HEALTH: Planning a gluten-free Thanksgiving |

HEALTH: Planning a gluten-free Thanksgiving

Angela Wetzel
Free Press Health Columnist

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and the beginning of holiday feast time.

I love the holidays; they are my favorite time of the year. It means getting together with family and friends over meals. And spending more time with them and means all kinds of parties. I also love the food. It’s food that you don’t typically eat the rest of the year; but when eating gluten-free, it can also be a dangerous time of the year.

You may be thinking: “Yes, the stuffing/dressing is bread and the pie is a no-no but the rest should be good to go!” Not exactly and here is where the whole “hidden gluten” comes in. First, the bird. While the turkey alone is usually fine, many marinades (which can contain broths, soy sauce, etc.) have wheat in them. If you are going to someone’s house for the meal, I would ask how they are seasoning the bird or bring your own with you, to be safe. If making the meal at your home, just look for a bird with “gluten-free” on it. They do exist.

Stuffing and dressing are obviously not gluten-free so how do you deal with that? We have brought our own dressing, made from gluten-free bread, to our host’s homes. That way we can enjoy the bready goodness that is dressing. It’s my favorite part of the meal, honestly, so it’s one that I make sure to have whether it’s at home or someone else’s home.

The other tricky part of the meal is the gravy. I grew up with cornstarch thickening so it wasn’t a big deal when I went gluten-free but I know most people use flour as a thickening agent. Again, just ask your host what they are using and maybe offer to be the “gravy maker” so you can make sure that cornstarch is used and you can use the delicious gravy on your meal.

There is, obviously, more to the meal but these are mainstays and where gluten seems to be the most prevalent. If you can, volunteer to bring a salad, dessert or dressing so you know you have safe items. If you aren’t sure, or don’t want to chance any of the meal, bring your whole meal. You might get questions but use it as an educational opportunity and maybe next year the meal will have a whole different, gluten-free twist to it.

Angela Wetzel has celiac disease and is president of Gluten Free Grand Valley, a support group for those with celiac disease and wheat allergies. Contact her at or visit Gluten Free Grand Valley on Facebook.

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