Will We Ever Eat Out Again’s Becky on having a ‘free from’ Christmas

With a husband with Crohn's disease and a Coeliac daughter, blogger Becky has some excellent tips on throwing a free-from Christmas dinner

Will We Ever Eat Out Again’s Becky on having a ‘free from’ Christmas

'Will We Ever Eat Out Again' is a blog run by Becky O'Leary, who has a husband with Crohn's Disease and a Coeliac daughter. She shares her tips on how to cater at Christmas without compromising on taste.

I talk about anxiety a lot in my blog 'Will We Ever Eat Out Again?'  – the anxiety that we, as a family, feel every time we eat out. You see, Peggy (my 6 year old little Coeliac) and Chris (my husband with Crohns Disease) have very unique dietary requirements.  Peggy (being gluten free) and Chris (having to eat a low-fibre and alcohol free diet) can be tricky to contend with alone – but put the two together and it can sometimes feel impossible to find food to satisfy us all.  The food and drink that surrounds the social occasions we’re invited to can cause apprehension rather than joy. 

So if we're anxious about eating out most of the time anyway, you can imagine how Christmas feels! A celebration bringing families together over the dinner table. A time when we make life-long memories while overindulging on show-stopping recipes, booze and cake! But we’ve learnt to adapt, and found solutions that mean we don’t miss out and everyone is included.  To know that everything on the dinner table is safe for them to eat means they can relax and enjoy in the ‘occasion’ of Christmas Dinner just like everyone else. 

Following an invitation to a party or meal out we used to apologise a lot! Apologise for our dietary requirements, for being ‘awkward’, for the extra effort (and worry) our host would have to go through to ensure we were catered for. But thanks to campaigns like Asda’s ‘Christmas Inclusion’ project, attitudes towards catering for special diets are changing. People are becoming more knowledgeable and confident in the ways of food preparation for individuals with dietary needs and aware of the ever expanding ‘free from’ offerings available to buy from their local stores. Projects like this really are life changing, as far as we are concerned, so when Asda invited us to take part we jumped at the chance!

So here are our top tips if you have a free-from’er around your table this Christmas………..

Plan ahead

I know what you’re thinking: “how predictable!”. But never has this ‘tip’ been more relevant than when cooking for a person with specialist dietary requirements. When rushing or being distracted (by another Bucks Fizz) mistakes are more likely to happen. Cross-contamination can be avoided by preparing as much as possible before hand. We’ll be pre-making and freezing Yorkshire puddings, peeling veg the night before and dishing up a cold desert which I can make Xmas eve.

View this post on Instagram

-AD-I heard a shocking fact the other day; that more than 6 million Brits won’t be able to eat a traditional Christmas dinner this year because of dietary needs and food preferences�� - So when @asda invited us back to share our top tips and experiences of surviving the festive season on a gluten-free/low-fibre/booze free diet it was a resounding YES from the crew at WWEEOA HQ ���� -Today, Asda have launched a campaign celebrating what people CAN eat rather than what they can’t; their inclusive eating at Christmas guide includes practical tips and advice and a shopping list of the wonderful free-from and vegan products on offer this festive season ������⭐️ - So if you have a guest around your table this Christmas with allergies, food intolerances or special dietary requirements like ours check out the link in my bio for some ways to ensure EVERYONE is included ������������ - You see, with a few tweaks and replacing certain ingredients, the season can still be full of festive cheer! Ho-Ho-Ho! #bringchristmashome #inclusiveeating

A post shared by Rebecca O'leary (@will_we_ever_eat_out_again) on

Alternatively, consider making the entire meal ‘free-from’ and remove any issue of cross-contamination entirely. We’ll be serving Gluten-Free Gravy to avoid any potential risk of cross-contamination. We will also make sure there’s no booze in any of the desserts so Chris can enjoy everything on the table.

Communication is key

Give your guests a call and spend some time discussing what they can and can’t eat.  Most people with dietary needs will have no problem with bringing their own food, but for you to care enough that you would spend time talking through and planning an inclusive meal your guests can’t fail to enjoy will mean the world to them! 

Portion control

If hosting Christmas dinner for guests with IBS or Crohns Disease, placing food in terrines in the middle of the table (rather than directly out on to their plates) means your guests are in control of what goes into their stomachs. That way they won’t feel embarrassed about leaving food you’ve lovingly stacked up on to their plates. It’s also another way to avoid cross-contamination between the GF and ‘regular’ foods!

Food to watch out for  

If you are catering for a Coeliac for the first time over Xmas, it’s important that you watch out for ingredients containing Wheat, Barley or Rye as these are no-go’s for Coeliacs. Some struggle with oats, too. Foods to watch out for (which have caught us out in the past) are; gravy, Yorkshire Puddings, stuffing, roast potatoes (if cooked with flour/semolina), table sauces such as Brown Sauce, malt vinegar and many deserts and biscuits. Our recent favourite find in Asda are gluten-free Profiteroles – some brands contain alcohol and have caught Chris out in the past, so that's another thing to be vigilant about. 

Free-from ranges are great this year! If the gluten free world is alien to you then be prepared to be blown away by the free-from aisles! Gone are the days of ‘bread in a can’ (really!). Don’t miss the ‘chilled’ and ‘frozen’ free-from sections too and double check ingredients lists as many ‘regular’ products are, in fact, gluten-free (for example, Asda's Pigs in Blankets).

For more information on catering for all dietary requirements this Christmas, check out our handy online guide