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Thanksgiving Dinner Shopping? You can STILL buy these things...No worries!

Posted by: valeriefender on Nov. 12, 2009

Is this your first Thanksgiving avoiding gluten? I know my first holiday avoiding gluten was stressful. I felt like EVERYTHING I ever wanted to serve, cook with or loved was loaded with hidden gluten. I stressed about every part of the dinner, right down to the cranberry sauce! I didn't cook the whole meal that year, so that added even more stress to my mind. What would they serve? What would we eat?

That first year would have gone so much more smoothly, in my mind, if I'd known that some of our favorites were safe. If someone could have told me that not everything had gluten lurking in the packaging, my anxiety level would have been so much lower. That first year, for me everything was overwhelming, holiday foods just added that much more to my mind.

I have some good news for you, there are foods that you have always purchased that you can still add to that shopping list. Not everything is off limits and not everything has to be made from scratch or bought from a specialty food store. Hooray!

First of all, ALWAYS read labels! Even if you have bought the same brand at the same store and have it be safe, manufacturers change things all of the time, NEVER just assume that something is safe. The few seconds that it takes to scan a label are time well spent when it comes to your health and well being.

What are the foods you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, pies, yummy appetizers and hot apple cider? How about eggnog? Yes, some of these things have to be evaluated carefully, but some of them you can take off of your "worry list."

  • Turkey: I'll talk more about this in a later post, but I will say that you have to read labels and know what is in your bird. Do not just pick up any turkey and assume that it is just "turkey." Unfortunately that is not always the case.
  • Mashed potatoes: Potatoes are naturally gluten-free! The problem is in what you add to them, some sour creams have added modified food starch so as always "read labels."
  • Sweet potatoes: Whole, fresh (not canned) sweet potatoes are naturally gluten-free. If you are buying canned, always check labels.
  • Butter: I have yet to find a butter to have added gluten. In my house we only buy real butter, so this is rarely a concern for me.
  • Jello: Jell-O brand gelatin is gluten free the last time I purchased it. I have not looked at other brands, but from my understanding, this is not a food that you have to worry about. Again, being careful what is in that jello salad is important as additives can contain gluten.
  • Cranberry sauce: I have yet to see one that contains gluten. Always check to be sure, but it seems to be safe. Making homemade cranberry sauce is super easy and is so yummy! Either way, cranberries are naturally gluten-free.
  • Canned Pumpkin: The pureed canned pumpkin is generally safe.
  • Evaporated milk: Is generally safe.
  • Apple Cider: Most, if not all, canned or fresh fruit juices are safe. As with anything, reading labels and knowing what is added to the juice is important. Even powdered cider mixes are generally gluten-free. My kids are SO happy about that fact, cider being one of their favorite fall drinks!
  • Eggnog: Even dairy free eggnog lovers can drink eggnog! Silk makes a great eggnog. It does contain soy, so if you are having to avoid soy, I understand that Lactaid also makes a lactose free eggnog that is very good. Most dairy containing eggnog is gluten free, again check labels.
  • Whipping cream: Naturally gluten-free, make sure that whatever you use to sweeten your cream is also free of hidden gluten. I generally will use a powdered sugar to sweeten mine, lightly sweetened is our favorite way to have whipped cream on sweet pies. YUMMY!
  • Cream cheese: Naturally gluten-free. As with most things, it is what is added to the cheese that makes it unsafe.
  • Velveeta cheese: I was shocked to learn that this is generally gluten-free as well. One of my favorite dips is Velveeta melted with salsa or a gluten-free canned chili. Perfect for the appetizer table at your next holiday gathering.
  • Brick cheeses: Many buffet tables will have sliced or cubed cheese platters on them. Cheese is, in its natural form, is generally gluten-free.
  • Olives: Un-stuffed olives are generally gluten-free.
  • Pickles: Generally safe.
  • Pie fillings: Canned pie filling is often safe, but read labels for hidden gluten.
  • Pudding mixes: I have found that Jell-O brand pudding mixes are safe. Go ahead and make that banana cream pie that Uncle Mark likes so much, just use a gluten-free pie crust, of course.
  • Marshmallows: YES, you can eat the sweet potatoes with the melted marshmallows on top. Just make sure you don't add any gluten to the potatoes. They are so good, why would anyone ADD gluten to them anyway?

This is, by no means, a complete list of ALL of the foods that you have always purchased that are already gluten free. You may find more to add to this list! I cannot stress enough that label reading is very important. It should be just second nature to you. My kids will often read labels when they are shopping with me, or even their grandparents. They have learned what to look for.

I know that if I had been given a list, even incomplete, in the beginning of naturally gluten-free foods, my stress level would have been drastically effected! Not all brands are equal, some of them will have gluten, while others will not. Get to know your store and the brands they carry. I know that one of our local grocers, Fred Meyer (owned by Kroger) is very good about labeling most of their brands. They even have a list of generally safe foods on their website.

Talk to your local store manager, many stores are becoming more and more proactive when it comes to food intolerance's and allergies. This will make your shopping trips much easier in the years to come. Things are changing, thank goodness!

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