Three Ways to Cultivate Gluten-Free Holiday Goodness

We all want to eat closer to the earth these days. Some of us cultivate our own kitchen gardens, growing a cornucopia of brilliantly colored and aromatic vegetables and herbs to share the Thanksgiving table with roasted turkey or game, rich gravies, and wholesome fruited desserts. Some of us gather the abundant, wonderfully gluten free foods of the season from the local farmer’s market or grocer. We all can nurture an appreciation for the best part of the holidays: spending time with your family and friends. Read on for some holiday “dos”:

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Cultivate non-food traditions. Here’s a question you may have asked yourself more than a few times since beginning your gluten-free diet: why does everything have to revolve around food? Answer: it doesn’t! This year, plant the seeds for some new holiday traditions. Instead of a cookie swap, invite your gang to an annual holiday concert or play! How about a hike or touch football game after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner? Who will win this year’s cribbage tournament or get the dubious “gift” of the milk glass chicken that has been making the rounds in our family for years?

Cultivate some new recipes. Fabulous gluten-free recipes don’t spring out of the ground fully formed. You have to bring them along, with care and attention to detail! is a great place to start searching for your new favorites; I favor classics that never called for gluten ingredients in the first place. Think crispy rice marshmallow treats, caramel popcorn, dark chocolate peppermint bark or homemade chocolate covered almonds. Savor some maple sugar or marzipan candies, hand-dipped chocolate buckeyes, fudge, or chewy chocolate macaroons? (OK, sometimes it is all about the food.) If you do want to try your hand at making a gluten-free version of a traditional holiday treat, practice your recipes ahead of time. Last year I ignored my own advice and made a gluten-free pumpkin pie to share with friends before our annual Thanksgiving beach walk—I was so focused on my gluten-free crust that I forgot to put eggs in the pumpkin custard filling! (Let’s just say that custard isn’t custard without the eggs and leave it at that.)

Cultivate gratitude. While it’s perfectly OK to grieve a little for those tasty, gluten-filled holiday goodies of days gone by, you will enjoy your holidays far more if you cultivate gratitude. This year, let your celiac supporters know how much you appreciate them. You may be blessed to have a mother, sister, brother or partner or friend who nurtures you with lovingly made gluten-free food. Let him or her know how much you appreciate that.  If you are a member of a celiac support group, you can vent just a wee bit about special foods you miss before sharing a fabulous gluten-free potluck holiday dinner.

Gluten-free living takes much more than a food adjustment, it takes an attitude adjustment. Antoinette Tarbell, gluten-free herself since 2001 and mother of an adult child with celiac disease counsels, “This happens over time. Eventually a new feeling takes over.” Her holiday wish for you is that you will be able to admire at your gluten-free goodies and say “Wow, look what I can have. I can eat this!”

Visit the Celiac Sprue Association to locate a support group near you.


Patsy Danehy Catsos is a registered dietitian in private practice; her special area of interest is digestive health. She is the author of IBS—Free at Last! Second Edition and editor of

Ms. Catsos earned a B.S. in Nutritional Science from Cornell University and an M.S. in Nutrition at Boston University. She completed her internship at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital. She is a professional member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of American and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; she is past-president of the Maine Dietetic Association.


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