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5 Tips for Talking to Your Family about Cross-Contamination this Holiday Season
The holidays are a time of fun, family and, of course, food. While the holiday season should be a happy occasion, it often can be a source of anxiety for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. What if there isn’t anything to eat? Is it rude to bring my own food? How can I explain the seriousness of cross-contamination to my family?
These are all the questions I asked myself after my diagnosis. I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for nearly 20 years, and I’m fortunate that my family knows the ropes, but it wasn’t always easy. While we were all working to gain a better understanding of the gluten-free diet, I found these tactics to be most helpful throughout the holiday season.
Your family won’t know about cross-contamination if you don’t tell them about it. A quick phone call to your hosts to alert them to your dietary needs will be appreciated; the more notice they have, the more time they’ll have to prepare to accommodate your diet.
After getting in touch with them by phone, you can follow up with an e-mail explaining cross-contamination. The printable guide, Entertaining Gluten-Free Guests, will be extremely helpful in explaining safe gluten-free meal preparation. Plus, touching base electronically may feel less intrusive and allows your host to read the information at leisure.
Mistakes Can Happen
Explain to your family that you understand cooking gluten-free may be confusing at first, so they should feel free to ask you questions. Keep in mind that even the most well-intentioned hosts can make a mistake. Stress that if they feel they have made an error, they should let you know before you eat the food. It’s better to know there is a risk of cross-contamination and avoid eating a dish than to unknowingly ingest gluten, causing you to get sick later.
While you don’t want to overwhelm your family with information, sharing one surprising statistic with them will help them remember why your dietary needs are so important. For example, you can tell them that one crouton in a large salad bowl is enough to make you sick, even if you don’t show any outward symptoms. It only takes a pinky nail-sized amount of gluten to cause damage to your intestines.
Consider asking to join your family member on their trip to the grocery store. This way, you can see all of the ingredients going into the meal and take note of the ingredients that aren’t gluten-free. If you cook together the day of the party, you can keep an eye on the preparation process to make sure that cross-contamination is avoided. Cooking gluten-free in a shared kitchen can be a challenge, but with a watchful eye and a little education, it is possible!
Keep Things Separated
Cross-contamination can occur throughout the serving process, not just while cooking. If the party is a buffet-style, ask for the gluten-free food to be kept on a separate table and clearly labeled gluten-free. Consider adding a note to use the designated spoon only.
If you’re attending a sit-down dinner, ask to be served first so you can be sure cross-contamination hasn’t occurred from serving spoons touching other foods on a fellow family member’s plate.
Your best defense against accidental gluten ingestion is to talk to your family openly about your needs. Odds are, your family will be eager to help accommodate your gluten-free diet, but they have to understand them first!
Just remember, if you have any doubts that a dish is truly gluten-free, it’s better to skip it than deal with symptoms later and long-term health consequences. Bringing your own dish is always a fallback plan, as well. Not only will you know it’s gluten-free, but you can show your family just how delicious gluten-free can be!
To your GREAT health,
Tid Bits with Turbin
Breakfast Ideas for Your Celiac or Gluten Sensitive Child
By Miranda Jade Turbin
With the rush of the holidays and the plethora of sugar-filled foods you probably have lying around the house, I wanted to remind parents of celiac kids of the importance of providing a healthy gluten-free breakfast and to offer some ideas.
According to studies, the importance of feeding children breakfast is undeniable. Children who eat breakfast are more likely to do better in school, be less irritable, be healthier overall, have a healthy body weight, and even be more physically active. It’s also an excellent opportunity to give your celiac child some nutrient-rich food to help heal the digestive system and body, and to stave off the temptation to cheat on the gluten-free diet.
Looking for ideas? Remember, just because it’s gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy for your celiac child. This means gluten-free sweets like doughnuts or cinnamon buns. Rather, aim to give your child high-protein foods, such as eggs, turkey bacon, sausage, peanut butter on a gluten-free English muffin, or yogurt with some fresh fruit.
If you don’t have too much time in the mornings, you may be able to feed your child leftovers or plan breakfast the night before. Cut up fresh fruits at the beginning of the week after you go grocery-shopping as a timesaver during the week. Setting your alarm clock for fifteen minutes earlier is well worth it to give your celiac child a health breakfast.