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2. Sizing Up the Situation

The first holiday season can be overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean you should stay home. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible for others to prepare safe foods, especially if they are open to suggestions. Sometimes that involves finding an ally or two. For Katie, it was her aunt and uncle who made her feel most welcome. “One of the first Thanksgivings after my diagnosis, my aunt laid out several gluten-free snacks and had everything separated for me. She even had cookies that I could eat.”

Karen remembers how positive that experience was for her daughter. “They took special care to make sure she was covered,” she recalls. “Other family members try to be helpful, but they don’t always get it. They’ll think they’ve made a safe casserole, and then we’ll find out they used a cream of mushroom soup that has wheat in it.” Because of this, Karen tries not to leave anything up to chance. “I make a lot more food than most people do when they are eating at someone else’s house, but I want to be sure she always has something she can eat.”

The Wallaces have some favorite go-to holiday recipes (see below). “Our favorite dessert to take places is monster cookies,” says Karen. “They’re great because we don’t even have to say they are gluten free. Nobody knows that I use gluten-free oats, and they taste fantastic.”

Work events, however, have been more problematic. “I worked in retail for a few years, and no one at my job understood [the gluten-free diet],” Katie recalls. “I dealt with it by bringing safe foods that were appropriate to share—fruits and vegetables, or a meat tray.” If the workplace holiday party is at a restaurant, try to have input on the choice of venue. If that’s not possible, eat before you arrive and enjoy socializing over a beverage.

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