Even if you aren’t gluten-free, you may plan to host gluten-free guests in your home for the holidays. While there’s always more to learn about special diets and living gluten-free, here are five of my most useful tips to help you keep the holidays merry (and safe!) for your gluten-free guests this year.
5 Tips to Help Gluten Free Guests Feel at Home for the Holidays
1. Chat about it.
Talk to your guests about their special diet as far in advance of their visit as possible. If you’re hosting out of town friends or family who are gluten-free, think beyond a single holiday meal.
Take into consideration:
- The length of their stay
- Their personal food preferences
- All dietary restrictions – many individuals with celiac disease or another gluten-related health issue have other food allergies/intolerances (dairy-free is the #1).
- Whether or not they are comfortable dining out
2. Plan ahead.
Once you learn a bit more about your guests’ dietary needs, it’s time to plan.
- Planning menus in advance for the main meal of the day, usually dinner
- What you will serve for smaller meals like breakfast and lunch as well as what snacks you plan to have on hand
- If you plan to dine out with your guests, which restaurants in your area can accommodate their special diet (you can always phone restaurants or visit them ahead of time to be sure they understand celiac disease and gluten-free diners’ needs)
Tip: If you’re not the most savvy shopper when it comes to selecting gluten-free items, consider having the work done for you and having a gluten-free box from Love with Food delivered right to your door in advance of your guests’ arrival. Filled with gluten-free, junk-free meal items and snacks, Love with Food boxes are a great way to say “I get it!” to your gluten-free guests. It saves you the headaches of searching out the snacks, too! You can get your 1st box for 50% off here.
3. Menu planning.
When it comes to feeding a “mixed group” – gluten-free and non-gluten-free individuals – simple usually works best, especially for the host. When planning your meals, keep in mind all the nutritious, naturally gluten-free foods that exist like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, etc.). Also remember, just because they are eating gluten-free doesn’t mean your guests can’t enjoy festive holiday treats.
If you’re hosting health-conscious folks, try stocking up on some nutritious, high quality smoothie making yummies like pure organic pumpkin, fresh fruit (I love keeping peeled, chopped bananas in my freezer for smoothies and frozen berries) and even a gluten-free protein powder. These packets from Aloha are perfect for individual servings! You can make this festive, filling smoothie in less than two minutes!
For your more indulgent house guests, whip up a decadent tower of indulgent pancakes like these! (They may never leave!)
And for the ultimate in convenience, make One Dish Baked Breakfast Quinoa – it’s fantastic and you seriously make it in a single dish (mixing included!).
4. Shop smart.
Before your guests arrive, a shopping trip is in order. To keep it affordable, stick with mainstream gluten-free foods like those I share in the “No Thought Required” food list in my book The Gluten-Free Solution. (You’ll also find a full pantry stocking list, where and how to shop gluten-free, and essential recipes anyone can make – even soft white sandwich bread!
Buy products you know are gluten-free (read those labels!) and don’t risk buying bulk bin foods like dry beans, grains or nuts. Those could be contaminated in the storage bins, from shared scoops or in other handling.
5. Kitchen cleanup.
While your kitchen may be in tip-top shape, if it is not a dedicated gluten-free kitchen, there is a chance it’s in need of some cleaning before you begin preparing food for your gluten-free guests. That’s because the risk of cross-contamination is serious for individuals on a gluten free diet. Even a small particle of gluten-containing food can cause health problems for an individual with celiac disease or other gluten-related illness.
While these are not all of them, here are several tips to help you keep meals safe and gluten free when cooking in a non-gluten free kitchen:
- Before you begin preparing any food (even cutting up fresh fruit or veggies for a snack), be sure to wipe all counter tops, faucets, appliances (especially handles), etc. to remove any traces of gluten. Gluten can hide in even the smallest cracks and crevices.
- Wash all dishes, baking pans, glasses and utensils you plan to use to prepare and serve your gluten free meal. The dishwasher is a great idea for this, although washing in hot soapy water is also fine.
- Be sure to consider small kitchen appliances like the food processor, blender and immersion blender, too.
- Keep in mind utensils like wooden spoons and other items made of wood (like serving bowls and cutting boards) can harbor unseen gluten. Also, beware of using porous baking vessels (like those made of cast iron or clay), as they may also harbor gluten particles.
- If you plan to serve gluten-containing foods as well as gluten-free foods, always try to sanitize the kitchen, appliances and cookware, then prepare the gluten free foods first. Once prepared, store the gluten-free foods, then work on the dishes that contain gluten ingredients. Be sure to keep gluten-free dishes separate from gluten-containing foods at all times.
- Never use the same serving utensils for gluten-free and gluten-filled foods.
- Toasters used for toasting gluten-containing breads are NOT suitable for toasting gluten-free breads.
Always remember, there is no need to be nervous or fearful when hosting gluten-free guests. The key is to be diligent in your communication, planning, preparation and serving.
Of course, if at any time you are in doubt about whether or not a food is 100% gluten free, never serve it to your guests. Their health is at stake, and no food is worth what a person with Celiac disease goes through when they consume gluten.
Finally, keep in mind the following places sneaky gluten can hide:
- Condiments – while ketchup, mustard, hot sauce and mayonnaise are usually gluten free, dips, sauces and salad dressings often contain gluten.
- Soy sauce
- Bulk bin foods like dry beans, grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruits are likely to be cross-contaminated with gluten, so avoid these when preparing gluten free dishes.
- Coffee, tea and hot cocoa – there are acceptable brands that are gluten free; however, some brands may be cross-contaminated during production. Flavored coffees contain artificial and natural flavorings that may contain gluten. Read this article for more information on coffee and gluten.
I hope this information will be useful to you as you prepare your holiday festivities. For a truly in-depth look at how to go about living a positive (and simple!) gluten-free life, be sure to grab a copy of The Gluten-Free Solution today!
What are your top tips for hosting gluten-free guests during the holidays? Share them in the comments below!
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