by Erin Perry
Three years ago I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and my world was flipped upside down. Everywhere I go, I have to plan where I will get my next meal. One of the hardest things to figure out has been eating at private venues. For anyone with Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), you know that going to sporting events and eating while you’re there is a challenge. Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful. These can be used for professional sporting events all the way down to your recreational kickball league.
Tip #1 – Check out your options
Do your research! Are you going to a college football game, or maybe a Braves game? Research options available at the venue ahead of time. Check out what kind of gluten free offerings they have at the venue. Some arenas have a special gluten free stand where you can get a sandwich or snack. Others have nothing available. I will say that professional sporting venues are more likely (but not guaranteed) to have options whereas college sporting venues rarely have viable options. Sometimes you have to do some digging and even reach out to someone within the organization to find out what the options are before you go.
Tip #2 – Come prepared
What happens if you’ve done your research and the venue doesn’t offer anything gluten free? Bring your own! Most venues will allow you to bring in food or snacks that are prepackaged if they don’t offer anything you can eat. Don’t try to hide it, be up front with security if they ask. Let them know that you have researched options at the venue and due to your condition; they don’t offer anything you can eat. I’ve never had security give me any problems with food that is prepackaged. If you have something in writing through your communications with the venue, print that out and bring it along, as well!
Tip #3 – Bring items that won’t raise suspicion
Gluten free granola bars, small packages of nuts or individual bags of gluten free snacks work well. I have even made a sandwich at home and brought that in a bag, but that can be a bit tricky, so be prepared to throw it away if security won’t allow it.
Tip #4 – What NOT to bring
Don’t bring any type of liquids. When I was first diagnosed with Celiac disease, I would bring a bottle of Ensure with me wherever I went as a meal replacement in case I got in a pinch. I’ve had to throw away numerous bottles at security, so stopped bringing those to events and venues. Security is much more open to someone bringing in solid foods than liquid, so don’t bother with the liquids.
Tip #5 – What about alcohol?
Most venues that serve beer also serve wine, which is your safest bet if you’re interested in having a drink while you are there. More and more venues are also offering bottled or canned gluten-free cider, as well, but you may have to search for it.
Tip #6 – What if I can’t find the gluten-free options once I’m inside?
Ask for help! All sporting events have staff on site that is there to help with this type of question. Sometimes they are volunteers, so the first person you ask may not be able to help, but they can always find someone who knows! I’ve even been escorted to exclusive areas of arenas when asking for gluten free options in the past, so use the resources they provide to get what you need! As a backup, always bring a snack or two along with you, just in case.
Tip #7 – Eat before you go
ALWAYS eat a full meal before you go. By doing this, you can avoid being starving at an inopportune time. If you pack a sandwich, eat it on your way into the venue or at the tailgate beforehand. That can help hold you over until the event is over and the snacks you bring along can tide you over until you are ready to leave.
What have you found that works for you? Share your comments below!