Gluten-Free Holiday Guide
There’s no denying that holidays are filled with special treats and feasts. It can be particularly challenging and frustrating if you have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or a food allergy. I’m confident things will go back to normal, so that’s why I’m sharing these tips to help you make it through the holiday season and the rest of your life.
Start Cooking! One thing I’ve learned as a dietitian nutrition coach is that most people do not cook, nor do they know how to cook. If you have a food restriction, I encourage you to start cooking now. There are so many fabulous recipe books and resources on the internet. You are going to have a few flops, but as with any skill, practice makes perfect.
If you have a child with any food restrictions, I highly recommend teaching them basic cooking skills sooner than later. It’s much easier to navigate a food restriction when you know how food is made. Not sure where to start? Check out Raddish Kids, a cooking club, culinary lesson, and mealtime solution all-in-one. All kits have modifications for gluten, dairy, and egg restrictions. Cooking is a life skill for everyone. If you have any little ones on your holiday gift list, check out https://raddish-kids-monthly-delivery.sjv.io/ErX39
Ask To Be Sure! Awareness of food restrictions, in general, is on the rise, but restaurants, family members and friends, maybe clueless. Whenever I attend a dinner party, I always ask the host
1) What can I bring?
2) Does anyone have any food allergies I should know about?
Question #2 is your gateway to “the conversation.” In my opinion, it’s your job to put the host at ease. I would rather focus on the people and celebration vs. what I can or cannot eat. I learned early in life – it’s not always about the food.
What Can I Bring? Bring something gluten-free to share. I don’t know any meal that doesn’t pair with a hearty salad. Salads are my quick fix. If the main entrée doesn’t work for me, I bring a bag of grilled chicken to make the salad an entrée.
Bring Your Own! For events like Thanksgiving, a potluck, or a birthday party it may be best to pack your own dinner and/or dessert. A turkey stuffed with bread stuffing is no longer gluten-free. For a child’s birthday party, sending a gluten-free cupcake can make cake and ice cream enjoyable.
Eat Before You Go! You asked all the right questions, but the answers don’t feel quite right. Plan B is a must. Have a little or a meal-size snack before you head out the door. Social events are more than the food. They are social events! Focus on relationships with friends and family.
Be Courteous! When you're not eating the food your dinner party host has prepared, you can't just sit and stare at the other guests. Instead, make dazzling conversation. The role of a good guest is to make the host happy you were invited. Being a good conversationalist—someone who puts others at ease—is the ultimate goal. If you’d like to be invited back, don’t be the guest that makes the host or other guests feel uncomfortable.
Be Aware and a Problem Solver! Most holiday get-togethers tend to be buffet style. This means that bits of food from other dishes can potentially mix, introducing an allergen to a safe food. Avoid this by suggesting that each dish has a dedicated serving spoon and by placing the safe dishes in one area. Also, be cautious of shared condiments like butter especially if rolls are being served.
Recreate Traditions! It’s hard to let go of longstanding holiday traditions, so recreate them with gluten-free substitutes. For baked goods, try King Arthur’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour. For stuffing, try Canyon Bakehouse. When in doubt, opt for simple recipes with fresh ingredients. Try sautéed shitake mushrooms and green beans vs. the standard green bean casserole.
Host the Holiday Gathering! The easiest way to control the food situation is to host the event. And you all thought I was just a control freak. By driving the bus, so to speak, you will be able to socialize while not worrying about every bite of food. It’s a lot of hard work, but definitely, worth it.
Clean and Repeat! I live in a shared household … as in … I share my kitchen with gluten eaters! With that said, we have boundaries. Most of the time, gluten is in a designated area. I do this to avoid cleaning like a maniac every single day! I hate cleaning as much as the next person. Plus, I’m prone to eczema. Anyway, sometimes gluten creeps out of the designated area, which means I will be cleaning my kitchen like a maniac until things go back to normal.
Toss and Replace Utensils and Cookware with Compromised Surfaces! Toss utensils and cookware with scratches or compromised surfaces, especially wood & plastic utensils and cutting boards. I replace my plastic cutting boards every December/January. Stainless steel and glass surfaces are your best bet providing you’re doing a thorough job cleaning.
Always Make it Difficult for Gluten to Enter your Food. Provide a barrier between an area that might be contaminated with gluten and gluten-free foods. This can be as simple as using a paper plate in the microwave. Other barriers suggestions are:
Parchment Paper or Aluminum Foil can be used almost anywhere.
Oven safe, small skillet or pan designated gluten-free when sharing a toaster oven. Let’s face it, who wants to do dishes non-stop. A small pan can be used to reheat leftovers or for making toast without the continuous deep clean.