A Gluten-Free Holiday Survival Guide

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There’s no denying that holidays are filled with special treats and fancy feasts. That makes them especially challenging if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. To survive the holidays with good cheer to spare, follow these helpful tips:

Prepare the way. Explaining to friends and family that you can’t have gluten isn’t always easy. It helps to do this well before the holidays, so everyone has time to adjust. By politely offering menu and recipe suggestions in advance, and gently coaching family members how to make simple ingredient substitutions, you may be able to head off complaints and help everyone’s holiday be less stressful. You can also offer to cook side by side with family members or friends, so they can feel confident their dishes are safe for you.

Navigate the party scene. Let your party host know in advance that you need to avoid gluten. Even a careful, well-meaning host can make a mistake, however. If you’re not sure whether a food or beverage is gluten-free, give it a pass. You can also offer to help your host plan the menu, or bring a dish or two of your own. If you’re concerned you won’t find gluten-free offerings at a social event, have something to eat before you go.

Dine out with confidence. Table for eight? When you’re eating out with a crowd, offer to choose the restaurant and make the reservation. That way, you can make sure you’ll have some gluten-free options. Be sure to call the restaurant and ask questions about their ingredients and gluten-free dishes. You can also check restaurant reviews on websites that focus on gluten-free dining.

Don’t go without. If you become ravenous during hectic days of shopping and holiday activities, you may be tempted to eat something you shouldn’t. Always have a backup plan. Tuck some nuts, fruit, or gluten-free snack bars in your purse, pocket, or car. If you’ll be a house guest over the holidays, add a few survival items to your suitcase, such as dried fruit, nuts, and gluten-free cereal.

Be smart about beverages. It’s the time of year when fancy coffee drinks, eggnog, and party punches appear. Read up on gluten-free beverages and stick to those you know are safe. For instance, regular beer is made with malt and barley, so it’s off-limits. But you can enjoy gluten-free beer brewed from sorghum, millet, brown rice extract, and other safe grain bases. You can also safely celebrate with distilled liquors, and gluten-free eggnog and wine options are available, too.

Create your own traditions. There is no rule that turkey has to be accompanied by bread stuffing, or dessert has to be pumpkin pie with a wheat flour crust. There are plenty of recipes for delicious, gluten-free dishes, treats, and holiday fare. This season, make a new gluten-free dish that everyone will enjoy. Inspire other family members and friends to do the same and start a new holiday food tradition.

Key Takeaways

  • Minimize stress by politely offering menu suggestions in advance and gently coaching family members how to make simple ingredient substitutions.

  • At parties, if you’re not sure whether a food or beverage is gluten-free, give it a pass. You can also offer to bring a dish or help your host plan the menu.

  • Be smart about beverages. You can enjoy distilled liquors and gluten-free beer, wine, and eggnog.

  • On busy days filled with holiday activities, bring some nuts, fruit, or gluten-free snack bars along with you.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 28

  1. What Can I Eat? Celiac Disease Foundation. https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/food-options/

  2. Sources of Gluten. Celiac Disease Foundation. https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/sources-of-gluten/

  3. Dining Out. Celiac Disease Foundation. https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/gluten-free-lifestyle/dining-out/

  4. Holiday & Social Eating. Celiac Disease Foundation. https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/gluten-free-lifestyle/tips-and-tricks/

  5. Gluten Free Products Listing Statement. Oberweiss Dairy. http://www.oberweis.com/web/pdf/glutenfreelisting.pdf

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