We all know that candy bowl. The one our coworker put out for the entire office to enjoy. The one that calls our name at 2:30 pm when we need a pick-me-up to get us through the rest of the work day. The one that looks so enticing that we’ll walk to the opposite side of the office to snatch a piece. The one that disappoints us when everything is either full of gluten, or manufactured on a line or in a facility that shares gluten ingredients.
For me, this candy bowl scenario was a reality the first few weeks of going gluten-free. I am fortunate that I work for a company and a team of foodies, so it’s a lot easier to explain my dietary needs to them. (That also resulted in a coworker being happy that he is no longer the one that complicated our team meals by being pescatarian.) However, that still doesn’t fully eliminate the problem of work lunches/dinners, various snacks, group breakfasts, etc. that are commonplace in any company. So how do I manage being on a gluten-free diet at work?
1.) Bring my own. From candy to my own lunch, bringing my own food ensures that I won’t be accidentally “glutened” while at work. While bringing your own lunch is something I endorse, and do on a regular basis from a cost standpoint, it can be a bit repetitive every day. And, if I bring treats, candy, etc. into work that I can eat, I turn into the person who’s feeding the office with a treat/candy bowl at my desk. But, on the plus side, I have easy access to snacks for me to munch on from time to time.
2.) Pick the restaurants. Going out for meals with coworkers is an almost unavoidable part of work life. Whether it is lunch with your boss, a birthday celebration, or meals while traveling, eating out with coworkers can be stressful. I’ve used sites like Find Me Gluten Free to suggest places will have something for me to eat, even if it’s just a salad. That way, it’s a more enjoyable eating experience for everyone.
3.) Be an advocate and inform. This is probably the most important thing anyone with Celiac Disease can do, whether at work or in your personal life. Being an advocate for your needs ensures that you’ll be able to eat safely. I’ve mentioned my condition to pretty much everyone at work that has asked me if I want to try some treat or food item that they bring in to share. But, I don’t talk their ear off about all of my stomach issues and what I go through. (My typical line is something similar to: “Thank you, but I’ll pass. I can’t eat gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley, and some other grains. It damages my small intestine, so I don’t want to take the risk. Thanks for understanding!”) Also, my administrative assistant schedules my team’s lunch meetings and travel meals, so I’ve let her know about the dangers of cross contamination in restaurants. She’s now asking restaurants if they can provide a safe gluten-free meal for me before she reserves a table for my coworkers and I. She even goes so far as well as confirm with me which bags of candy are safe before buying them for her candy bowl.
These three steps have made eating at work a lot easier and less stressful for me. Hopefully they will help you too. Do you have any other suggestions that aren’t listed here? Let me know below!