Written by Amy Macklin, RD, LDN (See end of article for more information)
Being a gluten free guest in someone’s home for the holidays can be overwhelming and awkward at times, especially if you’re new to the gluten free lifestyle. With some planning on your part, it can be a great experience. Having a game plan will greatly decrease your stress and take the focus off of the “what am I going to eat” mindset. This article will focus on Christmas/Holiday dinner and the preparatory steps you can take to make your day fun, relaxing, and gluten free delicious. Seven things to consider:
1. Switch Focus: Concentrate on spending time with family and friends and not on the foods you can’t eat. Keep in mind anything can be made gluten free AND there is a whole world full of flavors. Focus on the positive and what you can eat. The company and conversation are the most important part of the meal, and are what you will remember years down the road (not the gluten latent pie you couldn’t have!). People rarely remember what they eat, but they do remember the laughter and good times.
2. Plan what you can: Start your planning with the one dish that means the most to you and you can’t do without. Offer to bring that dish. Keep in mind nobody needs to know its gluten free. If you want to share that information, wait until after the meal. Some people have a preconceived notion that gluten free foods taste bad. We all know that is not necessarily true.
3. Detect gluten: Know what foods contain gluten and how to alter a recipe to make it gluten free. Share this information with the host by providing a brief list of gluten containing foods and gluten free alternatives. Here are three examples.
- Some ham glazes may contain gluten. Ask the host to read you the ingredients list. If it contains gluten, kindly ask if an alternative can be used, such as the traditional ginger ale, cloves, pineapples, and maraschino cherries.
- A number of scalloped potatoes recipes use flour to thicken the dish. Ask the host to leave out the flour. Decreasing the liquid and adding more cheese can thicken the dish.
- Turkeys have a few things to consider. For example, the solution used for self-basting turkeys may contain gluten, and the host may baste the turkey with a broth that isn’t gluten free. Ask the host to check the ingredients label on the broth to make sure it’s gluten free. Refer to my Thanksgiving blog for information on gluten free turkey brands and more turkey considerations.
4. Cross-contamination: Discuss with the host sources of contamination such as, the sharing of serving spoons between gluten latent and gluten free dishes; using margarine/butter that has been contaminated with crumbs; and the importance of keeping the preparation areas free of stray crumbs and gluten residue.
5. Placement of food: Ask the host to keep gluten foods away from the gluten free foods. This can be simply done by having the gluten containing breads/desserts placed on a small side table. If no side table is available, place gluten foods at the farthest point of the table away from the gluten free foods and dinnerware. This helps prevent contamination due to gluten crumbs or sharing of utensils.
6. Arrive early: Help with the preparation of the meal to insure nothing is being overlooked or accidentally contaminated. This is a great time to catch up and reconnect with those dearest to us!
7. Bring a baked good: Bake a gluten free version of a traditional sweet treat. Use a cup-for-cup gluten free flour blend that can be substituted for the wheat flour in the original recipe. I’ve had great success making pizzelles and biscotti cookies with my family’s recipes and Tom Sawyer’s gluten free flour. Nobody even knows they are gluten free! Look for it at your local health food stores. I don’t bake a lot so I buy it in bulk. This gives me the opportunity to buy the flour in cups instead of pounds. Make sure the flour bin is nowhere near gluten containing flours to eliminate the sharing of scoops and cross-contamination. Most health food stores understand this and don’t have them next to each other.
These are a few good tips for you to follow to ensure your holiday is all you want it to be. If you need help with anything that wasn’t covered in this post, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to answer any of your questions.
I’m a firm believer in giving back and am gifting free 30 minute “Master the Gluten Free Lifestyle: Step by Step” private coaching calls to anyone that needs help with transitioning to the gluten free lifestyle. All you need to do is email me by Christmas to set up your free consult at email@example.com.
Amy Macklin RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian, Nutrition Expert in Celiac Disease and the Gluten Free Lifestyle, and most importantly a MOM raising a gluten free child. She understands firsthand how overwhelming a diagnosis of celiac disease can be and for that reason, started Gluten Free Roots . Her mission is to make a difference in children’s lives. Amy is determined to not let the gluten free diet get in their way of experiencing all that life has to offer and most of all, define whom they are.
Amy is the consulting dietitian for both the Celiac Disease Center and the Gluten Free Food Pantry Project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She’s the President of the Pittsburgh Dietetic Association, sits on the medical advisory board of the Gluten Intolerance Group of Western Pa, and speaks throughout the year at celiac awareness events across the Pittsburgh area. To learn more about Amy visit www.glutenfreeroots.com.