A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

The holidays: Gluten for punishment?

plate of gluten free cookiesFor anyone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, holiday hustle and bustle can make it hard to manage your diet – IF you’re not prepared.

But with a few simple tips and just a wee bit of planning, it’s possible to keep the Gluten Grinch at bay, while still enjoying all the deliciousness found at holiday meals.

Chrisanne Urban, a registered dietitian with Marshfield Clinic Nutrition Services, works daily with patients diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. She offered a few practical tips to make holiday eating a bit easier.

Travel – gluten-free style

Hitting the road for the holidays? Traveling offers plenty of difficult situations to dodge gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and some preservatives.

Plan ahead for your trip if possible. Pack snacks from home, like fruits and veggies, or pack a cooler with a lunch from home.

Occasionally, you can’t avoid a convenience store. Prior to your trip, make a list of gluten-free foods like specific brands of low-fat cheese, snack chips or chocolate. Re-check ingredient labels for any gluten-containing foods.

“These all aren’t necessarily the healthiest options, but they’ll help you avoid gluten-related symptoms while on the road,” Urban said.

The convenience store key is to avoid processed meals loaded with preservatives. Gluten serves as a “binder” in many processed foods, which allows it to sneak into many prepackaged meals.

Special menus often available

Many casual-dining restaurants identify gluten-free menu items or have added a separate, not always advertised gluten-free menu.

“Particularly in larger cities, restaurants are aware of gluten sensitivities and may prepare a special meal. If they don’t have a menu, let your server know you can’t eat gluten,” Urban said.

Home cookin’, no gluten

Between holiday parties and trips to visit relatives, you’re going to cross a gluten-filled gauntlet of homemade food. This has its perks and pitfalls for anyone avoiding gluten.

Cooking from scratch is the best way to keep gluten out of food, Urban said. Not only do you control ingredients but also it ensures gluten-containing preservatives aren’t added.

The catch? If you’re at a holiday party you may not know what was used in each recipe.

Offer to bring a dish to holiday parties so you can guarantee at least something is gluten free. It’s also OK to connect with the host to find out what ingredients were used.

Lastly, pack your own beer if you plan to have a drink. You can find gluten-free beer at stores that carry specialty and craft beers, a rapidly growing market in many U.S. cities.

close-up of gluten free cookiesGluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Servings: 30 (1 cookie per serving)   


  • 2/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1-3/4 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup butter-flavored shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-ounce package) semi-sweet chocolate chips


  • Heat oven to 375 F.
  • Combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum in small bowl.
  • Beat shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Gradually beat in flour mixture.
  • Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Drop by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
  • Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; place cookies on wire racks to cool completely.

Nutrition information (per serving)

214 calories; 11 g fat; 28 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein.

 Source: Marshfield Clinic Nutrition and Diabetes Services  


  1. Nov 4, 2016
    • Nov 29, 2016

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