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Eating Gluten Free and Staying Healthy During the Holidays

The holidays can be a difficult time for those who are newly diagnosed with a gluten intolerance.  Holiday parties are full of goodies containing gluten: hot dishes, dips and sauces, marinated meats (soy sauce contains wheat), wheat crackers and breads, not to mention all kinds of holiday cookies and sweets.

Here are a few tips to keep you healthy during the holidays:

1)      Eat before you go.

When I am invited to holiday open houses, it is easier for me to eat a healthy snack before I go, so I am not hungry and craving food when I arrive.  It is important to eat a protein snack to keep your blood sugar balanced.

2)      Call ahead and take your own food.

When you are invited to a dinner party, it is important that you call the host ahead of time and talk about the menu.  It is easy to be honest, and say that you have food allergies and you want to know what is being served so you can bring along something that is similar to what others are eating.

In my experience, I have had people share their menu and ask me to bring my own main dish, and they provide veggies, or another safe side dish for me to eat.  Most people don’t understand how careful you need to be, so offer to make part of the meal. Some hosts feel bad when you, their gluten intolerant guest, cannot enjoy the party because of the food. There are great hosts who will do the leg work, check the menu for gluten, buy the appropriate ingredients ( i.e. gluten free chicken broth, vanilla, tamari, salad dressings) and make you feel at home.   But don’t expect that of everyone. This is an educational process, for you and for your host.  Be sure to communicate!

If you are going to a hotel or restaurant for a work party, call ahead to see what the menu is.   If you can talk to the chef, you will usually get a well prepared, lovely meal that is safe to eat.

Be your own advocate and take care of yourself.

3)      Stick with what you know is safe.

Great finger foods you can eat:   raw fruits and veggies, raw nuts, Blue diamond nut thins, gluten free pretzel sticks, sliced cheese (be wary of cheese balls and filler), plain shrimp with lemon (be careful of the sauce), plain hummus (no soy sauce), certain brands of chocolate, and your own gluten free goodies that you take with you.

Enjoy the wine, but skip the beer, unless you take your own gluten free beer!

Instead of indulging in baked goods with more calories, why not buy a really good dark chocolate bar, break it into little squares and treat yourself by taking only a few squares to a party?

4)      Be grateful.

The holiday season is about spending time with friends, and enjoying one another’s company.  We do this by sharing food and drink.  Instead of looking at all the things you can’t eat, why not be grateful for a healthy body?   Rejoice in your health, your friends, and the abundance of life all around you.  Focus on the positive, not on what you can’t have.

5)      Be present.

The best way to enjoy the holidays is to be fully present in each activity you do.

Don’t waste your day thinking about your list of to do’s and forget about the people you are with.  Be sure to take the time to be present to yourself, especially at a party, so that you don’t slip into the, “Oh, I’ll just eat this now and pay later” scenario.  If you are gluten intolerant, you know that any gluten in your system will set you back.  When in doubt, don’t eat it!  Be present to your own needs, and take care of them before you head out the door.  And then fully appreciate your friends, and the joy of the holidays.

The upside to a gluten free diet at the holidays?

Hopefully, you won’t gain any holiday weight, because you can’t just eat everything in front of you.  Of course, that means being careful about what GF foods you buy and bake.

Don’t go without because then you will feel cheated. Have a few Gluten free treats on hand. Try to be present to everything you eat. Savor your bites, chew slowly, and appreciate the tickle to your taste buds, rather than inhaling your food.

You can and will survive a gluten free holiday!

Focus on all the positives aspects of gluten free living, such as more energy and better health.

And remember to be present and grateful to the gifts of the season!

This holiday post was written by guest blogger Jan Haas with the Present Path.  Jan was diagnosed with celiac 14 years ago and turned her diagnosis into a passion to help others adapt to a gluten free lifestyle as well as exploring alternative  healthy approaches to living.  We hope to have her regularly contributing to Happy Gluten Free.

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