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Tips for navigating Holiday parties on the gluten-free diet

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Holiday invitations are arriving and plans are underway to overindulge with family and friends. While most people are fretting over what to wear and what host/hostess gift to bring, those who eat gluten free are worried about what they will be able to eat. Holiday parties tend to focus on the food being served and that can be problematic for those who eat gluten free. As with most things, a little planning goes a long way to ensuring a full belly and no panic attacks or pressure from others to 'try' something.

I think I am quite fortunate when it comes to Holiday parties. I have attended at least three parties where the entire menu was gluten free, including soup, appetizers, and dessert. I have also found when attending catered events the chef will go above and beyond any expectations I have to create a dish that others will covet.

Here is my advice for enjoying a Holiday party in gluten-free style:

  • Plan ahead - contact the event facility/restaurant and ask to speak to the caterer/chef. They should be able to tell you what is on the menu for the event and help identify safe dishes. If you are attending a party at someone's home that isn't catered, let them know about your food intolerance and offer to bring a dish.
  • Eat before you go - grab a snack before you attend the event, so you don't arrive starving. Having a snack should keep your stomach from rumbling during the event, on the off chance that you are unable to determine if there is any gluten-free fare. If there is no safe food, make an appearance, then leave and go out to eat.
  • Stick to naturally gluten free foods - munchies like vegetables, cheese, nuts, and fruit are gluten free and tasty. Bring some gluten-free crackers along too.
  • Be smart - avoid using any dips at a party because chances are some form of gluten cracker/bread/chips have already taken a dip and it is likely cross contaminated. Dark sauces can contain soy sauce, so can salad dressings, so they must be avoided. Watch out for gluten-free foods being served on shared surfaces, or platters with gluten. Dessert is usually not an option, so bring along something sweet to enjoy, like cookies, or a snack bar.
  • When in doubt, go without - if someone has gone out of their way to prepare a gluten-free dish for you, but if you have doubts about its safety, politely decline. This rule of thumb should be used when attending a catered event where no contact was made with the chef and food preparation is questionable. No need to chance it and get sick.
  • Be polite - remember this is not only a time to eat, but it is also a time to spend with family and friends.
  • Host a party - take the guess work out of Holiday parties by hosting one at your home. It is easy to keep the menu free of allergens and full of delicious food. By hosting, you get to see all of your friends and enjoy tasty food in a stress-free environment.

How do you navigate holiday parties on the gluten-free diet?

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