The holidays are always tricky when it comes to eating well, but even more so when you have food intolerances or have to be gluten-free and dairy-free. Check out this article where I share my best tips for maintaining a gluten and dairy-free diet through the holiday season.
Man, the holidays came up fast this year, didn’t they?
I’m pretty sure the older I get (and the older my son gets), the faster time is going. Didn’t we JUST have Christmas? Wasn’t I JUST writing about Christmas like a month ago? No? Well, like I said, it feels like time is flying.
I’ve had a number of gluten-free dairy-free holidays under my belt now. And though it’s not always easy to navigate holiday parties, family dinners, and other outings – it’s totally do-able. If I can do it, you can too.
In today’s blog post, I’m sharing some of my best get-through-the-holidays tips with you while living a gluten-free dairy-free lifestyle. I’ve written a number of blog posts on this topic over the years and I’ll be sharing a bit of what’s old and adding in some new tips as well. I’m constantly learning how to navigate this diet just like you are – while the basics stay the same, the game changes a little bit year over year.
For example, there’s WAY more gluten-free dairy-free alternatives available now than when I started this diet back in 2013. And people have way more knowledge these days about what food intolerances are – and what the implications of them means. Plus, I think a lot more people are on the “healthy eating” train than they were even a handful of years ago with the rise of organic foods and more health foods becoming more mainstream in places like Costco, etc. But I’m going on a tangent back to what I’m really here to talk about
Navigating the holidays while eating a gluten-free dairy-free diet. Check out my video below, then read further down in the post for details on each point:
First, focus on what you can eat.
Obviously, no one wants to feel like they’re “going without” around the holidays. So my best tip is to focus your attention on the foods that ARE safe to eat. The foods that are naturally gluten-free and dairy-free. Foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, meats and proteins, and healthy fats like coconut, nuts, and avocados.
Plan your meals and snacks, and even your holiday dishes around these foods and you’ll be set.
Share your food and diet needs with people who are making menus and creating meals. Don’t be ashamed of what you know your body needs!
It’s easy to fall into feeling guilty about what you need once you step into a group setting – no matter whether it’s family, friends, or a work-related event. But let me tell you – it’s SO NOT WORTH IT to set aside your needs to feel like you’re being an inconvenience. So many people have food intolerances these days and suffering for days on end to make others around you isn’t a fair trade-off.
Let people in your life know what you need so they can help come up with dishes that are safe for you. And of course, offer to help with the ideas and preparation as well. If nothing else, use this as an opportunity to share what’s going on in your life and health journey. You never know if you’ll be an inspiration for someone who is going through something similar and is looking for answers just like you have in the past.
Bring dishes to family meals so that you always have safe options.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown up to events and wound up eating the most random assortment of food, because I didn’t communicate my needs – turkey, pickles, olives, cranberries, and green beans is one meal that comes to mind.
One great way to make sure that you don’t go hungry is to offer to bring dishes to family get-togethers. Sometimes it’s the only way to get your favorite dishes. And yeah, you might get flack for making something that’s supposed to be decadent a little more healthy, but you know what it’s worth it when you get to enjoy the foods that you love around the holidays than worry about what your Aunt Sue has to say about how vegan butter doesn’t taste like the real thing. She can eat the normal sweet potato casserole – and leave your GFDF version on the table!
Be prepared with snacks wherever you go.
This isn’t the sexiest tip on the list, but if you’re really worried about what a holiday meal or event will have available, bring your own snacks in your purse or stashed in your car. Again, this is something Ive done and while it makes you feel like a kid who’s screaming THIS ISN’T FAIR!! while you’re eating a pumpkin pie Larabar while everyone else is having pie just remember that you won’t feel awful for days later. And that the short-term indulgence probably isn’t as wonderful as sitting on the pot or having a headache and moping around on the couch.
Check out restaurants beforehand and look over menus to make sure there are gluten-free dairy-free options available – or can be made to be GFDF friendly.
As with any time of year, checking ahead of time at online menus for restaurants you may go to is a great idea. Knowing where gluten and dairy hide – in which foods and under which names – can really come in handy here.
Remake some of your favorite holiday recipes to be gluten-free and dairy-free.
It’s seriously no fun to feel like you have to go without some of your favorite dishes just because you can’t eat gluten or dairy. One great tip is to find some recipes that are already GFDF-friendly – or you can easily swap out ingredients to make them that way. Simple swaps like all-purpose flour for a gluten-free flour blend or normal butter for vegan butter like Earth Balance are easy ways to turn almost any “normal” recipe into a gluten-free dairy-free one. I’ve successfully remade one of my favorite dishes – my Grandma’s sweet potato casserole just by changing out the flour, butter, and whole milk for gluten-free and dairy-free alternatives. To say that being able to enjoy my favorite dish with my family makes the holidays that much better is an understatement!
Find some treats that you can hint at for gift ideas – or for stocking stuffers.
I don’t know about you, but chocolate and candy are a mainstay in our stockings or under our tree every year. When I was a kid, I always got Reese’s cups in my stocking. But these days, I try for a more high-quality candy choice. If you want to hint at some tasty treats for your holiday gifts, be sure to check out some of these dairy-free sweets. Honestly – I feel like knowing my treat options is useful year-round, but especially around the holiday season.
Find an advocate and someone who will root for you to stick with your gluten-free dairy-free diet.
In the first year of going gluten and dairy-free, I found it so tough to stay consistent, because I felt like I was alone on an island. After expressing this to my husband at the time, he was more than willing to be someone who was not only willing to help me stay accountable around the holidays. He was even willing to go along with me – and go gluten and dairy-free – knowing that we were in it together. Of course, these days that’s not the case but in the beginning when I was still trying to figure everything out, his support was invaluable. If you can find someone – a friend, a family member, or even just my Facebook community – to keep you on track and rooting for you, you’ll be so much more likely to stick with it.
I hope that you have an amazing holiday season – full of fun times and yummy food!
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