Work it: dealing with food allergies at the office

The hardest moments for a Celiac are the ones when we can’t control our own food prep. You usually read about this in terms of travel, eating at restaurants, or eating at other peoples’ homes. But here’s something most of us do every day and don’t talk about: we go to work. And we eat at work.

The toaster at my work, covered in gluten. Danger zone!
The office toaster = perpetually covered in gluten. Danger zone!

I have navigated my way through plenty of 9-5 office jobs and learned some lessons along the way. Here are my two cents on how to stay safe, happy, and healthy at the office:

Speak up, early and often: I’ve written about this before, but I don’t like to make a big deal about my food needs–especially with people I don’t know well. However, I’ve realized your best bet in an office environment is to let your colleagues know super early on that you have a food allergy. Food is a huge part of office culture–from birthday cakes to bagel Fridays to holiday treats, it’s hard to escape gluten at work. If you communicate your needs up front, your coworkers will be able to cater to them or at least be aware of them from the get-go.

Talk to the right people: We gluten free folk ALWAYS need to be cautious and take care of ourselves! Even if you mention things up front, your boss probably won’t remember to tell event and retreat organizers about your food needs. So be polite and courteous, but don’t be afraid to request a special meal or ask what’s on the menu. You may need to bring your own food, but at least you’ll know ahead of time!

Fully stocked. Yes those Yorks are imperative to my job #sorrynotsorry
Fully stocked. Yes those Yorks are imperative to my job #sorrynotsorry

BYO food: This one actually extends beyond just food–I keep a set of my own utensils, sponges, mugs, and bowls at my desk–along with a dish towel and a roll of tin foil. I usually bring my breakfast and lunch with me in tupperware containers, but it’s super nice to be able to warm things up in a mug or bowl, which you know you’ll then be able to wash safely. Plus, this lets me be green AND have a happy tummy 🙂

Ask questions: Sometimes the most well-meaning coworkers make the silliest mistakes. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions–people have no idea how tricky it can be to avoid gluten! You are your own best advocate, and you’re doing a solid for the rest of us by spreading the good gluten free word.

Find a friend: While you won’t always be this lucky, eating gluten free is SO much more fun when you’re not the only one! I don’t work with any other gf folks at my current job, but I have had the most wonderful fellow gluten free coworkers in my time (hi Lex, Rina, and Kaitlin!)

Thanks, lovely colleagues!
Thanks, lovely colleagues!

Band together and you might even get your HR department to have gluten free cookies at staff meetings! #winning

I hope these tips are helpful! How do you deal with gluten or other food issues at work? Shout out your comments below!

Leah

 

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