Tales From a Gluten Free Christmas : What I do to overcome my anxiety about Christmas dinner.

I am pleased to share my experience as part of Coeliac UK’s ‘Tales from a Gluten Free Christmas’ campaign #gfchristmas. Visit http://coeliac.org.uk/gf-christmas to find out more.

Christmas is just around the corner,  and if you’re like me, the festive period is filled with good food, a belter of a Christmas dinner, and lots of snacks along the way. 

Instead of feeling merry and bright, I do get anxious about the big day, and its mostly around food. My anxiety about eating out in a restaurant is always bad, but at Christmas time it seems to be much worse, especially if someone else is cooking Christmas Dinner. It’s like entering the unknown for me.

Obviously I trust my family and friends to understand, but I wouldn’t expect them to be an expert on something that they don’t have to live with. Even five years on from my diagnosis, I still get worried about if I’m going to be able to eat safely at Christmas. And for the most part, I’ve been fine in the end.

But it’s certainly normal to feel anxious about being able to enjoy Christmas, of course. Making sure you stick to a gluten free diet is the only treatment for us coeliacs and it’s a really important thing in our day-to-day lives.

There are a lot of components to Christmas dinner that aren’t usually gluten free. But we are lucky that in this day and age, we have some fab alternatives to them available to us in the supermarkets. Here’s a list of some of the things I mean: 

  • Gravy 
  • Yorkshire puddings
  • Stuffing and pre-stuffed turkeys 
  • Pigs in blankets and chipolatas 
  • Bread sauce (I mean, it’s TOO obvious)
  • And even roast potatoes, I know some people who do use flour to coat their homemade ones too. 

Once you find these gluten free swaps, it’s plain sailing from here on in. But like I said before, if someone else is doing the cooking, I really worry. And I worry that people think I’m a control freak about the whole situation too. But I’m just trying to make sure that I can enjoy Christmas with everyone else, and not be doubled up with stomach pain or other, much worse symptoms.

So if you’re a worry-wort like me, here are some tips that I find help me, and might help you if it’s your first gluten free Christmas.

Ask questions about what food your family have in for Christmas.

It’s an exciting time of the year, so they’ll most likely want to show or tell you. Then you can also use this as an opportunity to look at ingredients and let them know if it’s Coeliac Safe or not. You could also offer to help out with the food, or invite them to look through a Christmas food magazine that you’ve picked up from the supermarket. A lot of the products inside them are labelled now with dietary requirements.

Let them know about the less obvious gluten-y products that can make you ill and recommend gluten free ones, or help out by cooking them. 

I think Pigs in Blankets are the thing I worry about the most when it comes to someone else making a Christmas dinner. When I first got diagnosed with Coeliac disease, it took me a while to get to grips with what was gluten free, and I didn’t know that sausages weren’t gluten free at first. I think it was because it’s always been seen to me as ‘just meat’ that it never registered with me to check the ingredients on them. And it probably won’t have registered with your friends and family either to make sure the pigs in blankets are gluten free. A lot of supermarket own brand ones have a gluten free label on them nowadays which makes it easier.

Another thing that can catch your family out is stuffing, especially if you’re used to having a pre-stuffed turkey. It’s pretty obvious to us that we can’t ‘just cut around the gluten’ because of a huge cross-contamination risk, but it might not be obvious to others. The supermarkets have some lovely gluten free pre-made stuffing, and you can get gluten free stuffing mix from the free from aisle in the main supermarkets. Another suggestion is to take the stress off the person who’s cooking for you by offering to make some gluten free stuffing. With the quality of ingredients nowadays, people won’t even know the difference.

Get your apron on and bake some treats to share.

How about baking dessert? Coeliac UK have some great recipes on their website which are tried and tested, and the ones I’ve tried always seem to go down well with friends and family. 

There’s also things like buffet food, and sharing festive treats such as chocolate, which I know I probably won’t be able to eat. But that spurs me on to bake or buy treats I know I can have, but I can also share them around. Especially when it comes to chocolates.

Check out Coeliac UK’s website and social media channels.

Coeliac UK have also launched an online Christmas Market on their website to help you through the season, and it even includes a festive food list which you can download on their website.  It includes everything from stuffing, to party food and even festive treats.

Alternatively, if you’re a member, you can access their food and drink directory and search products to take the hassle out of your Christmas food shop. It costs from as little as just 4p a day to sign up and it’s well worth it for the help that you get from supporting Coeliac UK.

I really don’t know what shape my health would be in if it wasn’t for the help from Coeliac UK, they’ve helped with everything. From basic gluten free recipes, to advice when I’ve been unsure on a product being safe, and making food shopping easier. They provide so much advice and support so we can live well gluten free.

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