Editor’s Note: The CDC recommends avoiding gatherings, but if families plan to spend the holiday together it should be no more than 10 people, outdoors if possible, in small groups with everyone maintaining 6 feet of distance and wearing masks.
There’s nothing like coming together at Thanksgiving and enjoying all the traditional, comforting dishes that come with it. However, for the 1 in 100 people with Celiac Disease — an autoimmune disease where ingestion of gluten (wheat, barley, and rye) causes damage to the small intestine — this can be a tricky holiday. Planning on hosting a guest with Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some helpful tips to make your Thanksgiving meal fun and inclusive.
Many dishes served at Thanksgiving are naturally free of gluten ingredients (think flour, bread, bread crumbs, etc.). Dishes like roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and cranberry sauce are typically gluten free. The main dishes that usually contain gluten are stuffing, gravy, and pies. You can easily make your stuffing recipe by swapping out the regular bread for gluten free bread.
Your gravy recipe can be made gluten free by replacing the regular flour 1:1 with all-purpose gluten free flour or cornstarch and making sure your broth/stock is gluten free. Most grocery stores also offer ready-made gluten free pie crusts or mixes in their gluten free section as well.
Gluten can be sneaky and you might find it hiding in unexpected places, so while the dishes listed above are typically naturally gluten free, you’ll still need to double check. Some turkeys are injected with broth to keep the meat moist, but this broth can contain gluten. So check if your bird says gluten free. Some gluten free brands of turkey are Butterball (except the stuffed variety), Empire Kosher, Honeysuckle White, Jennie-O, Shelton’s, and Norbest. It’s also important to save the nutrition label for most foods in case your guest would like to double check.
Be aware of cross-contamination risks
This is when a gluten free food comes into contact with gluten. Even a crumb can be harmful to someone with Celiac. It’s helpful to treat gluten like you would raw meat—wash your hands after handling it, don’t use a utensil that touched gluten on a gluten free dish, and don’t use ingredients that gluten might have been dipped into (a tub of butter or condiment that may have gluten crumbs inside.)
Don’t be afraid to ask your guest questions, invite them to look at ingredients, or send them ingredient labels before the day arrives. They’ll appreciate the extra thought and will feel safer eating your food.
If this all sounds like more than you’re ready to tackle, don’t fear. There are a few local businesses that are here to save the day:
Green Olive Diner in Meriden does a full gluten free dinner including stuffing and gravy. You can order these dishes to-go so you can feel confident your guest will have a safe (and delicious) meal. They even have gluten free desserts. The diner is located at 443 S. Broad St., http://greenolivediner.com.
Little Rabbit Baking Company in Hamden also offers lots of gluten free dishes to make your turkey day a breeze. This year they’re offering cornbread stuffing, sweet potato casserole, orange glazed cranberry tea cake, pumpkin pie, and apple crisp. Little Rabbit Baking is located at 1648 Whitney Ave. For more information visit www.littlerabbitbaking.com. Follow them on Instagram at @littlerabbitbaking.
Meaghan Penrod lives in Connecticut and is the creator of the gluten free food blog Low Key Gluten Free. She shares recipes, restaurant finds, products, and tips for living with Celiac Disease. You can follow her at @lowkeyglutenfree on Instagram and Facebook or check out her blog at lowkeyglutenfree.com.