As if the holiday season isn’t stressful enough for some people, it can be even harder for those of us with celiac disease.
It is hard to enjoy a big Thanksgiving dinner or any kind of holiday gathering when you don’t know if you’ll be able to eat anything that’s going to be served. And you don’t want to draw attention as the high-maintenance guest or fussy diner who isn’t eating.
When you’re making a meal at home or visiting a restaurant where you know the staff is sensitive to the needs of customers who can’t eat gluten, dining isn’t all that stressful. But dealing with social events where you don’t have any control over the food is another matter. People who write books and blogs about the gluten-free diet devote a lot of space to this.
Here are a few tips on how to handle these holiday gatherings.
- Try to talk to the host or hostess in advance, you want to minimize their stress but you have to let them know. The hosts usually want all of their guests to have a good time. They’re not going to feel so great if you’re not eating.
- For people with celiac disease or some other type of gluten intolerance, the gluten-free diet isn’t a choice. It’s a serious health concern because eating the slightest amount of gluten can make a celiac sick. If the hosts are unaware of this, you really need to make them aware. Some celiacs are afraid to speak up and tell people about their condition. If you had a peanut allergy, you wouldn’t sit quietly and eat a meal that might have peanuts in it. So if you have a gluten intolerance (it’s technically not an allergy), why wouldn’t you let everyone know?
Now if someone is cooking a dinner for 20 people, it is unreasonable to expect an entire meal to be gluten free. But there are steps you can take to make sure that at least part of the meal is safe to eat.
- Offer to bring a gluten-free dish or come early to help them prepare, adding that you should also bring your own utensils to serve the gluten-free dish. Cross-contamination from other food that has gluten can be a problem.
- In addition to bringing a dish that everyone can enjoy, you might also want to bring your own chicken breast or turkey roast that can be heated separately just for yourself. If the host understands your condition, he or she shouldn’t be offended that you’re not eating the turkey the host spent hours preparing.
- Turkey itself is gluten free but if it’s cooked with stuffing, it very likely could come in contact with gluten. Don’t try to work around the gluten-containing stuffing.
- Needless to say, gravy is another concern.
- Other Thanksgiving staples like cranberry sauce are usually gluten free, but you have to be careful about mashed potatoes. Sometimes people put something on top of the potato or in the potato with gluten.
- Avoid dips, even if you know the dip itself is gluten free. You have no idea what other people have been dipping.
Of course, after Thanksgiving, there will still be a lot of social gatherings through the holiday season. Many people have offered the advice that if you’re going to a party where hors d’oeuvres are served but no formal dinner, the best thing to do is eat before you go, assuming you don’t know if the food will be prepared gluten free.