Being a Coeliac at Christmas
As a newly diagnosed Coeliac Christmas can be a challenging time, or that may be what you think until you realise that there are plenty of safe Gluten free options out there which will ensure that you do not feel left out of all the festivities.
It can sometimes feel as if the focus at Christmas is all around food (and of course it is!) but as a Coeliac it can be quite overwhelming especially when there are parties and family gatherings to attend. However with a few helpful hints and tips we can help take the stress out of this time of year.
Newly diagnosed coeliacs:
The first christmas for a newly diagnosed coeliac can seem quite overwhelming when all the focus seems to be around food. Suddenly you may be asking yourself questions such as can I have gravy? Is there a gluten free gravy? What about stuffing? What about trifle? Do I have to make my own?
The good news is that there are now more Coeliac friendly options in Supermarkets than ever before. You can get gluten free gravy (Knorr and Bisto), gluten free pudding and mince pies (Tesco and Marks and Spencer) not to mention the amount of Gluten free sweets and treats that now readily available compared to only a few years ago.
It is probably simplest if we categorise eating out over Christmas into three categories:
Eating at home
This is probably the easiest setting to cope with as you are already familiar with the food you can have and how to prepare it safely and you have complete control over what is being cooked. If you purchase your Turkey, Goose, Chicken from the butchers there should not be a problem with gluten contamination. If you purchase it from the supermarket check the label to ensure its Gluten free and the same applies to your ham (I.e. not crumbed).
If you make your own stuffing and gravy there are no issues however if you don’t there is a wide selection readily available in supermarkets. Equally little extras such as cocktail sausages, potato croquettes and bread sauce for example are available gluten free in stores such as Marks and Spencer and Supervalu (check the Society’s Food List and Seasonal list for the most up-to-date listings).
Eating in Friends/Relatives Homes
In the past, having to phone your host/hostess to remind them that you are Gluten Free was enough to make many people decide to decline an invitation and stay at home.
Not so nowadays as more and more people have become aware of the Coeliac/GF condition and are willing to cope. However, your host may need some help so you can always offer advice on suitable GF stuffing, offer to arrive a bit early in order to help organise the food and avoid cross contamination or offer to bring your own GF stuffing /gravy if the Turkey is not already stuffed.
The cross contamination risk is obviously higher here than when cooking at home but, by keeping your wits about you, it can be managed and the risk reduced.
If you are the only Coeliac you could offer to bring your own dessert or Christmas cake and, if you bring a GF box of chocolates for sharing, you will be able to join in when they are shared around.
One final point on this – be wary of food prepared as “Gluten Free” by friends or family who are not Coeliac! They may or may not have got it right so again offer to help or at the very least be vigilant!!
Remember: The Coeliac Society’s Food List is your go-to guide for all things Gluten free. Everything listed in the food list has been certified and approved and is entirely safe for Coeliacs. Always consult the Food List if you are in any doubt as to whether a product is Gluten free or not. In addition the Society compiles a list of Gluten Free Seasonal Products especially for Christmas and this list containd additional items which are seasonal and may not be in the Food list. The Society distributes this list to all its members in time for Christmas so that members have the best possible choice of products for Christmas.
Eating Out at a Restaurant, Pub or Hotel
It’s easier than ever to eat out on the gluten free diet. Many national and regional restaurant chains offer gluten free menus and seem to have taken the time to truly understand the needs of people with coeliac disease and gluten intolerance. Even many fast food restaurants now offer gluten-free options.
But it’s still possible to run into trouble at a restaurant, especially if you’re fairly sensitive to gluten. In most cases, the problem isn’t gluten ingredients in the food itself — it’s cross contamination.
Here are some rules to follow to ensure a safe restaurant meal. By implementing these, you should be able to eat out safely.
- Choose Your Restaurant Wisely.
- Where possible, talk directly to the Chef or Manager.
- Stress Cross-Contamination Issues with Your Chef and Server.
- Question Everything.
- If in Doubt, Don’t Eat.