Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hide & Seek: Hidden Gluten At the Holiday Table

Having food allergies and intolerances can be very stressful when one is invited to eat at another person's home. In one's own home, it is easy to control what goes into your mouth. At other peoples' houses it can be hard to make sure you're not eating something that will make you very sick, especially if you're worried about imposing on your host. Even the most understanding friends and family are often unaware of the sneaky places that allergens hide.

Here are some tips for avoiding gluten at your holiday meal:

  • Avoid self-basting turkeys.

  • Many people thicken their gravy with flour. However, it is extremely easy to thicken gravy using arrowroot starch or cornstarch.

  • Obviously, most stuffing is not gluten-free. You can follow most conventional stuffing recipes by using a gluten-free bread that you've cubed and dried out in the oven. Avoid stuffings made with sausage.

  • Soy sauce is a sneaky source of gluten, especially in vegetarian and vegan foods. Keep in mind that it's not only used in Asian dishes. Look for gluten-free soy sauce and tamari from San-J, Panda (Kari-Out), and Walmart Great Value.

  • Cheesecakes and pumpkin pie fillings are often gluten-free, but check to make sure the baker didn't add flour.

  • Many commercially available chicken broths have gluten in them. Some (but not all) of the following brands of stock are GF: Trader Joe's Hain's, Health Valley, Manischewitz, Swanson's, Shelton, Whole Foods 365, Imagine Foods. Celifibr, Herb Ox and Better Than Bouillon make GF bouillon cubes or pastes. Check the labels carefully.

  • Breadcrumbs are used on casseroles, in stuffed vegetables, and in other dishes. Use gluten-free cornflakes, packaged gluten-free breadcrumbs, or make your own breadcrumbs.

  • Cream sauces and other thickened sauces often have flour in them, so ask your host about what they used as a thickener. Karina recommends keeping around a bag of gluten-free baking mix (Pamela's Ultimate Baking Mix is great, while Bob's Red Mill and Gluten Free Pantry make dairy-free versions). Use it as a substitute in any recipe that calls for flour.

  • Most of the "cream of..." soups used in casseroles are NOT gluten-free. Health Valley and Progresso make gluten-free Cream of Mushroom soups.

  • French Fried Onions purchased in a grocery store have gluten in them. Make your own french fried onions for use in greenbean casserole, or try a greenbean dish without a different crispy topping, such as potato chips or toasted nuts.

  • Stick to gluten-free specialty beers or the alcoholic beverages on this list.

  • Be careful of vegetarian dishes made to taste or feel like meat. Most are made with wheat gluten / seitan, texturized vegetable protein (TVP) or hydrolized vegetable protein (HVP), which contain gluten.

  • Watch out for these ingredients: Corn flakes, fried onions, nondairy cream substitutes, sweets that are flavored with malt, commercial salad dressings, commercial fruit pie fillings, BBQ sauces, other condiments, breaded or fried foods. Gluten-free versions of most of these products are available.

  • If you are new to having celiac disease, or if you are new to cooking for a gluten intolerant person, please keep in mind that wheat-free does not necessarily mean gluten-free. Other unsafe grains include kamut, spelt, farro, semolina, graham (not gram) flour, bran, bulgur, barley and rye. A list of common food ingredients and their gluten-free status can be found here.
Don't hesitate to ask what's in each dish and advocate for your needs. Be considerate of your host by letting them know about your dietary restrictions ahead of time. Make sure they know this is a medical issue, not a "picky eater" issue. Offer to bring a dish or two of your own. Be gracious, but remember that your health comes first!


Mike Eberhart said...

Great job aggregating all those holiday gluten-free recipe links and all! That's a great way to help everyone out this Thanksgiving. Now, of course, you'll have to start working on a Christmas GF list :)

Brian said...

Shameless plug through your site! Please forgive me!

A new 'gluten-free' podcast series is up through a listing on iTunes. If you suffer from Celiac disease or are gluten-intolerant, you may dig it. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for good info...I've learned alot. I will be bringing food for me to my Thanksgiving host (my asian mother-in-law that thinks I'm just a picky eater no matter what I or my husband says) along with the Redbridge beer!