Holiday Gluten Free Party Planning: Tips for Attending and Hosting

Liking is contagious!

Holiday PartyPicture this… You are hosting a holiday party at your house and everything is perfect. The music is bumping crazy vibes of joyous holiday bliss as your party-goers bob and gyrate in sync to the music. The Ugly Sweater contest is in full swing with obnoxious red and green sweaters dotted with snowmen, sequins and reindeer galore. The buffet table is beautiful, filled with festive food and libations galore, all plated perfectly and practically screaming “eat me” in their abundance and as their smells linger and waft through the dancers. Ahh… a party well played—a pat on the back well-deserved. But wait…

There are a few people shaking their head “no,” not eating and leaving to go grab some food? But why? Will they come back? There are other folks rocking on the couch, not “rocking-out,” clutching their stomachs and looking pale. What’s wrong with them? There is an excessive line for the bathroom, rivaling the number of people still dancing and some in line seriously freaking-out about “needing to get into the bathroom RIGHT away”. The toilet is stopped-up. Screams of agony abound. And the scene in the bathroom…. Ugh, its ugliness is only rivaled by the ugly sweaters.

Holiday party fail.

Whether you are gluten free and throwing a party and wanting to keep yourself safe or whether you are happily gluten TOLERANT and throwing a party with gluten free guests… You best do it right. Yep, it will take a little planning, but no more planning than determining the winners of the Ugly Sweater Contest and no more work than creating your playlist for rocking out. And, if you succeed in your planning, your gluten free friends will love you and your party that much more. Your toilet will thank you and you get to enjoy EVERYONE having fun. How does it get any better than that?

  • Be aware of SERVING cross-contamination: Even if some of the dishes are gluten free, it’s easy for someone to casually use the same serving utensil for gluten and gluten-free dishes alike. If the dinner is being served “buffet-style”, set up gluten free dishes on a separate part of the table at the beginning of the line or better on a separate side-table that people go to first in the line. Make sure EVERYTHING on the tables have their OWN serving spoon. Even better is to add this note to GF items: “This dish is gluten-free and may become contaminated if brought into contact with other dishes.  Please use only this serving spoon with it.”
  • Enlist the help of your gluten free gatherers: If you are a glutener, you aren’t expected to know exactly how to make the party gluten free friendly. You are only expected to seek information and help, and VIGILANTLY follow-through with what you learn. Your gluten free friends will appreciate you asking for their help, advice and support, because choosing to do that makes them safe to enjoy your party.

And if you are gluten free and attending a party, practice these steps:

  • Don’t eat it if you aren’t sure it’s gluten- free. “When in doubt, leave it out.” If there are any questionable ingredients, don’t risk it. Feeling sick is no way to spend a holiday. That’s why you make some items yourself—to be safe. You will still get gluten cross-contamination if you eat turkey that has traditional stuffing in it, if you scoop the pie filling off the crust or if you have “just a bite” of something. See “How to Avoid Cooking Cross-Contamination.”
  • Remember the real reason for the holiday. Take advantage of this opportunity to spend time with family and friends and focus on the people rather than the food.
  • Be part of the planning and don’t be afraid to express your dietary needs, restrictions and fears: When meeting up with family or friends during the holiday season who may not know all that goes into being gluten-free, don’t be afraid to let them know about your restrictions. They won’t see you as annoying or needy. The most important thing is that you are comfortable and able to enjoy the time spent “catching up.” Make sure they read this article and the article, “Avoiding Being Glutened During the Holidays: Common Cross-Contamination Culprits. Call the host in advance to discuss the menu and what can be made gluten-free. Waiting until the last minute will leave you with fewer options (and a frustrated host).
  • Eat before going: Yes, that might seem silly when you know the focus of the party will be food, but that way you can control exactly what you eat, what the ingredients are and be safe knowing that there isn’t any cross-contamination. Plus, you won’t have a massive blood sugar drop from not being able to eat at the party, becoming a bitch and eventually giving in to the temptation and eating something that will hurt your body (and possibly the host’s toilet, depending on your “glutened” symptoms).
  • Be deliberate about your food choices and eat slowly what you do put on your plate at the party. If you always keep food on your plate, folks are less likely to notice you not eating much.
  • Host instead of attend: Nuff said
  • Bring safe food for YOU: Ask to bring a dish or two or three and make sure that the dish you bring contains protein to help get you through the party. Let’s be honest. You can live without the dessert, if you have to, but if you spend all night dancing, drinking and wearing an ugly sweater, you better have some protein in you. Always balance your blood sugar at a party. If you are going to bring a second dish, bring something that has that special party flair for you, that you can’t live without during the holidays so you don’t feel deprived, but first and foremost…protein.
  • Avoid Serving Cross-Contamination: Make sure every dish has its own serving spoon—gluten free and gluten containing alike. Ask to be the first one served and/or make your own plate before all the guests are served.  Take enough for seconds (or thirds, fourths, or tenths), because gluten free dishes may become cross-contaminated as the night wears-on as the gluten free spoon touches plates or touches food containing gluten inadvertently while serving.

