Don’t Panic! Gluten Free Holiday Party Tips to Survive

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holiday dinner table with utensils in stocking

I’ve been gluten free for several years. Most of the time I think I have this lifestyle down pat. I can easily name 20 gluten free flours, describe the inner workings of xanthan gum, and recite how to make fab waffles using Gluten Free Bisquick. Then the month of December arrives with a slew of gluten-filled holiday party invites. Fear sets in. How can I avoid glutening myself? Instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, I’m picturing accidentally eating gluten and spending an embarrassingly excessive amount of time in my host’s restroom. Then I remind myself that there’s no need to panic; with some pre-party planning, we can successfully navigate through the holidays gluten-free!

1. Let your host know that you are gluten-intolerant and offer to bring a gluten-free dish. This guarantees that you will be able to safely eat at least one dish at the event.

2. Don’t go to the party on an empty stomach. Before you head out the door, eat something. You’ll be less likely to drool over those off-limit pastries if you’re not famished. Enjoy a safe and tasty gluten-free meal at home beforehand.

3. Pack an emergency stash. Bring along some gluten-free crackers or a snack bar. If the worst-case scenario happens and there is not one thing you can eat, you’ll have your emergency stash to dip into.

4. When in doubt, don’t chance it. Your host’s intentions most certainly are good, but unless you are 100% sure that a dish is gluten-free, don’t eat it. It’s absolutely okay to ask to see the packaging and check the ingredient list.

5. It may be gluten-free, but someone might have glutened it. Be aware that cross-contamination can easily happen at the buffet table. An unknowing guest could have scooped up the gluten-free dip with a pretzel or cheese curl.

6. Host your own party and make it gluten-free. Have peace of mind that all party foods are safe by hosting your very own holiday party.

7. Focus on your friends and family, not the food. Try not to dwell on what you can’t eat at the party. Focus on the fun you’re having with your family and friends. Have a healthy, happy and gluten-free holiday

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Maureen Stanley was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2005. Way back before gluten-free was “mainstream“. Maureen created Hold The Gluten blog and podcast in 2008 as a way to connect members of the gluten-free community across the world.


  1. Hi Maureen! I’m ashamed to think of how long it’s been since I’ve left a comment on your blog. I’m glad to be back. This is a great post with your GF holiday party tips. With reference to tip #5, where someone else may have glutened a dish… One thing I sometimes do is linger at the front of line before the buffet “opens,” so you can serve yourself a meal before anyone else has a chance to inadvertently use a GF serving spoon in a gluten dish.

    Cheers, Pete

  2. Hi!

    As a gluten-intolerant I have always had some of the problems that you describe above I really like your way of looking at it, the best and most secure way would easily be to host your own party.

    We are all born with stuff we have to live with so thanks for letting other people take part of your tips.



  3. Hey, i totally agree with what Caspar said about being the host at your own party. I’m always the first to have a social gathering at celebratory occasions during the year. When i do go out to other events i follow tip three and take something along with me, just in case.

  4. Excellent article! It still amazes me how people seem embarrassed about things like this. Your recommendations about letting your host know and offering to bring a dish, and inspecting packaging are so simple. I have had people come over and then tell me they can’t eat anything, and that ends up making me feel bad – if they had only told me!

    Your other comment about eating in advance of the party is good advice to everyone. No sense looking like you haven’t eaten in a week, and always having your mouth full of food. The real joy in holiday parties is enjoying the company of family and friends, some of whom you may not have seen since last year.

  5. Very nice post. I totally agree and encourage the second point described in your post. Adding to it, parties are not meant to stock your stomach. Their real purpose is for the sake of enjoyment, hanging around for a while and enjoying you time. Great post! Every word is worth noticing.

  6. Thank you for the great post. I have somehow forgotten the joys of being in a party because of my food restrictions. It’s really difficult having to stick to a diet.

  7. I think your blog is informative. It helps us to learn how to stay gluten free and avoid such dangers it may pose for those who are gluten intolerant. using this tips for holidays would help us enjoy it and at the same time maintain safety.

  8. Thanks for the helpful hints. I found out just before Christmas that I was gluten intolerant. I find it so hard, my whole diet was bread and pasta. It slowly getting easier with websites like this and finding other people who are gluten intolerant. Thanks again!

  9. Better safe than sorry should be the motto. Your tip about the cross contamination is too true to be ignored. And yes a party is not about food only. There are so many other factors. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. I have been gluten intolerant for the past three years now and since being free of wheat I haven’t looked back. I feel better, more energy, I even sleep better at night.

    But Christmas has always been my weakest moments on this diet. Usually I’m pretty careful but sometimes my taste buds get the better of me when I’m at a party and I end up putting something in my mouth before questioning what’s in it.

    Luckily I haven’t had any really bad reactions in years.

    Fingers crossed this xmas. And with the tips you offered, this Christmas should go without a hitch.

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