Venturing out to eat in an environment that is not carefully gluten free is intimidating, and the possibility of accidentally eating something that will make you sick for weeks will cause anxiety in anyone.
Bring your own gluten free food if you cannot be sure that are any options at the venue. Check on food options ahead of time by looking at menus and asking what their rules are about outside food. Advise them of your food allergy and ask for exceptions if needed. Never assume there will be gluten free options available.
There is a sticky line between being social after starting a gluten free diet and offending anyone or breaking rules at establishments with outside food. It is easy to isolate instead of dealing with any of these.
Is It Ok To Bring My Own Gluten Free Food?
If you are accepting an invitation to a party or other social get-together, what they are looking for is your company. Don’t let food restrictions keep you from going out and enjoying the company of others. If you need to bring your own food to enjoy yourself, you should do it.
The venue or type of gathering makes a difference in what preparation you need to do before attending. In almost all situations, you will need to make some preparation ahead of time to ensure that you can safely maintain your gluten free diet while enjoying the company of others.
Types of places you will need to call ahead of time and make arrangements with an outside establishment: restaurants, sporting events, bowling alleys, skating rinks, or generally anywhere that sells their own food on-premises.
If it is a question of bringing your own food to someone’s home for a social event, you should always contact them and tell them about your allergy and their intentions. I say allergy even when classified as something else because people tend to understand the work allergy in connection with food. Do not use the word allergy if it is not a serious condition for you.
For children that are gluten free, you can usually get away with more. However, you will typically need to talk to both the host and the event venue if the children’s party is not in someone’s home.
I have found that when I contact a host about bringing my own gluten free food, they are typically relieved because they were unsure how to provide for us. I like to let people know that I would not expect them to provide safe options for me.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the person with the allergy, or a child’s case, with their caregiver or parent. It is not and should not be the responsibility of a host or a venue to ensure gluten free food is available. This can be a hard lesson to learn and accept.
But in the end, the person with a food allergy or intolerance will be the one dealing with the consequences, so it is worth a few minutes of extra planning before heading off to an event.
Can I Bring My Own Gluten Free Food To Restaurants?
Restaurants can be really tricky to bring your own food with you and possibly the only one on this list that is likely to deny your request fully.
Restaurants make their money by serving food, and that is either the only or the largest part of the business’ income. So allowing a customer to bring their own food in is especially difficult.
If you are attending an event or meeting a large group at a restaurant, you can try contacting them. Sometimes if they will be having a large party, they may allow you to bring your own.
However, I would expect the answer to be a firm “no.”
No matter how many managers or owners you talk to.
If you talk to them, they may be able to help you find some food that would be safe for you to eat there. However, I never count on being able to do that.
If you want to attend the event held at a restaurant, I advise eating ahead of time and ordering something small that you know would be safe to consume. This might be a fruit cup, a drink, or a plain baked potato; you can add your own toppings.
Make sure that you still tip the waitstaff as if you had eaten a full meal there. The meal cost is typically the price paid for an event where other venues have rental costs.
Why Won’t Restaurants Let Me Bring My Own Food?
The main reason I have seen offered is that they are concerned about their liability for your food.
If anything happened and you got sick after eating at their establishment, they could have liability for what you ate even if they did not provide it for you.
However, the main reason is as stated above: their primary income is food sales. They are providing space for events, small get-togethers, or casual friend time, and the cost of this space is built into the food prices.
Can I Ask Restaurants To Heat My Gluten Free Food I Brought?
I strongly recommend against asking a restaurant to heat food you brought yourself.
As above, it increases their liability for food you brought where they do not know how they prepared it or if it will make you sick. If it does and they heated it, the liability could be even stronger.
I am not a lawyer and do not intend to give legal advice. Contact a lawyer or your local environmental health office for more information if you want to discuss potential liabilities.
I am speaking as a former owner of a food establishment. I owned a gluten free food cart for 3 years until the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As I understand it, the liability from heating someone else’s food would not have been worth it. But when you ask at a restaurant, you are typically asking an employee whose wage is highly supplemented with tips. Saying no is extremely difficult, and they would like to avoid it.
No matter the reason, you put them in a difficult spot.
In the end, it is your responsibility to make sure that you can have safe food. If they give you the go-ahead to bring your own food, make sure that it is warm when you get there or bring something eaten cold.
What Are The Rules For Outside Food And Food Allergies For Sporting Events?
Sporting events can be a challenging situation.
Typically they have minimal food options; almost all contain gluten or are easily contaminated with gluten.
On top of this, they can do bag checks as well for outside food and drinks.
The best option is to contact them ahead of time and explain your situation. Ask for an exception to their no outside food rule. Even if you don’t have a wheat allergy, use the word allergy when discussing it. You can also use Celiac Disease or other specific conditions, but people understand and sympathize more freely with an allergy.
If it is a short event, consider eating before you go.
If you cannot get permission and it is a longer event, you can always plan to go out of the venue and back in for a snack or meal.
If you have a diagnosed disability that requires a gluten free diet, i.e., Celiac Disease, you can always dig your heels in with the Americans With Disabilities Act if you are in the United States. I try to keep that one in the back pocket and rarely if ever, bring it out.
A huge portion of sporting events’ money is earned via commissions. So they do not like to budge on this policy.
If you are at these events frequently due to being an athlete or the parent of an athlete, take the time to dig your heels in. Doing it in a way that brings compassion will get your further than threats or rudeness.
Tell them a little bit about how hard it is to do this. Indulge them with some gory details of what happens when you get gluten.
