A Gluten-Free Christmas: How to Eat Well and Deliciously (Without Breaking the Bank)

Food intolerances really are zero fun, but they’re even more annoying and horrible when it comes to the holidays and a gluten-free Christmas can be particularly tough. We talk to Lucy Donaldson, the brains behind Lucy’s Gluten Free, about how to go GF this xmas, how to cater for someone who has intolerances and how to do it all without spending a fortune!

Lucy makes an incredible range of breads (if you’re GF, or know someone who is, you’ll likely already know all about them). They came about after Lucy’s children all showed signs of a having a gluten intolerance. She – and her breads – are now living proof that going GF doesn’t have to mean you miss out on eating delicious food. We had a chat to Lucy about going GF and how to have a successful gluten-free Christmas!

Lots of families in NZ are preparing for Christmas Day right now, and, no doubt, A LOT of them will be hosting someone who is gluten-free. Often people assume that the food will be lack-lustre or the whole experience of cooking for them will be terrifying. How can we help them with ideas/prep? What do they need to know? How do they tackle this?

I think a lot of people can overcomplicate Gluten Free meals – or they stress about the unknown – but it really isn’t that hard to make little alterations that don’t compromise the taste and flavour of the meal. In general, good whole foods that are full of flavour are often Gluten Free. For example, a lot of fresh salads, fruits, meat, and fish are all are Gluten Free, and you just need to be mindful of the dressings you choose or, better yet, make your own. Having some good Gluten Free bread on hand can also help bulk up meals and will make a great addition to breakfasts and left-over lunches on boxing day.

Do you have a go-to GF Christmas recipe that is always a winner?

I am a big fan of salads, so I usually make a big brown rice salad with lots of fresh herbs and apple cider vinegar, honey and curry powder dressing. That always seems to go down a treat with all!

Are there GF store-bought products that you’re a fan of for something quick and easy?

I’m obviously a big fan of having Lucy’s bread in my freezer for a quick and easy lunch. But I also love having some good bliss balls and Ceres rice crackers on hand as well.

A lot of us ARE the ones who are turning up for Christmas with gluten intolerances, or we’re the ones in the kitchen. Do you have any tips for having fun but staying well this Christmas?

If you are gluten intolerant as a guest, it is always good to show up with a dish so that the responsibility doesn’t fall on the host. If the host doesn’t know you are gluten-free, then at least you know there is something you’ll enjoy. And if you’re at home, having some quality ingredients on hand will make life a lot easier. Stock up on fresh vegetables and fruit, plus some good Gluten Free bread that you can use for stuffing or breadcrumbs.

Does GF baking/cooking have to be expensive? Do you have any tips or tricks?

Unfortunately, Gluten Free flours are more expensive than normal flour so one way to keep costs down is by looking for recipes that are naturally Gluten Free. Things like Pavlova, Fruit Salad, or things like Chocolate Black Bean Brownie where less flour is required.

We are BIG fans of your loaves! When were your children diagnosed with gluten-intolerances and what impact did that have on your life?

Thank you! My children weren’t officially diagnosed, but my youngest son was very colicky as a baby, so we started cutting out gluten to relieve his stomach discomfort. After a while, we noticed an improvement in our whole family’s health and realised it was benefiting us all.

When did you decide to make an entire brand out of it, and how did that all come about?

When we initially cut out gluten, I really struggled to make easy go-to meals for my young family – like sandwiches or toast for breakfast – without feeling like it was a huge compromise in taste and texture. I started experimenting at home and eventually got to a point where I felt that the Gluten Free bread I was baking, was better than anything I could buy.

Before going Gluten Free, I would often buy Volare Sourdough from the Herbal Dispensary in Raglan and started to wonder why they didn’t offer anything Gluten Free. On a whim, I decided to track down the founders and ask them directly. One very long phone call later and I found myself in the Volare bakery in Hamilton, face-to-face with the founders Ed and Ryan.

As it turned out, they had always wanted to create a Gluten Free range but didn’t have the time. They admired by eagerness and thought that my loaves had a lot of potential so jumped at the opportunity to collaborate. Two years of trials, a few lockdowns, and a purpose-built bakery later, Lucy’s went to market.

The actual look of the brand was all thanks to the creative vision of Anna and Alan at Area Design. As for calling it Lucy’s, that was Ed and Ryan’s idea. They felt that it was nice and simple and a good reminder that each loaf is lovingly handcrafted by my small team and me.

Do you still eat gluten, or is the whole family gluten-free now?

We are predominantly all still Gluten Free as we have discovered we feel better for it. So, at home, we are Gluten Free, but if we are out and about for example, at kids’ birthday parties, I don’t stress about it as they are not coeliac. I try to educate the kids about what might make their tummy feel sore, but essentially let them decide how they feel after it because I want them to be in tune with their own bodies and what food makes them feel good or not.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned on this journey?

After the original shock of going Gluten Free, the biggest thing I have learnt is that it really doesn’t need to be too complicated. We are pretty lucky with all of the available substitutes these days, it just takes a little bit of getting used to. Identify your go-to products and make sure you always have them on hand, try to prioritize eating wholefoods and doing a bit of meal prep at the start of the week to make life easier.

Anything else you’d like to add?

If you want a delivery of Lucy’s in the week leading up to Christmas, make sure to order at lucysglutenfree.co.nz by December 16th. I’ll be taking some time off to be with my family over the holidays, and there will be limited deliveries until the New Year, so it could be worth stocking up and freezing some loaves to get you through!

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