Stuffing. Cornbread. Gravy. And who could forget the pumpkin pie? If you’re on a gluten free diet, Thanksgiving dinner can seem like tiptoeing through a minefield. There are starchy sides and desserts to navigate, flour-laced gravy to contend with, not to mention relatives whispering in your ear that it’s really okay to “go ahead, and take a little bite.”
But that’s only half the picture. At its best, Thanksgiving can be a whole foods feast. Favorites like sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberries and - of course - the bird are all naturally gluten free (at least before we smother them with processed ingredients). So, get back to basics and follow this foolproof plan. It guarantees a g-free holiday you can actually enjoy.
Give the host a heads up: In a perfect world, you’d whip up the entire feast yourself. In the real world, that’s not always possible. So on to plan B. If you’re visiting friends or family, calling or emailing ahead of time to ask what’s on the menu, and how a few key foods are being prepared, can spare lots of headaches. While it’s doubtful the whole menu will be g-free, you’ll probably be able to single out two or three safe bets.
Offer to pitch in: Love green bean casserole but dread the flour-laced cream of mushroom soup it swims in? Bring your own version made with real mushrooms and homemade crispy onion topping (try this recipe). Not only will it guarantee you won’t get glutened, it will taste a whole lot better too. Ditto for sweet potatoes. This recipe lets you enjoy them marshmallows and all (although most major brands are g-free, be sure to check the label) If cooking isn’t your thing, bake a pumpkin pie with a brown rice flour crust or a gooey flourless chocolate cake so you’ll be assured a Thanksgiving-worthy sweet ending.
Be a computer geek: No clue where to even find a gluten free Thanksgiving recipe? There are literally hundreds of them on the Internet. That said, some are better than others. For some of the best of the best check out these top picks:
- EatingWell Magazine Gluten Free Thanksgiving Recipes
- Saveur.com Gluten Free Recipes for Thanksgiving
- The NY Times Gluten Free Thanksgiving
Make a b-line for the kitchen: On Turkey Day, make it your mission to arrive a few minutes early. When you do, head straight for the kitchen to deliver your dish. While you’re there, ask what you can do to help. When you do, you may notice a few partially prepared dishes (think salad that hasn’t been dressed yet or veggies that haven’t made their way into casseroles). Ask if you can snag a single serving and dress them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper before they’ve been glutened up.
Finally don’t be afraid to be a little bit of a skeptic. Lots of people innocently confuse wheat free with gluten free. So, other guests who are pitching in may not realize the canned broth in the gravy or the turkey seasoning contain hidden gluten. Luckily you know better.
Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. is a nutrition consultant, journalist and author specializing in nutrition. She is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a contributing editor for Woman’s Day magazine. Her work has been published in magazines such as Cooking Light, EatingWell, Prevention, Fitness, Women’s Health, Woman’s Day and Oprah.