Have Gluten Free Fun at Holiday Parties
How will I make it through the holidays?
This is the number one concern I hear from new celiacs as the holiday season approaches. With all the parties from family and work come laughter, wine, gifts…and a host of foods we can’t eat. It’s easy to feel upset or left out, or to feel like everyone is judging you for not eating Aunt Susie’s famous stuffing, or the boss’s husband’s famous Christmas cookies.
After more than 25 years of handling these awkward situations, I have it down pat. My method is part mindset, part boundaries, and part rewards. I hope it helps you.
Holidays are about people, not just about food
Sure, there are traditional foods we just have to learn to live without. I miss building gingerbread houses and then eating them, piece by piece, saving the spice drops for last. But like the other foods I have learned to live without since giving up gluten, I have learned to adjust. My life hasn’t ended just because this is no longer part of my holiday tradition.
Holidays are about taking the time to talk with people: work colleagues who I don’t know well, friends I’ve been too busy to see, neighbors who are putting up decorations. I take that extra minute to smile and chat, and to reconnect with people as people.
Never go hungry
After a few early disasters, I learned to eat before going to any party where I had any doubts about finding food. I don’t stuff myself beforehand, but taking the edge off definitely makes it easier for me to put up with just eating carrot sticks yet again. As I have gotten older, I’ve discovered that hungry can lead to hangry much faster than in the old days – making this twice as important. I don’t want to be the Grinch at the holiday party!
Bring your own yummy options
This shouldn’t be a surprise - after all, my Easy, Tasty Gluten Free cookbook is filled with recipes for yummy sweet treats that non-celiacs request all the time. Pick a recipe, make it your own, and offer to bring it to the party.
Contact the host ahead of time and say something like, “As you know, I need to eat gluten free. I have a wonderful cake/cookie/whatever recipe that everyone loves and is safe for me. Would you mind if I brought it along? I’ll take care of serving pieces and clean-up, too.” Few hosts will say no.
Once you show up, take your serving first, just in case there’s a cross-contact problem later on. Then enjoy, and watch everyone else enjoy it too!
Check out these gluten-free recipes in my other blog posts for suggestions.
Say “no thank you” with a smile
There’s always someone at these events. Someone who insists that “just a little won’t hurt you” or who otherwise won’t take no for an answer. Say it anyway. My rule is that I will say no, thank you, twice. Then I change the subject or walk away. My version for an office potluck goes something like this:
Them: “Have some of this cake. It’s delicious and an old family recipe.”
Me: “It looks lovely. I am a celiac and must eat only gluten-free foods. You enjoy it for me.”
Them: “Oh come on, just a little bit won’t hurt, you are overreacting.”
Me: “Thanks for offering. It looks delicious, but it’s not for me.”
Them: “I can’t believe you won’t just taste a little bit. That’s so rude.”
Me: “Excuse me, I see someone I’ve been trying to catch for weeks. Enjoy the cake!“
At family events, I might use helping in the kitchen or using the bathroom as my escape. I no longer feel that I have to allow people who don’t or won’t understand my dietary restrictions to try to make me feel badly. You don't either.
Make new traditions
This is the most fun! Make your own traditions. Host a gluten-free holiday baking night, and make cookies, truffles, or other treats with friends. My Easy, Tasty Gluten Free cookbook is filled with no-fail recipes that everyone will love.
Bring a cake in to the office that everyone can enjoy, including you. Or start some non-food traditions: board games, football games (American or European), caroling, or something else special just for your family and friends. The holidays aren’t all about food.
Live your best gluten-free life
I’ve enjoyed safe, fun, gluten-free holidays for years. You can too. All it takes is a little bit of advance thinking and a sense of fun. Before you know it, you'll be laughing with friends and family like always!