Optimum Wellness Presented by King Soopers

The holidays can be challenging for individuals who are trying to avoid gluten or grains, be it for health or weight-related reasons. The Paleo diet, which is totally free of grains, is a huge fad right now, so unless your company policy mandates grain-free office treats. For so many of us, baking and eating things we “know we shouldn’t” are synonymous with the holidays. For the growing number of individuals who are intolerant to gluten, it can be quite difficult to navigate the buffet table, let alone the supermarket aisles. Most people have heard about this “gluten free” phenomenon that is spreading across the globe – but in case you still aren’t sure what that means: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and related grains. Individuals with celiac disease and certain individuals with gluten or wheat sensitivity can become quite sick if they eat even small amounts of gluten.

Gluten is found in:

Commercial Oats* (there is some debate as to whether or not individuals with celiac disease can tolerate oats – for more information visit www.celiac.org). The biggest problem appears to occur with cross contamination.
"All-purpose" flour

Grain foods that most individuals with gluten sensitivity can tolerate include:

Brown and white rice
Arrowroot flour
Xanthan gum
Guar gum

There are many theories as to why more and more people are growing sensitive to gluten, but not a lot of research to confirm the theories; one of which has to do with the application of pesticide (glyphosate) applied to the wheat right before it is harvested. Another theory is the increased hybridization and genetic modification of wheat. Symptoms of intolerance range from major digestive issues - diarrhea, gas and bloating, constipation – to fatigue, hair loss, anemia, and many more.

If you are avoiding grains altogether? Then “non-Paleo” holiday parties can become a challenge. The best thing to do if you know you cannot tolerate gluten or grains and find yourself facing a buffet table or holiday party is ask your host what the ingredients are. Better yet, let your host know ahead of time that you have certain dietary restrictions. Call ahead to the restaurant to find out whether or not you are going to be able to find anything suitable for your needs at the buffet. Even better – host the party yourself and introduce your guests to a new way of living and eating.

Show your friends and family that gluten-free and grain-free is not at all about deprivation. A person with celiac disease can enjoy most typical holiday delicacies with just a few minor adjustments. Case in point: pumpkin pie. Now typically the only gluten in pumpkin pie should come from the flour found in the crust. Make your own pumpkin pie and make the crust from ground nuts, a little coconut flour and coconut oil. Instead of rolling it out, press it into the pan. Gluten-free, flour-based pies are often made from a lot of butter, white rice flour and tapioca flour – which are basically nutritionally void of much besides fat and calories. Ramp up the nutrition using almond flour, amaranth flour, coconut flour or a combination.

Host a gluten-free or grain-free holiday cookie party! Again, you can substitute or eliminate grain-based flours, get creative with nuts and fruits and chocolate! Read labels of course to uncover any hidden ingredients or additives that may contain gluten. Certain spices and baking powders may contain hidden gluten. Food colorings, sweeteners (even brown rice syrup), coatings and starches can contain wheat as well. Oils, vinegars and starches should also be investigated to make sure they are gluten free.

Here are some other helpful ways to thrive through the holidays grain free:
1. Use almond or coconut flour to thicken gravy and sauces. Cornstarch also works – just make sure it is gluten-free, and preferably organic since corn is one of the most common GMO crops.
2. Use ground nuts and seeds instead of flour for cake and pie crusts.
3. Nix the bread stuffing altogether – it usually adds zero nutritional value to your plate.
4. Host your own holiday buffet party
5. Be a part of the planning – call ahead to discuss menu planning with friends and family.
6. Focus on conversation and gratitude rather than food or lack of choices.
7. Experiment with new recipes ahead of time to insure success at the table.
8. Focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, local cheeses, and organic free-range meat and seafood.
9. Introduce people to grain free baking with your awesome grain free pumpkin bread (recipe below)
10. Have a hearty protein-filled breakfast. Check out our frittata recipe below.

Grain Free Pumpkin Bread

1 cup blanched almond flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
3 large eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, salt, baking powder, and spices.

In a separate bowl, whisk together until smooth: eggs, pumpkin, and maple syrup.

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

Scoop into a small loaf pan coated with cooking oil spray. Bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes to an hour before removing from pan.

Serves 8 to 10