Timeless tips for celebrating safely and avoiding common seasonal pitfalls
’Tis the season for eating, drinking, and making merry. It’s not the season to be complacent, though, because gluten lurks at every turn. So it pays to be prepared with gluten-free ideas and products to help you maneuver through common holiday-oriented situations.
Looking for an energy boost? Stock up on snacks that give you staying power such as nuts, nut butter sandwiches, gluten-free jerky (Epic Beef Habanero & Cherry jerky), or gluten-free protein bars (Organic Food Bar, Pure Bar, Square Bar, or Thunderbird Energetica whole food bars). Keep these protein-packed snacks on hand, and pack them in your purse or coat pocket before you head to the mall, even if you don’t plan to be out for long. This time of year, you never know when you might run into a great sale or long lines that turn a one-hour shopping trip into an all-day affair.
In need of a hot drink? Whether you’re out caroling, viewing holiday light displays, ice skating, or shoveling snow, it’s easy to get chilled. Unfortunately, canned soups, broths, multi-ingredient teas, and coffee substitutes are all common sources of hidden gluten, so you have to plan ahead.
Seek out a seasonal tea to get you in the spirit. Certified gluten-free varieties from The Republic of Tea, such as Comfort and Joy holiday spice blend or caffeine-free Hot Apple Cider herb tea, are perfect choices. For something satisfying and warming, yet very different, try Numi’s organic Savory
Tea. It’s a vegetable, spice, and decaf tea blend that’s really more like a light soup. But with only 5 or fewer calories, it won’t weigh you down late at night or in-between meals. Flavors include Fennel Spice, Spinach Chive, Broccoli Cilantro, Tomato Mint, Beet Cabbage, and Carrot Curry, or you can try the Garden Sampler box for a variety.
What about holiday parties? There are several different things you can do. Try talking with the hostess a few days in advance, tell her that you eat gluten free, and politely ask what types of foods will be served. You never know—maybe she eats gluten free, too! If she doesn’t—and if it sounds like most of the food will contain gluten—prepare ahead of time by eating some protein such as chicken or turkey slices before the party to keep you satiated. Then just nibble on undeniably safe party choices such as fruits or vegetables with guacamole or hummus. It’s also a good idea to bring a gluten-free dish that you made. It’s a nice gesture, and it gives you one guaranteed safe option.
For casual, appetizer-based parties, make a homemade garlic bean dip or guacamole with fresh vegetable crudités and gluten-free crackers such as Mary’s Gone Crackers, Original or Onion. Or arrange a platter with small bowls of nuts, organic cheese cubes,
and fruit. For desserts, consider bringing homemade gluten-free or grain-free ginger cookies or butter cookies. For holiday meal potlucks, prepare tasty dishes with festive seasonal foods, such as a wild rice pilaf with vegetables and nuts; butternut squash with fresh sage; garlic butter roasted mushrooms; or a simple kale salad with oranges and dried cranberries.
Savory Sweet Potato Balls*
Makes 28 balls
These morsels make a nice appetizer at a holiday party, and the balls also go very well with eggs and turkey sausage for brunch. For a more carb-conscious option, omit the pecans, reduce the amount of salt and shallot, and use the batter as a spread in collard wraps stuffed with turkey or chicken pieces.
1½ lbs. sweet potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and cut into small chunks
2 Tbs. organic extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbs. almond meal or ground pecans
5/8 tsp. unrefined sea salt
½ tsp. gluten-free garlic powder
½ tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced, or ¼ tsp. ground dried thyme
4 Tbs. thinly sliced spinach leaves
1 medium shallot, minced
6 Tbs. finely chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Steam sweet potato pieces over medium heat in medium pot until tender, about 10–15 minutes. Allow sweet potatoes to cool slightly, then place them in food processor. Add olive oil, almond meal, salt, garlic powder, oregano, and thyme, and process until smooth. Turn food processor off, and mix in spinach, shallot, and pecans until well distributed.
- Drop batter by rounded tablespoon on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Using slightly wet hands, round each spoonful of batter into smooth ball with slightly flat bottom. Bake 20 minutes. Allow to cool 5–10 minutes before removing from parchment paper and serving.
PER SERVING: 41 cal; 1g pro; 3g total fat (<1g sat fat); 4g carb; 0mg chol; 48mg sod; 1g fiber; 1g sugars
*Reprinted from the Going Against the Grain Group, 2013.
For the perfect holiday stocking stuffers, try a few of these gluten-free sweet treats.
Lärabar Pecan Pie or Apple Pie bars
Hail Merry Vanilla Maple Almonds or Orange Rosemary Pecans
Enjoy Life Foods boom Choco boom Chocolate bar
Endangered Species Organic Chocolate Bug Bites
TruJoy Sweets Organic Candy Canes
Melissa Diane Smith, a nationally known writer and holistic nutritionist who specializes in personalizing the gluten-free diet, offers long-distance telephone counseling and coaching services to clients across the country. She is the author of Going Against the Grain and Gluten Free Throughout the Year: A Two-Year, Month-to-Month Guide for Healthy Eating and a non-GMO educator and speaker. To learn about her books, nutrition coaching programs, long-distance consultations, or speaking, visit melissadianesmith.com and againstthegrainnutrition.com.