Pack a backup snack
For most of us this is a familiar scenario - your show up at your workplace Christmas party to discover the food on offer is full of gluten! Again! Sausage rolls, stuffed chicken, club sandwiches, BBQ sausages with bread, Christmas mince pies, Christmas cake and so the list goes on. Ever been in that position? I know how frustrating that can be but don’t isolate yourself by not attending, or hiding out in a corner far away from the food instead pack a snack and go prepared. A hard-boiled egg, banana, gluten free snack bar, nuts, vege sticks and dip, cheese and crackers. Or make them really envious and pack you own homemade gluten free baking! During this season I often keep non-perishable snacks in my car or bag so that I don't get caught out with an empty stomach and an invite to festive drinks, see the next tip...
Celebrate the festive spirit
But not too much! Choose your beverage carefully - gluten free alcoholic drinks include all red and white wines, apple cider, rum, tequila, brandy, gin, sherry and cognac. While these following drinks are technically gluten free by the end of the distilling process and most people who are gluten free can tolerate them very sensitive/gluten allergic people should still avoid them because the refining process can leave minute trace gluten contamination in whiskey, scotch, bourbon, some vodkas and Bayleys (as it's made with whiskey). What ever you do stay clear of all beer (unless your lucky enough to have found gluten free beer!) Just remember there are always plenty of "safe" non-alcoholic drinks to choose from too. As drinking on an empty stomach is never wise, and if you can't eat the food provided at the party, your backup snacks become even more vital (see the tip above). Finally keep yourself and others safe - if you do enjoy a drink or two get a taxi home.
Enjoy plenty of fresh fruit
In New Zealand it's summer over Christmas time which means we are blessed with a variety of fresh fruits. While oranges and apples are reaching the end of their seasons, the berry fruits reach their best just in time for Christmas with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, boysenberries and their variants readily available. And often just in time for Christmas day - apricots and cherries arrive! Other stone fruits soon follow. All fresh fruits and vegetables are gluten free, so let’s enjoy them wherever you live.
If you're in the Southern Hemisphere the Christmas and New Year festive season is extended with the summer school holidays. It is easy when you have a lot on your plate to forget to drink enough fluid to stay hydrated. Water is gluten free, YAY! So fill a jug with water, add slice or two of lemon, or a sprig of mint, or some slices of cucumber and keep in the fridge. Top up your glass or drink bottle often during hot weather. Whatever the season water is good for you and will mitigate the effects of overindulgence in other celebratory drinks you may have had!
Bring a plate
When you have one of those occasions where you're asked to bring a plate of food make sure it's something substantial. So that if it turns out to be the only thing you can eat to be sure you are not ‘glutened’ you will at least eat well. Mary says "I often have to do this for my husband, but I remember a time when I drew his attention to the plate of muffins I made before I put them on the serving table. He seemed to be enjoying the muffins but my plate still looked reasonably full. So I enquired where he was getting them from only to find another person had brought an almost identical serving plate with similar looking muffins". It is for occasions like this that we developed the TAP cards so your gluten free plate can be easily identified.
Ask your host to serve on the side
Often when eating out at friends places for dinner if you ask them beforehand to serve sauces, gravy or dressings on the side this can make the remaining meal gluten free. Mary says "My husband often takes a few tablespoons of gluten free flour in a small plastic container to events where home cooking is being done so that the sauce or gravy can be made with gluten free flour". This saves both your host and you the embarrassment of a meal that you cannot eat. This doesn't always guarantee that all forms of gluten contamination have been avoided but if your personal tolerance level can cope this approach can be worth trying.
Give a gluten free gift to a gluten free friend.
Knowing someone understands and remembered will give your friend a real lift and make your friendship stronger. There are lots of lovely special occasion gifts that can be gluten free (check the labels of course) such as chocolate, toffee, butterscotch, fudge, or for a savoury option rice crackers and a cheese platter make a special treat. If your going to gift gluten free home baking make sure you eliminate the chance of cross contamination and check all your ingredients are gluten free. If all that sounds like too much hard work gluten free cookbooks make fantastic gifts too!
Score some sleep
Turn the alarm clock off as it shouldn’t need to be said but... you need to get enough sleep! Sleep is so restorative and invigorating for your body. Plus it's well known that adequate sleep is required to keep your immune system functioning in peak form. So with the risks of being ‘glutened’ accidentally even higher during the festive season, we want ensure our natural defenses are in tip top shape by getting a good night’s sleep.
It's not called the silly season for nothing, everyone is busy and often stressed out with all the things they need to do before the holidays, so your need to be gluten free can easily be forgotten by friends and colleagues. So stick up for yourself and speak up, gently remind them, don't just assume they will remember. Be ready with gluten free food suggestions in case you are asked, like a cheese platter and rice crackers, vege sticks and hummus, a fruit platter or offer to make the gravy yourself and bring it over, or to make a dish to contribute to the dinner. Don't be a grinch, get out there and enjoy the festive fun, gluten free style!
Rest & reflect
Everything demands attention in the build up to Christmas festivities especially when your wanting to spend more time with family and friends . Of course on the day you want the food to be prefect and special and to ensure its all gluten free. So how about delegating out the other things like table settings or the tidying up and take time out for yourself, pop out for a walk around the block or along the beach or if you're in a wintry zone just be still, sit quietly elsewhere with a book, crossword puzzle, magazine or craft. Wherever you are take time out to remember the reason for the season. Christmas as the name suggests is a time to reflect on when the greatest gift of all was given to humanity when over 2000 years ago Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, as the Christmas song says "Immanuel - God is with us’. Reflection on this can help ease the stress away so we can relax and enjoy the season.