When I was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 16, my immediate concerns revolved around learning to eat safely, finding a safe college to attend, and navigating my new gluten-free lifestyle. Once I had conquered these steps – my concerns turned to other factors, such as dating with celiac disease. What was the best way to handle my restrictions? When would I have these conversations? While dating with celiac is different for everyone, here are some tips to help you navigate the dating scene while staying gluten-free! 

 

Find an Alternative

Date locations typically revolve around food – but they don’t have to! It can be uncomfortable discussing celiac on the first date, so why not instead suggest an activity that can avoid the conversation all together? Activities such as going to a park or seeing a movie together can help you to get to know your date without the need for explanations. Alternatively, going to a dedicated gluten-free restaurant, café, or bakery is another great option! While it’s obviously best to be open with your partner about your restrictions, non-food centered initial dates can make later explanations more comfortable, as you already know your date a bit better. 

Be Honest

While it may feel awkward or embarrassing, be open and honest with your date about your dietary restrictions. For example, if they want to take you to a certain restaurant – don’t just simply accept and hope for the best. Explain your restrictions and find an option that works best for both of you. Your explanations can be as vague or detailed as you’d like, but you shouldn’t sacrifice your health and safety for the comfort of your date.

 

Plan Ahead

Like anytime you eat out, it’s a great idea to plan ahead! Researching restaurant options ahead of time and speaking to managers is a great way to lessen the work you’ll have to do in front of your date. Calling ahead shortly before you arrive to talk to the manager or chef that will be working that night can also be useful – I did this once and when I arrived, my waiter was already aware of my restrictions. While I still used my Nima sensor to test my food, my work on the front end prevented me from needing to have a lengthy conversation about options in front of my date. 

 

Kissing

Though there have not been scientific studies conducted regarding celiac and kissing, medical experts suggest at least rinsing the mouth before kissing to eliminate the slight potential for cross-contamination. I remember ruminating over how to best bring this up to a partner. After a handful of dates, I casually mentioned to my date that people with celiac disease could get sick from kissing. He said he was thankful I said something, because he had wondered the same thing! He made a little “Celiac Bag” for me complete with a travel toothbrush and toothpaste. While I felt awkward having that conversation, I figured it would have been more awkward to deflect him mid-kiss and explain then.

 

Don’t Risk It

It can be tempting to want to forgo precaution for the sake of not wanting to stand out. Trust me on this – it’s not worth it! Your safety and health are paramount, and anyone who truly cares about you will definitely understand this. Things such as calling ahead and speaking to the restaurant, using your Nima, or talking with a manager are necessities, and any future partner will need to understand that. While it can seem frightening or awkward to follow these steps on a first date, I can say from experience it’s often a good indicator of compatibility. As I’ve said before, If they can’t handle your need to put your health first, then they’re not worth having in your life. 

 

 

Remember this: even for those without dietary restrictions, not every date goes well. You will come across dates that may be dismissive or assume you’re a part of the gluten-free fad diet. Keep in mind that celiac does not define you, and your strengths and positive attributes as partner far outweigh any difficulties celiac may bring. When you find the one, they will accept you whole-heartedly – gluten-free and all! 

 

Valerie Kraft is a Nima College Ambassador and food safety activist studying Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Valerie has been a leader in allergy advocacy work for young adults since being diagnosed with celiac disease in 2015. Read more about Valerie here. Valerie

Nima College Ambassador, Vanderbilt University

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