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Alicia Woodward: Holiday and Social Event Tips

Gluten Free Works Author Jennifer Leeson

alicia woodward

Alicia Woodward, Editor Living Without Magazine

After getting the opportunity to interview Living Without’s Editor, Alicia Woodward, and learning more about her and the magazine, we went on to discuss Holiday and Social Event tip ideas.  The following is a compilation of Alicia’s tips along with some of my own tips on the how to effectively work through the barriers that might interfere with following through on these suggestions. Enjoy!

Holiday Tips for Social Events

1. A- Communicate.  Call well before the party to alert your host to your food sensitivities.  Be specific about your food “triggers,” clearly explaining what you can (and can’t) eat.

J- Take a deep breath and think about what you would do if you were the host of the situation.  My guess is you would try and do something to accommodate.  Most people, especially people that care about you, don’t want you to get sick and will try their best to help out…or at least let you know ahead of time if there won’t be something safe, so you can eat ahead of time.  If it’s a work event, you might want to talk to the organizer about the menu and get an idea ahead of time.  If there is someone you can call to ask about the menu go for that. If not, eat ahead, and remember it’s not all about the food.

2. A- Embrace the potluck.  Bring a favorite dish to the party.  That way, there will definitely be something safe for you to eat.

J- Make the dish you bring something that you would be happy with, even if it’s the only thing on your plate.

3. A-Tell someone else. Let a friend, significant other, or family member know, that way the people who care about you know what to look out for.

J- Likely, if they’ve eaten with you, they already know you have food allergies, so try to let go of the embarrassment and accept that you don’t have to do it alone and it’s okay to accept some help from people who care and are looking out for your best interest.

4. A– Offer to help if this is possible.  If you are helping, you can see more of what is going on the kitchen and will have better insight into food preparation.

J- Help in a relaxed manner.  If you notice that something is going to put you at risk, point it out politely and say something like “I would really appreciate it if we could put the crackers on a separate plate from the (GF) dip and use a spoon to serve it instead of dipping crackers in it, so that I may also enjoy it with the vegetables.”  Use these opportunities to educate, without lecturing.

5. A- Eat beforehand. Don’t arrive hungry, when you may eat something “risky” that you’d never try on a full belly. Snack at home so you won’t be disappointed, famished and irritated if there’s not much you can eat at the party.

J-Be mindful of the environment you are going to.  If it’s a friend, and you are bringing a safe dish, and that friend understands your allergies, maybe you only need a small snack.  If it’s a big function, and you have had no opportunity to prep yourself on the food being served, eat enough that it can hold you over.

6. A-Keep it simple. Stick to simple, whole foods – like plain fruit, vegetables and meats that haven’t been processed, coated or mixed. Avoid sauces, dips, marinated items, casseroles and desserts unless you know for sure what’s in them.

J-But don’t be afraid to ask questions if you feel like you actually might be able to get a reliable answer.

7. A- Go first when possible. If the party is buffet-style, be the first in line to avoid any potential cross-contamination (e.g., scattered ingredients, mixed-up serving spoons.) Or ask your host if you can prepare a plate before the buffet starts.

J-Remember, it’s not selfish to try and go first, in fact, other guests would probably appreciate you going first because if they make a mistake and contaminate something, at least you will have gotten something to eat and they won’t feel guilty for ruining a safe food.  If you can’t go first, stay observant and pay attention, and try to remain calm!

*Last but not least…remember that it’s not all about the food!  You can enjoy yourself by putting your attention onto the people, the environment, and the other things happening around you!*


Author Information: Jennifer Slack, Denver, CO
Denver Gluten-free Examiner at
Jennifer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and an expert on changing negative emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. After being diagnosed with Celiac Disease last October, she learned there was more to transforming her life around food beyond knowing what to eat and what not to eat. There were unexpected social, emotional, and behavioral challenges that arose. Since learning how to cope with these obstacles herself, she has begun teaching others how to cope effectively with the barriers that interfere with successfully changing one’s entire lifestyle around food. You can reach Jennifer at her e-mail address

About Jennifer Slack


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