​Happy Holidays from the Canadian Celiac Association!

CCA Holiday Survival GuideThe Canadian Celiac Association is pleased to ‘gift’ you their Holiday Survival Guide. Please open BEFORE the holidays!

  • printed with permission from the Canadian Celiac Association 1

This guide contains tips and recipes from a team of passionate volunteers, who perhaps like you or a family member, face the challenges of celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity during a time of the year when food-centred activities take place.

  • “My CCA membership provided me the tools to find my way to the new normal in a gluten filled world. Now it gives me the most up to date information. If you are in this group and do not have a membership and asked “is this gluten free?” Perhaps it is time to ask Santa for a membership to support not only the peer review moderated information from the CCA in this group But support the research that assists with keeping you safe in Canada. AnD this CCA advocates to keep labelling laws simple. Thanks CCA for keeping me safe. Get educated, go to a meeting, peer support (in person) has been invaluable.” Christa

Anne Wraggett, President, CCA

Anne Wraggett, President, CCA

​If you have enjoyed the support, education and information from CCA over this past year, we hope that you will consider a donation towards our annual Festive Campaign. Donations allow our charity to continue to advocate on your behalf, increase access to safe foods and improve the quality of life of people with CD and NCGS through investing in research and education, and more. To make a secure online donation, please click this link to Canada Helps.

Wishing you all a fun and gluten-free holiday season!

Anne Wraggett, President

Anne’s Best Advice!

  • Are the holidays all about the food? It sometimes feels like it. This Holiday Survival Guide is CCA’s gift to you and is chock full of our experts’ best ideas to help you cope with a joyous season that can also be stressful and emotional as well as being a challenge for those who must eat gluten free. Right here I am I going to give you my personal, very best tip: Eat first! Yes, I’m serious. Unless you either control the food at the event you will be attending or have solid knowledge that safe gluten-free food will be available, eat first. If you find there are treats you can have – wonderful! If not, you won’t be hungry.

    CCA Holiday Survival Guide 2


  • You arrive at a holiday party and the host assures you the food is safe. Here’s what to ask to ensure you’re don’t get accidentally “glutened.”
  • It’s a situation that almost everyone with celiac has encountered. You arrive at a holiday party or dinner party with a meal brought from home, and the lovely, well-intentioned host informs you that she knows you can’t eat gluten, so she’s made a gluten-free meal for you!
  • Although it would be wonderful to not have to eat the meal you stashed in your purse, you probably should. Unfortunately, most people who don’t have celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity don’t know enough to prevent gluten from sneaking in their home-cooked meals.
  • Your best bet in this situation is to politely decline any food that you didn’t make yourself. Yes, someone might end up offended, but your health must be your top priority. But if your host insists, you can show her the risks involved by asking some, well, pointed questions. Here are a few to consider – and the reasoning behind asking them.

“Did the turkey have gluten-containing stuffing inside it?”

  • Why you need to ask: Some people don’t realize that if a turkey had stuffing inside, and the stuffing contains regular bread, then the turkey itself is almost certain to be contaminated. Your host may try to assure you that your portion never touched the stuffing, but the risk is too great. The turkey may have been basted with the juices from the pan that had gluten leached into them, and the bird was likely handled by your host’s contaminated hand.

“Mind if I see the seasoning mix you used?”

  • Why you need to ask: Some seasoning mixes contain wheat flour, wheat starch or wheat crumbs, according to an article by dietitian and celiac disease expert Shelley Case in Allergic Living. Your host may not have thought to read the ingredients, since spices and seasonings aren’t the most obvious sources of gluten.

“Did you prepare this meal using a cutting board that’s also used for gluten-containing foods?”

  • Why you need to ask: People don’t realize that some cutting boards, especially wood or plastic ones, can hold on to gluten in the grooves left by knife cuts, even after being washed.

“May I please see the packaging of the nuts used in the green beans?”

  • Why you need to ask: Many vegetable side dishes, such as green bean Amandine, contain almonds, and hosts may also serve mixed nuts as a pre-dinner snack. Your host will assume nuts are gluten-free, but in fact, wheat will often appear as a “may contain” in nuts’ ingredient list—which makes them unsafe for people with celiac disease. (It’s
    never worth the risk.)

“Did you strain the pasta using a plastic colander that’s also used for regular pasta?”

