How to Have a Happy, Healthy Gluten-Free Holiday

If you’re one of the millions of Americans managing a gluten sensitivity, you may wonder how you’re going to savor the flavors and food delights of the holiday season.

Maintaining a gluten-free diet requires a disciplined routine of food ingredients. As you become more social during the holiday season, sticking to a a gluten-free diet becomes more difficult. Dishes of delicious foods, appetizers, desserts and more full of wheat ingredients stand in your way of full enjoyment of the festivities. You may take heart in knowing that that you’re not alone.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) and University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center estimates that between 5 and 10 percent of all people suffer from a gluten sensitivity of some form. Furthermore, research showed that 1 out of 3 Americans have celiac disease, the most severe type of gluten intolerance. That’s about 3 million people, a low number given that the NIH estimates another 97 percent of Americans are still undiagnosed with celiac.


Not sure if you have gluten intolerance? Diagnosis can be a simple blood test away. If you’ve been feeling sluggish or extra tired lately, it might not just be holiday stress. Be sure to check for other common conditions as well, such as glucose intolerance, an indicator for diabetes. Order a blood glucose meter at an online medical supply outlet like Mountainside Medical Supplies and take control of your health.

How can you enjoy this special time of year when you can’t eat your favorite things? Have less fear, it’s entirely possible! Just because you eat gluten-free foods, doesn’t mean you can’t have traditional holiday fare. Here’s how to keep your December days chock full of the food you love, with just a few gluten-free twists. Enjoy the season!


Festive Tomatoes & Mozzarella: Take 20 halved grape tomatoes, 20 fresh basil leaves, and 20 fresh mozzarella balls. Put one each on a toothpick, layering each item so they look like mini trees. Pour 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Not only is this dish healthy and gluten-free, it looks like Christmas!

Marinated Greek Feta: Take a block of feta cheese, cut it into one-inch cubes and place them in a shallow dish. Combine 1 1/2 cups of olive oil, 1/4 cup of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and one bay leaf in a separate container, and pour over the feta. Refrigerate overnight. For your holiday appetizer platter, add kalamata olives, Italian meats (check the seasonings and fillers first) and serve with gluten-free crackers.

Main Dish

Turkey: Keep in mind that many store-bought turkeys and hams are injected with solutions that contain gluten. Meat glazes often also include ingredients or seasonings with gluten. Your best bet is to carefully check the ingredients when you buy your holiday meat to ensure it’s free of injected solutions and added glazes.

A simple, but flavorful recipe for gluten-free turkey is to butter your bird and then sprinkle sage, salt, pepper, and Herbs de Provence on the skin. Cut apples, celery, and onions and place them inside the turkey. Add extra fruits and vegetables to the pan and cover them with white wine and apple juice. Tent the turkey breast to prevent burning and place the meat into a 400 degree oven for eight to 10 minutes per pound.

Side Dishes

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take three thick slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch strips and cook until crispy in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Remove bacon and add two pounds of halved sprouts, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Toss until all the ingredients are combined. Place the skillet in the oven and roast the Brussels sprouts until they’re golden brown, which takes about 25-30 minutes. Transfer the entire shebang to a serving dish and toss with 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts, the bacon, and a tablespoon of thyme.

Quinoa Stuffing: Bring one cup of quinoa to a boil in 2 1/4 cups of gluten-free veggie broth, and cook until soft, then drain. Chop one large onion and fry in a big pan with two tablespoons of margarine. Add one stalk of finely chopped celery, and one sweet apple, roughly chopped. Continue cooking for an additional five minutes. Reduce heat to low, add six slices of toasted and cubed gluten-free bread and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. Moisten with 1/2 cup of broth. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, thyme, and sage; transfer to a baking dish and cook at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.


Chocolate Cherry Cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pour a 27 ounce jar of cherry pie filling (made with no high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors) into a 9- by-13 inch baking pan. Spread evenly. Sprinkle one box of gluten-free chocolate cake mix on top of the cherries. Cut one cup of butter into slices and add over the top of the cake mix. Pour one cup of sliced almonds over the whole thing and bake for 60 minutes or until the crust is set. It’s messy, but delicious!

Baked Apples: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take four large tart baking apples (Golden Delicious, Rome Beauty, etc.), carve holes near the stems that are about 3/4 inch to 1 inches wide. Remove the apple cores to 1/2 inch of the bottom and use a spoon to dig out the seeds.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, one teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 cup currants/raisins, and 1/4 cup chopped pecans. Place apples in a 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking pan and stuff each apple with the mixture. Drizzle vanilla in equal parts over the mixture. Squeeze the juice from one lemon over the top and finish with 1/4 tablespoon of butter.

Add 3/4 cup boiling water to your baking pan and bake the apples for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and baste the apples several times with the pan’s juices.


While you’re cooking or baking, enjoy a Pomosa— a champagne drink made with pomegranate juice. Simply pour 2 ounces of chilled juice into a champagne flute and fill the glass the rest of the way with the sparkling good stuff. If you prefer alcohol-free sips, try a sparkling water with cranberry juice or apple cider.

Note, that many of these recipes are also low-sugar or sugar-free, which is a double benefit if you have other food sensitivities.

Try out some of these recipes and you’ll find that you’re on your way to enjoying the holiday without skimping on taste. Here’s to a season full of health and flavor!

Debbie Anderson

Debbie Anderson is a 44-year-old freelance writer and editor who blogs at her slice-of-life site, 

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