7 Ways to Navigate the Holidays Gluten-Free
Tip #1: Ask for help.
Sometimes, we forget to ask for help when we need it, or we might worry that it will take more effort to educate others about gluten-free food prep, so we figure we’ll just do it ourselves. Your loved ones and friends can be there to help cook with you as you prepare, in advance, any dishes you need to DIY. Enlist someone to be your sous chef to help chop veggies or fruit, measure ingredients, and follow directions. Get someone to do some of the shopping for you, giving them a carefully detailed list to follow. Even a little bit of help can go a long way to less stress.
Ah, those good intentions. Cross-contact with gluten is a legit concern.
Tip #2: Offer to help prep or bring your own food.
Discuss the meal plan with your host and ask key questions to understand how likely cross-contact might happen. Have they read – or could you read – the labels on packaged food being used to make dishes? Is regular flour being used in the same kitchen where gluten-free items are being prepared? Are surfaces, utensils, cookware, and bakeware shared between gluten-containing and gluten-free things? To avoid confusion and potential embarrassment (theirs, not yours, because you have nothing to be embarrassed about) if a guest doesn’t know anything about cross-contact, ask the host if you can help ensure food prep is gluten-free. If that is not an option, let the host know you’re bringing your own things to eat to be extra careful.
No gluten means: No gluten.
Tip #3: Come up with your brief explanation. Repeat.
Trying to get others to understand what eating gluten-free means can be a doozy. The best way to address it is to emphasis “medical” and “health.” For example:
“I’m gluten-free for medical reasons and under doctor’s orders. Even the smallest amount of gluten can be dangerous to my health. I appreciate your understanding of how important it is that there is no gluten at all in anything I eat. Thank you for your support.”
When you like what you like…
Tip #4: Shop in advance – and look for the GFCO certification mark.
There are so many delicious gluten-free options for our favorite holiday foods. Do some advance recon work, including visiting the GFCO Product Directory to search for GFCO-certified gravy, pie crust, breadcrumbs, and more! While we always recommend looking for the words “gluten-free” or a third-party certification, we can only vouch for GFCO-certified foods. Once you have your gluten-free wish list, head to the store – or order online – to stock up on the perfect alternatives.
When it’s not you, it’s them.
Tip #5: Advocate for your loved one(s).
If you have a loved one (or more than one) who must eat gluten-free, be their biggest support and help them ensure their holiday meal is safely gluten-free. That might mean following any of these tips on their behalf or sharing these tips with them so they can also self-advocate. That could mean making a fabulous gluten-free version of your child’s favorite holiday food and letting them bring it to the party or dinner table to show it off and share it. How about a sweet potato casserole or even a fruit-filled gelatin mold? Skies the limit.
Oh, those well-meaning loved ones.
Tip #6: Ask the questions, then go back to Tip #2.
Don’t wait until someone goes out of their way to prepare something that may or may not be safely gluten-free. Save well-meaning friends and family from making something that isn’t safe for you to eat by setting them up for success. In advance, put that long list of questions regarding safe gluten-free food prep into a document. Print it out. Then give it to the host with a sweet note saying you’d be happy to help prepare food in their kitchen or bring your own. If giving advanced notice doesn’t work and someone brings you a surprise, it’s always okay to thank them and politely decline.
Where’s the turkey?
Tip #7: Pre-order fresh turkey.
Get your fresh turkey ordered well in advance to ensure you have a fresh, unseasoned turkey that you can baste yourself with gluten-free pan juices. If you are unable to order fresh turkey, look for one that says “gluten-free” on the label and check that the turkey has not been “injected with broth.”