The holidays are supposed to be merry and bright, the most wonderful time of the year. But for those with celiac or gluten intolerance, it can be a challenging time. Don’t let it consume you! The following tips are my survival guide to staying gluten free this holiday season.
1. Be PREPARED: My first tip is to be prepared. Tis the season for festive parties and events and gatherings and cookie exchanges. Have a plan BEFORE you go – put a little forethought into what if anything you’re going to eat, so you can be just as jolly as the next old soul.
2. Focus on what you CAN eat: So often we find our gluten free selves coveting the appetizing foods everyone else is eating, only noticing those foods we can’t indulge. Instead, scan the table for what you CAN eat, the naturally gluten free foods like meat, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
3. Focus on the PEOPLE. The holidays can bring about anxiety in anyone avoiding gluten, as gluten filled foods are EVERYWHERE. And, these are the foods we love and look forward to every year – stuffings, cookies, breads, etc. Although each event seems to be centered around the food, keep it in perspective. The food is only a small part of why we gather during the holidays. Enjoying the friends and family you love is the most important part of the season.
4. CONTRIBUTE a gluten free dish: Many hosts ask for those invited to bring a dish. This is your chance to bring your favorite gluten free food to share, and it also ensures you will have something safe to eat.
5. Eat BEFORE you go: This is a tip I use often. There’s nothing worse than showing up for a party starving and then watching everyone else eat while you worry about everything you put in your mouth. I know I am much more likely to make a bad decision when I’m desperate and then pay for it later. A hearty snack before hand is my safe solution – just enough to ward of that animalistic hunger – but not enough so that I can’t enjoy whatever gluten free foods I might find while at the party.
6. Let the HOSTESS know you eat a gluten free diet: Special diets are not uncommon these days, so chances are you aren’t the only one restricted in what you can eat. And even if you are, gluten free is a lifestyle and part of that is getting over being embarrassed about saying what you can and cannot eat. Only you know what foods are best for your body, so don’t feel silly or high maintenance letting aunt so and so or cousin what’s her name know why you aren’t eating like you used to. Call beforehand and ask your hostess what is being served. He or she may be educated about a gluten free diet and may be able to tell you what foods contain gluten. But don’t ask or depend on him or her to cater to your needs. Simply letting your host know can help you know what foods are safe and also helps him or her understand why you are not sampling everything or not eating at all. This frees you up from feeling rude too.
7. CALL the catering company or the restaurant: If your holiday party is catered or is at a restaurant, call ahead to ask what dishes are gluten free. Nowadays, most restaurants are very aware of food allergies.
8. Beware of CROSS contamination: Just because a dish is gluten free, there’s always a chance for cross contamination either during preparation or at the serving table. It’s easy for someone to use the same preparation or serving utensils for both gluten and gluten free dishes.
9. Beware of HIDDEN sources of gluten: Check to make sure marinades, sauces, dressings, coatings, and breadings are gluten free.
10. Consider HOSTING a party yourself: Be the hostess with the mostest this season, using delicious gluten free alternatives for your table spread. It’s likely that no one will notice the difference, or you can choose to use gluten free as a great conversation starter. I find everyone is interested in learning what all the hype is about gluten and a gluten free diet. For flours, try Gluten Free Classical Blend by Authentic Foods, or try baking with almond flour. Use gluten free whole grains for side dishes like wild rice, quinoa, corn, etc. Spice it up with the many savory gluten free spices and blends. Substitute gluten free condiments like tamari instead of soy sauce, and use plant oils, vinegars, and mustards in your sauces and marinades. Prepare dishes that are centered on the many naturally gluten free foods like meats, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
Are you new to eating gluten free or have you been advised to cut out gluten but don’t know where to start? I have written an ebook detailing the simple the method I used to detox gluten from my diet. It’s the perfect jumpstart into a gluten free life: The Fresh Start 10 Day Detox. Also, coming next month is my second gluten free ebook and program: Gluten Free Guide for Beginners, which will include my simple steps to going gluten free, the gluten free kitchen, the gluten free pantry, the gluten free restaurant guide, and 30 days of gluten free menus, each recipe with no more than about 5 ingredients! So stay tuned!