Following a gluten-free diet can be challenging, especially during the holidays. A Christmas table can contain both gluten and naturally gluten-free foods. However, you can undoubtedly navigate Christmas gluten-free with enough knowledge about gluten-free eating. This article will give you tips for a gluten-free Christmas so you can enjoy festive times to the fullest.
Gluten is a protein naturally found in some foods, and consuming gluten is not an issue for most people. Still, it causes severe problems for others who have gluten-related conditions, such as non-coeliac gluten sensitivity and celiac diseases.
Christmas dinners have many gluten-containing foods. That's why strategies to navigate a gluten-free Christmas can be hugely beneficial if you follow a gluten-free diet.
Some strategies include talking to your host about your dietary requirements, offering help to your host so you can be sure what's gluten-free, bringing foods that you can rely on, etc.
Remember — you don't have to sacrifice Christmas or your health if you plan and prepare beforehand.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in some foods, including wheat, barley, rye, durum, spelt, emmer, semolina, and farro. It's the protein that creates elasticity in dough; therefore, most baked products made with flour contain gluten.
Gluten is not unhealthy for most people; however, it can cause health problems in people with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity and celiac diseases. Therefore, a gluten-free diet is a necessity for people with gluten-related conditions.
5 tips to navigate your gluten-free Christmas
Navigating gluten-free nutrition can be challenging, but you can still enjoy festive times with careful planning. Here are some tips that can help you:
1. Talk to your host about your nutritional needs
You can talk to the host about your dietary requirements. If they offer to prepare gluten-free foods for you, ensure they're knowledgeable enough to distinguish gluten-containing foods from gluten-free foods.
2. Offer your host help
Preparing a Christmas dinner is not an easy job. The hosts will likely prepare many foods for at least a small gathering of family and friends. Offering your help is not only beneficial to them but also to you. You can help create gluten-free foods and see how other foods are prepared to know what to eat and avoid.
3. Bring something
Bringing food is a great gesture and will give you peace of mind if nothing on the table is gluten-free. You can get gluten-free versions of traditional Christmas foods or your signature gluten-free food, so you know everyone would love it.
You can choose a meal, dessert, drink, or all if you're sure you won't find gluten-free food on the table. You can make gluten-free butternut squash soup, which gives festive vibes. How about Christmas pudding, which is easier to make and also delicious?
For drinks, you can bring gluten-free alcoholic or non-alcoholic gluten-free mulled wine with your choices of juices, fruit slices, cinnamon, and sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.
4. Ask about ingredients to spot naturally gluten-free foods
Before eating foods that look gluten-free, always ask the host for the ingredients. For example, although turkey is naturally gluten-free, its sauces are generally not.
5. When eating out, ensure the restaurant has gluten-free options
It's best to call a restaurant beforehand to be sure they prepare gluten-free foods and don't contaminate them with gluten during the preparation, cooking, and serving process.
Common foods containing gluten
If you first know what foods to eliminate, navigating a gluten-free Christmas will be easier. Gluten-containing foods include but are not limited to:
- Wheat and wheat varieties such as durum, einkorn, emmer, kamut, and spelt
- Brewer's yeast
Christmas gatherings contain many baked foods generally made from gluten-containing flour. You should ask your host about food ingredients.
Some traditional Christmas foods and drinks that can contain gluten are:
- Gravy — turkey is usually served with gravy made from flour, fat, and stock
- Cookies — generally made from wheat flour
- Foods including processed meats
- Alcoholic beverages made from gluten-containing grains that are not distilled
Gray zone: foods that may contain gluten
Naturally gluten-free foods can get contaminated with gluten. Oats are most likely to get contaminated in the production process, so it's recommended to consume oats labeled as gluten-free if you have gluten-related intolerances.
It can also happen if the same utensils are used to prepare or serve foods. The preparation, cooking, and serving of gluten-free foods should be separated from those of gluten-containing foods.
Naturally gluten-free foods
Luckily, you can enjoy naturally gluten-free foods after ensuring they aren't contaminated with gluten.
Fresh, gluten-free foods include:
- Meats, fish and poultry
Although some grains contain gluten, most grains are gluten-free, such as:
Most baked products are made with wheat because gluten gives them an elastic structure. However, you can consume baked goods made with gluten-free flour, such as beans, corn, potato, rice, and soy flour.
How to ensure a product is gluten-free?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), gluten-free products should contain less than 20 ppm of gluten. Labels including 'gluten-free,' 'no gluten,' 'free of gluten,' or 'without gluten' are used to indicate gluten-free products.
Before consuming packaged products:
- Choose the product with a 'gluten-free' label. To be sure, look for a label indicating the product does not contain gluten.
- Check the ingredient list. Look at the ingredients to see if there are any gluten-containing foods. Some packaged foods do not contain gluten-containing ingredients; however, they may get contaminated during the process, so check for warnings on the package.
- Be careful that wheat-free is not always gluten-free. Some products can be wheat-free but contain other gluten-containing ingredients.
Is alcohol gluten-free?
Alcoholic beverages are generally part of Christmas tables. If you're on a gluten-free diet, you shouldn't drink alcoholic beverages made with gluten-containing grains unless they're distilled.Most distilled alcohols are gluten-free because gluten is a large molecule that can't pass to beverages if distilled.
Remember, you can enjoy Christmas while following a gluten-free diet. It's possible to eat, drink, and share memories to the fullest without sacrificing your health by planning ahead and getting prepared.
- Mayo Clinic. Gluten-free diet.
- Celiac Disease Foundation. Gluten-free Diet & Food Label Reading Guide.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Gluten and Food Labeling.
- Coeliac UK. Top tips for navigating the gluten free diet at Christmas by Becky Excell.
- Cleveland Clinic. Celiac Disease vs. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity vs. Food Allergy.