I have a majorly fussy stomach. It is very specific in its likes and dislikes. I’ve been gluten free for nearly a year and dairy free for about 6 months. I avoid sugar as much as I can, but I’m only human and occasionally have a gluten free, vegan cupcake. So, this is the first holiday season where I’m taking my belly’s needs into consideration.
Holidays mean food, and food means asking questions about ingredients. Parties and potlucks can be minefields for those of us with tummy issues. You might take a hearty scoop of salad wondering how gluten could ever make it in, only to find out that gluten is a ninja. It’s sneaky.
Since I’ve changed my diet to suit my needs, I’ve become the “what’s in this?” person. Are there breadcrumbs in these meatballs? Is there cheese in this dip? Looks like it’s back to the veggie and hummus plate for me. What I’ve been doing for the past year is bringing a dish to the party that I can eat – usually something that will act as a main course. Typically at any party you can count on there being a veggie tray and a fruit tray so your appetizers and desserts are covered.
I’ve become pretty skilled in the last year at identifying dishes that look suspicious and ones that look safe. For example, when I see a tray of rice crackers and hummus or baba ghanoush I know I’m good. A bowl of potato chips is typically safe, however some flavoured chips contain gluten, so it’s usually best to stick with the plain kind. Unfortunately, most of the appetizers that are popular at parties aren’t safe for a multitude of reasons – they’re almost always pastry based. A large majority of these contain cheese as well, like poppers or quiche, and a surprising amount now contain meat. As for salads, a red flag is creamy dressing like ranch or blue cheese. I always stick to vinaigrettes.
If you’re on main course duty, search Google for gluten free chicken wing batters, gluten free meatballs or a vegan and gluten free casserole. Most gluten, dairy free and vegan dishes are indistinguishable from ones that contain tummy-irritating ingredients. Your fellow partygoers will never know the difference!
If your office party happens to be catered, nearly all caterers can supply food to suit everyone’s dietary requirements. All you have to do is ask. I’ve gone to dozens of catered events through work and have never had to bring my own meal.
With a few questions and some planning, it can be easy for those of us with dietary issues to enjoy the holiday season. What are your tips for avoiding belly irritants? Let me know in the comments below!