Need ideas for how to make your traditional holiday food gluten free? That’s what’s coming up next…. Need more ideas? Join me for a complimentary Gluten Free for the Holidays workshop.

Liking is contagious!

14 Replies to “Holiday Gluten Free Party Planning: Tips for Attending and Hosting”

  1. Great article Katie!  Being gluten free requires diligence and extra attention, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go to a party and have an amazing time!  In my experience, most people I have told about being gluten free have been more than willing to work with me….and if I can’t get my needs met I follow many of your tips, including eating before hand or bringing a dish I know will satisfy me…because most importantly…I want to be around the people I care about and have a good time!

    1. Thanks Jennifer! Yes, you are so right–keeping the lines of communication open are critical and communicating our needs usually results in support and adherence to the gluten free diet from friends and family. Nobody wants us to be sick at a party–they just want everyone to have fun.

  2. Katie, Some really good tips here. More and more people are gluten sensitive. I am one of these people. I break out from too much wheat and other grains too. If I’m hosting I prepare dishes I can eat and if I’m attending I bring dishes I can eat and just avoid the dishes that do not agree with me. Not too difficult once you get stated doing it. 🙂

  3. You are so right Joyce about it not being difficult once you get started being vigilantly gluten free. And good for you! Too often newbie gluten free folks confess to me that they are afraid what others will think of them and are embarrassed to stand-up for their own health needs. But we have to stand-up for our health and only through educating others will folks “get it”! Good for you and thanks for dropping by!
    Katie Bauer recently posted..Making it Gluten Free for the Holidays: Simple Changes to Traditional Recipes

  4. Thank you so much for this article Katie. I am not gluten-free, but am heading that direction because I feel so much better when I leave it out. It feels extremely daunting when I think about socializing and eating out, so I really appreciate the simplicity of what you are suggesting.

    1. Good for you Dorine! You might be gluten intolerant if you feel better when you leave it out though since gluten is an undigestible protein for anyone, I think everyone can benefit from cutting it out or reducing it in their diet. There are much healthier ways of getting our protein and nutrients than via gluten which is usually in such a processed form anyway (unless you just eat sprouted wheat berries). In Denver I offer a complimentary monthly Intro to Gluten Free Living Workshop + Store Tour. I plan on offering a complimentary video of the workshop for those not in Denver, like you, but have to edit the unprofessional video I did of the class which may take a while. I’ll let you know when I get that done!

  5. Yes, a big big one! we’re a gluten and dairy and nut and egg allergic family, I have made parties before, and you have to make sure you label everything next to your dish what in came in contact with. just bc my girls are allergic to milk, doesn’t mean a guest’s mom is going to assume i didn’t use almond milk in my batter and serve it to her nut allergic kiddo, it goes both’s never easy.

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