Surviving a Holiday Party Gluten Free
Tis the season for Christmas parties and family gatherings. One thing you can always count on at this time of year is plenty of food. Unfortunately, if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you may be challenged to find something to eat among all of the holiday appetizers and pastries. Thankfully, there are plenty of experts ready to help.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients. What is causing all of this damage? Consumption of a protein found in wheat, barley and rye known as gluten. The body responds to gluten as if it has been invaded by a toxin. The only treatment is lifelong avoidance of all things containing gluten - which is much harder than you may think.
Think about the last time you were at a party. Think about the buffet table –was on it? Cheese and crackers – not allowed. Cookies – not allowed. Even something that seems innocent at first glance may have a hidden source of gluten, such as soups within dips or a sauce covering chicken wings or meatballs. Remember also there is a danger of cross-contamination – someone may have dipped a pita triangle into what would have been a gluten free dip.
For the most part, you aren’t going to be successful in having the entire office get on board with a completely gluten-free party. But you can prepare ahead of time so that you can enjoy yourself.
1. If possible, contact the caterer directly for the specifics of everything that will be served (do not try to work through the party organizer; the message may be lost in translation). Also discuss issues regarding cross-contamination. Perhaps if you contact them far enough in advance, they can be more careful not to cut the vegetables on the same cutting board as the pita triangles.
2. Bring your own dish. As with anyone on a special diet, persons with celiac can make something that they know will be safe. For a potluck, be sure to bring something substantial (chili or stew) so you know that you will have something that will keep you satisfied. Take a portion for yourself before putting it on the buffet table, again to prevent cross-contamination from someone “double-dipping.”
3. Eat before you arrive. Hopefully no one will even notice you aren’t eating, but if they do, just mention that you are on a special diet and leave it at that. Shift the attention away from food and back to the spirit of the holidays.
4. Send your regards. If you really feel like it is not possible to have a good time at a party, and it is not something mandatory you are expected to attend, it is okay to skip it.
Regardless of whether you're dealing with an office Christmas party or a huge gathering of relatives, if you keep in mind what's best for you, versus what others expect and want from you, you'll make the right decisions.
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness
US News Health and Wellness
Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef