From frantic shopping trips to festive parties, it’s easy to get caught up in the holidays and perhaps not be as guarded as you normally are when it comes to avoiding gluten. But with all of the decadent treats suddenly everywhere you turn, even at work, it’s especially crucial to check labels and ask questions this time of year. Protect yourself from hidden gluten this season with these important tips.
Calling all candy lovers
Even if you’re about to grab a type of candy you’ve had before because you are certain of its gluten-free status, make sure it’s the exact same item. Different companies employ different recipes for similar products, so while one brand is gluten free, another may still contain wheat or gluten. Remember that it’s not always as simple as checking for a “gluten-free” label—it’s important to go through each ingredient. While wheat is most common in baked goods, some candies such as Twizzlers or licorice use it as a thickener or binder.
Look out for the word “malt” on labels. This common gluten-containing ingredient is used as a flavor enhancer in several candies and beverages. Maltose, a malt sugar sometimes used in candy, also contains gluten.
Avoid candies that have been rebagged, which are purchased in bulk from the manufacturer then repackaged into smaller packets. Even gluten-free candy could come in contact with gluten, risking cross-contamination.
Play it safe
Even if your family knows that you can’t consume gluten, you may feel most comfortable making your own dish for a get-together. Dishes like casseroles and stuffing often contain gluten. Instead of taking the risk, offer to bring a dish. If you have a favorite item, such as gravy, be sure to bring a gluten-free version that you can savor just as much as the gluten eaters.
If you know the beautiful cake on the counter contains gluten but the frosting doesn’t, don’t risk the temptation. It takes only a miniscule crumb of cake along with that frosting to put you in agonizing pain. Also steer clear of meat and cheese platters. As people grab the crackers, crumbs fall everywhere, contaminating the gluten-free items.
It’s not uncommon to enjoy a glass of a wine, a beer or a cocktail with a holiday dinner. While others are sipping, you may want to indulge in a gluten-free option of your own. If the host has the bottle handy, check the label. However, if it’s in a decanter or other unlabeled container, just avoid it. Check whether any of the alcoholic beverages are gluten free, or bring your own gluten-free holiday spirits.
Some people dread the holidays because it can be overwhelming while trying to adhere to a gluten-free diet. But this season should be full of joy and peace of mind. Use these tips to help let loose, enjoy your family and avoid any hidden gluten.
Heather Burdo is a health content writer from New York. Visit her at heatherburdo.com.