While most of us anticipate the holidays and all of the delicious food that comes with it, some of you with dietary restrictions dread the holidays because it centers around food that you can’t have.

I’ve gathered some great tips on how you can enjoy the holiday, even with a strict diet (without making yourself sick) and how to accommodate your guests who might have dietary restrictions.

Here are some tips to ensure you have a successful gluten-free holiday from Jen Cafferty, who is the founder of the “Gluten- Free Expo:”

  • If you are making gluten-free baked goods, make sure they are fresh. Gluten-free baked items tend to dry out with time.
  • If you’re house is not completely gluten-free, allow your guests to have “regular rolls” so that it doesn’t feel like you’re forcing your dietary restrictions on your guests.
  • If you are serving turkey, make sure you purchase a gluten-free turkey. Some turkeys are injected with products that contain gluten and never eat a turkey that has been stuffed  (Norbest, Perdue Brand, Pilgrim’s Pride, Shelton’s Gluten-Free Turkey products; manufacturers say all of these are gluten-free.) There are other brands, but these are the ones you can’t really go wrong with. (always check with manufacturers if you’re not sure)
  • If you need special ingredients, make sure to buy them ahead of time. Some gluten-free items are hard to find, especially around the holidays. (i.e. pie crust)
  • If you’re not an experienced cook or baker, serve food that is inherently gluten-free like vegetables, potatoes, meat, etc.
  • If you’re going to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving, bring some of your own ingredients like gravy, dinner rolls, dessert. You’re adding to the party while making sure there is food that you can eat.
  • Don’t eat anything unless you know the ingredients. Don’t assume that anything is gluten-free even if you’re grandma insists that the cookies she baked are gluten-free.

If you are cooking for guests with dietary restrictions:

Pumpkin Pie

  • Make sure you have vegetarian side dishes, that don’t contain nuts, gelatin (found in marshmallows), or made with any animal-based broth.
  • Make sure you offer some desserts that are gluten-free and nut-free. Try pumpkin pie with a gluten-free crust or a pumpkin parfait, etc.
  • Use gluten-free flour instead of white or wheat. There are more and more gluten-free boxed goods so look for those to make your life easier!
  • Use lactose-free ingredients for recipes that call for dairy. They make lactose-free milk now, dairy-free butter, etc (Daiya and Earth Balance is a good brand). that all taste pretty good too!
  • Make sure you understand your guest’s dietary needs. Try your best to accommodate their needs, but don’t stress yourself out. Ask them if they’d be willing to bring a dish.

Shana Lebowitz from the Greatist shares some of the dishes to beware of this Thanksgiving:

Green bean Casserole

Dinner Rolls:

Gluten-Free: Obviously dinner rolls are not gluten-free so you will need to make your own or find some at the store that are.

Vegan: Most store-bought rolls contain milk, so if you’re vegan, make sure to use dairy-free milk and butter.

Nut-Free: Most rolls don’t contain nuts, but some store-bought rolls might be cross-contaminated with nuts during the manufacturing process.

Try this allergen-friendly homemade roll recipe from My Gluten Free Kitchen.

Mashed & Sweet Potatoes: 

Gluten-Free: Raw potatoes are naturally gluten-free but processed potatoes are not always, so check the labels! Butter and margarine might also contain gluten so check on that too. If you are eating sweet potato casserole with marshmellows in it, there’s a good chance that the marshmellows contain a starch that is derived from wheat.

Vegan: Make sure that there was no milk added to the mashed potatoes or meat.

Nut-Free: Make sure there were not nuts added to the mashed potatoes. When in doubt, ask the hostess if there are any surprise ingredients!

Try this allergen free sweet potato casserole from Domestic Endeavors.


Gluten-Free: Gravy typically includes flour as a thickener, so it is best to avoid it. You could use 2 tbsp of potato or cornstarch instead.

Vegan: Unless the gravy was made without turkey or chicken stock, you have to skip out on gravy. You can use cranberry sauce instead.

Nut-Free: Most gravy doesn’t contain nuts but there is a chance it was cross contaminated with nuts if it’s store-bought.

Try this gluten-free gravy recipe from Bon Appetit

Cranberry Sauce: 

Gluten-free: If the cranberry sauce was made with fresh cranberries, rather than dried or frozen, chances are it is gluten-free! Dried and frozen cranberries are usually gluten-free, but as always check the labels!

Vegan: Most cranberry sauce contains gelatin. You can simply leave this out and then you won’t have to worry!

Nut-Free: Check labels for any processed cranberry sauce!

Try this recipe for cranberry sauce from Greatist.

Green Bean Casserole: 

Gluten-free: Green beans are obviously naturally gluten-free, but the famous green bean casserole is not thanks to the cream of mushroom soup it contains. There are gluten-free canned soups so make sure to use that instead! Also, those fried onions on top of the casserole? Avoid them!

Vegan: The casserole usually contains milk. Try using a vegetable broth instead.

Nut-Free: There shouldn’t be any nuts in this casserole but make sure to check with the hostess!

Try this recipe from Serious Eats. (for vegan, use lactose-free milk and cheese)

The key to enjoying the holidays is to have a good attitude and instead of focusing on what you CAN’T have, get creative and make some simply modifications to make it edible for everyone and make sure your hostess knows of your dietary needs.

Stay tuned for next week, where we’ll be sharing some of Savor’s favorite Thanksgiving recipes with you!

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!