Gluten Free survival guide for the Holidays

The Holidays are here! It’s always a fun time of year full of friends and lots of eating. However it can feel like a challenge if you have food restrictions. 7 years ago I started eating gluten-free, it was late October and my then boyfriend (now husband) suggested ‘why don’t you start going gluten free?” So I did, the thing is I started in about late October and soon my favorite holiday was coming Thanksgiving.  All it took was gravy on my turkey to send me straight to bed with terrible stomach cramps for the rest of the night. I have a gluten intolerance. If I ingest wheat or other grains containing the protein I break out in a rash, get extremely tired and sometimes have to deal with the effects of the rash for weeks. There are a lot of reasons why people choose to eliminate gluten from their lives. We are in the process of changing Isaac to be gluten-free, I notice it has an effect on his mood and he’s a bit happier. The great thing is, he’s so young he can’t tell the difference.

When I went gluten free it was right at the beginning of the Holiday season. It was NOT EASY  at first.  After consistently being GF for over 7 years, I can offer a few tips for you.

  1. Why are you deciding to go gluten free, whats your motivation? If it’s just. ‘diet’ just move on to something else, honestly. If you do not have to be gluten-free don’t be.  If you are going to switch to a gluten-free lifestyle, go all in. Don’t dabble. It makes it easier for yourself in the long run.
  2. If you are going out to dinner, don’t focus on what you can’t have and focus on all that you can. Do yourself a favor and research the menu before you show up so all your friends don’t keep saying ‘you can just eat a salad.”
  3. Ask your gluten free friends what their favorite brands are. Here are some of my personal favorites:
      1. Canyon Bakehouse 
      1. Schar   hands-down favorite, I wish more of their products were sold in the US.
      1. Udi’s
      1. Ian’s- my kids like the chicken nuggets and fish sticks. You can find their line at Target.
      1. Katz Gluten Free Products. Their sweets like donuts and bagels are awesome. I personally did not care for their bread, it fell apart immediately.
      1. bisquick gf pancake mix
      1. Gluten-free Cheerios ( I know some have had issues but I can only speak for myself that they are great for my family)
      1. Barilla and surprisingly Target make the best pasta. Target Simple Balanced are the only brand that I can find no-boil gf lasagna sheets. My husband is not gluten free and he thinks its good. GF pastas are very easy to come by now, even fresh pasta! Just a few years ago I remember standing in a grocery store isle balking at the price of $7.00 for a pack of gf pasta that tasted like shoe strings. Now, it’s (almost) as inexpensive as other regular pasta.
      1. The big one, desserts– this is where the rubber hits the road during the holiday season. When you are walking by a dessert table with everything you can’t eat you kind of hit a little depression, it happens to everyone when you do a huge change like this. Here are a few suggestions- don’t focus on all you can’t have, and bring something you know is really good with you. Whole Foods has an incredible amount of gluten-free products from quick mixes to chocolate tortes and cakes in their bakery section. If you are going to a party and don’t want to feel out in the cold, bring something that everyone would think is great and no need to mention its gf, people run away as if you are force feeding them cod liver oil.
      1. GF baking. Now I bake more items than I purchase mostly because of the price. Some of my favorite cookbooks I have are from Nicole Hunn of Gluten Free on a Shoestring. She makes it very simple to understand and she’s a great writer so its entertaining as well. I have a few of her cookbooks and they are well used. She really gives you a lot of info on how to start baking gluten-free and what you need in your pantry. If you want to try jumping into GF baking easily, try the Betty Crocker line of products or Simple Mills. My new favorite that is a a amazing price point is Brandless. Everything on their site is 3.00! They have an amazing selection of organic, gluten free and even vegan products along with kitchen and stationary items.
      1. Taste Disclaimer– You need to expect that everything will taste different. NOT BAD, just different. I’m sorry, it just will. If you go into living a gf life expecting everything to be the same you will be disappointed. However, I’m 7 years in and you get into a rhythm, you get creative and just like anything in life you focus on the good. Before you know it you will have your own rhythm too. You can get through the holiday season! Just remember
        1. Bring your own treats to parties to share with everyone, and if they don’t eat it, more for you!
        1. Do your research before going out to eat. You will find something to eat and surprisingly find places that are very accommodating.
        1. Stick with it! It’s worth it!

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