Gluten-Free? Do These 3 Things to Survive & Enjoy the Holidays.

Gluten-Free? Do These 3 Things to Survive & Enjoy the Holidays.

Gluten Free on Thanksgiving? 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all time. My family hosts a ginormous celebration. The morning of we all wake-up early, eat a big breakfast and pretty much fast until the evening feast (aside from the occasional secret finger-full of mashed potatoes). By the time lunch rolls around the kitchen smells like a combination of pineapple glazed turkey and pumpkin pie (my mouth is watering just thinking about it!).

And in the evening, my relatives and friends pile into the house (with more delicious home-made dishes) as we all try to squeeze in around a few awkwardly organized tables eager to dig in. Kids are screaming, running around and playing and adults are laughing and drinking merrily.

After breaking-bread together, we feel fortunate. And, for that and whole lot more, we are thankful.

Speaking of breaking-bread, that brings up a bit of a touchy subject: how do you survive thanksgiving if you can’t actually “break-bread”?!

If you’re gluten or grain-intolerant, you’ve come to the right place my friend. Here are the 3 things you NEED to do to survive and enjoy this holiday without ripping your poor little gut a new one.

The Charm School Take on Saying “No” Politely

This is probably the hardest and most important lesson. If you cannot eat a certain food, whether based on results from a lab test or a little biobacking (self-experimentation), because it makes you feel like absolute sh**, you don’t just go and make exceptions and down it during holidays or birthday parties, you avoid it 100% of the time because you’d rather feel like a bad-ass in your own skin. That means it’s time to learn to turn people down when they offer you “x” (gluten/grain containing food that you know will reek havok on your system) without being a complete jerk. Use the “Compliment Sandwhich”, as taught to be a former and wise boss, outline below to avoid getting karate-chopped  in half by your host and instead invoke a little compassion:

SCENARIO A – Someone brought a dish to your house, is passing it to you as it goes around the table, or is about to serve it to you (like at a buffet or restaurant style) –

“Thank you so much for offering/making/bringing these. They look amazing and smell like they’re to-die-for (clutch “compassion invoke-er” here) . Ugh. I’ve recently found out/I am SUPER ALLERGIC to gluten/grains and unfortunately can’t devour this entire tray/dish like I want to or I will totally ruin this holiday/celebration for myself. Sigh. Tonight I’ll have to live vicariously through you ___ (insert title to make it personal i.e. Grandma, Mom, Dad, Aunt ____, Uncle ____, friend’s name, sweetheart, love).”

–>Say this like you genuinely mean it. Then, try ending this whole scenario with a little hug. You’ll most likely find that you made people feel really good about what they prepared and that they actually help you lookout for other gluten/grain containing foods that could demolish you!

SCENARIO B – You ate it once before in the past, but can’t eat it now

Oh jeez. Remember when I told you I couldn’t eat ____ (grains, gluten, bread…). Well, I found out it’s a permanent thing. The doc says (for some reason people tend accept this more than if you say something like “I feel like I can never eat this because…”) I have to stay off of it for good or it can lead to icky situations. The smell of your ____ (name of the dish) actually reminds of ______ (last Christmas, a friend’s birthday, another super awesome event). I know I ate a couple servings because it was soooo “melt-in-your-mouth” good! I’m drooling just thinking about it! Can’t wait till everyone else tries it so I can brag about what a talented cook/baker you are!

–>Again, be authentic, end this with a smile and a hug, and you’ll probably find that people are totally fine when you say “no” like this

These two will cover a vast amount of situations, but seriously, if you have a question about one, definitely reach out to me, or leave a question/comment in the comments section below, and I promise I’ll get back to you with a useful reply 🙂

Take on a Chef’s Minset

When it comes to avoiding consumption of gluten/grains to preserve your health and sanity, it’s easy to identify the basic things you need to stay away from: bread, pastires, crackers, noodles. What’s not easy, is identifying the less that obvious gluten/grain containing foods. A lot of recipes throw flour or bread crumbs in as a thickening agent or an adhesive. You’d never even know they’re in there because you can’t see or taste them. So be sharp and know what holiday dishes (and dishes in general) often contain or might contain them. Here are a few you’ll want to be able to save in your mind’s roll-o-dex before the celebration:

  • cream/cheese sauces i.e. alfredo, bachamel (flour)
  • meatballs (breadcrumbs)
  • bottled dressings (gluten, here are a few brands that don’t)
  • stuffing (breadcrumbs)
  • soy sauce (wheat)
  • flavored coffee (wheat, gluten)
  • bouillon cubes (gluten)
  • beer/liquor (wheat)
  • pumpkin pie filling (flour)
  • corn bread (flour)
  • thick soups and stews (flour)
  • veggie burgers

The above foods are just a few of many, but you can find more here and here. Again, not all of these will contain them all the time, but traditional recipes or shelf products that fall into the above categories often do, so take care of yourself and ask your host or read the label.

Crush It in the kitchen

If your hosting your own Thanksgiving dinner, then this one is easy. You’re probably making the majority of the food, so just cook everything gluten/grain free and you’ll have a delicious spread that your guests will enjoy and that you can also easily part-take in. If you’re going to a friend or family member’s place, it’s an eensy bit trickier, but navigable. Here’s what you should do:

A. You’re host probably asked you to bring a dish to pass. Awesome! Tell him or her that you have a couple new dishes that you’ve been dying to make and then ask if you can bring two dishes instead of one. Why? Because this way, you can ensure that you will have AT LEAST two choices at the dinner table. Wouldn’t it be extra awkward if you only had one thing on your plate? And, of course, it was the one thing you made? Yeah.

–>People often associate food with love and/or how much you love them. And somehow, if you reject their food sometimes the feel you reject them and their love. Not having enough food on your plate is one way to trigger this cascade of emotions and you certainly don’t want that. So do the whole gang a favor and bring more food so you can have more food on your plate and show that you’re accepting and spreading all the love around you.

Here are a few great gluten/grain free takes on traditional recipes that will be hits that stand out from the rest of the Thanksgiving spread:

Click on the images below to get the recipes

creamy no bake pumpkin pie_3

“Creamy No Bake Pumpkin Pie” by Minimalist Baker


Umami Gravy by Nom Nom Paleo

Cauliflower Stuffing-001

Breadless Cauliflower & Mushroom Stuffy by Mark’s Daily Apple

"Roasted Kabocha Squash" by Nom Nom Paleo

“Roasted Kabocha Squash” by Nom Nom Paleo


Look, at the end of the day you can consume whatever you want. But if you feel like crap when you consume gluten/grain, but feel awful saying “no” to family and friends and just don’t know what to do, well then…I hear what you’re saying, but I’ve got nothing but tough love for you on this one. It’s time to be a “big kid now” and  take care of yourself first so that when the next holiday rolls around, you don’t just feel like you’re “dealing” with the situation, you’re actually crushing it. You deserve to enjoy the holidays along with everyone else, so set yourself up for success using all the tips above and, in the words of my favorite Nike advertising campaign, “just do it”.

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Delfina Bonilla-Lopez

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