Four Things Not To Do on Thanksgiving If You're Gluten-Free

Want to feel good for Black Friday? Then avoid these like the plague

stuffed turkey
Don't eat this gluten-stuffed turkey!. Love Life/Getty Images

Thanksgiving takes many people (especially those new to the gluten-free diet) out of their "comfort zones" and places them instead in the realm of well-meaning—but sometimes uninformed—relatives and friends. And that sometimes leads to... uncomfortable symptoms of a glutening soon afterward.

For those who haven't been eating gluten-free for very long, Thanksgiving may offer the first chance to try eating safely at someone else's house.

Unfortunately, the holiday tends to be fraught with chances to get sick, starting with the turkey and ending with the pie.

How to Stay Gluten-Free on Thanksgiving

To keep you safely gluten-free during the Thanksgiving holiday, here are four rules to eat by:

  1. Whatever you do, don't be tempted to eat turkey that's been stuffed with gluten bread. I don't care if you try to choose the meat from the outside of the bird—the juices flow throughout the turkey, and carry the gluten protein throughout, as well. If you do this, you'll get sick—guaranteed. Don't let your Aunt Edna try to talk you into it. If you must, skip the turkey entirely... and yes, I know it's not Thanksgiving unless you have turkey.
  2. On a similar note, don't try pie filling from a pie with a gluten crust. The same rule as above applies—that filling is thoroughly cross-contaminated, regardless if you try to keep your fork well above crust level. You will get sick if you eat pie filling from a pie with a gluten crust.
  1. Quiz the chef thoroughly on ingredients used, and don't eat anything you think is suspect. It's easy for Aunt Edna to forget that her favorite sweet potato casserole recipe contains a tablespoon of flour as a thickener unless you prod her memory. For more on this, see: Should I Eat 'Gluten-Free' Food Prepared by Friends or Relatives? 
  1. Don't be tempted to cheat on the gluten-free diet, even if it's just for one day and you don't get bad symptoms. I've found that cheating once frequently leads to repeated cheating... and you could really destroy your health.

More Thanksgiving Ideas You Can Try

Many people who are particularly sensitive to trace gluten find they simply can't eat foods made in a shared kitchen without reacting. If this is the case for you, it's not too late to make yourself some gluten-free food to take to a relative's house, or to follow some of my other tips for a gluten-free Thanksgiving, such as bringing a shared dish (and sticking mainly to that dish), or hosting the holiday yourself.

Also, know it's possible to do your best but get glutened anyway (Thanksgiving is simply a risky holiday). If that happens, though, there are ways you can feel better faster.

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