Instead of having to explain your gluten-free lifestyle to family and friends again (and again, and again, and again) this holiday season, come prepared.
Skip the awkward chat and get straight to the celebrating. These tips from Amie Valpone, author of the best-selling book Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body, offer simple solutions to manage restrictions without the burden of justification…
At this point, anyone I spend time with knows the drill: Chances are, when we’re out at parties, Amie probably can’t eat it. I join in for the company and fun, not the food. I make sure to always let people know why I’m not eating so everyone is comfortable.
Trust your friends and family to respect your lifestyle. They’ll see you are putting yourself first, listening to your body, and getting healthier. But don’t expect anyone to go out of their way to understand your needs; I tried that for way too long and some people just won’t get it.
It’s easier than you think to live a “normal” life (whatever “normal” means) when you have to avoid certain foods and additives. Is it a little bit more work? Yes, but it’s worth it. I’d rather spend the extra time prepping than landing in bed with a bellyache and swollen body. When you start making these small changes, you’ll see how easy it can be to live this way. If I can do it in a crazy city like Manhattan, then you can do it where you live, too. The best part is how amazing you’ll feel when the foods that bother you are out of your lifestyle.
Classic holiday foods can be a recipe for disaster when you are trying to eat clean or have food intolerances and sensitivities: gluten-filled stuffing; refined sugar–laden cakes, cookies and pies; and soy-laced canned gravy. Today I want to share with you how I’ve navigated the last decade of holiday parties and figured out how to enjoy myself even though I can’t dive into the eggnog or butter cookies.
Here are a few tips on how to survive holiday parties when you’re gluten-, dairy- and soy-free.
Ask what you can bring. Offer to contribute an appetizer and main dish you can enjoy. Make it clear you are not expecting them to create an entire menu just for you. People probably get migraines just thinking about my ‘Amie Cannot Eat This List’ and you may feel the same way about yourself. However, if you’re honest with your host and let them know the foods you cannot eat beforehand, they’ll be able to accommodate you and leave out the breadcrumbs and leave the dressing and sauces on the side so that you can enjoy what’s being served.
Bring Your Own
For holiday dinner parties, I often bring my own food and have the host roast or sauté it along with whatever they’re making. Then they bring it out with everyone else’s meal. It’s much easier and less stressful for both of us.
Sometimes I bring a side dish such as cooked quinoa with fresh herbs like tarragon mixed with roasted vegetables or a pureed soup such as sweet potato soup (try my cranberry sweet potato soup) that can easily be served in small shooter glasses for an appetizer. Another easy dish you can bring to any gathering is stuffed mushrooms. I like to stuff button mushroom cavities with quinoa, drizzle them with olive oil, add a pinch of sea salt and pepper and bake them in the oven until they’re tender and juicy. You can also let wild, black, or brown rice have its time in the spotlight in place of the quinoa. Or get a little fancy and swap bell peppers, heirloom tomatoes or large onions for the mushroom caps, stuff them to the brim, and then bake away! Top with omega-3 anti-inflammatory ground flaxseeds, and you have a delicious and healthy fiber-filled spin on a crowd favorite.
If you can’t or don’t drink alcohol, you can bring seltzer and fresh fruit to make yourself a few fun mocktails while everyone else is reaching for the booze.
Don’t show up hungry! Eat before you go. I usually grab a handful of walnuts, almonds and pecans (a great combo of naturally sweet and savory nuts) and enjoy them with a bowl of roasted veggies such as cauliflower or asparagus (425 degrees for 15 minutes with olive oil, sea salt and pepper) along with a chopped organic chicken breast. I know that may seem like a lot of food pre-party, but when you’re not sure what your host will be serving, my motto is ‘better safe than sorry.’
Pack an Emergency Kit
Bring my grain-free crackers or roasted nuts if needed to munch on throughout the evening. Before I leave my home, I put a small parchment paper baggie of roasted nuts into my purse so that I can toss them into my mouth if my blood sugar starts to drop late in the evening when I’m hungry. It only takes a few minutes to prep these and I roast them while I’m putting on my makeup so it doesn’t take up time. I take one cup of mixed unsalted shelled nuts and toss with one tablespoon avocado oil (or extra-virgin olive oil) and sea salt and pop them into the oven at 450 degrees for ten minutes. I usually don’t add spices or pepper because they can get stuck in your teeth and make your hands messy mid-party.
Take raw nuts and seeds as mentioned above, just in case there’s nothing for you to eat. On your way to the party, you can pick up a head of broccoli or any other veggie from the market and ask your host if you can whip it up in their kitchen so you’re able to eat something. I do this all the time. Surprisingly, the hosts don’t mind at all because they want to accommodate you and make sure you’re not starving. You can sauté the veggie for a few minutes in extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt, pepper and any spices or herbs they have. That should hold you over.
Learn more about managing an elimination diet (without losing your mind) with this essential guide!