How to avoid being glutened this Xmas & what you can actually eat (including vegan options)
How fast has December come round?! I must admit it was a dash to the shops to get the matching jumpers required for our first ever family Xmas photoshoot...
And whaddya mean bah humbug to the matching jumpers?!!! I've been DYING to get my little people into mini versions of what I'm wearing. I couldn't find anything in the normal clothing sections and then...yay for the festive season - jumpers in ALL SIZES were everywhere!
But clothing isn't the first problem on a coeliac's list. At least, not mine. This year I'm pleased to say I'm in charge of cooking so there won't be any issues with gluten. However, last year was a different story. It was a massive family do and despite everyone being as good as they could possibly be, somehow I got glutened; you have my sympathy if you've had the same experience. It's not exactly Xmas if you feel like your stomach has done ten rounds with Anthony Joshua.
So what's to be done?
Firstly, preparation is key. If you're going to someone else's house/restaurant, you'll need to make it really clear what you can and can't eat. And don't be shy about it. Put it in an e-mail and then call the next day to go over everything, remembering stock cubes and flour are often used without people even thinking about them (there are gluten-free stock cubes available and cornflour is a great replacement for other types containing wheat).
Then there's cross-contact. That means NOTHING can touch your gluten-free food. No shared trays. No shared fryers. No shared anything. Don't stir the gravy with a spoon and then stir the gluten-free gravy. Don't touch the stuffing and then touch anything else without washing your hands. Basically, imagine when you touch gluten that you're touching covid, and that should help plant an image in the mind of the chef(s) to help them accommodate your needs. If it helps, make sure your food is wrapped in tin foil before it's put in the oven and then don't let anyone else unwrap it. You never know what they were touching prior to touching your food, and that's often where the glutening comes in.
This is all very well, you may say, but what about when they ask what you can have. What are you actually going to eat?
Take a look at this list and see if there's something your host feels comfortable making. Whether they're a stickler for tradition or they're happy to embrace something new, you should find a compromise that ticks all the boxes.
Roasted turkey or chicken (just remember not to have any meat that's touched stuffing)
Gluten-free gravy (there are plenty of gluten-free stock cubes by Kallo)
Roast potatoes done in oil or goose fat, not semolina or flour (unless it's gluten-free flour)
Roasted vegetables such as brussels sprouts, carrots, peas or green beans
Gluten-free stuffing made with gluten-free bread (or a ready-mix by a gluten-free brand)
Cranberry sauce (check the label but usually they're gluten-free naturally)
Separate gluten-free Xmas pud served with cream or brandy butter
Alternative dinner (including vegan and veggie options)
Quinoa or rice pilaf with nuts and dried fruit
Grilled or roasted portobello mushrooms
Roasted root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes
Stuffed winter butternut squash or bell peppers
Gluten-free, vegetarian gravy
Green beans or asparagus with a citrus or almond butter glaze
Roasted or grilled tofu with a gluten-free tamari marinade or glaze
If you're really nervous about the place you're going to, you can always prepare something in advance to be reheated in the microwave. It's not as great as a fresh meal but it's a heck of a lot better than rueing the meal afterwards when you're stuck on their loo for hours. Plus, a mini gluten-free Xmas pud is kind of exciting ("Mine! All mine!").
And if anyone questions what you're doing, remember there are lines you can use to protect yourself and ensure people:
(a) are educated about coeliac disease;
(b) get the message; and
(c) shut up.
Clearly (c) should be used with caution, especially if you want to keep up a happy Xmas vibe, but there are ways to do it so that you come away with minimal Xmas scarring.
Turn their comment into a question. Them: "You can have a little bit, tho?" You: "Why do you think I can have a little bit?"
Leverage your own health issues. "It'd make me so much happier if I could eat a separately prepared meal. I find it helps to reduce my anxiety."
Use a firm line that puts them in their place. "I could agree with you but then we'd both be wrong." "It'd be best if you concentrate on what works for you and I ensure what works for me. Then we can both be happy and healthy this Xmas."
And if at any point you try calling your host and you just can't bring yourself to discuss your needs, send them a link to this article and start with the words, "I'm finding things really hard as a coeliac. I'm hoping this article will help you understand how I feel so we can keep me safe this Xmas without you worrying you might gluten me. Lots of love!"
For more advice on having a safe coeliac Xmas, click here.