Ah the holidays-filled with cookies, treats, candies, groaning holiday tables, cookie exchanges, holiday office parties…..visions of sugarplums. Or for someone who has food allergies, more like a holiday nightmare.
Joining a gluten free group on facebook has been a real eye-opener for me. It is wonderful to share stories, recipes, articles and tragic tales with like minded people who “get” what those of us with food intolerance go through during the most wonderful time of the year.
I have read many stories on holiday dinner disasters and how relatives are exasperated by not knowing what to make for people with gluten intolerance or food allergies. I find it interesting to hear peoples take on what contains gluten and what doesn’t. The answer to these questions is as near as google.com, but I guess people would rather rely on others who understand their situation better than anyone.
The only issue with that is ask 20 people a question, get 20 answers. Relying solely on other people could be a recipe for disaster. That is why I try to help others as much as I can by posting recipes, articles and advice on what works and what doesn’t as I have found out through trial and error.
Going back to my previous statement, there are better ways to handle holiday dinners, potlucks and cookie exchanges. It can become frustrating, and downright nasty, when a person with food intolerance meets a traditional family dinner. Let’s face it, those who make those dinners have absolutely no clue on what ingredients should be avoided. It is far too complicated and personally I would not take the chance. Swapping flour for cornstarch in Grandma’s gravy or cornbread for white bread in Aunt Mary’s stuffing is only scratching the surface. There is hidden gluten and dairy everywhere (turkey and mashed potatoes for example). I would not ask someone who invited me to dinner to disrupt their routine. There are simpler and far less stressful solutions to these problems.
- the easiest thing to do by far is bring your own food-find out what your host is making then bring your own allergen free version. Serve it on the family dinnerware and you will be part of the group, and not feel excluded
- If you feel uncomfortable doing that, speak to your host and try to keep allergens to a minimum by going over in detail exactly what will be served and ingredients. Ask your host to keep any labels from foods they are serving so you can check them.
- Beware of alcohol-especially if you are following a FODMAP diet. More than one glass can upset your stomach. Beware especially of grain alcohol and beer
- If your office is having a holiday cookie exchange, either decline or bring gluten free cookies-and offer to share. They might be surprised how good they are!
- Holiday pot lucks can be tricky-bring an allergen free dish you can enjoy. It’s best not to eat anything else unless you can be sure it is allergen free. Make sure to mark it so there is no cross contamination
- If you are dining out, it might be difficult to have a traditional holiday dinner which might include stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Even turkey can have gluten. Soups also usually are thickened with flour. Call ahead and speak to a manager to see if a special meal can be prepared for you.
These are a just a few tips that can make the holidays a bit easier for you and your family. If your family is less than cooperative, try sitting down with them before the big day and explaining why you are avoiding certain ingredients. Explain it has nothing to do with their cooking or food, but that you must avoid these foods to remain healthy, and eating something you are not sure contains allergens could make you very ill.
Here is a great article from CNN on how to avoid allergens at family gatherings.
There are literally millions of allergen free recipes on the internet. As I always say, GOOGLE is your best friend!
This will be my second Christmas being gluten and dairy free. I will be making my own dinner this year. Last year I spent it with relatives and brought my own food. I did not feel left out. The only glitch was they changed the menu at the last minute, so I brought a Turkey dinner, and they had Ham with potato, macaroni salad and cole slaw. Not knowing what was in any of that, I stuck to my own meal. I even brought dessert with me!
You can have a lovely holiday meal. Focus on the company, not the food. After all, food is only part of it. Family is everything.
Have a wonderful holiday!!!