The numerous holiday invitations making their way onto your calendar about now can pose some challenges, or even anxiety, when it comes to eating a gluten-free diet. The last thing you want during this busy and festive time of the year is to accidentally eat something that doesn’t agree with you. 

There is no doubt the holiday season requires strategic preparation to avoid gluten; however, there are many ways to ensure a full tummy and good health while celebrating with your loved ones. Here are tips for ensuring you can embrace a gluten-free holiday season in any circumstance:

Know what foods to question. The most common sneaky gluten-filled foods you’ll find during the holidays are gravies, sauces and dressings, pre-made mashed potatoes, soups, cream-based dishes, and faux-meat products. On the surface they may seem innocent, but these foods often use wheat flour as a binder or thickener. Ask if it is gluten-free or check the label to be sure. 

Think ahead. Whether you are dining at a home or restaurant, find out what is on the menu. At a home, you can always offer to bring a safe dish you enjoy. Hosts are typically happy to have more food and appreciate communication regarding food issues in advance. If celebrating at a restaurant, you can usually review the menu online; however, you may still want to call to ask about certain dish preparations and gluten-free options. These small steps will ensure that you enjoy your time without starving yourself or feeling sick later.

Eat before you go. Worst-case scenario, when you have no control over food and have no way to be informed of the menu, you definitely want to fill up at home before the event. Enjoy the opportunity to be fully present in conversing with the people around you. 

Offer to host! The easiest way to avoid “getting glutened” is to do it yourself or purchase certified gluten-free dishes (or a mix of both!). If opting for buffet style, you should label dishes that are gluten-free and remind your guests to keep the serving utensils separate from gluten-containing food to avoid cross-contamination.

Practice your dishes. Take an opportunity beforehand to test out any new recipes on the household. You don’t want to chance trying a dish out of that new gluten-free cookbook on the day of the event as it may not look or taste up to your standards. 

Luckily today, we have an abundance of resources and products to ensure we enjoy a safe and delicious gluten-free meal. There are numerous companies making delicious certified gluten-free products which you can now find in most mainstream grocery stores and online. Search through online blogs and gluten-free or paleo cookbooks for ideas. Also consider asking other gluten-free friends about their holiday meal planning. The less stress you have and the healthier you are this season, the better your special memories will be. Success favors the prepared!

Tiffany is a certified nutrition consultant and functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner and can be reached at (760) 285.1221. 

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