The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 26, 2013

Need a gluten-free Thanksgiving? Plan ahead and no problem

By April Graff
Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian

---- — Q: I am hosting Thanksgiving this year and my brother has recently been diagnosed with celiac disease. What do I need to know to keep him healthy, but still let him have the traditional Thanksgiving foods?

A: Planning ahead is the key to any Thanksgiving meal, but throw in a little extra care and this Thanksgiving meal is sure to impress everyone (your brother included).

One of the easiest and most helpful steps you can take is to ask your brother directly about his needs. Keep asking if you are still unclear. He may be willing to bring a part of the meal (stuffing or pumpkin pie) that typically contains gluten, saving you the added stress and preparations.

As you are shopping, cooking and eating, it is very important to separate foods to avoid cross-contamination. Even a small amount of gluten can make a celiac sick.

When shopping, keep gluten-containing foods in plastic bags or place them in a different cart or part of your cart. Don’t automatically assume that a product is gluten-free. Read the labels and don’t be afraid to ask for help located a specific gluten-free item. Many turkeys are gluten-free (but not all), so be sure to check with the meat department (choices to look for include: Hy-Vee, Butterball and Jennie-O).

Sweet potatoes are naturally gluten-free as are fresh or canned cranberries (Hy-Vee and Ocean Spray). Green bean casserole can be made gluten-free by using canned or frozen green beans, Progresso’s Creamy Mushroom Soup and Funyuns as the topping. Gravy can be made using corn starch instead of flour or special gluten-free gravy mixes are available. Stuffing and desserts should be made with specialty gluten-free products, or ask your brother to help with this portion of the meal.

Food storage is also a key issue to minimizing cross-contamination. Make sure to store the gluten-free foods away from the gluten-containing foods once you get home. During meal preparations, make sure to use separate utensils, cookware and appliances (a dedicated gluten-free space in your kitchen is a great idea). I recommend making the gluten-free foods first to help minimize contamination.

During meal service, label foods appropriately and have separate utensils for each item. Dish up your brother’s plate first to avoid mix-ups and mishaps. Then sit back and enjoy your delicious meal and wonderful family! After all, family and friends are what Thanksgiving is really all about.

April Graff, MS, RD, LD, is a reg­istered dietitian at both Mankato Hy-Vee stores and can be reached at or call 625-1107 or 625-9070. Send her ques­tions about food and nutrition, recipes, meal planning and healthy shopping.