Gluten-Free Guide to the Holidays

by Melissa Diane Smith

Here’s how to stay well through the hustle and bustle of the season.

How do you maneuver through the holidays without gluten? With a little help from this guide!  To keep your health up and your stress level down, try these tips:

  • Get properly stoked for holiday parties. To avoid eating something you shouldn’t and feeling awful, fuel up on food that you know is safe. Either bring your own gluten-free dish to the party, or if you can’t, eat a sustaining mini-meal beforehand.

  • Be ready for seasonal shopping. Stock up on snacks that give you staying power, such as nuts, nut butter on celery sticks or gluten-free crackers such as Lydia’s Organic Green Crackers, small apples, or organic grass-fed beef jerky such as Sophia’s Survival Food. Be sure to pack those snacks in your purse or coat pocket before you go out looking for gifts.
  • Grab healthy presents. Easy-to-pick-up gifts that you can find in many natural food stores are organic cotton socks, essential-oil-based bath oils or bath salts, EO body lotion or shower gel travel sizes, organic gluten-free lip balms, such as Dr. Bronners Organic Orange Ginger Lip Balm or Navitas Naturals Organic Cacao Lip Balm (made out of cacao butter, so it really provides a chocolate kiss!), organic fruit mini-baskets, fresh herb plants, and natural food store gift certificates. As a gift for someone just starting a gluten-free diet, consider buying her or him my tip-based Gluten Free Throughout the Year book.
  • Tea up the right way. On a chilly winter evening, nothing warms the body or soul quite like hot tea or soup. Unfortunately, many types of tea and soup contain barley malt and other sources of hidden gluten, so be careful. Go out of your way to buy safe teas, including single-ingredient teas, such as chamomile or green tea, or gluten-free rooibos chai (with added coconut milk if desired), or try something new, satisfying, and very different, Numi’s Organic Savory Tea. As the name suggests, it’s a savory vegetable, spice, and decaf tea blend that’s more like a light soup than a tea. But with five calories or fewer, it won’t weigh you down late at night, in between meals, or any time of day. Never before offered in tea, varieties include Fennel Spice, Spinach Chive, Broccoli Cilantro, Tomato Mint, Beet Cabbage, Carrot Curry, as well as a Garden Sampler box. When you go Christmas caroling, ice skating or to outdoor holiday events, bring along a few gluten-free tea bags that you can use if you need them.
  • Limit sweets. It’s all too common for many people to overeat sweetened baked goods and desserts during the holiday season. But eating many sugary sweets set us up for an digestive upset, mood swings, weight gain, weakened immunity to fend off colds and flus, and more. To stay healthy during the holidays, make more gluten-free treats that are unsweetened or sweetened with just fruit such as applesauce or bananas. Some fruit-based treats, such as medjool dates stuffed with unsweetened peanut or almond butter, are very easy to make but are a rich dessert (you only need one!). In recipes, try replacing nutrient-void white sugar with nutrient-dense, lower-glycemic sweeteners, such as organic coconut sugar, and use much less than called for. At holiday functions, have a few bites of a gluten-free dessert rather than a large serving, or bring fresh fruit or minimally sweetened Go Raw Chocolate Coconut Crisps sweetened with organic coconut nectar to share with a crowd. Because these coconut-based crisps are nutrient dense, they’re much more stabilizing to blood sugar levels.
  • Choose real food you want instead of tradition. Most of my family is Greek so we usually make Greek-style grass-fed lamb for Christmas. It’s not a traditional holiday food, but it’s a treat for us, so that’s all that matters.
  • Enjoy simply prepared seasonal foods. Instead of slaving away in the kitchen making complicated dishes, keep meals simple and focus on serving in-season, naturally gluten-free foods that have a gourmet taste and are simple to make. Serve shell-on nuts with nutcrackers to crack them – the ultimate winter holiday appetizer.  Or toast shelled nuts in your oven and serve the scrumptious morsels warm to guests, or add them to cooked vegetables such as green beans or broccoli. Try tossing a small amount of non-GMO dried cranberries or chopped oranges in to kale salads, cooked vegetables, or quinoa or brown or wild rice pilaf if you occasionally eat some gluten-free grains. And for a holiday brunch, bake apples or fry them in coconut butter or organic butter and cinnamon – a simple, warming, elegant treat – to serve with leftover meat or homemade gluten-free organic turkey sausage.

This article was adapted from an earlier article by Melissa that originally appeared in Better Nutrition magazine and cannot be printed elsewhere.

Copyright © 2013 Melissa Diane Smith. All rights reserved.

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