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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Getting Through the Holidays Gluten-Free: These helpful tips, including a positive attitude, help ensure your holidays are merry

Dec 04, 2012 08:52AM ● By Nina Spitzer

A gluten-free diet is challenging, but at no time more so than during the holiday season. Social gatherings abound with food, drink and especially treats, weakening the self-control of any dieter. The challenge is even greater for someone with celiac disease, allergies or any other health prescribed gluten-free diet. A little bit of “cheating” on this diet is not an option, even during the holidays.

So, how does one get through the holidays gluten-free, avoiding full-blown “celiac attacks” and reprimands from the doctor? There is no magic answer. The magic must come from the individual.

Attitude is everything, and creating a new mindset is the first step. It must become the new reality for the person with a medically prescribed gluten-free diet. This new mindset can look something like this: “Life is not about food, but rather about sharing good times with the people we love and building fond memories of enjoyable experiences. Food is sustenance. Anything beyond that is icing on the (gluten-free) cake.” Supporting the new mindset can only work if the individual is prepared to support his or her own needs. Here are some suggestions:

  • First and foremost, one should never attend a holiday event hungry. This is a recipe for disaster. Eating a small gluten-free snack at home before the party will ease the temptation.
  • Many foods are naturally gluten-free. With this in mind, speaking to the hostess about ingredients and food preparation prior to the event can provide additional safe options.
  • Offering to bring a gluten-free item or two for the table is another way to assure that something safe will be available.
  • Chatting with new and interesting people helps avoid standing by the buffet table and staring at tempting, non-safe foods.
  • For restaurant holiday parties, it’s advisable to check ingredients and preparation with the chef a few days beforehand and during slow times. Frequently, chefs are more than happy to make gluten-free accommodations if they are given enough notice.

Most will agree that the best parts of the holidays are the people and fun experiences, which are both always safe and gluten-free. When the magic and joy of the season are spun around these two important ingredients, getting through the holidays gluten-free is a snap.

Nina Spitzer is the president and founder of the Phoenix chapter of the Celiac Disease Foundation (, coordinator of the Phoenix Gluten-Free Expo and a gluten-free menu consultant with Gluten Free-Absolutely! She can be reached at [email protected].

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