A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the holidays. Since we are still in the holiday season, I decided to have a guest blogger who has another perspective about chronic conditions and the holidays. My cousin, Sadie Nagle is a registered dietician whose partner, Ryan has Celiac Disease. When I was having dinner with her last night, she told me about writing this article. I asked her if I cold share it. She graciously agreed. This post is really educational for when you host people with Celiac Disease. Please post in the comment section if you have any additional questions I can pass along to her. Happy Hosting! and Be Well!
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine in genetically predisposed individuals, triggered by the consumption of gluten. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 individuals worldwide. What is gluten?! Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley (and other uncommon grains like farro, semolina, spelt and several others). Gluten is the glue that holds all those yummy cakes, cookies, and breads together.There is no cure for Celiac Disease and it requires strict, lifelong adherence to the gluten-free diet to remain symptom-free and to avoid comorbidities from developing.
The gluten-free diet can be hard to navigate. There are so many ways gluten can hide and certainly can feel overwhelming to friends and families who try to accommodate individuals who have Celiac Disease during the holidays (which is stressful enough, right?!). So here are some tips to make your holiday season more enjoyable than stressful when preparing food for someone with Celiac Disease (or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity = gluten sensitivity, because let’s face it there are other individuals out there who require a gluten-free diet too.).
First and foremost, label reading is the MOST IMPORTANT thing to do when preparing food for someone with Celiac Disease. If you’re buying a packaged food, look for the word gluten-free on the package and read the ingredients list to check for wheat, rye, barley, malted vinegar, gluten, etc. (It’s honestly exhausting). There is sometimes an allergen statement that will say “This product contains/made on shared equipment/or processed in a facility that also manufactures WHEAT, tree nuts and peanuts, etc” . This means it is not gluten-free. Please note that barley and rye are NOT required be on an allergen statement because they are not a part of the top 8 allergens. Or look for these third-party gluten-free certification labels. Your safest bet is to just go naturally gluten-free and forego packaged foods. Fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free. See the recipes paragraph for ideas on naturally gluten-free.
Always clean your kitchen and wash your hands first! And I mean clean everything you plan on cooking in for someone with Celiac Disease. Don’t use pans or pots that have deep scratches in them because like I said before, gluten HIDES in many places and your scratched pot/pan has the perfect nooks-and-crannies for gluten to hide in (and also very hard to clean out).
Use a clean, preferably dishwasher safe, cutting board. Again, this is because old wooden cutting boards have nooks-and-crannies in them where gluten can hide. Dishwasher safe cutting boards eliminate the worry of gluten hiding because your dishwasher gets hot enough to thoroughly clean and sanitize the cutting board and rid it of gluten!
Prepare the gluten-free food first! This helps prevent cross contamination, which we will get into the importance of in the next paragraph. Also try avoid cooking other foods that contain gluten at the same time you’re cooking the gluten-free food (we all do it, mix up the spoons we were cooking with and ta-da, you’ve cross-contaminated the gluten-free food and now it’s NOT safe to eat).
Sharing is NOT caring in this case. Sharing butter and other condiments causes cross-contamination (unless they are squeezable condiments). Think of this like double-dipping; not only did your just get germs in other guests food but you also just ruined your hard work making something gluten-free now NOT gluten-free. Let your Celiac guest have his/her’s own dedicated gluten-free butter.
Make a dedicated gluten-free food section on the buffet line. Let your Celiac guest go first through the buffet line so they feel comfortable knowing no one has accidentally cross-contaminated their food with other utensils. Make little signs asking guests to only use the spoon/fork that is with that food item to help prevent cross-contamination. This will also make your Celiac guest feel extra special because they don’t have to go looking for their gluten-free food in the mishmash buffet.
Put love and joy into making the gluten-free food (and all food for that matter). Because we are what we eat, and no one wants to eat anger. Also enjoy trying something new and making your guest/friend/or family member feel loved.
Contamination is such a harsh word sometimes but hey, in Celiac Disease it is HARSH! I cannot stress enough how important it is to prevent cross-contamination with gluten in Celiac Disease. As an example, cross-contamination will occur when you make a sandwich (with wheat bread) on a cutting board and then make a gluten-free sandwich on the same cutting board without cleaning it beforehand. All those little crumbs really do matter. In fact, 1 tiny, little, itty-bitty crumb equals 50 parts per million of gluten, which is enough to cause a Celiac to have a reaction/symptoms and cause smoldering inflammation in their small intestine (which no one wants) and have a bad time. This is why it is so important for you to prepare the gluten-free food first and inform your guests to use the same utensil that is with the dish on the buffet.
Resources & Recipes
Your best bet is to go naturally gluten-free. The easiest way to explain this is to tell you what I made for Thanksgiving dinner: grass-fed beef tenderloin (yes, the grass-fed part does matter) marinated with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary and garlic, roasted beets (with garlic, salt & pepper), sauteed green beans in ghee, mashed potatoes (made with half/half and a fresh stick of butter), carrot souffle (made with whole milk, eggs, gluten-free corn flakes, butter, and sharp cheddar cheese), and gluten-free chocolate chip pie (Whole Foods pre-made gluten-free crust in the freeze section, Bob’s Red Mills gluten-free baking flour, eggs, butter, and chocolate chips).
Here are some of my favorite resources. Gluten-free Watchdog is a very useful website (that another RD created) that tests claimed gluten-free packaged food products to see if they meet the FDA’s 20 parts per million requirement. It also requires a subscription.
Celiac Foundation: https://celiac.org
Beyond Celiac: https://www.beyondceliac.org
Gluten-Free Watchdog: https://www.
I hope this information helps to keep your holidays merry, bright, and healthy!
Written by Sadie Nagle, MS, RD