Do you miss the days when the holidays felt carefree and you could eat anything? I sure do and I’m willing to bet that you might as well. That’s you need the gluten free holiday survival tips I’ve learned over the years.
Though there are many homecooked, Italian family favorites that I miss, I’ve slowly made changes over the years so that holidays honor the priorities that I hold near and dear for the betterment of my health. Though I may have a gluten-free cookie or two over the holidays, I’m not willing to throw away feeling great for the sake of tempting fate and accidentally ingesting gluten.
Since I have shared many tips about the holidays and how to enjoy them eating gluten-free, I thought I’d give the floor to a more masculine voice so that he could share what’s worked for him. The following post by Dave Barber offers up some great gluten-free holiday tips that extend beyond Thanksgiving and Christmas that you can easily use throughout the year.
Without further adieú…
Gluten Free Holiday Tips: Survive Without Getting Glutened
By: Dave Barber
The holidays should be the most wonderful time of year, but for those who are Celiac or Gluten Sensitive (like myself), the festive goodies and fabulous parties can feel stressful and frustrating. Even after being gluten-free for about two years now, the social scene still can be mind-numbingly complicated.
As a guy who always avoided cooking, it was so easy to show up a dinner party with a bottle of wine or a 12-pack of beer, but now I’ve got to literally scrutinize everything that goes into my mouth. I’ve learned that preparation alone is the only thing that will save me from getting glutened or having nothing to eat and drink.
I’ve found that it’s not that friends and family don’t care (though for some this might be the case), it’s that they just don’t get it. Not being able to eat the family favorites that everyone has enjoyed year after year all because of a problematic protein you can’t even see just doesn’t compute. As a result, it’s definitely made me feel like an outsider as I do my best to stay safe.
Staying healthy is much more of a priority for me over eating a bunch of frosted glutenous cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles on top. Based on my past self-created catastrophes, I want to share with you some guidelines that helped me finally take control and once again enjoy the season’s celebrations.
Give the Host a Heads Up
Always let the host know you’re gluten-free and to make like easier, you may bring your own food if makes you feel safer during dinner to avoid getting sick. The sooner this is communicated, the better.
You don’t need to pour your heart out, just be clear and concise about why you don’t eat gluten. Feel free to share your health reasons why you are gluten-free and explain that your food decisions have nothing to do with their culinary skills.
Bring Your Own Food
I’m not suggesting you should always bring your own food, but more than likely your loved ones are not gluten-free experts. Having a plan can make your life easier than just showing up and being upset upon finding that you can’t eat anything. Nobody wants to be the sad gal or guy at dinner munching on mini carrots while the rest of the family feasts. The mistakes people make, especially in the beginning, eating gluten-free can ruin the holiday.
I personally choose to bring my own food in covered containers. Even if I’ve been assured that my dietary needs are taken care of, there’s too many variables when someone else is cooking. Just before dinner is served, I’ll heat up my entree and put it on a similar dinner plate.
Last year, I brought my own uncured bacon, organic eggs, and fresh berries to a holiday party in San Francisco. Everyone was kind of jealous about my improvised menu and the host was gracious enough to cook it all up for me.
Only You can Prevent Cross Contamination
Potlucks can be the worst for gluten-free folks, but there are ways to manage them to reduce stress and the risk of getting glutened. Be sure to bring your gluten-free contribution in something (like a crock pot) you can easily reheat. The dish and it’s respective serving utensil must be labeled “gluten-free” (Check out these gorgeous gluten-free party labels.) Keep your dish on a separate table away from the other “glutenous” food so utensils don’t get mixed up.
Have a quick chat with your team about why you’re segregating your dish and make sure to serve yourself first. Other party tips can help keep you safe so that you can enjoy yourself without getting glutened.
At a Super Bowl potluck party last year, I submit a family recipe in a chili cook-off competition. So that I could eat, I brought two containers – one for me and another for everyone else to try. Though I didn’t win best chili, I didn’t get sick (which is a huge win for me).
Bring Your Own “Special” Booze
Realize that the beer will be of the gluten-persuasion and act accordingly. There are plenty of gluten-free beers and ciders (and other gluten-free alcohol options) out there that you can bring. Wine and liquor can get a bit tricky because we all tolerate different things so think about what works best for you.
What works easily without drawing too much attention is to bring a gluten-free housewarming gift that suits your needs! A case of gluten-free beer can go a long way and help ease the conversation on gluten-free living that could win you supportive and curious friends.
Otherwise if you’re not prepared to share, you’ll have to hide the bottle. This summer I brought my own bottle of Chopin to a wedding which I gave it to the bartender with a nice tip and told him it was only to be served to me. I felt like James Bond and, once again, the other guests were feeling envious. Not sure what’s safe to drink?
Have Your Gluten-Free Cake & Eat it Too
Though dessert should be the easiest part of the meal, but it’s typically the most emotionally charged because of how segregated gluten-free folks can feel.
The holidays are a special time when you truly appreciate and give thanks for life’s many blessings. That said, remember to mark this occasion with a treat for yourself. Even if it’s the smallest bite-sized gluten-free morsel.
It’s important that you indulge a little bit and allow yourself to feel involved and included in the holiday fun. Since there’s a million gluten-free treats out there, you’ll have plenty to pick from that you don’t necessarily have to bake yourself. However if you want make something decadent and gluten-free, click HERE for a few ideas.
Either way, bring some to share and again be ready for the pleasant surprise from others as they ask “Wow, is this gluten-free?”
Throw Your Own Party
Finally, the best way to have a stress-free holiday is to host your own party. This allows you to absolutely ensure that everything is gluten-free. Most people can’t tell the difference between gluten-free and not these days so long as they aren’t forewarned. Even my mom’s gluten-free stuffing was a hit last year and no one could tell the difference.
Hosting is the perfect way to advocate your lifestyle and help others appreciate why and how you do it. They might even like your cooking better than their own and ask you for recipes. The gluten-free diet is not easy, but a little planning and creativity can help keep your holidays happy and bright.
Dave was a finance exec for many years. He traveled all the time and never cooked a meal at home. When he got sick, he decided to quit his six-figure job and move to Hawaii to get healthy again.
Dave’s been gluten-free for two years and is a contributor to other gluten-free blogs and magazines.