As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m beginning my annual scan on the internet and among local health food stores for recipes and products that will not only make my family’s holiday meal delicious and traditional, but safe for everyone to eat. With a daughter who has celiac disease, I have to be careful. I want her to grow up experiencing all the flavors associated with the classic Thanksgiving dishes, so it takes some extra advance planning to ensure she can have all the stuffing, rolls and tasty pie she wants, just minus the wheat.
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. People with celiac cannot eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats. Gluten is also often a surprising ingredient in many other foods, including salad dressings, soups, sauces and gravies, pre-seasoned vegetables, and others. Symptoms vary widely, but can include abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, weight loss, irritability, fatigue, anemia, bone loss, infertility, among others. More than 2 million people in the U.S. have the disease, or about 1 in 133 people. The only treatment is a 100% gluten free diet.
While the news has been full of stories about how going gluten free might help you look younger, lose weight, or just be part of the latest celebrity fad, my daughter’s diet is not a choice but a necessity. Just a molecule of gluten in her food results in intestinal misery a few short hours later — all the more reason for me to do my homework before an important holiday dinner.
Although some Thanksgiving foods are naturally gluten free, including the turkey, mashed and sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce, it gets pretty tricky when it comes to tackling the stuffing, crust for the pumpkin pie, gravy, and rolls. There’s even gluten in most brands of cream of mushroom soup and the crispy onions that many people love on top of their green bean casseroles. Fortunately, the challenges are easily met, for there are numerous places to find amazing gluten free products and recipes for Thanksgiving and other occasions. I’ve listed a few of my favorite resources below.
Gluten Free Living — provides information on living a happy, healthy gluten free life
Living Without — for people with allergies and food sensitivities
Allergic Living — for those with food allergies, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or environmental allergies
As more and more people are diagnosed with celiac disease, sales of gluten free products are up, and for my daughter, that’s a good thing – the high demand in the marketplace widens the choices for her and for others with this life-long condition, making it easier for them to enjoy not only the special holiday meals, but the everyday ones as well. Whether you are aiming for a gluten free holiday due to a lifestyle choice, or a medical necessity, these resources are reasons to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!