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Thanksgiving dinner

Looks yummy and very stress inducing to me

This is the second in a series of what to do when you discover you can no longer eat gluten.

For me, I think one of the most stressful holidays I have to go through food-wise is Thanksgiving. Since realizing that I can’t eat even a small amount of gluten, eating at someone’s home that doesn’t also follow the same diet is really hard. Thanksgiving seems to be one of the hardest, most likely because it is the most traditional and its hard, if you are eating at someone else’s home, to require that they change all their traditional (and gluten filled) foods for you.

As I’ve said before, I hate being “That Person”, the person who quizzes someone extensively on whats in their lovely dish.

“Your dish looks really yummy, can I ask what’s in it?”

“Oh don’t worry, I didn’t use any bread”

“That’s great, but would you mind running down the ingredients”

“Well the dressing is cornbread, I used cornmeal, eggs and milk”.

“Is it only cornmeal, or did you add anything else?”

“Oh, I used some baking powder and some flour too.”


In reality, most food at Thanksgiving can be a landmine.  If a turkey was stuffed with dressing instead of being made separately, then the turkey itself  is contaminated and can’t be trusted. Also many industrial turkeys are injected with ingredients such as sodium phosphate and possibly other items which include gluten. While sodium phosphate is gluten-free, it has been linked to a number of symptoms that could exacerbate a gluten issue.  Start with a locally raised, natural turkey if possible.

Most stuffings are made with bread, even recipes for cornbread stuffing usually contain wheat flour. Unless the person making the gravy thickens their gravy with cornstarch, it’s usually going to contain wheat.

Those green bean casseroles people make with Cream of Mushroom Soup?  Could contain a wheat based food starch. And those fried onions usually have a coating of batter, made of you guessed it, “wheat flour”. For that matter, so could the dips and salad dressings.

There is also the issue with cross contamination.  Butter dishes are prime. If you want some butter on a vegetable, make sure no one has double dipped the butter after spreading it on their roll. Spoons that someone uses to serve GF and non GF Foods.

Its pretty much impossible to scrape out that pumpkin pie filling without getting some of the pie crust in your food.

So now, that I’ve throughly scared you and caused you to swear off Thanksgiving altogether, what can you do to have a Thanksgiving that works for you and your family.

One of the easiest and less stress-filled ways is to offer to host Thanksgiving yourself. Cook items you can eat and make sure there is enough food to satisfy you.  Work with your other guests to try to ensure that the food they bring into your home isn’t filled with gluten.  That way if Aunt Edna insists on her favorite traditional dish, you can be sure that there will be plenty for you to eat even without that. Avoid cross contamination by having your own butter in a container, and be vigilant about serving containers and cross contamination. Your family and friends will tend to respect your needs more in your home, than in theirs.  Its just a fact of life.

If you have to eat at someone else’s home, call them up a few weeks before and explain your situation clearly and definitively.  Ask that they cook the stuffing outside the turkey (in reality they should be anyways).  Find out what side dishes they are considering that might cause you problems and offer to make a number of dishes that you can eat.  (Don’t forget the appetizers as well). In this case, being a bit pushy might be against your normal mode, but its better to be considered pushy rather than become ill for days or weeks afterwards. Again, once there be vigilant. If your family is up for it, request that each dish have a card on it listing ingredients.  We do this at some pot luck dinners that I have attended lately and it works well, my reality is that if something doesn’t have a card listing ingredients, I don’t eat it (unless it’s an obvious one ingredient item).

It’s possible to get through the landmines of holiday’s and families without getting sick. As with everything dealing with not being able to eat gluten, you are your best advocate.

Gluten Free Thanksgiving Recipes


Side Dishes



  1. Gluten Free Series: Discovering The Need To Be Gluten Free
  2. Gluten Free Series: Holidays and Gluten and Thanksgiving
  3. Gluten Free Series: Cleaning up your Pantry
  4. Gluten Free Series: Eating Out
  5. Gluten Free Series: Kitchen Equipment, What Can Stay, What Can Go

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2 Responses to “Gluten Free Series: Holidays and Gluten, Thanksgiving”

  1. maggie says:

    Thanksgiving is rough for us in a lot of ways — with Pat being GF and both of us being vegetarian. There’s generally no main dish to eat and many of the side dishes contain either meat or wheat or both. (But I’m generally not into the holiday anyways, what with it being a celebration of massacre and genocide and all.)

  2. Hey, have you tried a good green bean casserole? You really should. It’s one of my favorite dishes.