Who doesn’t enjoy a holiday treat like cookies, candy, fudge or cake? Well, those of us with celiac disease typically can’t indulge since it’s rare to find a gluten-free item included. It’s really hard to manage this, as well as other food allergies, during the holidays when all of these goodies show up at work, friends’ homes, and at family dinners.
I think we’re all at least somewhat familiar with celiac disease these days. It’s become much more common than it used to be and is all over the news and social media. We likely know someone with either a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease itself. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation:
“Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.”
If you or someone you love is affected with celiac disease, this is one of several amazing resources. They offer information, product suggestions, recipes, etc.
Since it’s become more publicized, it’s become both easier and more difficult to manage. You would think that with the additional publicity, resources, and additional gluten-free food offerings, both in the store and at restaurants, it would be easier to eat gluten-free. It is, in a way. However, there are so many foods being offered as gluten-free that truly aren’t, it’s frightening to me as a consumer. At this time, manufacturers are not required to test their product in order to label it as gluten-free; it’s up to the individual manufacturer to ensure that they meet their labeling requirement. In restaurants, you have to be cautious as well. Just because they use a gluten-free crust or gluten-free pasta doesn’t ensure that your pizza or your meal is safe. The preparation, the tools, the surfaces, and the pasta water must all be separate and gluten-free as well. As much as I appreciate the extra effort by companies and restaurants to accommodate our needs (even though we pay much more for the privilege) it’s not fair to me, as a consumer, to be told something is gluten-free when it’s really not. It IS up to me, however, to verify this information to my own satisfaction and to then decide whether I will purchase from them or not and choose whether to eat there or not. Personally, I’m sticking with those brands that are certified or Celiac Support Association-approved (another great resource for lists, resources, and info.) and those restaurants that are diligent in their preparation.
It’s hard enough to manage a gluten-free diet on a regular basis and make these decisions. To do so around the holidays is the worst! We are faced with these temptations daily and, as much as we want to give in, we can’t! It’s not just a matter of gaining a pound or two; it’s a matter of getting sick and setting off an internal process that damages our body and hurts us. In consideration of your gluten-free friends and family that will likely be with you around the holidays, please honor their restrictions without making them feel guilty or embarrassed by it. Please feel free to ask questions and we would be happy to provide information on brands or ingredients, etc. We’re happy to talk about it and share information and awareness. If you would like to provide something for your guests to enjoy (especially kids), there are lots of gluten-free grab-and-go boxed cookies and cakes at the grocery stores. Please remember to store and serve these separately! Fresh fruit or vegetables (with a g-f dip?) are great. There are also so many more things that we can cook and bake such as Chex mixes, candied nuts, fudge, and baked goods with gluten-free flour and ingredients. I use Progresso cream of mushroom soup in my cooking without issue. We have lots of resources and we must rely on the information provided to us. Trust me; we are no happier than you are about this. We need to make sure that, when it says gluten-free, that it actually is. Please help us stay safe throughout this holiday season.