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Staying Gluten-Free at Work 08/21/2012 - So you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease and have studied up on the gluten-free diet, stocked your kitchen with gluten-free foods, and learned how to cook gluten-free. Well done! But what do you do when you have to leave your house every day to go to work? It’s going to take some planning and adjusting, but soon you’ll find that staying gluten-free at work will come easily.

Photo: CC--BarkAn important part of staying gluten-free is educating yourself. Become well-versed in the gluten-free diet yourself by consulting qualified professionals and reading up on the subject in print and online resources. Many books and websites have a lot of practical tips to offer that can give you ideas on how to stay gluten-free at work. I recommend bringing materials to work to share with your boss and coworkers so that they will understand your new dietary restrictions and not try to dissuade you from maintaining a gluten-free diet.

Bring your own lunch from home whenever possible. An important part of the gluten-free diet is learning how to cook gluten-free. There are so many gluten-free recipes available, and for free, that you should be able to make a gluten-free version of anything you’re craving. Cooking your own gluten-free food is the best and easiest way to ensure that your food is 100% safe, and over time, as you become more skilled and creative, you’ll probably prefer your own food over others’.

In case you have to eat out, make sure you take all precautions to avoid cross-contamination. You can use various apps and gluten-free websites to find restaurants in your area with gluten-free options. Clear communication with your server and cooks is vital when it comes to avoiding accidental ingestion of gluten. Bring gluten-free snacks along just in case the restaurant isn’t able to satisfy your needs.

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Stock up on gluten-free snacks at work in case you’re ever tempted to take a bite of a gluten-containing snack when your blood sugar gets low or when others are snacking. When there are birthday parties or other food-filled events, bring your own gluten-free cake and goodies, and bring enough to share! If you bring in a gluten-free cake for your coworkers, it may be such a hit that they’ll order or make gluten-free cakes to accommodate your dietary needs. With the increasing quality of gluten-free foods and the health benefits of the gluten-free diet, don’t be surprised if you inspire a colleague or two to go gluten-free with you.

Sometimes it’s hard being alone with dietary restrictions, and celiacs can feel cut off from their gluten-eating friends and coworkers. Connecting with gluten-free individuals outside of work can help give you a sense of camaraderie and support in case you’re missing out on these in the workplace. Join the local chapter of a national celiac support group and attend meetings and events regularly, and join gluten-free social media websites such as and to make gluten-free friends.

With some planning and practice, while maintaining open communication with those around you about your condition, staying gluten-free at work doesn’t have to be hard. As long as you bring your own gluten-free food with you and become a pro at dining out gluten-free, you can avoid cross-contamination and eliminate the temptation to stray from the gluten-free diet.

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4 Responses:

Georgeann Quealy
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said this on
23 Aug 2012 5:47:21 AM PDT
Great advice. I'm going to pass this on to a friend that is struggling with eating gluten-free.

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said this on
27 Aug 2012 8:43:08 AM PDT
There are many more complex issues here that might be worth exploring, such as how to advocate for your rights when people say ignorant and discriminatory things without making yourself a target for a severance package (a tool companies have to mitigate the risk of being sued). The alienation can be very depressing, and the isolation or emotional symptoms of gluten can impact how you are perceived in performance reviews. At companies where there are big food cultures, this can be extreme. Invoking ADA status and rights often has negative consequences for careers, and few in human resources have a framework for medical accommodation and protected status for anyone who doesn't fall into the old school frameworks for protected classes.

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said this on
21 Oct 2012 7:51:01 PM PDT
well put columbia01! I work at a hospital and I am alienated. I have to eat by myself in a conference room because my coworkers leave such a mess everywhere. Ever since my director instructed others they weren't to eat at my desk, I have been subjected to finding crumbs on my desk when I return from work, they walk around with their donuts/cupcakes/cookies holding them up in the air as if they are trophies. They even went so far as to smash cake on my car. I was still sick two weeks later, spending my new year's eve getting IV fluids pumped in my veins. My coworkers think it's a big joke. The saddest part is that they are nurses!

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said this on
28 Sep 2012 7:49:53 AM PDT
I have received so much support from my colleagues at work after being diagnosed as celiac this summer. Someone brings in a treat or snack on a weekly basis, and they always go out of their way to provide a gluten-free item. I can't ask for a better or more supportive group of people to work with. (We have three or four gluten-intolerant/celiac people on our staff.)

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