The holiday season is in full force and on Thursday Americans will be giving thanks for what they have (or in some cases -- what they're happy not to have) and enjoying good food with good friends and family.
For some, big holiday dinners can pose a challenge, especially when it comes to food allergies and food intolerances.
Thanksgiving meals are traditionally full of gluten as it can be in the turkey (oddly), the stuffing, rolls and dessert. However there are so many resources available for an amazing gluten-free (GF) experience that one should not feel deprived.
First, go to the web. There are some great websites entirely dedicated to a GF meal. After a quick search, you will have thousands of recipes at your fingertips.
Remember, even if you have not been diagnosed with celiac disease, the same foods qualify as problems for gluten sensitivity.
Therefore you could type "celiac" into the search engine and find what you are looking for. There are also several yummy cook books available to meet everyone’s intolerance or allergy needs.
Second, talk with your grocery store. So many stores nowadays have GF options and cater to those with food allergies and food intolerances.
My local Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s showcase ingredients and recipes to meet everyone’s needs. Many companies have online websites allowing you to purchase directly the rolls, bread, desserts, pie crust and more, and have shipped to your door.
Third, remember that you're definitely not going to starve. Unless a gluten-containing ingredient is added to the food, meat, most dairy products, vegetables, beans, lentils, fruit, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, nuts and seeds are inherently gluten-free.
Substitution will be your best friend, and reading labels (as usual) will be key. Consider flours such as almond, coconut, rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, and corn when making meals.
There are several GF stuffing options available, plus the mashed potato and sweet potato/yam dishes are delicious. Don’t forget salads, cranberry and rice dishes as well.
Fourth, talk to your host or educate your guests. Obviously not all family and friends understand intolerances or allergies with many ignorantly rolling their eyes or questioning whether it’s a "fad".
If you are hosting the party then it will be much easier to know exactly what foods are gluten-free. If you are joining a party, talk with the host about your options and volunteer to bring a few side dishes and a dessert you know for certain you will enjoy.
Fifth, be prepared just in case. How many times has someone sworn the food was gluten-free only to find out later ... it was not. This can leave you with symptoms of intestinal distress, fatigue, skin breakouts, headache, hormone changes, insomnia, feeling sick and more.
Take probiotics (if you don’t already) as they are the good gut bacteria that help improve the health of your intestines and reduce inflammation. Consider starting these the week before and continue them even after the meal.
There are several digestive enzymes on the market geared towards helping the body to break down gluten if accidental ingestion occurs. These are not magic pills but they may help lessen the symptoms if taken either during or just after exposure.
As it is the season for holiday dinners, gatherings and parties, these suggestions can be used through the rest of the year when planning out your events.
Remember that you are not alone. There are so many great resources full of incredible free information in order to make your season a healthy one.
We have no affiliation with any of the resources listed below. There are many other wonderful sites out there too. Here are just a few to get you started.
1. Living Without magazine.
2. Gluten Free Living magazine.
3. Celiac information.
4. Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.
5. Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s GF website.
Reviewed November 19, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith