The most wonderful time of the year is almost here!
I love this season, but for years maintaining a gluten-free diet added an extra layer of stress on top of normal holiday travel and hosting.
Here are seven gluten-free holiday mistakes to avoid this year for a happy and healthy holiday if you have celiac disease or require a strict gluten-free diet.
1. Surprising your hosts with diet restrictions.
People ill-informed about celiac disease sometimes perceive gluten-free best practices as rude anyway, but surprising hosts with dietary restrictions make everything worse.
Instead: Communicate well ahead of time to prevent surprises and minimize the chances of offending your host.
Be transparent about your dietary restrictions, ask about the menu, and let them know about any items you plan to bring. Never forget to express your gratitude for their hospitality regardless of whether there are gluten-free options.
2. Making the holiday only about food.
Focusing too much on the foods that make you sick or on the gluten-free versions that just don’t taste quite the same makes for mediocre memories at best.
Instead: Create holiday traditions that have nothing to do with food, but celebrate the holiday itself or time together with family.
Go to a holiday concert or worship service together. Go ice skating or sledding. Play basketball and board games in your PJs. Go to a holiday show. Make a blanket fort and watch your favorite holiday movies.
3. Not bringing a gluten-free protein to holiday parties.
Too often I’ve seen the gluten-free options at a party be a veggie tray, chips, and salad without dressing (if you’re lucky). This menu lacks healthy fat, protein, and complex carbohydrates. It will leave you hungry, irritable, and extra-focused on any delicious-looking foods around that are not gluten-free
Instead: Bring a flexible but protein-rich gluten-free side dish to holiday parties.
A bean salad or casserole can become a meal if gluten-free options are sparse. And always carry protein bars even if you don’t think you need them. They can make a great dessert in a pinch.
4. Not preparing for travel meals.
Waiting to grab something to eat quickly before your flight or until you are hungry on a road trip to find a restaurant could leave you frustrated and hungry with a lack of options.
Instead: Bring simple snack options with you on flights or road trips.
Keep it simple and easy: a gluten-free almond butter sandwich with an apple or orange, protein bar, and nuts can work just fine. You can look up restaurants in airports or along your route in FindMeGlutenFree, but be sure to verify their cross-contamination practices. Consider gluten-free packaged items such as gluten-free protein bars, nuts, or fresh fruit with a peel sold in carts and newsstands to minimize cross-contamination risk if you need to purchase food quickly.
5. Ignoring gluten in favorite holiday foods.
Maintaining a gluten-free diet is critical for people with celiac disease to prevent gastrointestinal symptoms, malnutrition, nutrient deficiencies, neurological problems, extraintestinal problems, and increased cancer risk according to leading researchers at the Mayo Clinic.
Instead: Make or purchase gluten-free versions of the items you will miss the most and cannot imagine passing up.
Experiment ahead of time to find the items you like the most.
6. Not finding gluten-free holiday treats you look forward to.
Holiday meals become a special type of torture when they entail you eating plain lettuce at a table filled with your favorite gluten-y family recipes.
Instead: Make or bring a special favorite gluten-free holiday treat.
7. Ignoring cross-contamination.
Letting someone cook all the traditional gluten-containing holiday dishes on your gluten-free kitchen equipment can become a recipe for cross-contamination. Sometimes you may need to cook in someone else's kitchen or they will cook in yours, which means keeping the kitchen gluten-free may be difficult.
Instead: At your own home, keep the kitchen gluten-free if possible.
If your guests want gluten-containing foods, they can prepare and bring them or you can purchase items prepared elsewhere so that you don’t need to cook them. If this best practice is not possible for you, the next best thing is to use disposable or separate cookware, serve ware, cutting boards, and utensils and thoroughly clean the kitchen and appliances after possible exposure to gluten. If you’re going to stay in someone else's home where there is no gluten-free kitchen, consider bringing a few gluten-free kitchen supplies and disposable items to help prevent cross-contamination.
Looking for a FODMAP-friendly gift for your loved ones this holiday? We have some gift ideas your FODMAP foodie friends and family will adore. Don't forget to make some of these homemade GF granola bars while you are at it!
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, August 10). Celiac disease. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/celiac-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20352220