FOOD

Have yourself a gluten-free Christmas

Tia Clarke

Reporter:

Tia Clarke

Have yourself a gluten-free Christmas

A gluten-free Christmas cake

An estimated 62,500 people in Ireland suffer from coeliac disease, with over 50,000 of that number currently undiagnosed. An additional 390,000 people are intolerant or sensitive to gluten in food. That’s an awful lot of people who need to watch what they eat during this traditional time of indulgence.

Christmas is about celebrating and enjoying some lovely food and these days there are a lot more gluten-free treats around to make the festive season special. But that doesn’t mean eating non-stop for an entire month! 

The average person gains five to nine pounds in December and over-eating on gluten-free biscuits, sweets, treats and cakes has the same effect on our waistlines as it does when you eat the kind that contain gluten. Indeed, with many gluten-free products containing more calories, it can be an even harder struggle to end Christmas the same size that you started.

So, to make sure you enjoy Christmas – and the treats that come with it – while also keeping an eye on the calories and ensuring you start the New Year in good shape, here are 10 top tips on how to indulge yourself while keeping the calories in check… 

1.     Don’t sweat the staples:

The best thing about Christmas for people with coeliac disease or who are gluten intolerant is that so many of the staple foods are gluten-free. Turkey, ham, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and smoked salmon all come without that pesky protein gluten that so many people either cannot or struggle to process. Enjoy these but remember to use gluten-free bread for the stuffing and to use corn flour instead of wheat for the gravy.

2.     Only snack if you feel hungry:

At Christmas, there are a lot more nibbles and snacks around and it is easy to keep picking away at chocolates and gluten-free mince pies. Check if you are hungry before you snack. That way you can enjoy a treat if you are and you can wait a while if you are not.

3.     Out of sight, out of mind:

You may not be looking for food, but you will pick at something if you see it. Try to keep treats and snacks in cupboards and at the back of the fridge until you need them. Leaving chocolate on the counter or treats at the front of the fridge makes you much more likely to graze as you go by.

4.     Don’t buy so much:

We overload shopping trollies at Christmas and then end up eating everything or throwing it out. Think about how many guests you are going to have and how much they will actually eat. Remember, if your guests don’t eat it, you probably will. Shop smart and save pounds!

5.     Keep an eye on portion size:

Pay attention to how much food is on your plate and how much you need. A good trick is to look at your hand with your fingers spread out. If what is on your actual plate is more than this, then push a little to one side to get the right amount. Once you get over the initial shock of leaving some food behind, you will find you have much less indigestion after Christmas nights out!

6.     Try to balance your plate like you would at home:

½ vegetables or salad; ¼ protein and ¼ carbs. It’s not always going to be perfect but it will help.

7.     How many courses? 

If dessert is your thing, then skip the starter on Christmas nights out. If you love savoury then don’t feel you have to have dessert. Gluten-free options can be limited anyway so this may happen all by itself! Instead of thinking, “if I’ve paid for it, I’m going to eat it”, try to think, “if I eat it, I’m going to pay for it”. 

8.     Limit alcohol:

Not only does it add calories (a bottle of wine can have up to 700) alcohol is also an appetite stimulant. This means that you eat more both on the night but also the following day. Do your liver and your waistline a favour and have a few alcohol free nights and limit how many drinks you have on a Christmas night out.

9.     Move:

Exercise won’t cancel out all of the extra food you eat, but it will help offset some of the worst excesses. Factor in 20 minutes of exercise every day over Christmas – a walk, a run, a cycle, an exercise DVD, or simply skipping for 5 or 10 minutes. It all helps!

10.  Let it all go on Christmas Day:

One day of unadulterated indulgence a year won’t do you any harm. You might eat 6,000 calories on the day, but that’s fine – it only becomes a problem if you keep that up for the whole 12 days of Christmas!

If you are eating out this Christmas, look for restaurants with the Coeliac Society Eating Out Pledge, where you can have fun and great food secure in the knowledge that you won’t be inadvertently ‘glutened’ through cross-contamination. Restaurants throughout Ireland are taking the pledge to maintain the highest levels of food preparation for gluten-free dishes.

Finally, enjoy the festive season and check out the Coeliac Society’s gluten-free Christmas guide sponsored by Promise bakery at www.coeliac.ie