Sympathize with them and their policy, and remain firm that you need to have access to your food. Safe access to food for someone with Celiac Disease is like having access to the insulin they brought with them to a person with diabetes. And no one should be separated from their treatment in that way.
Can I Bring My Own Gluten Free Food To Event Venues?
By “event venues,” I’m referring to things like bowling alleys, skating rinks, theaters, and other places where the main focus is an event hosted or other activity. But where they typically serve their own food.
I am not referring to anywhere that food is not typically allowed, such as an art gallery. If no food is allowed, I would not ask to bring any food with me no matter the occasion.
For event venues where food is allowed, they have food for sale, and they restrict outside food and drink, try contacting them ahead of time.
Ahead of time is always going to give you a better result than a confrontation during an event.
If you contact them before the event, you can ask a manager or person in charge to give you a call back to discuss and let them have some time to consider what you are asking.
Many places like this have an option to bring your own food for a fee. I have never had a problem getting around this fee with an explanation of the situation.
We had my son’s 6th birthday party at a bowling rink, and they only allowed cake as the outside option. After explaining my son’s dietary needs, I was allowed to provide food for our entire party for no additional fee. But I also didn’t make an assumption and walk in the door with plates of outside food.
I always approach these with compassion for the business we are going to, an acknowledgment that we are paying to be there, and a sincere, open attempt to explain my point of view.
Having worked in customer service for several years, I know that this is the best approach with the highest likelihood of success. They likely have been yelled at by someone else recently. Kindness goes a long way to getting what you want and getting an exception to be made in your favor.
If you get that exception, make sure to write down the name of the person you spoke with in case it needs to be referenced if there is confusion or unclear communication.
Is It Rude To Bring My Own Gluten Free Food To A Party?
If you are going to a party where the host will provide food, you can contact the host and tell them about your allergy or intolerance.
If appropriate, you can offer to bring food to share with everyone that will also be safe for you. I find that this is a way to ensure I have access to the food I need without looking odd. But I do love to cook for other people, and if that isn’t your thing, you don’t need to offer that.
After you let them know about your food allergy, you can let them know you will bring food for yourself, so they don’t need to worry. People are aware of other’s allergies more than you might think and have worried about how to provide food that would be appropriate.
Whichever way you choose to go – bringing food to share or just for yourself – letting the host know ahead of time is always helpful whether or not they are aware of your allergy.
Sometimes you may be pleasantly surprised to find another gluten free person who gets what you are going through and is already planning on providing options that you feel safe eating.
If you prefer not to let everyone know about your food allergy, you don’t have to let everyone know. For a casual party where food is mostly snacks, you can easily bring your own food to snack on or eat ahead of time and abstain.
Letting anyone who questions know that you ate before you came is both truthful and nonconfrontational.
Should I Bring My Own Gluten Free Food To A Dinner Party?
A dinner party is a little different than a party where food is not the main event.
If you are invited to a dinner party, you should always tell your host about any food allergies, intolerances, or strong preferences.
It is important to let them know how important your food is to be gluten free when you do this. There is this idea out there of someone who decides to be gluten free to lose weight and insists on it and then orders something with gluten for dessert.
I think this is more of an idea out there and not reality. But it is important to acknowledge because there is a pervasive idea that this is what most people that are gluten free do.
You don’t need to reveal your story or even your diagnosis, but letting a host expecting to cook for you know how sensitive you are to gluten is important.
If you would like to give them some instructions on how to cook strictly gluten free, I wrote this article specifically for people who want to cook for gluten free and don’t know how to start.
Something that can be nice for them: offer to bring some food that you know will be safe. Try to make it substantial enough that it could be the only thing you eat if needed.
If this is someone that you eat at their place often, you can make a little gluten free kit for them to keep in a tote.
I did this for my mother-in-law because she likes to cook for her grandkids. I included a grill mat, cutting board, pot for gluten free noodles, baking sheet, brownie pan, and a frying pan. She takes it out and uses it just for the times she cooks gluten free.
If you are going to someone else’s home for a meal and don’t want to be confrontational about food choices, so are considering just bringing your own meal, it might make for a more stressful situation than simply discussing it ahead of time.
You could also eat ahead of time and tell them that you have severe food allergies that prevent you from eating out. Let them know ahead of time, though, so they are not surprised or offended that you are not eating.
Offering to bring something to share is probably the best of all worlds, even if you don’t tell them of your allergy so you can make sure you have something safe.
It can be hard telling someone that you have a food allergy, especially when it comes to gluten. There are judgments and questions as soon as it is mentioned. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of why. But if you allow someone else to cook for you, they need to know the basics of what you can’t eat and how strict they need to be.
Please read over the link above and send it along. It has some great information on how to cook gluten free for someone else.
Is It Rude To Bring Gluten Free Food To A Kid’s Party?
Gluten free kids and social obligations with kids is a whole other discussion.
This is not an easy thing to do and is so overwhelming.
If you or your child needs to be gluten free and attend a party for a child, plan to bring your own food. If you would like to make something to share, you can contact the host and offer, but these parties are usually so chaotic that they probably won’t even be noticed.
You should still let the host know that you plan to bring food and cake for yourself or your child, especially if they know of your food allergy or intolerance. It will most likely ease their mind.
I wrote an entire article dedicated to this subject. Being a parent of a gluten free kid brings its own set of challenges.
But if you question whether it is rude to bring food for yourself or your child to a party, it is not. And if someone takes it as rude, they need to look at the bigger picture.
What would be rude is to expect that there would be gluten free food and options available for you. But making sure that your own dietary needs are taken care of is not rude or unreasonable.