The time is nearing when family and friends will gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, Eid-al-Adha and New Year’s Eve to name a few, and taking place in homes and various venues around the globe. It should be a joyful time for all, but for the ever-increasing numbers of people with celiac disease, gluten-sensitivity, or other food intolerances, it can also be a time of anxiety and frustration. For some, it will be the first time venturing out to a family dinner, office party or friend’s soirée, since a diagnosis. Indeed, there will be challenges navigating this new lifestyle of yours, but if you set out with a positive attitude and a bunch of holiday spirit you will be able to face any challenge with grace, confidence, and even humor!
Following are a few tips to consider during the holidays:
Have no expectations of your Host(ess) … that is, in regards to your dietary needs!: While some host(ess) will cater to your dietary needs, not all will, nor should they be expected to. If you’ve ever hosted a dinner party, you know preparations can sometimes be overwhelming (even Martha Stewart cringed at the thought of feeding special diet guests!). Yes, some host(ess) will make the extra effort to prepare something special for you (and they should be applauded), but this is often times not the case, so just be thankful for the invite, and …
Be prepared in case everything is off-limits: Have something to eat before heading out the door so you can sustain your energy throughout the event! You can also bring a small packed cooler bag with safe items to eat (purchase one that resembles a colorful handbag!). If you’re lucky, the table will offer some fruits and veggies to snack on, but even then you will need to look out for cross-contamination. If you like to nibble on salty snacks, pack a small bag of your favorite all natural gluten-free chips and a little something sweet, so you won’t feel deprived when others are digging into the gluten-filled cheesecake and pumpkin pie!
Never assume and don’t be shy: Never assume something is gluten-free. Be sure to re-educate yourself on products that contain gluten (what I can’t eat) and ask your host(ess) all the questions you need until you are satisfied the item is safe, and if you are unsure, skip it.
Contribute something (you prepared yourself): Consider trying out a new recipe for a gluten-free appetizer, entrée or dessert. There are so many wonderful holiday recipes on the web. Hear others say “really, this is gluten-free?” Ask to have your dish placed on a separate table; or you could also be the first in line to scoop out your portion before it gets contaminated; or carry a cooler bag packed with an individual portion of the same item.
Consider inviting guests to your home: The surest way to keep food safe is to prepare it yourself in your own gluten-free kitchen!
Call ahead if the event is at a restaurant or hotel: Inquire if a gluten-free menu is available, or if your meal can be prepared as such. Follow-up with manager and server when you arrive to the venue. If the event is being planned by another party, take matters into your own hands and make the call yourself.
Avoid Overindulging: If your gut is still healing, consider limiting portions (food & alcohol).
Spread Awareness, if the opportunity presents itself: If others are aware of your diagnosis, you may be asked questions. Seize the opportunity to spread awareness, by sharing your story. You may be helping someone seek a diagnosis!
Lastly, Have Fun!: Accept those invitations to holiday festivities that come your way, most certainly if it has been a long journey back to wellness for you. You, especially, deserve to celebrate! Just be safe, never let your guard down, and don’t ever cheat … even if you’ve had one too many spiked egg nogs! Remember, you can still enjoy many of the same holiday foods you once did, they just need to be prepared or purchased allergen-free!
If cooking at home, be sure to purchase a gluten-free turkey or ham! A basting solution which may have been injected into the turkey/ham during processing could contain gluten. Any gravy or spice packages included may contain gluten as well.
Here are a few companies offering gluten-free turkeys, ham and deli items:
[Note: This list is not comprehensive, and certainly there are other gluten-free options available, but hopefully this will help you begin your search. It is highly recommended to review the company websites for complete allergen information, as well as rechecking product ingredients label at time of purchase.]
(Statement from website: “Butterball product labels let consumers know whether any of the top eight allergens may be present in the product. For example, a label may read “contains wheat and dairy.” Specifically, gluten is not present naturally in turkey. Only two of our retail products currently contain gluten: Butterball® Frozen Italian Style Meatballs and Butterball® Frozen Stuffed Turkey. Our gravy has been reformulated to eliminate gluten, but certain gravy packets may still contain gluten; it will be listed on the ingredient statement.”
Empire (Kosher) http://www.empirekosher.com/products/gluten-free/
Honeysuckle White (msg-free) http://www.honeysucklewhite.com/FaqNutrition.aspx (not all products are gluten-free)
Plainville Farms: (organic turkey is GMO-free) Turkey & Deli meats http://plainvillefarms.com/faq/
(turkeys are gluten-free .. turkey gravy and homestyle dressing contain wheat)
Shady Brook Farms: (msg-free) http://www.shadybrookfarms.com/FaqNutrition.aspx#nutrition1
Shelton’s (gluten & casein free) http://www.sheltons.com/cgi-bin/sheltons/gluten_free.html?id=KLiyV5Rs
Whole Foods: many all natural turkeys are free of gluten. Inquire at your local store.
Whole Ham & Deli Meats
Applegate Farms (dairy-free): http://www.applegate.com/faqs#allergens
Boar’s Head (some dairy-free options): http://boarshead.com/about/faq
Dietz & Watson (99.5% meats are gluten-free, many soy free products): http://www.dietzandwatson.com/gluten-free/
Hormel (http://www.hormelfoods.com/brands/glutenfree/default.aspx) includes Jenny-O, Farmer John product lists)
Honey Baked (whole hams) http://www.honeybakedonline.com: “Our hams and turkey breasts DO NOT contain glutens.”
Jones Dairy Farm (dairy-free) http://www.jonesdairyfarm.com/Gluten-Free-C36.aspx
Thumann’s (only “all natural” line is gluten-free, dairy-free) http://www.thumanns.com/allnatural.html
Wellshire Farms (turkey, ham & deli meats – read their gluten-free statement, some dairy-free options): http://www.wellshirefarms.com/healthy-foods-news/Wellshires-Stance-on-Gluten-Free
Review gluten-free alcoholic beverages: