10 Communication Strategies to Decline Gluten Free Food

Sharing food

Having to turn down well-intentioned family member’s gluten free food or interrogate family members or friends on the ingredients used to make a gluten free dish, is by far, the most dreaded conversation a celiac will encounter.  Am I right?  I know this topic tops the list for me, hands down, for sure.

It’s awful when friends or family have put in so much time and effort and then you find out that you need to tell them that, unfortunately, you cannot eat it.  You know you need to decline the food item for your health, but coming up with the right communication can be very difficult.

Here are 10 communication strategies you can use to politely decline risky, gluten free food.

Situation #1: Potluck dinner or BBQ with friends stating “oh yes, it is gluten free.  Not to worry, you can have some” or “This is gluten free, you need to try it!”

  • Communication strategy #1:  “Thanks. It certainly looks good.” Or, “Yes, it does look delicious!” (bypass the whole celiac conversation, and keep walking past the food item or get up and leave your current location and grab a glass of water or drink and go back to your spot.)

I use this strategy ALL the time.  Sometimes, I don’t want to talk about celiac.  I get sick of always having to talk about cross contamination and the importance of the GF diet.  I know you guys can relate too!

  • Communication strategy #2: “I have celiac disease and even tiny, tiny crumbs of gluten can make me very ill.  I have a (insert family function or work event) tomorrow and I really can’t afford to be sick for it.  But, thank you!”


  • Communication strategy #3:  “I have celiac disease and food even cooked on the same surface or cut on the same surface as gluten containing food is enough to make me very sick for days.  So, I’d rather not chance it. It certainly does look good though!”

Situation #2: Family lunch/dinner made by family members/friends who do not take celiac and the gluten free diet seriously. 

  • Communication strategy #1:  “I brought my own meal and/or ate before as I got quite sick last time and it took me a few days to get back to feeling like my old self (you can say this even if you do not develop typical symptoms).  I’m happy to just come see you guys and catch up on visiting!  Next time, we should do the dinner at my place.  Would you be interested in coming over and helping me make the dinner?”   If they agree, it is a good chance to help provide education on the GF diet and introduce them to some of your favourite GF products.


  • Communication strategy #2:  “We actually can’t make it on (insert date of family dinner event).  We are free, however (insert another date).  How about we do the dinner at our place instead at (insert time).  It would be great if you can come over and help make it too.  Are you available?  If not, we will see you on (insert date and time).”  If they agree, it is a good chance to help provide education on the GF diet and introduce them to some of your favourite GF products.


  • Communication strategy #3.  “You can think of celiac disease like a peanut allergy but with gluten instead.  The difference is that you can visibly see the reaction with a peanut allergy.  With gluten, you cannot see the severity of the reaction from the outside, but it’s still doing the damage on the inside.  It’s hard to wrap your head around it, if you can’t see it, I know.  But, as you can imagine, I really can’t take the chance with residual amounts of any gluten crumbs and I just can’t risk it.”



  • Communication strategy #5:  “We can’t make the dinner as we are busy until (insert time).  But, are you guys playing cards or going for a walk after dinner like you usually do?   Because I think our event will be over by (insert time) and we could pop by after for a bit.”

Situation #3:  Friend made you a GF baked item for your birthday.  

  • Communication strategy #1: “Thanks.  It looks delicious!”  (Bring it home and give it to your non-celiac family members).


  • Communication strategy #2:  “Celiac is like another level of gluten free.  It goes beyond gluten free ingredients and includes avoiding cross contamination with things like using dedicated baking equipment and, often, a fully gluten free kitchen. It can be overwhelming even to me!  So, I certainly don’t expect others to bake that way for me.  But, I definitely appreciate the effort.  Thank you so much!

Do you have other communication strategies that you use?  Let’s hear them in the comments section!


  1. Nice post , keep it up, keep share such post.

  2. Re: Food time with friends — My friends take it seriously, but I just find there’s soooo much education… that sometimes I just want to keep it simple. So I make sure to share that the most important thing for me is to be hanging out with them/spending time with them (so they know they’re important to me!), and I’d rather not get too hung up on the food… So are they ok if I bring my own chicken, salad, whatever and just have that? They’ve been super cool 🙂 (Course I have super cool friends).

    • Yes, such a great to suggestion to just bring your own and eat it and then you don’t need even need to worry. Glad to hear you have such supportive friends!

  3. Thanks for the great ideas! The holidays have just passed and I have reached a point of near desperation to have some understanding about the challenges posed by celiac disease. It is a huge relief to know that I am not the only person out there with these challenges.
    I love the idea of bringing friends and family into the cooking process at home as one of the solutions. Keep on writing!

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