If you’re not among the three million Americans with Celiac Disease, or the more than 30 million who suffer from food allergies or intolerances, odds are you’ll celebrate the holidays with someone who is. Enjoy Life Foods, the country’s leading allergy-friendly and gluten-free food company, collaborates this holiday season with Shauna James Ahern — author of a popular blog and a new book, both titled Gluten-Free Girl – to offer some practical tips and recipes for celebrating a delicious and safe allergen-free holiday season.
“With Shauna’s help, we’ve come up with some great tips for celebrating the holidays with special diets in mind,” says Scott Mandell, Co-Founder, President and CEO of Enjoy Life Foods. “We’re dedicated to providing allergy-friendly and gluten-free foods that most everyone can enjoy all year long,” he says. “However, this holiday season, we’ve developed some great recipes featuring our Enjoy Life products that taste even better than their traditional counterparts,” he adds (see recipes attached).
“No matter how good a pumpkin pie recipe with a gluten-free crust, it will never taste like the pie you ate as a child. It might taste even better. But it won’t taste the same,” Ahern says in her new book.
Ahern and Enjoy Life Foods offer the following guidelines for both entertaining people with dietary restrictions and for celebrating safely if you follow a “free of” diet yourself.
If you’re entertaining people with dietary restrictions…
- RSVP, Please. If you’re hosting a holiday celebration, chances are someone you’re inviting will have special dietary needs. Simply include a note in your invitation requesting “Please RSVP with any dietary restrictions.” Or, if you call with an informal invitation, simply say, “I haven’t set the menu yet; remind me, is there anything you’re not eating?” Special dieters will be relieved to have the opportunity — no one likes to offend their host by not eating the food that is served.
- Label foods that are “free of.” Plan a buffet and clearly label dishes that are “free of” problem ingredients so your guests immediately know which foods are safe for them to eat.
- Focus on foods that are naturally gluten-free and/or allergy-friendly. Do your homework and discover all the foods you can offer that are naturally “free of.” You’ll be surprised how many favorite dishes are perfectly acceptable to serve your guests. Some may just need slight adjustments such as substituting olive oil for butter in your mashed potatoes.
- Learn about cross-contamination. Learn about the dangers of cross-contamination and cook with a new sensitivity. Ask your “free of” guests to teach you how to cook safely so that they can enjoy your meal without worry.
- Mix up traditions, new and old. Don’t insist on creating “free of” versions of all your traditional holiday dishes. Try new foods and feast on what feeds us. Who says that the meal must include roasted turkey with bread stuffing? Why not curried carrot soup? Black cod? Roasted duck? Seared tofu?
If you follow a “free of” diet…
- Offer to host the holiday. If you’re the one with Celiac Disease or food allergies, and your friends and family simply don’t understand, offer to host the holiday yourself. It might feel like a lot of work, but it will make everyone in the family happy, and you will be assured of eating delicious and safe foods.
- Find a way out, if your family won’t help. Hopefully, your family will choose you over traditional Beef Wellington. However, if you encounter difficulties, host your own holiday celebration. Gather all your most supportive friends — the family you chose — and cook a huge “free of” meal together. Hopefully your family will celebrate with you next year.
- Allow your sorrow. You may be mourning the loss of traditional dishes at the holidays and, at times, feel left out of the celebration. That’s part of the process. Feel it, and then remember that eating healthy is so much bigger than your grandmother’s lasagna.
- Just say no to foods that aren’t “free of.” ‘Tis the season when people are tempted to cheat. That spoonful of stuffing just isn’t worth three days of feeling sick. Just one chocolate covered nut could send you straight to the emergency room. Make a new tradition of staying well throughout the holidays. You owe it to yourself.
- Remember, it’s not all about the food. Try to remember that there is far more to the joy of the holiday season than food. Focus on the pleasures of being together with close family and friends instead.
And some top allergen-free recipes for the holidays …
Enjoy the holidays with these top allergen-free treats!
- Brownie Bottom Cheesecake
- Gingerbread Pumpkin Pie
- Hot Chocolaty Cocoa
- Pumpkin Apple Pie Cake
- No Bake Brownie Fudge Bites
- Easy Sandwich Cookies with Fun Fillings