More and more people are eating gluten-free diets these days. And with the holidays around the corner, sticking to a gluten-free diet can be tough. Our health expert Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, offers her advice. She’s the head of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist HosptitalRose Melendez

What is gluten?

Nurse Rose: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Most people digest and tolerate gluten without any issues, but people with gluten sensitivity can experience digestive problems when they eat foods with gluten. Those with the autoimmune disease Celiac disease experience more severe digestive disruption and illness.

What types of food contain gluten?

Many common foods like bread, crackers, pastries and anything containing flour are made with gluten and are off-limits to people with these health problems. However, most grocery stores now offer numerous gluten-free alternatives, often in the natural or organic section.

How can people who can’t eat gluten stay safe and still enjoy the holidays?

Nurse Rose: With all of the gluten-free alternatives and better food labeling, it is possible for people with gluten intolerance or Celiac’s disease to have some tasty treats but avoid digestive problems.

Here are some helpful tips.

  • Be creative. Look for substitutes for your holiday baking favorites like flourless cake, stuffing and pie recipes. Many grocery stores now carry gluten-free alternatives.
  • Come prepared. If you’re going to a friend or family’s house, bring a couple of dishes that you are sure you can eat. Don’t forget about gluten-free beverages!
  • Do research. Call restaurants or caterers of parties you’re attending ahead of time to ensure they have gluten-free options.
  • Be assertive. Don’t be afraid to ask your host or waiter about what’s in the food you’re eating, and ask for alternatives.
  • Be alert. Look for hidden sources of gluten like gravy, sauces, spices or drinks.

Remember – when in doubt, go without! If you have a severe gluten intolerance, it is best to avoid foods you think might have gluten.

As always, talk with your physician about the best diet for you.

Additional Health Tips from Rose

Find more family health tips online or tune into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. to hear Rose live.

Source: Celiac Disease Foundation