07/31/2013 08:24 am ET Updated Sep 30, 2013

The Rules for Dating When You're Gluten-Free

As someone with celiac disease, I know first hand that dating can be a challenge when you are gluten-free. When you're single and looking to meet new people, dining out is a major component of dating -- and for someone like me (along with the 30 percent of Americans who say they are avoiding or cutting down on gluten in their diets), you are constantly faced with more to think about than just finding love. Here are some informal "rules for dating gluten-free" that I've developed, to make the process a little easier:

1. Skip the restaurant on your first date. There are plenty of other ways to get to know someone than over drinks or dinner! In fact, I've found that going for a walk or doing something active can often make things more interesting. You get to know a person better when you're not hiding behind a table. Make sure you bring a couple of gluten-free snacks along in case you decide to stay out longer than anticipated.

2. If you do meet your date at a restaurant or bar, eat something beforehand. There is nothing worse than being hungry in a place where you are unable to order gluten-free. Eating a snack at home is the perfect remedy in case the menu has limited options. Order a light meal and spend time focusing on your date, rather than your appetite. Better to be safe than sorry.

3. Briefly tell your date about your lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with being gluten-free, whether you have severe allergies (celiac) or simply choose to improve your health. Luckily, "gluten-free" is no longer an unfamiliar term,­ so be up front about it! It's also a great way for your date to learn something new and important about you! Be positive about it, but make sure not to over-discuss the topic. If you don't make an issue of your diet, your date won't either. And trust me, no one wants to hear the war stories about the effects of wheat on your body. Leave that for another date!

4. Take the lead. Don't be afraid to take matters into your own hands and suggest YOUR favorite restaurant or bar for the date. Knowing you will be in a gluten-free environment will ease your mind and eliminate any fears of becoming sick. Then, if things go well on your first date, you can offer to make dinner for the second date. It's a great way to keep track of what you eat, while getting to know your date in a more intimate environment!

5. Relax! Dating should be fun -- not stressful. Being gluten-­free has its challenges, but is no less awkward than a number of other issues that could arise on a first date. Be confident with your healthy lifestyle and you will attract someone who shares the same values as you ­ and maybe even a lifelong partner!

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