Gluten freeFor so many of us, eating and baking are synonymous with the holidays. For those of us intolerant to gluten, it can be quite difficult to navigate the buffet table, let alone the supermarket aisles. As a reminder to those of you who are still unfamiliar with the term gluten intolerance or celiac disease, gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and related grains. Individuals with celiac disease and certain individuals with gluten or wheat sensitivity can become quite sick if they eat even small amounts of gluten.

Gluten is found in:

Commercial Oats* (there is some debate as to whether or not individuals with celiac disease can tolerate oats – for more information visit
“All-purpose” flour

Grain foods that most individuals with gluten sensitivity can tolerate include:

Brown and white rice
Arrowroot flour
Xanthan gum
Guar gum

The best thing to do if you know you cannot tolerate gluten and find yourself facing a buffet table or holiday party is ask your host what the ingredients are. Better yet, let your host know ahead of time that you have certain dietary restrictions. Call ahead to the restaurant to find out whether or not you are going to be able to find anything suitable for your needs at the buffet.

And even better, host your own holiday part and show your friends and family that gluten-free is not at all about deprivation. In fact, a person with celiac disease can enjoy most typical holiday delicacies with just a few minor adjustments. Case in point: pumpkin pie. Now typically the only gluten in pumpkin pie should come from the flour found in the crust. Make your own pumpkin pie and substitute rice flour or a combination of rice, potato, and tapioca flour for the white or wheat flour and you should be good to go. Gluten-free pie crust can be a little bit more difficult to work with but with a little practice you’ll find the perfect balance for your taste buds. I like to prebake my gluten-free pie crust just a little bit to avoid a mushy bottom.

Host a gluten-free holiday cookie party! Again, you can substitute flours, get creative with nuts and fruits and chocolate! Read labels of course to uncover any hidden ingredients or additives that may contain gluten. For example, certain spices and baking powders may contain hidden gluten. Food colorings, sweeteners (even brown rice syrup), coatings and starches can contain wheat as well. Oils, vinegars and starches should also be investigated to make sure they are gluten free.

Here are some other helpful ways to thrive through the holidays gluten free:

  1. Use rice flour to thicken gravy and sauces. Corn starch also works – just make sure it is gluten-free, and preferably organic since corn is one of the most common GMO crops.
  2. Use ground nuts and seeds instead of flour for cake and pie crusts.
  3. Make a wild rice stuffing in lieu of bread stuffing
  4. Host your own holiday buffet party
  5. Be a part of the planning – call ahead to discuss menu planning with friends and family.
  6. Focus on conversation and gratitude rather than food or lack of choices.
  7. Experiment with new recipes ahead of time to insure success at the table.
  8. Focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, and organic free-range meat and seafood and people are unlikely to miss out on all the starch.
  9. Introduce people to new grains like millet and quinoa and educate them about celiac disease.
  10. Check out for some great new recipe ideas.

IMG_7034e-5About: Dr. James Rouse is a naturopathic doctor and expert in functional and lifestyle medicine. An author of nine books, host and founder of Optimum Wellness Media, and Ironman triathlete, James has coached Fortune 50 and 500 companies, MLB and NFL teams, several branches of US Government and consults for companies including BackJoy, SKOOP and Kroger Grocery. He has shared his message to audiences in the US, Europe and Asia.