Holidays are always rough. I feel like there’s no other times where we are expected to bond with others over food. Sure, there’s birthdays and family dinners – but those are usually very small groups, or dedicated to you – so there’s less chance that you’ll feel embarrassed alone, lonely and like a total freak that can’t eat anything. Thanksgiving – especially – is all about food. We’re thankful for our friends and family – and thankful that we have food on our table and that we can share with others. However, with people like us, we often can’t share food (unless you have an only gluten-free Thanksgiving free of cross-contamination). Having your own dinner can feel isolating, but we can’t think about it that way. We should use this day – like all days – as a day of feeling awesome about our bodies and being an advocate for safe gluten-free eating. Regardless if this is your first, or 10th gluten-free Thanksgiving, I hope it’s awesome. Here are some tips and ideas that I can share with you.
- Don’t be afraid to bake, but make sure you have the right expectations. I cut out recipes from Real Simple and scoured the internet for a pumpkin pie. I ended up making it and got ridiculed by everyone there (including my parents) because it looked so awful. I don’t even think it tasted that great, and took every ounce in my body to make it the night before. I would have done better purchasing the pie from a gluten-free bakery!
- If you’re not sure, don’t eat it! There’s nothing worse than being sick over the holidays, so don’t risk it. It’s better if you only stick to the food that you know (which is typically the food that you made), and don’t eat something just because your aunt says “I think it’s gluten free.” Trust me, it’s not worth it.
- Be open about your food allergies. Explain that you want to share this holiday with your family, but you don’t want to get sick and ruin the fun for everyone. Explain how severe Celiac or gluten sensitivity is – even a crumb can make you ill (and people tend to get that analogy more than 20ppm).
- Designate a separate table for gluten-free items – complete with separate serving ware. You can even individually wrap cookies and slices of cake/pie so you can have single serve without the threat of contamination. Consider gluten-free stickers from places like Allermat.
Some things that I always keep on hand (aka my Thanksgiving favorites):
- Imagine Foods Gluten-Free Gravy (pre-made in a box), check it out online here (I buy mine at Sprouts and Whole Foods)
- Pacific Foods jellied cranberry sauce and pumpkin puree, check it out online here (I buy mine at Sprouts and Whole Foods)
- Simply Organic gluten-free pumpkin cake mix, check it out online here (although I buy mine at Whole Foods).
- Gluten Free Creations Bakery sage and sausage pre-made gluten-free stuffing (yes, you can order it online here)
- Wholesome Chow all purpose baking mix for holiday scones, order it here.
- Make sure the people cooking the turkey don’t use flour in the bag! Many bags require sprinkling flour to coat the bag – so make sure you get gluten-free flour before the turkey is even in the oven! Also, make sure that the turkey is not pre-marinated with potential glutens! Get a gluten-free turkey – even pitch in if you have to. There’s also honey-baked hams that are gluten-free that are a great alternative meat for Thanksgiving.
- Watch out for those awesome fried onions that go on top of the green bean casserole. Then again, watch out for the green bean casserole in general! Those are typically made with cream of mushroom soup (that often have flour in them!). You can buy your own cream of XYZ soups at places like Whole Foods from brands like Pacific Foods or Imagine Foods. Then, make your own french fried onions by following recipes online like this one.
BIG TIP: Read up on all the great resources we have to offer online!
- The Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef posted some great recipes for a gluten-free Thanksgiving on a blog post that includes recipes for gluten-free gravy, stuffing, chutney, some amazing side dishes, and some awesome GF dinner rolls and pie crust.
- One of my new favorites, Pretty Little Celiac, just wrote about 11 tips for surviving the holidays gluten-free and I highly recommend her post!
- There’s more recipes on EatingWell.com (seriously? Riesling-baked pears!?!?) and Celiac.com’s gluten-free stuffing recipe.
A great guide is from NFCA Tips for a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving that includes the following tips (with my advice added into it):
- If you host Thanksgiving, obviously cook the entire meal yourself with only gluten-free recipes and ingredients.
- If others insist on contributing, ask them to bring non-food items. Suggest extra ice, a bottle of wine, or even fresh flowers or candles for the table. (Great idea, maybe a DIY Thanksgiving where everyone makes something to contribute instead of bringing gluten inside my house!).
- When the inevitable gluten-filled “gift” dish arrives, accept graciously and serve it away from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. (We always have a separate table for GF items, or, if you’re hosting, put separate serving stuff at a table by itself and make sure you label EVERYTHING gluten).
- If traveling by car, take along a few favorite gluten-free dishes. This ensures that you will have safe foods to enjoy, even if there isn’t another dish available that you can eat.
- When cooking in a kitchen that is not your own, remember to sanitize countertops and avoid porous dishes and wooden spoons, which could contain gluten residue. (SO SMART, remember – avoid WOODEN ANYTHING! Make sure everyone is cooking with plastic or metal and avoid colanders that have had gluten in them).
This will be my 4th gluten-free Thanksgiving, and really only my 2nd one of being super hardcore about it all (I was lax on cross-contamination due out of ignorance the first few years). Have another great tip to share about Thanksgiving, share in the comment section!