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Gluten-free etiquette at Xmas

Awkward question: are you thinking about using covid as an excuse not to eat at other people's houses this Xmas?

I only ask because my own coeliac experience has been rather enlightening. Scattered in the rubble that is covid, I've learnt how much anxiety I can build up around eating at other people's houses.

The answer can't be never to eat anywhere but home again. Well, not in the long term. Whether you choose to stay home for other reasons this Xmas is a separate matter.

But you can put your new-found knowledge of eating at home all the time to good use. It can be a starter conversation that will make things better, not worse, when it comes to relatives cooking for you on Xmas day.

Start early

I suggest you begin well in advance of the event (7 days is enough - there's still time!). In either a group e-mail or WhatsApp message, send a reminder of what you can and can't eat and make an offer to help with anything anyone might feel nervous about. There are 3 key areas you need to address:

  1. Gratitude

  2. What you can and can't eat

  3. Cross contamination

Here's an example:

Gluten-free Xmas WhatsApp message

It may help to send evidence of may contain warnings, which you can easily do with a few choice pics. Feel free to send them this one!

Pudding rice that isn't gluten-free
Pudding rice that 'may contain wheat'

On the day

The important thing is you feel safe. If you're at all concerned that someone hasn't understood, there are several tactics you can use.

  1. Avoid the food you're uncertain about (there are times when you'd rather not kick up a fuss and your lamentations would fall on deaf ears).

  2. Bring some supplies with you just in case.

  3. Repeat after me: "I've learnt it's much better for me to be safe than sorry. Worrying about food heightens my anxiety, which in turn can make me ill. Please don't be offended if I choose not to eat something."

Whatever you do, don't eat anything because you feel obliged. It's simply not worth it. Over time, people will come to understand your needs (even if they don't now) and you must put yourself first, much as it might feel uncomfortable. I mean, which discomfort would you rather - a few minutes of conversation or a few weeks of being tethered to a bathroom with your bowels crying out for mercy?

Finally, just know you're not alone. There's plenty of help out there on Facebook in groups like Coeliacs in the UK if you need reassurance from others.

For more blog posts on how to cope this Xmas, click here.


Hi! Great to have you here...

My name's Ali and I help people on gluten-free diets have a better, easier and healthier lifestyle. 

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