Many people spend time with extended family on holidays and sometimes much more often than that. That frequently means eating together, or sometimes family members being responsible for feeding gluten-free children.
Whatever the situation, it’s important that family understands the need for a strict gluten free diet, and it can be very frustrating and difficult when family members do not take it seriously. It’s not unusual for people to think it’s okay for you to eat just a little bit of gluten. You have to get them to understand that it’s not okay and that you need to avoid even very small amounts.
Here are some tips to help you get family members on board with your gluten-free diet.
Don’t use the word “diet”
Your family and friends are used to hearing the word “diet” used in situations where people choose to eat a certain way because for various reasons they want to. In serious situations like a life-threatening peanut allergy, the way someone eats is not referred to as a peanut-free diet. People say things like, “He has a peanut allergy and can’t eat any peanuts, even trace amounts.”
If people aren’t taking you seriously, use more serious words such as diagnosis, medical conditions, symptoms, disease, and treatment. Maybe it should be called a gluten-free treatment rather than a gluten-free diet.
Hold a meeting
This can help add to giving the situation a feeling of seriousness. It also makes sure that everyone hears all the information. Plan what you need to say. Have notes for yourself and make sure everything gets covered.
Remember, it’s important to communicate not only medical information but also your feelings. If the situation is emotionally difficult for you, let them know. If you have a child who is gluten free and old enough to understand and communicate how bad it makes them feel, let your child do some of the talking.
Ask someone to advocate for you
Sometimes hearing a different person say that this is a real and serious issue can make a difference. If one family member gets it but others don’t, ask that person to talk to the rest of the family on your behalf. Otherwise, ask a friend, medical professional, or dietitian to talk to them or as least write a note that you could give to them.
Ask how you can make things easier for them
If it’s a family gathering, always offer to bring food. If someone (like grandparents) will be watching a gluten-free child, offer to send food along. Find out what other things would be helpful. Maybe they need a list of safe food ideas or a list of unsafe foods.
It can be overwhelming for anyone trying to remember everything about how to be gluten free. It takes extra effort for people to accommodate you, so use your manners. Say please and thank you often.
Stand firm but don’t be unreasonable
Don’t let someone talk you or your child into eating just a little bit of gluten, but on the other hand, don’t expect everyone to eat completely gluten free when you’re around. They’ll hate you for it. Take precautions to avoid cross contamination from gluten-containing foods. And share your delicious gluten-free food with them. They will likely be pleasantly surprised.
Share your ideas
I have been blessed with a family that is very understanding and accommodating, but I know that many of you have struggled with people who are just the opposite. You can help others in the same situation by sharing in the comments what has worked for you.