have something he likes at the event.

4. Be prepared to be asked questions about your food. This is another situation that can be a bit awkward, but it doesn’t have to be if you are prepared. It’s in our human nature to be inquisitive, so expect that people will ask why you aren’t eating a bun with your burger, or why you brought your own food. Prepare your children too; my son is now very confident in telling strangers that he can’t eat gluten or dairy. (If an eight-year-old can do it, so can you!)

Finally, going to these social events can be much less stressful and more fun, if you follow the above four tips and prepare yourself and your family properly. If you have additional tips, or stories of how you handled certain events, please comment below!

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