Celiac disease is no joke. It’s an autoimmune condition that affects how your body reacts to gluten which is found in some grains. It can be a tough diet because many food products are made with a gluten containing grain or has gluten as an ingredient. I cannot overstate this…CELIAC DISEASE IS NOT A DIET FAD. Gluten free diets, because some individuals believe it is better for you, have been a fad for a few years now but I promise having Celiac disease is not the same. In fact if a person with Celiac disease eats gluten it can be detrimental to their health to the point of severe vitamin and mineral deficiency and even cancer. This is not to scare you but to shine light on how serious it is for people with this disease to remain gluten free for the rest of their lives.
This brings a whole new challenge when the holidays come around…or any time other people are making food and bringing it to share. Those with Celiac know exactly what I’m talking about and those of you who don’t have the disease, this is a good learning point because you may know someone who has it. You see, Celiac Sprue (as it’s formally called) is a serious condition that impacts the small intestine whenever someone with the disease eats gluten. Gluten is a protein found in some whole grains (like wheat, farro, rye, barley) that causes a severe reaction in people with Celiac. Gluten damages the small intestines which makes it unable to do its job; that is, absorb vitamins and minerals.
So what do you do, especially around the holidays, if you have Celiac disease or are cooking for someone who has it? Well, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve been giving gluten free diet recommendation for many years and I’ve also asked the experts…those who have this disease and are able to give real life advice. Here’s what we have to say:
- Let people who are planning a party know that you do have Celiac disease. Many individuals want to accommodate guests as much as possible.
- Bring a dish that is gluten free and label it as such. Also bring a special utensil that is labeled. Let the host know how important it is that this dish not be combined with anything else and the utensil not to be used for anything else. Need dish ideas? Check out my Christmas Quinoa Salad, Layered Taco Dip, and Spinach Kale and Artichoke Dip
- If you are the host, have color coded utensils or signs indicating if a food is gluten free. Let your guests know to look out for that and make sure they do not use utensils from other dishes.
- Cross contamination is a big deal. This means that gluten has been passed to a gluten free food by using the same knife, cutting board, unwashed hands or utensils. For instance: the host was slicing bread and then used the same knife and cutting board to slice cheese before washing. Gluten is now on the cheese. The person with Celiac thinks they’ve eaten gluten free and later that evening they become ill. Cheese was the culprit and they would have never guessed.
- If you have Celiac, don’t go to the party on an empty stomach just in case. Bring gluten free snacks with you as well.
Celiac disease does not have to ruin your holiday fun and hosting someone with Celiac does not have to ruin your menu. Here are 10 naturally gluten free foods you can serve this holiday season!
- Potatoes (mashed and sweet)
- Corn and rice are naturally gluten free
- Meats (as long as they are not stuffed with bread stuffing)
- Gravy can be gluten free as long as cornstarch is used instead of flour
- Green bean casserole (made with gluten free mushroom soup)
- Gluten free stuffing (either a box [check the label] or homemade from GF bread)
Baking or planning on indulging in some delicious cookies but don’t know where to find them? My good friend Jaemie has some tips and tricks she would like to share:
- Gluten free baking requires patience and practice. Baking with gluten free flour is not the same as baking with all purpose (wheat flour). Gluten gives baked goods (and things like bread, pizza dough, and pie crust) elasticity and chewiness. When you take that out it is very hard to replicate and replace!
- Jaemie recommends Krusteaz Gluten Free All Purpose flour because of it’s neutral taste and having similar texture to regular all purpose flour. Pamela’s Ultimate Baking Mix is a great substitute flour for baked goods like cookies because of its nutty flavor (uses almond so be careful if you have a nut allergy).
- If you’re not a baker but you love cookies Jaemie suggests: Mi-Del’s GF Candy Cane Cremes and Gingerbread Men, Goodie Girl Mint Slims, Trader Joes GF Candy Cane Joe Joes, and GF Cookie Tray from Cheryl’s Cookies.
Here are two GF cookie recipes to try this holiday season!
Feel empowered to continue leading a normal life filled with holiday parties, delicious treats, and normal food all the while treating your body with the care it deserves. Have a wonderful holiday season! Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!
If you or someone you love has Celiac and need more information check out: The Celiac Support Association, National Institutes of Health, Celiac Disease Foundation, Beyond Celiac, and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.