It’s time to tailgate!

I love football, and I love fall, so I’m not sad to see the end of summer’s barbeque season, I just pull out my favorite team jersey and get the tailgate started.  Being gluten-free doesn’t have to hold you back from tailgate fun, you just need to take charge and plan ahead, so you are ready to enjoy the festivities without the worry of what to eat.

The key to the whole event is the pre-planning.  I’ve put together a gluten-free tailgate party checklist to help you easily plan the food everyone can enjoy, so the day of the event you can sit back and enjoy the fun.

First thing, if you are planning the event, I would contact friends and family attending and ask them if they have any additional dietary requirements that you can help accommodate.  We’ve all been heartbroken at social events where there was nothing gluten-free available to eat, so reach out before the event to see if you can eliminate that frustration for others.  It’s easy to have some vegan, vegetarian, paleo or keto friendly dishes for everyone to enjoy.  If you aren’t the planner, contact the person who is, and ask them to reach out to attendees to see what other dietary needs the group has.  Be that “dietary champion” that will surprise everyone that has a special diet need.

Next, choose a theme for the tailgate.  It will make your life so much easier, especially when other people ask what they can bring.  If you just leave it up to others to bring whatever they want, in most cases it won’t be gluten-free, or you won’t be sure if it was made with concern to preventing cross-contamination.  When you choose a theme, you can even make suggestions of specific food items and brands that you know are safe for you (and other dietary restricted guests) to eat.   Some examples of easy themes are; Mexican, Mediterranean, wine and cheese, barbecue, tropical or just picnic style.

Once you choose a theme, and know what ingredients you need to avoid, you can start to put a list together of what you can make and what others can prepare easily.  For example, for a BBQ themed party, you could offer to bring the pulled pork and ask others to bring coleslaw, gluten-free corn chips or a vegetable tray.  For a tropical themed party make some gluten-free teriyaki chicken skewers and ask others to bring a green salad (with no croutons) and some fresh fruit.  I’ve included a great planning guide with party themes and menu ideas.

There is a lot of items that you may need on the day of the party, and not all of them are food.  Perhaps you could ask friends to bring themed decorations, tablecloths, small tables and chairs, cups and napkins, beverages (non-alcoholic or alcoholic), coolers, prepackaged snacks, garbage bags, zip lock bags or saran wrap for leftovers. 

If you are bringing hot food items (or cold), be sure and plan ahead how to keep them at the proper temperature before and after the game.  A small grill is the perfect way to heat up food, but don’t forget to bring some foil pans to keep them warm and utensils to serve.  Don’t forget extra ice and coolers to help keep food cold for safe food preparation after the game.  I also like to label my food items with small signs, so others know what’s in it.  If it’s gluten-free and dairy-free, why not label it so others know they can eat it.  If you are concerned about unforeseen cross-contamination during the tailgate, keep some of your own salads or dips in a separate container to enjoy for yourself to take the pressure off.

Finally, have fun!  A little planning and preparation goes a long way to ensure a fun and satiating tailgate party that everyone can enjoy.

Gluten-Free Eating at Walt Disney World, Florida

I am one of those people who loves Disney.  I’m not just talking about for my kids, I’m talking about ALL the time.  If I could decorate my house in Mickey themed items I would.  Mickey hand towels, kitchen utensils, rugs, you get the idea.  I don’t go over board with the theme because I want to make visiting the theme parks a special event.  You know, that “magical feeling”.

Lucky for me, I married a Disney lover as well.  Before we were married, we had annual passes for Disneyland in California.  We would renew them every year on our anniversary and spend evenings walking around the park eating corn dogs and ice-cream.  This was before the whole “gluten” thing for me.

Now we have children and Disney has a whole new meaning.  It’s safe and clean and happy, and everything we try to instill in our children.  Especially appreciation, happiness and kindness.  It’s got a whole new meaning for me as well.  Since going gluten-free, I’ve visited the parks two times.  The first time, there was limited food items and to tell you the truth, I was hungry all the time.

What a difference a year can make.  This week went again and I was blown away by all the food choices.  EVERY restaurant…I repeat…EVERY restaurant had gluten-free (and allergy) menu items.  Really good ones.  Udi’s pizza, chicken breast on Udi’s roll, french fries cooked in a dedicated fryer, g.f. cookies, rosemary chicken, salads, etc.

Before ordering at any Disney resort, I would ask an attendant to call a chef out from the kitchen.  Some restaurants had a designated allergy person that stayed with you through the ordering process too.  This person (or chef) would explain what menu items were available and place the order with the cashier and call it back to the kitchen.  Several restaurants even offered to prepare the food in a designated part of the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination.  I was BLOWN away.

I kept thanking everyone and they kept thanking me for coming.  I never felt like it was a big deal.  Best part, the prices were almost always in line with the items listed on the standard menu.  For example, I ordered a gluten-free chicken sandwich and it was priced exactly the same as the gluten-full.  I came home feeling (and looking) fat and happy!  I didn’t feel like I was an inconvenience at all.  Most of the time, my meal came out at the same time as my families or a few minutes later, so they weren’t inconvenienced by the process at all.

I know some people are not “Disney People”, but they may want to reconsider if they have food allergies.  5 days at themed parks and I didn’t get “glutened” once.  What a relief! (which isn’t affiliated with Disney), is a great resource for anyone  with allergies planning a trip to Disney World.  Don’t do what I did and read it after you get home.  It doesn’t do you much good at that point. 🙂