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.