gluten-free red, white and blue strawberries dipped in white chocolate and blue sprinkles

5 Tips to Stay Safely Gluten-Free at Summer BBQs

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Plus Hosting Tips: 8 Gluten-free Foods Guests Can Bring to Your Gluten-Free BBQ!

From Memorial Day to Labor Day… the summer is full of BBQs and potlucks. Once upon a time, as a busy mom of little ones, I considered potlucks a gift. They were an opportunity to make just one big dish, count dinner as done, and enjoy the company of friends and the smiles of my children.

Then, celiac disease entered our lives. Now, the word “potluck” means more work, not less.

If you are navigating a gluten-free social life, here are a few tips to help you say yes to your friends’ invites, simplify the potluck experience, and enjoy summer fun while staying gluten-free at summer BBQs!

star-shaped watermelon and blueberry skewers for a fresh gluten-free bbq dessert

5 Tips for Safe, Gluten-Free at Summer BBQs When You Are the Guest:

  1. Cut yourself some slack on the “one big dish”, especially if you are brand new to the gluten-free diet. You will essentially be toting your entire meal to the potluck, so make it easy and bring something simple to share, like a fruit or veggie tray. Once you have the gluten-free diet down (I promise, you’ll get there!), then you can bring a wonderful, homemade dish to share and show off your gluten-free cooking skills.
  2. Be the first to hit the buffet line. After folks have made their first pass at the food, there’s a good chance that even the gluten-free food will be cross-contaminated. Maybe from spoon-moving or from passing hamburger buns over the fruit tray… Either way, your safest bet is to be first to the buffet and to only go through the food line once. 
  3. Bring aluminum foil, and use it to wrap up a hot dog, salmon, gluten-free buns, and corn on the cob… you get the idea. Grill your food wrapped in foil, protecting it from the likely contaminated grill.
  4. Pack your own simple sides: a bag of chips, fruit, veggies, string cheese. While others graze on seconds and thirds, I always have a protein bar or bag of nuts in case things run long and Miss E or I get hungry for more.
  5. Don’t forget an easy dessert if you have a sweet tooth. Trader Joe’s and Sprouts sell four-packs of gluten-free cupcakes. Tate’s Bake Shop gluten-free chocolate chip cookies are amazing and make a great graham cracker substitute for s’mores. Be aware that Tate’s also offers a gluten-filled version of this cookie, so check the package every time. For an easy, homemade dessert, patriotic, Red, White & Blue Strawberries are a crowd-pleaser.
Miss E playing with a water sprinkler
Celiac Disease is not keeping us from summer fun!

Hosting Tips: 8 Easy Food Items Guests Can Bring to Your Gluten-Free BBQ:

We love entertaining, and since Miss E was diagnosed with celiac disease, I have found it safest and easiest just to host events at our home. If friends want to bring something to our gluten-free BBQ, I give them a quick lesson on cross-contamination and steer them towards something simple from this list (including local “where to buy” tips). Here’s my go-to list:

  1. Fruit Tray: store-bought, prepackaged, pre-cut fruit
  2. Veggie Tray: confirm dip is labeled gluten-free or buy Sabra Hummus, available at Target
  3. Gluten-free snack bags, like pretzels or chips. Pirates Booty, Cheetos, and many potato chips are labeled gluten-free.
  4. Bagged Salad: confirm dressing is labeled gluten-free, and no croutons or wheat-containing mix-ins. Costco’s Superfood bagged salad with dressing is labeled gluten-free.
  5. Ice Cream: you’ll be amazed at all of the labeled gluten-free ice cream options, from Hagaan Dazs bars to many Breyer’s flavors, which are affordable and easy to find. Remind your guest the ice cream will state gluten-free on the package if it’s a safe flavor.
  6. Prepackaged meat for you to grill (labeled gluten-free or nothing added)
  7. Gluten-free hamburger or hotdog buns
  8. Prepackaged gluten-free cookies
woman smiling and eating corn at a bbq

Some friends choose to do more complicated dishes.

One very sweet friend has made gluten-free pies from scratch for our BBQs, carefully double-checking each ingredient, and even borrowing my can opener to avoid cross-contamination.

Whether friends are going to that much trouble or not, make sure they feel welcome just to bring something simple or to call you with any questions if they choose to take on the challenge of celiac-safe cooking.

Remember to graciously thank friends. As you already know, accommodating celiac disease, even as a guest, requires a bit of extra effort.

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