Celiac Dining Tips for the Holidays: Your Emotional Survival Guide

cooking for a celiac safe dining

Need celiac dining tips? When you are new to celiac dining outside your house is pretty scary. I’ve come up with some celiac dining tips that might make you feel a little more confident and less emotional about it. When my son was first diagnosed with celiac we were quite uncomfortable at parties. We learned about gluten cross contamination the hard way. We were afraid to seem difficult around family and friends. We didn’t want people to have a bad attitude about having to invite us. We weren’t happy about the way we ate. We missed regular food.

Don’t Learn Celiac Dining Tips the Hard Way (Like I Did!)

Our family’s first gluten free holiday was very emotional for me. And not in a good way. I’m sure your family is a lot like mine. Food is king at Christmas. It is our social medicine. Food reminds me how much I was loved as a kid. I can still remember the musk my grandma wore, the way she tied that apron around her waist before she baked. Here spritz cookies were made with love. Now she’s gone. Now her spritz cookies are gone too. Not because she’s not here to make them, but because of a nasty disease called celiac. It separates me from my grandmother’s love like a noose.

The holidays still can be emotionally charged for me sometimes. I miss her. Every day. Still. It’s over 10 years, two dogs, and 4 kids later. Oh, and two diagnoses of celiac. Officially. There’s two celiac genes and a gluten intolerance too, now. Fun, fun.

The first holiday after my son was diagnosed I got glutened. Not by accident. I did it by choice. I thought I needed to do it to feel the past. No one around me understood how I felt. I needed that connection. I wanted to feel some of what once was. Of course, I paid for it later. We celiacs know all about that.

You’ve got to understand that feeling this way is normal. Just don’t indulge yourself with a pity party. Get into a new state of mind about celiac. There are things you can do to reconnect around the dinner table.

10 Celiac Dining Tips for the Holidays

Keep a positive attitude and don’t let food ruin your time. Try to incorporate some of the dining tips below to make your first holiday dinner a happy one for you.

  1. Eat well before you go (in case there isn’t much for you to have).
  2. Bring your own.
  3. Offer to bring a few things or one thing to the party; at least you have something to eat. (One of my husband’s friends invited us to a party. I called to explain my dietary restrictions. I asked if that was okay to bring dishes. She said it would be great. I brought Pamela’s brownies, smoked salmon w/ the fixings, and a Quinoa salad. They were all in ready to serve dishes. All went over very well and the hostess was grateful for the extra nibbles.)
  4. Bring salad dressing everywhere you go. You know you can eat a salad if nothing else.
  5. Keep things on hand at home that you can grab and take with you.
  6. Stock a bag or box in the car with snacks for when you are out shopping or running errands. Pack napkins, plastic utensils, Snack Pack Pudding, cookies and crackers, pop-top or handy pouches of tuna or chicken, dried fruit, jerky. A snack pack of fruit cups is also great in the car survival kit.  Mine also now has enzymes in it which I bring in and share liberally with my fellow Celiacs when we dine together in restaurants.
  7. When you know you are going to be busy (the whole holiday season), plan meals ahead of time and utilize your crock pot for meals that can be ready when you arrive home from shopping or work.
  8. Freeze some things so you can take things out of the freezer in a pinch.
  9. For catered parties, explain your dietary needs to the person planning the party and ask for the number of the caterer and call ahead. I do this for dh’s office party and explain to the chef that I will get sick if I get even a small amount of gluten. I tell them the safest thing for them to prepare for me is salted and peppered meat, salads, and plain veggies w/ butter, and fresh fruit for dessert. Last year the chef made me a nice steak (be sure it isn’t marinated), salad w/ balsamic vinegar and olive oil, plain baked potato w/ fixings (no sour cream, as most are problematic), and fresh fruit. This reminds me, I need to do this again right now. At first I felt awkward doing it, but the other guests asked me about my steak and I told them a little about Celiac and it was no big deal. I didn’t get sick and I wasn’t sitting there starving.
  10. Keep cake or dessert on hand if you will feel bad if others are having sweets and you can’t. That way you have something to take. When my Celiac son was younger I kept frosted cupcakes in the freezer so he always had one for a birthday party.

Remember to always try to think a day or two in advance, so you don’t find yourself caught with nothing to eat.

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3 Comments on Celiac Dining Tips for the Holidays: Your Emotional Survival Guide

  1. Connie,
    Your advice about salad dressing is excellent. I know there are a lot of companies that are now selling single serving packets. Not all are gf, but some are. Annie’s Naturals Raspberry Vinaigrette, Hendrickson’s vinegar and oil (at: http://www.hendricksons.com)– and they offer free samples!
    With our son’s added corn allergy salad dressing is an issue when we dine out. So is ketchup and mayonnaise.
    These are such simple and tiny things to slip into your purse for times when you are going to be out.

  2. It’s better to bring own food just to make sure you won’t get hungry and the foods you will eat are all healthy. it is a great plan to avoid unhealthy foods.

  3. Excellent post!! Congrats on “surviving” your first gluten free holiday!! Each one will get better and better as you find ways to tweak old recipes into tasty gluten free ones. I always offer to bring a gluten free dish or dessert to functions to ensure that I have at least one meal that is safe to eat!!

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