Top Tips for Sticking To A Gluten-Free Diet During the Holidays

NOBREAD Gluten-Free Dining in launched in September as an online consumer guide for gluten-free dining in New York City. It offers restaurant profiles, mini-reviews and customized menus to dining spots across the city for folks unable to properly digest the gluey protein substance called gluten. NOBREADNYC is quickly becoming an essential resource for diners seeking gluten-free offerings in NYC, which is exactly what CEO and founder Nicole Cogan was seeking when she first started the site.

Cogan, a former sales analyst at J.P. Morgan, originally started the site after she was diagnosed with a health condition that required she go gluten- and dairy-free. She first created the blog to help her track restaurants that could meet her dietary needs when taking clients out for meals, an important part of doing business in her industry. She began calling up restaurants and setting up meetings with chefs and managers ahead of time to go over their gluten-free options.

“I loved how much client entertaining was involved with my job, but I always felt uncomfortable explaining to the server or manager that I was gluten free, especially in large group settings,” Cogan said.

The information-packed blog was a passion that blossomed into the popular gluten-free dining site, now featuring more than 250 restaurants, searchable by name, neighborhood or type of cuisine. Customers can view brief profiles of restaurants, which include “NOBREAD Facts,” such as if that restaurant has any cross-contamination or offers gluten-free pasta or bread. In addition to a full menu, visitors can see a customized gluten-free menu. Cogan also offers her NOBREAD recommendations for items to order at each restaurant in mini-reviews. She plans to add a reservations tab and guest chef blog to the site in the future, as well as expand to feature gluten-free options at restaurants in other major cities around the U.S., including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and South Florida.

“Just because someone is gluten free, whether it is due to a sensitivity, health reasons or for dietary benefit, doesn’t mean they need to completely sacrifice their lifestyle,” says Cogan.

With few restaurants offering special gluten-free menus, NOBREAD fills the void for gluten-free customers to maintain a normal dining out lifestyle, offering customizations and suggestions for pairing favorite dishes with gluten-free sides, such as sautéed vegetables and greens instead of French Fries.

As the holiday season rolls around, Cogan offers additional suggestions for our gluten-free readers to stay stress-free and healthy during food-filled festivities:

Founder and CEO of NOBREADNYC Nicole CoganI love the holidays. It’s a time for friends and family to get together and celebrate tradition over wonderful conversation and even better food. Who doesn’t love big parties and even bigger feasts? Yet, for someone with a food allergy or dietary restriction, the holiday season can also be the most stressful time of year.

Food is difficult to indulge in when you don’t know if the dish contains gluten, and traditional favorites don’t always suit your dietary preference. Thankfully, with everyone on some sort of diet today, party hosts and restaurant chefs work extra hard to make sure all diners can partake in the festivities… and if you follow a few of my quick tips, you too can have a stress-free and fun dining experience this holiday season.

1. Contribute to the feast! When I am a guest at someone else’s party, I always bring a little something. I mean, who is going to turn down more food? Whether it is your favorite gluten-free recipe or gluten-free chocolate cake, bring at least one item you KNOW you will be able to have, and rid yourself of food anxiety. Sit back, relax, and take comfort in knowing that there is definitely something for you to eat at the party!

2. Tell the restaurant ahead of time about your dietary restriction! It never hurts to be too prepared, and you may as well get the awkwardness out of the way in advance! The amount of restaurants I go to during holiday season is insane. It seems like everyone wants to throw a holiday dinner, and for convenience sake, host it at a restaurant. On occasions where I know I will be served a pre-fixe menu, I always remind the host of the party that I am gluten-free. It gives the restaurant time to not only select the best gluten-free option, but to ensure that the chefs and kitchen staff are aware that they will be serving a gluten-free diner and take extra precaution.

3. Don’t fall for this trap: “Oh there’s just a little bit of gluten, it won’t affect me.” Well if you say that 5 nights in a row or at several dinner parties, it WILL most definitely affect you–and not for the good! I know plenty of people who say that, during the holidays, they go from “gluten free” to “gluten reduced.” I suggest you stick to your diet as best as you can. Yes, you may feel okay after one slip-up, but this isn’t a pass to slip up again. The only way to make it through the busy holiday season is to feel healthy and to be your best self. So resist the health-sabotaging temptation!

4. When in doubt, simple is smart. That turkey looks delicious, but is there stuffing inside? And that steak is to die for, but what sauce was used as a marinade? As tempted as you are to say, “Screw it, it’s the holidays,” stay true to your diet and look for options you know are gluten-free. If there is something questionable on the table, and you don’t feel comfortable asking if the dish contains gluten–or your host just doesn’t know the answer–look for the reliable standbys of roasted sweet potatoes, sauteed string beans, roasted brussels sprouts, salads, and other classic gluten-free dishes.

My FAVORITE Holiday Recipe

NOBREAD Founder's Favorite Holiday Recipe

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Roast Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pecan Salad

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love roasted vegetables. This recipe is also awesome for people who want to cut down on their meat intake, or those who follow a vegetarian, vegan, or paleo diet.

  • 8 oz Butternut squash
  • 8 oz Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup sliced pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut butternut squash int small cubes. Toss brussels sprouts and diced butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook for 20 minutes, stir around and raise oven to 425 degrees F. Cook for another 15 minutes. Add cranberries and pecans to the mix, and stir again. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until brussels sprouts feel tender, and your recipe is complete!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *