Eating out or staying in? Avoiding gluten can be a challenge. Here’s how to enjoy your Christmas without it.
Mince pies, puddings and cakes are just some of the things that can make it difficult to stick to a safe and healthy diet at this festive time of the year. Have a look at this expert advice and enjoy Christmas more than ever this year.
A popular occurrence at Christmas time is having a meal out with your friends or colleagues. Eating out on a gluten-free diet can be
quite challenging on a normal day. So when there is even more food, like stuffing, gravy and fruit cake all containing gluten, the idea of going out for a meal can seem extremely unappealing.
The best thing to do if you are planning on going out for a meal is to ring up the restaurant a few days before you are going. Ask them if they offer any gluten-free options and if they understand the complications of cross-contamination. If you have to explain to them what gluten is, you are probably better off going elsewhere.
When you arrive at the restaurant, that you have found offers suitable options, make sure you remind them of your diet. Ask them about the sauces they have on offer. If you are planning on having gravy asks how it is made and its ingredients. If you are having condiments such as tomato ketchup or mayonnaise, ask them if you can see the label to check that the ingredients are safe. Remember, even though gluten is one of the 14 allergens that have to be listed on the label in Europe that does not always mean that every company complies with this regulation.
Daniel Ahern, the gluten-free chef from glutenfreegirl.com advises that in order to enjoy your Christmas meal more than ever “letting your family know how to feed you safely” is a big must. If you are planning on spending Christmas Day at a friend’s or family member’s house, remind them about your dietary needs. Offer to help them with cooking or reading the labels of ingredients they are going to use. You may want to take some of your own ingredients along too, like gravy powder or bread, but make sure you double check with them that they have not already got them. Speak to them a couple days before and run through the meal.
If you spend your Christmas at home, making your own dinner will be easier. Jimmy Boswell, a gluten-free chef from New Zealand, advises that for the best success “go back to basics. Make your own stocks and sauces.” At least that way you will know exactly what is in them and will not need to check the label constantly. Jimmy’s tip is to “make things in advance like stocks, and freeze them, 2 cups (500ml) in zip-loc bags. I did some yesterday and now have 15 x 500ml bags of stock in my freezer ready to use at Christmas”. If you are having turkey but are worried about seasoning it, keep it simple, use salt and pepper. Torie Jayne, owner of toriejayne.blogspot.co.uk says “You can make your own stuffing using shop bought gluten-free bread”, some shops even sell ready-made gluten-free bread crumbs.
Carol Kicinski, author of Simply… gluten-free and TV chef, says “remember to focus on the abundance of naturally gluten-free food instead of what you can’t eat”. If you only focus on what you can’t eat your world will appear to be a lot more restricted than what it really is. Enjoy the simple pleasures of fruit, yoghurt, chocolate and other naturally gluten-free foods. Mary from Sugar & Spice Market says “Many foods are naturally gluten-free and if a recipe needs flour, substitute with a quality gluten-free flour”. Torie says though “watch out white chocolate, as some add flour”. It’s important to keep checking labels as many foods add flour. Don’t forget to “Check all crisps as a lot of meat flavoured and vinegar based crisps contain gluten” Torie adds.
Remember that the holiday is not all about food. Cate Alexandra from girlcooksworld.com says “I live really far from family so I’m just psyched to have time off work to relax and see my nieces and nephew, the rest of my family”. If you are not seeing family over the holidays, plan to attend an event or go and “do something that is not centred around gluten-containing food” she advises.
“Try your best to carry out old traditions and start new ones. If your family tradition is to wake up late and make French toast, don’t sit on the side lines eating yogurt while everybody else is eating French toast. It’ll just bum you out. Buy a bunch of gluten-free bread and make sure you can take part – obviously doing your best to avoid cross-contamination” Cate adds. Do something that everyone can take part in.
Wherever you end up spending your Christmas this year, hopefully this guide will help to keep you and your tummy safe, making your holidays more enjoyable than ever!