  • Why you need to ask: It’s difficult to clean plastic items well enough to completely rid them of gluten. Colanders are especially challenging to properly decontaminate, thanks to the many tiny holes.

“Did you use a wooden rolling pin to roll the cookies?”

  • Why you need to ask: Wooden items are difficult to properly clean—despite your host’s best efforts to clean the pin, it is likely still contaminated with gluten.

“When you added butter to the mashed potatoes, was it a fresh brick or stick?”

  • Why you need to ask: If your host previously used the butter for, say, a sandwich made with regular bread, then the crumbs from the bread could have contaminated the butter, making the mashed potatoes unsafe. Most people have no idea that just a couple of crumbs of gluten is more than any person with celiac should knowingly consume.
  • To avoid having to ask any questions at all, consider chatting with the holiday party host in advance to inform them that you’ll be bringing your own food. If you must have an awkward conversation about food preparation and ingredients, it’s better to have it in private, before the party begins.


The holidays can be a challenging time to stay gluten free. But, with a few strategies in your back pocket, the holidays can be confidently enjoyed gluten free! Here are three tips to try at your next holiday social.

Bring your own delicious GF dish to share.

  • This is a tried and true strategy that will ensure you have something safe to eat. Afraid the host may not approve?Communicate your concern by saying “I have celiac disease and even a tiny bit of gluten can cause me to feel extremely unwell. I have (an event, a presentation, a family outing etc) and it would be very unfortunate if I have to miss it because I’m ill. So, I brought my own dish just in case!” Something along those lines is always well received.

Be involved with the food preparation as much as possible.

  • Whether the event is close to home or far away, technology can be your friend! If someone else is taking the lead
    in preparing the food, make sure your voice is heard.
  • In a Kitchen: Physically help prepare the meal by showing up in advance of the event so you can have eyes on
    potential sources of cross contamination and ensure all ingredients being used are gluten free.
  • Away from the Kitchen: Talk to them on the phone ahead of time to help plan the meal, get family/friends to text you pictures of ingredient lists, Facetime with them in the grocery store, and let them know brand names of your favorite GF foods.

Be armed with confident communication skills.

  • Being able to politely decline food that has had so much love and eort put into it, is one of the hardest things to do as a celiac. Here are some example responses that you may want to try:
  • Comment: “What do you mean you can’t have these cookies, I made them special just for you!”
    Response: Thank you so much for thinking of me. I really appreciate it. But, I have to be so careful as even something as little crumb can make me very ill for days. And, with the holidays, I just can’t risk it. Maybe next time we get together, we can bake cookies at my house!
  • Comment: Come on, a little gluten won’t hurt!”
    Response: I wish that was the case, but unfortunately, even a little would cause my digestive system to be damaged. Just imagine one Smartie split into 4 pieces. Just one of those quarters still contains 25x too much gluten for me to safely ingest! It really is such a small amount. So, I do have to be very careful about the choices I make and really appreciate your understanding.


  • Are you using GF bread for stuffing, bread pudding or bread salad (panzanella, fattoush, etc.) or breakfast strata?
    • Be sure to dry it out thoroughly in a slow oven first to avoid ending up with a mushy, unpleasant texture.
  • Do you use suet for traditional holiday dishes like plum pudding and mincemeat?
    • Beware of packaged ground suet from the supermarket. It contains wheat. Ask a butcher to grind suet for you to order.
  • Not so confident in your GF baking skills?
    • Try making traditional candies like fudge, trues, nut brittles and chocolate bark and Christmas crack instead. Most do not contain gluten so there’s no need to substitute ingredients or search out unusual grains or xanthan gum. You still have the satisfaction of offering luscious homemade holiday treats to family and guests. Many of these keep well and making them ahead of time is convenient.
  • Are you or someone in your family new to the GF diet?
    • It can be very difficult to cope when faced with all the foods that are part of the traditional holiday celebrations but are now o the table. Even people who have been gluten free for decades are not immune to the sudden feeling of being left out or deprived. We all want to enjoy the traditions and food is a major part of the celebration. So, decide which particular family or cultural dish or treat is the most important one to you, or to your celiac child, and do your best to create or buy a fabulous GF version that will satisfy that inner need to share in the comfort and joy.

1 https://www.celiac.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/CCA_HolSurvivalGuide_EMAIL.pdf