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Gluten-Free Holiday Survival Tips

November 20, 2013

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Ah, the holidays… family, friends, and most of all, food.

Tomorrow marks one week to go before Thanksgiving. We’ve spent all year dreaming about the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pies that fill our tables. Of course, if you are a person with a gluten sensitivity or allergy, these dreams may actually be nightmares.

For the approximately 1% of Americans with celiac disease (an allergy to gluten), and scores of others who are sensitive to the protein, the holidays are often tough. You can avoid obvious gluten-containing foods such as stuffing, breads, and pies, but there is a high chance of cross-contamination with so many dishes being prepared at once.

 There’s also the issue of misunderstanding. Many people simply don’t understand that a gluten allergy is serious business, others may not even know what gluten is, or think it’s only found in whole-wheat items.

 So what’s a gluten-sensitive person to do?

 As a celiac who has weathered many holidays and get-togethers with my Italian-Polish-Jewish families, I can tell you that there are ways to enjoy your holidays with a full and healthy stomach. You just need to be proactive. 


Bring your own holiday meal.

For those who are newly diagnosed or super-sensitive, this might be the best option to completely eliminate the risk of cross-contamination during food preparation. But on the bright side, cooking in your own kitchen will save you from your Italian aunt’s evil eye for using the “wrong” ingredients.

Bring a gluten-free version of a traditional dish.

Is your favorite holiday dish on your do-not-eat list? Bring a gluten-free version to share with everyone! One of the benefits of the increasing awareness of gluten sensitivity is the number of products that actually taste, well, normal. While I usually bring some type of dessert, if it’s something more substantial you’re looking for, try this Rudi’s Gluten-Free Stuffing Mix.

Talk to your host about your dietary needs.

Being the only celiac in the family, most of my relatives at first didn’t really understand the necessity of a gluten-free diet. The more you talk about what gluten is, what it can do, and why you need to avoid it, the more people will understand. My aunt will always roast a turkey breast separately from the stuffed turkey to avoid cross-contamination. You can even offer to help cook to ensure that the foods you CAN eat are still safe by the time they reach the table. 

Host your own gluten-free holiday.

If you are hosting this year, create an entirely gluten-free holiday meal. With an array of apps and websites, it’s easy to find quality, delicious recipes for those with a gluten sensitivity or allergy. A good source is this Gluten-Free Holiday Recipe Guide with recipes for every course.


What are your tips for surviving the holidays with a gluten sensitivity?