The table is set, the turkey is cooling and everyone gathers together. Around the table family and friends, one by one say what they are thankful for. While everyone else is treasuring this moment, if you have Celiac Disease, food allergies, or intolerances, you’re more concerned if
the meal is safe or if your host is going to unintentionally poison you. It’s hard to give thanks when you’re worried about the serious complications accidently ingesting gluten could do to your insides…
Take a breath, read these tips & enjoy your holiday!
Dealing with a diagnosis of Celiac or other food limiting conditions/intolerances can be tough, especially when it comes to events that are revolved around food. I was sure that my first gluten free Thanksgiving would be awful but it wasn’t! Instead, I survived, thrived even, with not an ounce of gluten accidently ingested. Aside from the "where's your haz mat suit" jokes from my two Uncles, I was able to educate my whole family on cross contamination and why we couldn’t mix up the spoons for gravy and stuffing. The success of my Thanksgiving was directly related to how amazing of a host my Aunt was. She went above and beyond and did her own research as well as talked with me to make sure that items were either prepared gluten free or a separate choice was available.
This year, I found out that I wouldn’t be able to go home for Thanksgiving. So instead, I would be spending it with my boyfriend and his family. While most girls would be excited, I was overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety. The whole idea made me feel sick as if I had already been glutened! His family doesn’t always remember all the quirks of my dietary needs and often forget that in addition to gluten, I cannot have any amount of lactose. So, after a few weeks of worrying and planning out possible what if scenarios, I decided that enough was enough and that it was time to take charge of the situation because if I wasn’t going to ensure my health and safety then who was?
A simple phone call was all it took, my fears were diminished in a matter of minutes. His mom already knew what I could and couldn't have and was more than happy to offer me with some substitution options as well as alleviate that all ingredients for the turkey and gravy would be gluten free. Having an amazing host is something to definitely give thanks about!
So, if you are experiencing your first gluten free Thanksgiving or spending the holiday with those who may not be familiar with your needs, here are my five tips on how to have a healthy and happy holiday!
Whether you feel as if you are being annoying or not, you are your own best advocate and if you don’t speak up, it could result in you becoming sick.
1. Not all turkey’s are gluten free – tell your host this ASAP
Do your research and provide your host with a list of safe and unsafe turkeys. For example, Butterball turkey is not gluten free, Wegmans’ brand is. When broaching this subject, remember to be polite and courteous, do not demand they buy a certain brand, say something like, “I did a little research and found out that not all turkeys were gluten free. This was something I wasn’t aware of, so I found a list of safe and unsafe brands for you to keep in mind when you’re shopping please”
Most families have a typical menu for every year, so it should not be too difficult to ask this in advance. If your host is unsure, then go over what ingredients that you cannot have, such as breadcrumbs in the stuffing, specific broths that are not gluten free for basting the turkey, gravy mixes that use wheat flour, etc. You may need to write this down for your host or send them an email list. If you think that they will forget, then write it down or email it to them whether they want you to or not. Also, remind them closer to the day of about specifics you talked about! Depending on your host, they may be willing to make some changes to their meal menu so you can enjoy as many side dishes as possible.
Most “normal” people do not keep lactose free butter, gluten free bread crumbs, xanthan gum, rice flour, etc. in their house nor do they need to! If your host is willing to cook with your ingredient substitutions, provide them with the ingredients! These unique pantry items tend to be expensive and it is polite to purchase them for your host. For example: gluten free croutons/bread crumbs for the stuffing, lactaid milk, and lactose free butter for the mashed potatoes.
If your host is using your “special ingredients” or says that they are using naturally gluten free items, offer to help them cook. I know it always makes me feel better when I have prepared or helped prepare the food I plan on eating. I like to keep a watchful eye in the kitchen, just in case, it helps put my nerves at ease and ensures that there has been no contamination. Plus, your offering to cook helps lessen the burden on the hosting chef, who probably is just as nervous about serving you, as you are about eating their food!
Your host should be able to provide you with a gluten free turkey (since there are plenty of brand options out there) but as for side dishes, well, that could be a whole different story, especially if it’s great great great grandma’s recipe that is a tradition to be made, as is. If this is the case, make your own sides! If you are traveling, pack a cooler with your pre-cooked sides and when you arrive on location, politely ask where you can store your own prepared sides. Just before dinner, pop your own options into the microwave. If you feel embarrassed or silly doing this, don’t. You are being smart and allowing yourself to enjoy what YOU want to eat on this holiday! If you are staying on location, bring your own ingredients to prepare your own sides. For my gluten free, dairy free Thanksgiving feast this year, I know that I plan on making a few of my own sides. I am extremely sensitive to whole milk and butter, so instead of having a bare plate or forcing his entire family to eat Lactaid mashed potatoes (his mom even offered me this!), I plan on making my own sides! I will be replacing milky mashed potatoes with a sweet potato, gluten filled biscuits with a few slices of cornbread I already made a batch of and froze, and cream of mushroom gluten-filled green bean casserole with green beans and mushrooms sautéed with a little olive oil. While it may not be the easiest thing to have to cook for myself and travel with my food, it also isn’t easy to sit at a table and watch everyone else eat what I cannot have. In addition to side dishes, don’t forget about dessert!
If you’re an avid baker, bake something for everyone, make it your point to have it be so good, they won't know it's gluten free! If you don’t feel like making enough for everyone or do not have the kitchen space to do so since you are not in your own environment, make a single portion of a sweet treat you would like to have while everyone else is eating dessert! I haven't made my decision on what I will be having for dessert, but some ideas are: Amy's Frozen Chocolate Cakes, Quest Bar, Mug Cake, Pumpkin "Pie", or any of my other favorite gluten free and dairy free desserts!
I hope that these tips helped and have put you at ease.
Don't let dietary limitations limit your holiday fun!
Any other questions, comment below or contact me, and I'd be more than willing to help!
Stay happy & healthy,
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