Don't let food restrictions stop you from celebrating the season!
As we all prepare for the holidays with family and friends, those of us with special dietary needs can find socializing to be a minefield. Most of us don't want to be a pain in a neck at a party or gathering, and we don't want to have to defend our vigilance about knowing what goes into our mouths. Furthermore, there are still some people out there that believe the gluten free movement is a fad. That's the way it is, but we can be pro-active and take care of ourselves in a gracious way if we plan ahead.
1. Be the host and you will know exactly what is in the food that you are serving. You can also provide a card with ingredients if you have anybody in your party with food concerns. It also might be a nice touch to ask if your guests have any dietary restrictions. This gesture educates your guests to keep the dietary challenged in mind when they are the hosts. If you think I'm crazy, remember that some schools have peanut free zones due to all the children with severe allergic reactions, not just food sensitivities!
2. If you are a guest and you feel comfortable, speak with your host ahead of time and mention your food limitations. You can offer to bring something to fill out the meal or party that you know you can eat.
3. Sometimes, we just need to show up and enjoy whatever is there. Yesterday, I enjoyed a birthday and graduation party for a friend's son. I wasn't sure what was going to be served, so I ate ahead of time. And that was just fine. It was a good thing, because everything but the fresh veggies had gluten in them, and probably some other goodies I wouldn't have wanted to eat. You don't have to make a big deal of it.
Sometimes, I will say I have a lot of food allergies instead of calling them intolerances or sensitivities. Then, I don't have to explain it.
4. What if you really want to indulge or don't want to bother? One of my favorite products is called Glutenza. It was developed by the gluten expert in the world, Dr. Tom O'Bryan. I like to have it with me when I go out to eat to cover accidental gluten ingestion and cross contamination. You can purchase get Glutenza here.
5. If you are planning to go to a restaurant, go online and see what their menu looks like. That will give you an idea of what the possibilities are. Ask your waiter or waitress if they have a special gluten free menu, and if you have other dietary needs, do ask. But, know that the wait staff isn't always trained in knowing what is gluten free. When I was visiting my Dad in Atlanta, I was pleasantly surprised that they had a menu that showed gluten free options, but the meal came with a fritter that had guess what? in it. I'm always courteous about it, but I did speak up to say that they need to do better. Sigh, I guess that's why I don't go out that often, because it's still a challenge to find clean food. Take that Glutenza with you.
It's best to stick to broiled meats and vegetables, if they don't have a gluten free menu. I was once at a chain restaurant who did have an extensive list of what was in each dish. I was shocked that the side of broccoli had gluten in it! For quite some time, I thought there were a few dishes that I could eat at one of the neighborhood restaurants, and again, once they provided the menu ingredients, I was reduced to about 3 dishes that I could eat! So my point is, don't assume anything about the ingredients when you're going out to eat. I believe if we are courteous and do our questioning, eventually, they will figure out that there are a lot of us out there that need more care if we are going to patronize their restaurant.
Just a little side note from Dr. Tom O'Bryan. He said that an exposure to gluten can cause inflammation for 3-6 months afterwards. That means cheating just a little here and here, or getting an accidental exposure, will keep the fires of inflammation going constantly.
6. What if you're traveling via airplane? Plan ahead and look at the list of admissible foods to take with you:
Solid food items can be transported in either your carry-on or checked baggage, while liquid or gel food items larger than 3.4 oz are not permitted in carry-on baggage and should be placed in checked baggage if possible.
You can have fruits and vegetables and if you bring other items, they need to wrapped, not loose in your baggage. Other foods that would be permissible are hard cheese and meats. Just remember that if item is sliced or cut, it needs to be contained in some packaging. Cakes and pies are allowed but may be scrutinized at screening. I'm thinking that your paleo cookie or bar probably will be ok.
If you are going by car, bring a cooler and stock it with chopped veggies, fruit, hummus, baba ganoush, sliced cheeses, some sliced meats, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, nuts and dried fruit (unless it's a food you're not supposed to have).
I want to wish that each and every one of you find peace in your heart. I am grateful for knowing all of you and so appreciate being part of your voyage towards health.