When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, the holidays became a stressful time for me. I was surrounded by family who was a mix of either clueless, supportive, or skeptical of my dietary needs. It made eating safely difficult and stressful.
In the very beginning, I didn’t know how to adapt. I sometimes resorted to just not eating until I got home.
This left me feeling isolated. Part of socializing with your loved ones is centered around sharing a meal with them.
So here are my top tips for being a gluten-free guest during the holiday season. Hopefully, they will help alleviate some of your worries and stress over the holiday season!
First off, talk with the host about your dietary needs. See if they are willing to make any accommodations and if they’d like help planning the event. Depending on how close the host is to you, this can be a huge game changer.
If they are open to accommodating and accepting your help, suggest safe recipes for the event. You can also offer to assist them with preparation! Both of these things will help you prevent cross-contact and ensure that there are safe dishes.
If they aren’t open to help, you might ask that they safe ingredient labels for you to review (a simple picture of them can be enough)
And if anything, you can use this time to let them know you’ll bring your own dish/es so you know that you’ll have something safe to eat!
(Letting your hosts know you are bringing your own dishes can help prevent people from feeling offended when you arrive and only eat your own food).
Which leads to me to my next tip for being a gluten-free guest during the holidays…
The best way to know you’ll have something safe to eat is to bring your own dish!
I do this almost everytime I go to an event. It ensures I can be a part of the party!
On that note, I also make sure to bring my own dessert and snacks to make sure I am not left out in any part of the experience.
I’ve been known to bring my own chips and salsa, ice cream, cookies and more.
This is probably the hardest tip to abide by. Don’t worry, I’ve been there. I’ve been mean-mugged by someone’s grandma for not touching my mac and cheese.
Sorry not sorry, I’m not going to cause harm to myself to satisfy someone’s ego.
As hard as it might be, just say no.
There will be things you won’t be able to eat because of cross-contact. It is almost inevitable that it will ruin certain dishes for you so just come to peace with respectfully saying no (no matter how hard your aunt pressures you to try her newest recipe!).
This goes for all the dishes you are unsure about. Stay on the safe side and just say no.
Be sure you thank your host profusely for accommodating your needs.
Let them know you appreciate everything they did. If you’re able to identify specific things that they did, try to bring those up! It will help them know you saw them, and it will help them know what will be helpful in the future.
You might also help them with clean-up (if they allow) to show your thanks.
On this note, if things didn’t go entirely to plan, don’t burn any bridges yet. Thank people for trying to accommodate you and keep trying to nurture their support. Just like it will/has taken you time to learn the ropes of living gluten-free, it’s going to take them time too.
If any meal is served buffet style, make sure you are first to go through the line. Communicate with the host that your needs require you to go first in order to limit accidental cross-contamination!
If the host is making an effort to prepare GF dishes, ask if they can prepare the gluten-free food before the gluten-filled food and if the gluten-free food can be set up at a different table for serving.
p.s. I dedicate an entire section of the Celiac Disease Wellness Journal to helping your map our and plan the holidays to feel safer. Check it out if you need more guidance.