Gut Hacks for a Gluten-Free Holiday

Gut Hacks for a Gluten-Free Holiday
Gut Hacks for a Gluten-Free Holiday.

When the holidays are around the corner, most people get excited about all the great food and drinks they will be able to indulge in. Most people that is, except for those with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance!

One of the more common questions I get from my patients during the holidays is how to be gluten-free and still be part of the party. Let me put it out there for those of you with celiac—it isn’t that bad, if you’re careful.

Let’s go over some hacks for a gluten-free party, so you can keep your gut happy and healthy!

Gluten - The Basics

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in grains. Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and spelt. It helps foods maintain their shape, almost acting like glue. This is why foods with gluten are generally chewy and stretchy, and why it is used in so many processed foods.

You must remember that the more natural and organic the food, the more gluten-free it’s likely to be. Alternatively, the more processed the food, the riskier it is. So to be safe, it’s best to check the ingredients when you’re buying your food and watch out for words like modified food starch, gum base, edible starch, binder, etc.

Making Some Swaps

Whether you are at home or a party, knowing your go to food swaps can take a lot of the guess work out.  Here’s a list of some gluten-free foods that you can use as substitutes to choose from suggested by Dr. Arthur Agatston, the cardiologist behind The South Beach Diet:

  1. If oatmeal is your breakfast, then I suggest you steer clear from it and use corn grits instead. It’s okay to have oats if they are clearly marked as gluten-free. Most of them are processed and have grains like barley or wheat.
  2. You have to stay away from whole grain wheat, rye flours, and barley, but you can switch with flours containing gluten-free grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, brown rice etc.
  1. If you’re a pasta lover, you can trade your whole wheat pasta with corn or rice pasta or even quinoa.
  2. Replace your whole wheat tortillas with corn tortillas if you feel like having some!
  3. A lot of missed gluten happens with soy sauce, which is easily swapped for tamari sauce.

Gluten-Free and a Party

There are a lot of resources out there to help you go gluten-free, but I have always found that those with Celiac disease give the best recommendations. Here are a few:

Always think ahead! If you are not sure if there will be any gluten-free foods at the party, eat before-hand or even make your own food to take along. Don’t ever feel embarrassed to do this.  Celiac Disease is a real disease and can cause severe problems, so don’t feel like its improper etiquette to do this. The host will more than understand and if the host knows ahead of time, he/she may plan on adding a few gluten-free options to the menu. Also, if you plan on taking your own food to the party, plan on taking extra to share! Today, there are so many great-tasting recipes and options at most grocery stores that everyone will be happy to share your “special treats!”

Once at the party stay away from processed and packaged foods, and baked goods. These usually contain fillers which contain gluten. If you are at a party and starving, look for the options that are gluten friendly. Nuts, cheeses, meats, fruits and veggies are always great options and usually available at most dinners and parties-and are healthier options too! Just be sure to watch out for the processed meats and cheeses and flavored nuts as a lot of times these may contain gluten.

Also, stay away from beverages that may contain malt or wheat; such as beer, whisky, wine coolers, etc.  If you like the taste of beer, there are several gluten-free options available at most grocery stores and liquor retailers, so BYOB!

If the party or event is at a restaurant, call beforehand and check to see if the restaurant offers a gluten-free menu or check with the chef to see what they can do to help you. Although this is a great option, make sure the chef knows that this is for your allergy and not just a preference, so that they can make sure not to cross contaminate

As hard as it can be, especially during the holidays, you must remain strict with yourself. Even the smallest amount of gluten can be bad for you, so don’t slip or cheat. Do your homework and plan ahead. 

Overall, the most important task for you is to remain focused and remain positive.  Just because you are gluten-free, does not mean you can’t enjoy the holidays. Remember to stay organized, keep yourself and your food ready and be careful. Plan ahead before attending any holiday events, so you can focus on enjoying the festivities and activities, instead of worrying about the food. It’s not impossible; it just takes a little bit of time and effort, but it's worth it.

You can enjoy your holiday season without worrying if you keep the above information in mind. Health comes first, but it’s no longer stopping you from having some holiday fun! Your gut is special, so there is nothing wrong in treating it in a special way too!

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