12/22/2014 04:33 pm ET Updated Feb 21, 2015

Gluten-Free Holiday Hacks

As someone with celiac disease, I always have a bit of anxiety around holiday meals. Whether they be made by family or friends, there is always a risk for cross-contamination of food that makes it nearly impossible to relax when you are invited into someone else's home, or sometimes even in your own, for holiday feasts. And while those around you may try their best to prepare you something safe, there is always room for risk. Risks that are real and very damaging . Luckily, for those of you out there who are concerned, there are in fact ways to prevent getting "glutened" this holiday season.

If you can, try to follow these steps to mitigate any awkward or compromising situations:

  1. It sounds silly, but eat ahead of time. Sure it isn't the most convenient option, but at least you've eaten and can participate in the merriment without worry.
  2. Carry snacks on you! Put together an emergency snack go-to kit in case you find yourself in a less than trustworthy food situation. You can stash gluten-free tuna, popcorn, rice cakes, crackers, cheese, nuts, or fruits and veggies in your purse or briefcase and rest assured that if you forgo the food being offered to you, you will still have something to eat.
  3. Bring your own food! It is a polite gesture anyhow, and you can rest assured knowing that what you prepared is safe and that you can keep it safe with designated gluten-free utensils, signage, and plates.
  4. Host your own holiday shindig and showcase the really amazing and delicious gluten-free foods out there. Your friends will be impressed by your cooking skills, and the bonus is that you will have the opportunity to educate them and have fun!
  5. The last and most important rule is don't forget to bring your allies! For me, my biggest gluten-free allies are my closest family members (shout out to my mom's amazing gluten-free Thanksgiving turkey and green bean casserole!), my boyfriend who has become a champion of gluten-free allyship, and my amazing friends including my roommates who go through painstaking lengths to keep our shared kitchen contaminant free. Having candid conversations with the people who love you most does nothing but bolster your community of support.

If you are an ally reading this, a friend or loved one of someone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, there are things you can do for your gluten-free loved one this holiday season too:

  1. Talk to them! Ask them what they are comfortable with if you will be preparing food for them. Strategize and come up with a plan that makes you both happy and ensures the safety of your g-free friend.
  2. Read up on celiac disease and gluten intolerance; you may be surprised to find that you yourself want to go the gluten-free route. (Fun fact: Did you know that gluten is Latin for glue?)
  3. And most important of all, be supportive. It can be very challenging as someone who must eat gluten-free to not feel like a burden. Assure your friend or loved one that whatever they choose to eat is okay with you and that you support them.

Whether you are gluten-free or will be cooking for someone else who is, I hope these tips are helpful. Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and warm holiday season filled with delicious gluten-free feasts!