gluten freeA very dear friend of mine called in serious distress last night. She knew that when my daughter was younger, we’d gone through some diet adjustments to deal with light stomach aches. (Turns out, my little one is not so great with oil and grease. Even sauteing vegetables can be too much.) She was hoping that I could help her out with ideas for her daughter’s classroom holiday snacks. “I need nut-free, gluten-free, soy-free individually pre-packaged snacks for 24,” she told me.

Before I could even think of the months spent getting rid of milk or gluten or berries, I just had to the comment on the craziness of the request. “Really? You have nut, gluten, and soy allergies in Katie’s* class?”

That’s when my friend told me about the very fun day she had experienced so far. Laura* is a stay-at-home mom with an infant and a seven-year-old daughter. She’s extremely active in her daughter’s classroom, volunteering when she can and always happy to help out. When the teacher asked someone to bring in a special treat for the holiday party, Laura quickly signed up.

A couple days later, an email went out to the class parents with the details for their holiday party. Some parents were sending refreshments. Others were helping decorate the room. Laura was the all-important treat provider.

“Within an hour of the email going out, I had four different responses from parents telling me that their children needed gluten-free snacks. One child was gluten-free and soy-free. I didn’t even know that was possible. I really could not believe that many kids had dietary restrictions,” she explained. The nut allergy she had been forewarned about from her daughter’s teacher.

To be fair to my friend, celiac disease, the one that has caused so many people to turn gluten-free, affects 1% of the population. And it apparently affects more than 16% of her daughter’s class. The chances of that are pretty miniscule. At the same time, going gluten-free has become an odd diet trend in the extremely health conscious. So the chances of encountering four gluten-free moms in the extremely wealthy suburbs of Chicago where my friend lives are probably much larger.

Whichever situation we’re looking at, finding treats to accommodate these requests has been proving to be rather difficult. The obvious suggestion would be fresh fruit and veggies. The problem is that first of all, this is supposed to be a special holiday treat, not an after-soccer snack for the team. Secondly, all snacks sent to school have to be individually packaged by a manufacturer. No fresh fruit. No homemade goodies. All of those gluten-free recipes you were all about to link to in the comments, they’re useless.

I was left stumbling and stuttering as I tried to think of a single suitable snack for her daughter’s class. My lame suggestion was to hit the health food store and ask a cheerful-looking employee for help. Or maybe send a quick email to the teacher, who presumably has to deal with these dietary restrictions for snack or lunch every day.

As Laura and I struggled to come up with ideas, fired up Google for suggestions and considered her options, there was some unspoken (or maybe not unspoken) resentment for all the work that suddenly had to go into class treats. We burst out into, “Seriously?” every couple of minutes.

I mean, we all realize that dietary issues are serious. We know that nut allergies should be handled with care. And for those that really suffer from celiac disease, it’s a real problem that deserves respect. However, for those that jumped on the gluten-free trend and want to enforce it on classroom holiday treats… Well. “Seriously?”

(Photo: Dejan Stanisavljevic/Shutterstock)