Living Gluten Free at Holiday Time

11.18.14 / Comment


holidays are a joyous and overwhelming time of year. It is a time of year when many of us entertain frequently. A complicating factor in preparing for the many parties and celebrations is the desire to maintain a gluten free diet. The idea of preparing many favorite holiday recipes without the use of gluten can seem a daunting task.

But, why? What makes us think that we will notice the absence of gluten in our favorite holiday foods in the first place?

Gluten is the protein in wheat, semolina, bulgur, couscous, rye, barley, faro, spelt, triticale. It is the strong, stretchy, sticky protein that gives structure to food. It helps produce fluffy, flaky baked goods among other things. However, if you go back to the not so distant past you would find that the grains primarily used were naturally gluten free. Among those grains you would find many alternatives – amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, oats, sorghum, teff, & wild rice. In addition, rice and corn are also gluten free. Oats are also naturally gluten free but are often contaminated when mixed with other non-gluten free grains.

Holiday gatherings can make it challenging when you are avoiding gluten especially when you have Celiac disease. The tiniest drop of gluten can become problematic. If you are going out for the holiday inform the host that you are gluten free so they can prepare the menu with some gluten free dishes. It’s important to talk about cross contamination and a crouton on a salad could be harmful to you. It’s important to discuss the importance of clean utensils and that they are not shared in dishes that are not gluten free. They should be aware that kitchen surfaces and appliances can easily be cross contaminated by something that is not gluten free and that the surface needs to be cleaned thoroughly before something gluten free is placed on that surface.

It’s helpful to offer to bring one or two dishes you know you can eat. It takes some of the burden off the host. Suggest that foods which are gluten free are labeled and kept separated. Some people actually bring their own utensils and paper plates to eat with. If you ask to serve yourself first it’s not being rude it’s being safe and then you don’t have to bring your own utensils.

There are many different ways delicious recipes can be prepared with these grains. A great resource we have found is the Whole Grain Council an Olways Program. It is a great source providing recipes, manufacturers who specialize in gluten free grains and other valuable information.

Fortunately, today there are many food companies that make it relatively simple to prepare a delicious holiday meal that is gluten free. Bell & Evans Poultry Company has a line of gluten free products. There are so many companies that now include healthier ingredients such as chia, hemp & flax seeds, quinoa, garbanzo beans, lentils & coconut flour.

Among those companies and their products are Crunchmaster Crackers, Mediterranean Snacks Lentil Crackers, Glow Cookies, Canyon Bakehouse Foccacia & Bread, Famous Falafel Crackers and Rudi’s Bakery. Good Health Naturals provides needed nutrition from veggies in there Veggie Sticks. Pamela’s Products have many great gluten free bake mixes that are perfect for holiday baking and Cabot Creamery cheese is naturally gluten free. Cook Simple has a line of gluten free meal kits. Among my favorites is a side dish of wild rice and cranberries that is both delicious and nutritious. These are just a sampling of the great gluten free companies out on the market.

It is becoming increasingly common to hear people say I have a gluten or wheat sensitivity or Celiac Disease. Ten years ago gluten intolerance levels were 1 in 2500 people worldwide. The latest statistics estimate 1 in 333 people suffer from this gluten intolerance. That is a dramatic increase in a very short period of time.

There has been a big push in recent years to raise public awareness of Celiac disease with many more doctors testing for it. Unlike most diseases you can be symptom free and still have Celiac Disease. When not treated properly it can be a very destructive disease contributing to conditions such as infertility, migraine headaches, osteoporosis, type 1 diabetes and thyroid disease. You are more likely to develop other Auto-immune diseases, like Celiac Disease if you already have an Auto-immune condition such as thyroid disease, Type 1 diabetes mellitus and primary biliary cirrhosis. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is a wealth of information for both adults and children.parents.

It is easier than you think to have yummy gluten free foods for the holidays.

“Fuel your body with real food for real energy”.

Enjoy your holidays!

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