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Celiac disease: Christmas and New Year without stress

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Celiac disease: Christmas and New Year without stress

Having to explain what celiac disease is and the rules to follow in the kitchen to avoid contamination, the embarrassment of having to bring food from home or ask for a different menu: these are just some of the possible uncomfortable situations for a celiac person during the holidays Christmas.

Italian Celiac AssociationAicwhich has been alongside people with celiac disease for 45 years, provides some advice dedicated not only to those with celiac disease, but useful for informing family and friends about the disease to manage the organization of a moment of conviviality and sociality calmly and without risk, like Christmas lunch or New Year’s Eve dinner.

«The Christmas holidays are an opportunity to be together enjoying each other’s company and the pleasures of the table, but for those with celiac disease they can become occasions of stress and embarrassment. Our advice is always to talk to relatives and friends about celiac disease because correct information is the best way to avoid misunderstandings and misunderstandings, but above all it makes those who are not celiac aware of the needs of these patients, who we can meet in the family, but also at work and on social occasions”, he comments Rossella Valmarana, President of AIC – Italian Celiac Association.

Tips for a Christmas lunch and a New Year’s Eve dinner with family and friends.

When there is a celiac person in the family, it is desirable that a single gluten-free menu is defined, a measure that becomes essential if the little ones have celiac disease, so as to prevent them from accidentally ingesting foods that are not suitable for them. You can therefore think of a menu with naturally gluten-free foods such as rice, meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, vegetables, legumes, fruit.

When defining the menu it is important to find out which foods are prohibited for celiacs, to name a few: wheat, barley, rye, spelt, couscous, seitan, khorasan wheat (often marketed under the commercial brand “kamut”) and other varieties of wheat . Also pay attention to contamination: some “unsuspected” foods could be at risk due to the use of flour and gluten as additional ingredients (some cured meats, preparations for soups and sauces, chocolate, nougat, sweets or spreadable cheeses for example).

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The advice is always to check the label which, by law, must contain the information necessary for guaranteed consumption. To simplify, it is also possible to rely on products bearing the Spiga Barrata registered trademark that AIC and all European Patient Associations grant to products following a validation process. Furthermore, AIC periodically draws up a list of permitted, risky and prohibited foods which form the ABC of the celiac diet which can be found on the website www.celiachia.it. Finally, to enjoy the moment of celebration with conviviality and fun, the person with celiac disease can offer to help in the kitchen to prepare a menu that is the same for everyone but also explain to the owner of the house how easy it is to prepare a “gluten free” menu.

Hosting a person with celiac disease: practical precautions

The first fundamental step is to inform yourself and not be afraid to ask. Only after having collected all the useful information and asked questions to clarify doubts and avoid misunderstandings, can we start with the organization of the menu.

Once in the kitchen, it is necessary to pay due attention to avoid contamination: for this reason, before preparing the gluten-free menu,I recommend washing your hands well, carefully cleaning kitchen tools, the work surface, cutlery and pots. For cleaning, you can use sponges already in use, without buying new ones: a thorough rinse in running water is sufficient to remove any food residues.

If you plan two menus, with and without gluten, you must remember that gluten-free dishes must be cooked in separate pans. Cooking can be done at the same time, paying attention to splashes and not using the same utensils to mix or drain; a useful trick for cooking in the oven is to place gluten-free foods on the highest shelf and those with gluten on the bottom. Finally, before serving, check that each bowl, salad bowl and serving dish has a special serving spoon, so as not to have to use the same one for multiple foods and avoid accidental contamination.

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Ideas for a gluten-free menu

Fully enjoying the holidays also means dedicating yourself to the pleasures of the table, so here are some tips for a rich and tasty menu but, above all, gluten-free and suitable for everyone.

Space for simplicity with appetizers based on fish or meat tartare and a vegetable dip. With the products available on the market, you can make appetizers such as pizzas, small bags filled with vegetables, and savory pies. Green light also for fried foods as long as they are made with rice or corn flour based batter. All traditional cheeses are also suitable for celiacs.

In order not to give up the taste of tradition, you can bring a risotto of fish or seasonal vegetables, naturally gluten-free, or a classic one lasagna using gluten-free pasta, which is now largely comparable, in terms of flavor and consistency, to conventional pasta. For a menu that caters to everyone’s needs, the classic meat sauce can be replaced with a lentil ragout, equally tasty and sustainable for the environment. Recipes for one are numerous and easily available gluten-free bechamel. For the second courses you can indulge yourself with practically all recipes based on meat, fish but also vegetables: rolls, roast with a side of potatoes, baked sea bream or salmon, dishes based on legumes or tofu, taking care to check that it is gluten free.

Finally, the classic sweets symbolizing Christmas, panettone and pandoro, they are available in the gluten-free version; the more experienced can also try their hand at making a homemade panettone by replacing traditional flours with starches, rice flour, millet or sorghum, always checking for the presence of Barred Spiga or the words “gluten-free” on the label.

Otherwise, a chocolate mousse or a flourless cake will be perfect desserts. There are now numerous and widespread artisan workshops for celiacs where you can purchase sweets and fresh bread to accompany the meal and for the inevitable “shoe”.

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The moment of the toast arrives: classic sparkling wine and wine are allowed, while beer must be chosen in a gluten-free version. Some spirits are also permitted (grappa, rum, whisky, vodka and gin) without the addition of flavorings or other additives. Coffee, tea, chamomile and herbal teas are permitted, while “barley coffee” is prohibited. Check for ginseng or other powdered preparations.

Celebrate outside the home

For those who choose to celebrate Christmas or New Year’s Eve away from home and are looking for a restaurant, thanks to the Gluten-Free Away from Home Food Program (AFC), AIC provides a guide of over 4000 places trained on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet : these rooms are however marked by clear window decals attached to the windows. If it is not possible to go to a restaurant in the Guide, AIC recommends always informing the staff about your diet and which ingredients you need to avoid, always asking for the ingredients of the dishes and, in case of doubt, avoiding consumption. A summary of the rules for the preparation of gluten-free dishes is available on the AIC website, to which restaurateurs can be directed. In this way, the celiac will also have carried out an important work of raising awareness about the culture of gluten-free cooking.

For trips abroad, the “Eating Out gluten free” section is available on the AOECS website (www.aoecs.org), the European Federation of Celiac Associations, where it is possible to identify the countries of interest with the references of the Celiac Associations foreign countries and check the presence of places indicated as “suitable for celiacs”. Another useful source of information is the Travel Net of the AOECS (Coeliac Youth of Europe) Youth Association, which provides advice on where to eat and shop gluten-free in foreign countries.

Photo: AIC press office

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