5 Dos and Don’ts for Hosting Guests with Food Allergies

Since it is still Celiac Awareness Month, I’m continuing to focus my blog post topics on raising awareness for celiac disease. This week I’m talking about how to host people with celiac disease and other food allergies! It can be challenging for all involved parties when you’re hosting an event and there are people with celiac or other food allergies attending. I know you want all your guests to be able to enjoy the food and have a great time! Your guest with a food allergy also wants to be able to enjoy the event without feeling sick and without adding extra stress onto your night. We understand that it’s a big deal to host someone with an allergy and it can be overwhelming so we want to make it as easy as possible for you! That’s why I put together by Top 5 Dos and Don’ts for hosting people with celiac disease and other food allergies.

Do: Discuss the menu ahead of time.

Prior to your event, decide what you’d like to serve and whether you plan to cook it yourself or get it catered. Then you can decide whether it is reasonable to you to offer allergy-friendly options. Once you’ve made this decision, discuss the options with your friend. This gives your friend time to plan accordingly and decide if they are comfortable with the options or not.

Do: Ask your friend if they’d be more comfortable bringing their own food.

After you’ve discussed the menu, ask your friend how they feel about the plan and whether they would be more comfortable bringing their own food. I know you want to be a great host and provide food for your guests but asking this question isn’t rude and doesn’t make you a bad host. A person with celiac or another food allergy will have lots of experience bringing their own food to an event. We would much rather bring our own food that we enjoy than not be able to eat anything the whole day/night. This is often especially helpful when it is a child with a food allergy/celiac disease. Parents of children with food allergies really don’t want their children to feel left out! They would love to send their child with a safe allergen free cupcake for their child to enjoy along with the other children.

Do: Check labels and only use products labeled gluten free (or allergen free).

This is so important! It’s easy to assume certain food items are gluten free when they might not actually be safe. Check all the ingredients lists before adding anything to your gluten free options, especially seasonings and sauces! Gluten can be hidden anywhere. If you’re unsure, ask your friend if it’s something they are comfortable with you using. Not everything has to be labeled gluten free but it’s definitely the safer option to choose labeled products.

Do: Give your friend a thorough explanation of the food you’ve prepared.

Don’t expect your friend to eat prepared food without a thorough explanation. If you’ve used packaged food, save the package and show them the ingredients list. It’s not that we don’t think you care, it’s that we’ve experienced many people thinking a food is gluten free when it isn’t actually safe. It will reassure us to know you’ve taken the time to remember the ingredients you used and show us the package.

Do: Allow your friends to serve themselves first.

This significantly decreases the risk of cross-contamination from other guests using the same serving utensils for multiple items. Serving us first shows that you know the risk of cross-contamination and you’re doing your best to avoid it. Even if it is a plated/catered meal, such as a wedding, allergy friendly options are often served first. It’s an added reassurance for those of us concerned about cross-contamination. If this isn’t possible or doesn’t make sense with the lay out of the event, ensure our food is carefully marked.

hosting friends with celiac
hosting with food allergies

Don’t: Assume all allergies are the same.

There are different severities of allergies. You might have a friend who avoids gluten by choice and is fine with contamination. You might have another friend who can’t even have food prepared in the same kitchen as allergen containing products. It’s always important to understand your friend’s specific concerns and allergies. Some people aren’t as strict as others when it comes to their diet.

Don’t: Take on more than you can handle.

It is stressful hosting an event and we get that it can be more stressful to have to be careful about allergies. Be honest with us. We will appreciate the honesty! We are always happy to offer options that are safe for us and don’t add extra stress or time onto your busy schedule.

Don’t: Forget about cross-contamination!

Please don’t go to all the work of preparing the ingredients for your gluten free option and then contaminate it in the cooking/serving process. When preparing the gluten free parts of the meal, do your best to follow these rules:

  • Don’t use any condiments that you might have previously double dipped with a gluten-containing utensil. Consider this when using butter, mayonnaise, etc.
  • Don’t use the same cutting board/knives for gluten-containing and gluten free foods. Have a separate cooking surface for your gluten free food option.
  • Wash your hands before touching the gluten free foods.
  • Plate them separately on different serving platters.

Don’t: Be offended if your friend chooses to bring their own food or not eat the food you offer them. It has nothing to do with you!

Despite all the work you’ve done to make your friend feel comfortable, there is still a chance they would prefer to bring their own food. Maybe they are having an off week or recently got glutened from eating out. Maybe they trust you but feel nervous about the other guests. Maybe they just know they will be able to enjoy the day more if they bring their own food. Whatever the reason, don’t be offended!! It just means your friend wants to make sure they can have a good time, enjoy the food, and not go home feeling sick.

Don’t: Be afraid to host someone with a food allergy!

We want to be part of group gatherings and we understand it can be hard to cook for us safely. We are completely okay with bringing our own food so we can enjoy the party and so can you! We will be so grateful to you for just acknowledging our allergy and having an open discussion with us.

Do you have celiac disease and are you looking for additional support? Or do you have a loved one with celiac disease and would like to learn more? Please check out my Celiac Awareness Month blog post to learn more. You can then visit my clinics page to find out more about my locations and how we can work together. I know it can be challenging adjusting to life with celiac disease but it does get easier, especially when you have the right support system! 

Emily Martin