Christmas is a food-focused time of year and for those on a gluten-free diet it may seem daunting. The Coeliac Society has published an invaluable Christmas survival guide to help coeliacs enjoy gluten-free festive fare.
The guide is packed full of hints and tips on hosting a coeliac guest, cooking a gluten-free feast, avoiding cross-contamination, and tried and tested festive favourite recipes.
Coeliac disease is estimated to affect 46,000 people in Ireland. It is an auto-immune disease and gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, is harmful to those affected. The disease can manifest itself at any stage in a person’s lifetime, with symptoms including abdominal pain, recurring mouth ulcers, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
The health implications of undiagnosed coeliac disease are far reaching and can include fertility issues, osteoporosis, and anaemia. The only treatment is a gluten-free diet.
“Christmas can be an anxious time for coeliacs, particularly for those newly diagnosed with the disease," CEO of the Coeliac Society of Ireland, Gráinne Denning, said at the launch of the guide. "It can be challenging too for them to figure out what they can eat, as gluten is a common ingredient in food and drink. These include many not generally associated with wheat, barley, or rye, such as gravy, pre-made sauces, and certain chocolates. Our Christmas guide aims to alleviate this worry with advice on hosting a Christmas to remember.
“The Coeliac Society of Ireland provides up-to-date support and information for those suffering from coeliac disease throughout the year," Ms Denning added. "This includes an invaluable food list which references all of the gluten-free products available on the Irish market. Members also receive monthly updates on new products. The food list also makes it easier for sufferers to choose wisely when eating out."
The Christmas Survival Guide is available to download on The Coeliac Society's website www.coeliac.ie You can support the society by purchasing Christmas cards or buying raffle tickets with a prize of a trip to Tuscany.
Top tips for a gluten-free Christmas
Get stuffed: Ensure you use gluten-free stuffing in your turkey. Eating around the gluten-containing stuffing will not suffice as meat will be cross-contaminated.
Little ones: Remind family and friends that not all chocolate is gluten-free before they buy a treat for your coeliac child. There are some great selection boxes, chocolate coins and other items on the market which are suitable for coeliacs.
Turkey buffet: Sharing is not always caring where a coeliac guest is concerned. For example, using the same butter knife for standard and GF bread could make your guest ill. Allow your guest to serve him/herself at the buffet first to avoid cross contamination. Providing a separate dish for butter or dips is also a good idea.
Hidden gluten: Gluten can be found in many store cupboard items such as sauces and salad dressings. The Coeliac Society provides a food list to all members detailing gluten-free brands.
Recipe swaps: For festive gluten-free recipes use cider instead of stout; gluten free breadcrumbs or flour; and butter instead of shredded suet.
A note on cross contamination: Gluten-free food can become contaminated by gluten containing food. Contaminated food can cause a coeliac person to be severely unwell. This may seem scary to a non-coeliac host or to those newly diagnosed, but, armed with some basic information, there is no need to panic.
Always wash your hands before preparing any food, and especially after handling food that contains gluten.
Try to avoid cooking gluten containing foods and gluten-free food at the same time. This is particularly the case if you are using normal wheat flour or bread as it is easy for the flour and crumbs to remain on work surfaces, cooking utensils, etc.
Follow normal cleaning rules – wipe down surfaces and clean pots, pans, and cooking utensils with warm soapy water.
For more information on coeliac disease and to download the Christmas survival guide, visit www.coeliac.ie