Thanksgiving is a time of family, friends and togetherness. But let’s face it: it’s also very much about food! However, if you are celiac or adhering to a gluten-free lifestyle and trying to enjoy Thanksgiving in someone else’s home, this annual food fest can lead to confusion, deprivation or in the worst case, an allergic reaction.

But fear not, fellow gluten avoiders. With some planning, you can avoid a gluten gotcha this year!

  1. Have a friendly chat with the host ahead of time and educate (nicely) if needed.
    Let’s be real: sometimes this is an uncomfortable conversation, but it doesn’t have to be! Most hosts appreciate a heads-up via phone or social media message so that everyone stays safe and has fun. This is also a good time to bring up cross-contamination if that is an issue, since many people are not aware of the dangers. Be clear that you are not insisting that the entire meal be gluten free, but that it’s important that what you eat is.
  2. Bring your own food and kitchen utensils if needed.
    Plan to bring a couple of things you can definitely eat (also, it’s courteous to let the host know what those items will be). There are so many delightful gluten-free side and dessert recipes out there, it might be hard to just pick one or two! In addition, if you will be cooking at the host’s house as well, it’s wise to bring your own cutting boards, etc. to cut down on the risk of cross-contamination.
  3. Prepare to eat simply.
    Typically turkey that’s not stuffed is a safe bet, but if it’s brined or basted, it is wise to check the label before digging in. Raw, roasted and boiled veggies are usually safe, too. Bringing a salad or some fresh fruit to the meal may bring everyone a welcome respite from the heavier foods that are typically served.
  4. Avoid casseroles, gravies and creamy soups.
    That is, unless you bring them yourself! Chefs often use flour to thicken gravies and soups, and the canned “cream of” soups used in casseroles are not necessarily gluten free. If you are making your own or the host asks, Progresso and Pacific Foods offer some gluten-free soup bases.
  5. Check the bread.
    Even bread products that don’t typically contain gluten, e.g. corn bread, are not necessarily safe. Offer to bring some of your favorite bread to skip the guessing game. (I suggest Goodman Gluten Free!)
  6. Never show up hungry.
    As with other parties, always eat a good, compliant snack before you arrive. You may only be able to eat what you are bringing, so it’s best to not be caught unawares (and hungry!) and possibly tempted to take chances on your food.
  7. Be the first to pack up your leftovers.
    Bring your own containers just in case you are offered leftovers, and be quick about packing them up so that you can avoid possible cross-contamination from others doing the same.
  8. Shift your focus.
    It’s understandable that many people mostly focus on the food. But it’s a great opportunity to home in on what Thanksgiving should really be about: being grateful for the time you are spending with friends and family.

With some planning, you can sit back and enjoy your turkey day at least as much as everyone else. And who knows, you may even introduce a few skeptics to some delicious gluten-free fare!

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