A Free From Christmas

Gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, lactose intolerant, nut allergy, vegetarian, on and on it goes.  Many of us will be catering for more than one dietary need this Christmas, and thankfully the range of suitable products has widened considerably in recent years.  Here are some of our favourite products this season*:

These gluten-free Christmas puddings from Feel Free are rich and delicious, full of fruit and beautifully spiced.  A real treat for those who are gluten intolerant - and anyone else!  Available as a pack of two individual puddings from Holland & Barrett.

The range of free from products at Ocado is particularly impressive.  We loved the Kent & Fraser Stilton & Walnut biscuits and the Toasted Almond Shortbread, both delicious, and the gluten-free No.G Mini Cheese & Onion Pastryless Quiches are lovely.

Waitrose's Love Life Free From Christmas Cake and Mince Pies are the best gluten-free ones we tasted, indeed you would never think they were gluten-free.  See in store or online for the full range, prices from £2.50.

Pana Chocolate's vegan chocolate is handmade in Australia from raw, organic, fair trade ingredients.  It is soy free, gluten free, and contains no refined sugars.  Flavoured with 100% essential oils, the bars are packed with amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and sweetened with agave and coconut nectar.  A gift pack of four 45g delicious handmade chocolate bars is available from www.panachocolate.com and also from Whole Foods Market, As Nature Intended, Planet Organic, and many independent retailers, priced £13.90.  The Merry Christmas gift pack includes Sour Cherry & Vanilla, Coconut & Goji, Mint and Raw Cacao flavours.  Delicious!

Yogi Tea's Christmas Tea is an ayurvedic blend of rooibos, cinnamon and star anise which has the scent of Christmas all wrapped up.  Put the kettle on and kick back with a cup of relaxing chai.  The full range is available from Holland & Barrett.

We are big fans of local chocolate company Montezuma's, and their organic Vegan Truffle Collection is full of delicious dairy-free truffles that would fool most people into thinking they were the real thing full of cream.  Beautifully wrapped, this collection of 16 truffles is available nationwide from Holland & Barrett and from Montezuma stores, priced £14.79.

Cocoa Libre are a big name in dairy-free, vegan chocolate and their set of 8 hand-made 3D Penguins made from rice milk are as creamy as the milky alternative.  These cute little critters are also gluten/wheat free and nut-free, so suitable for coeliacs as well as vegans and those who are dairy intolerant.  It's lovely to see vegan/dairy-free chocolates aimed at children, although these penguins would be great for anyone's stocking, old or young.  RRP £4.99 for 8, from Holland & Barrett.

Celia Organic Lager is a gluten-free Czech lager with a refreshingly bitter, citrus taste.  This premium organic lager is batch-brewed in the cellars of a 14th century castle in the Zatec Foothills using 100% Saaz Hops (the only hops to have a protected status!), Moravian malt and locally sourced Sand-filtered water to create a naturally carbonated lager, meaning it doesn't cause the uncomfortable bloated feeling often associated with lagers.  It retails at £2.50 per bottle, or 4 for £8 from Waitrose, Ocado and Oddbins.

Sainsbury's offers a wide range of gluten-free products this Christmas, including their Christmas pudding which has a lighter colour and more crumbly texture than a conventional pud.  It has plenty of fruit and a good hit of boozy cider and rum.  We liked that it was nut-free, and enjoyed the slightly citrussy flavour.

Also from Sainsbury's, we love that we can offer gluten intolerant guests a taste of the now traditional panettone too.  This cute loaf cake is really yummy and great to have a slice with cup of tea or hot chocolate.  We'll be stocking up on this one for Steve's mum this Christmas.

Hitting two targets at once, the wheat and gluten-free mince pies from Sainsbury's are also vegan.  The pastry has that distinctively gluten-free texture but it's not too bad, pleasantly sweet, and the well-proportioned filling is delicious with a citrussy tang.  They are also available with iced tops.

Apart from being vegetarian I don't have any special dietary needs, but when you are intolerant to gluten, dairy or whatever else, I should imagine the dream is to now 'know' that you're eating 'special' foods all the time.  After all, why should the best stuff be kept for everyone else?!  And so it is with Pudology's dairy and gluten-free chilled puds.  They're delicious!

My favourite is the super-indulgent Smooth Chocolate Orange Pud which tastes like a high end chocolate mousse, delicious.  I also loved the banana-flavoured layer in the Banoffee Pud which is very moreish.  The shortbread element of the Millionaires' and Banoffee puds is the only thing that slightly lets them down, as it's a bit grainy.  Steve favoured the deep dark chocolate flavour of the Deeply Decadent Chocolate Pud.  Delicious.  Pudology puds are available from Ocado, Waitrose, Tesco, Waitrose, Holland & Barrett and local healthfood stores.

Another 'doesn't taste any different' product, the new Lactofree® Extra Mature Grated Cheddar® from Arla is just the same as their award-winning Extra Mature Cheddar, but now in a handy grated cheese pouch.  It tastes just like regular Cheddar and is perfect for sandwiches, jacket potatoes, and more, but without the lactose.  Available from all good supermarkets.

The convenience of individual chocolate logs and Christmas cake slices is on offer for the dairy and gluten intolerant at Sainsbury's with these handy bar packs.  The mini chocolate logs are brownie style chocolate cakes dusted with sugar, but they are not overly sweet and taste great.  Almost like a certain commercial brand popular at Christmas-time...  The iced rich fruit cake slices are made from a light fruit cake mix, full of tasty fruit and with a nice layer of marzipan and icing on top.  A great idea to keep some of these in for gluten and dairy intolerant guests.

The 9BAR Cocoa Kick Range are the latest indulgent addition to the 9BAR super-seeded energy bar range.  These delicious treats are available in a range of delicious varieties, including Raspberry, Cashew, Coconut and Hazelnut.  They are available from Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, Asda, Sainsbury’s, and Holland & Barrett.

For a vegan stocking filler, Ombar's Cranberry & Mandarin bar is a real treat.  Made with raw cacao to preserve the natural flavanols and antioxidants, they contain only organic Ecuadorian cacao, unrefined coconut sugar and real juicy fruits.  Packed with the festive flavours of Christmas, Ombar’s Cranberry & Mandarin is priced £1.99, and available from Ocado, Planet Organic, Waterstones, Wholefoods and online at www.therawchocolateshop.com.

Finally, it's not too late to make your own gluten-free, dairy-free Christmas cake or cookies with these mixes from Delicious Alchemy, the dedicated gluten-free company.  The delicious range also includes bread mixes, brownies, sponge mixes, breakfast goods and more.  Attachment Mummy readers can get 20% off in the online shop until 31st December with the code XMASCAKE (free UK delivery).

* Please consult the packet and/or the manufacturer to make sure products meet the dietary requirements you are catering for.

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