Because life’s too short to miss out.

With Christmas only a couple of days away, ’tis the season to be jolly…and eat copious amounts of your fave foods. Plum pudding, glazed ham, mince pies, you name it, you’ll probably be tempted to consume it at some point. However, this is easier said than done if you’re gluten intolerant.

Gluten intolerance refers to your body’s inability to digest or break down the gluten protein found in wheat, and certain other grains. It can range from a mild sensitivity to gluten, to fully fledged coeliac disease. It can be completely asymptomatic, but more often than not a sufferer is saddled with cramps, diarrhea, fatigue, gastro, and other awful symptoms guaranteed to ruin your Christmas dinner.

But according to dietitian and nutritionist Gabrielle Maston, being gluten intolerant needn’t ruin your Christmas. There are some simple steps you can take to survive the family lunch gluten-free, while still feasting festively…

1. Volunteer to bring the bread

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“Traditional forms of bread commonly contain gluten. It’s the protein in bread that gives its elasticity,” says Maston.

As increasingly higher levels of wheat are used in the production of bread nowadays to make it springier and easier to cut, even a few mouthfuls can send you running for the bathroom.

“If you need to be gluten-free this Christmas, it’s best to bring your own bread, or swap bread for potatoes,” says Maston.

You can buy or make bread containing substitute flours such as buckwheat, corn, millet, rice, sorghum, and quinoa, none of which contain wheat. They’re sure to keep your digestive system happy, and are equally as tasty as regular bread, so if you volunteer to take charge of the bread, the whole family can enjoy it and you won’t have to feel left out.

2. Fill up on protein

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Just because you’re skipping out on gluten containing foods doesn’t mean you have to go hungry. Maston says there are plenty of other safe options.

“There are many natural gluten-free carbohydrate sources like fruit, potatoes, rice and corn. If these options aren’t available for Christmas dinner, then try to fill up on protein.”

Reach for beans, seeds, most cheeses, legumes, nuts, eggs, fish, and other lean meats, but be wary of packaged foods.

“Watch out for the commercially made sauces the protein may be cooked in, it may have hidden traces of gluten,” warns Maston.

3. Bring your own dessert

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One of the most frustrating aspects of being a gluten-free girl at Christmas is finding a dessert not destined to send your stomach into a spin. So Maston advises the best way to avoid this is to bring your own.

“Bringing your own dessert is a foolproof way of avoiding gluten. More often than not, Christmas desserts like pudding, cake and commercially purchased custards will contain gluten,” she states.

“It will be safer to make your own dessert, like pavlova, fruit salad or a simple panna cotta.”

And if you’re strapped for a tasty gluten-free dessert recipe, you can try our Gluten-Free Bread And Butter Pudding or Decadent Chocolate Brownies, which are sure to be a hit with everyone.

4. Beware of traditional Christmas ingredients

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This one is the killer. No matter how vigilant you are at avoiding gluten-loaded foods, there’s always the off chance Grandma’s secret pudding sauce is choc-full of the stuff.

“Many ingredients in the household pantry will contain traces of gluten,” says Maston.

“Watch out for sauces, mixed products and many commercially made goods like custard, mixed drinks, pastries, biscuits, yogurt and cakes. Remember, being this stringent with trace amounts of gluten is important for those with coeliac disease, but may not be that important for those people with a food intolerance.”

So let your hosts know prior to Christmas dinner your particular needs, and keep your eyes wide open for any hidden nasties lurking in your food.

5. Eat fresh

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The best rule to follow if you’re gluten-free this Christmas is simple; eat fresh!

“Fruit and vegetables are naturally gluten-free and the healthiest food items to choose from,” states Maston.

As such, anything resembling uncooked plant food that’s not a grain is more than likely safe to eat.

“If you are thinking about taking a dish to your next Christmas party, a salad will go down perfectly,” says Maston.

And if you’re not sure where to start, try our Spiced Beef And Pumpkin Salad or, if you’re time strapped, our Easy Caprese Salad. You’ll be the much needed healthy contributor to a table full of not-so-wholesome goodies. Trust us, everyone will thank you later!

Comment: Do you have any tried-and-tested tricks for staying gluten-free over Christmas?