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Gluten-Free Gatherings

Try these tips to live it up safely at your next party

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.


The new book Gluten-Free Italian by Jacqueline Mallorca has more than 150 recipes, from tiramisu to gnocchi. Visit to learn more.

Feel like celebrating?

Go right ahead. Celebrate how much healthier you feel without gluten in your diet! It’s much more fun to socialize with others when you feel so good. And with the growing awareness of gluten-free eating and the wide variety of gluten-free foods now available, going to a party and eating gluten free-or hosting a gluten-free party-is easier than ever.

Whether you’re ringing in the New Year, going to a party, or throwing a football game bash, you can enjoy yourself without gluten-and few people will know or care about your special diet. Try these tips:

Make nibbles for people to nosh on. Some examples: gluten-free meatballs in Italian pasta sauce; s teak tidbits; tail-on shrimp sautéed in olive oil; gluten-free deli turkey slices; chicken kebabs; garlic-sautéed mushrooms; assorted olives; nuts (such as macadamia nuts or roasted almonds); Blue Diamond Nut Thins with cheese slices or goat cheese; Mary’s Gone Crackers rounds with hummus; fruit chunks on party toothpicks; and vegetable crudités served with an Annie’s gluten-free salad dressing. These are foods you can get together quickly and easily.

Transform a party into a fiesta with guacamole. Make a football gathering feel like a party by topping organic burgers or turkey burgers (with or without cheese) with guacamole. Serve the burgers on a small bed of lettuce with sliced red onion and tomatoes, and have other items that people can help themselves to: a bowl of roasted pistachios, bowls of Lundberg Farms rice chips, Garden of Eatin’ organic yellow or blue corn chips, or Mexican-style flax crackers with guacamole and salsa for dips. Serve sparkling water, wine, or gluten-free beer, such as Anheuser-Busch Redbridge or Bard’s Tale Dragon’s Gold.

Think ahead before going to a party. To avoid taking chances or accidentally eating something with gluten, it’s best to talk to the host several days before the party, tell her that you are on a special diet, and politely ask what types of foods will be served. If the host isn’t knowledgeable or accommodating, offer to bring a dish of your own-the main way to be sure to avoid cross-contamination or inadvertent mistakes with ingredients.

Bring an all-in-one dish. When preparing a dish for potlucks or parties, it’s a good idea to make a dish that has meat and vegetables together, with or without gluten-free grains. Even if other foods aren’t safe to eat, you can sustain yourself with your dish that is a complete meal. Good all-in-one dishes include a big salad with broiled chicken strips, toasted pecans, and pieces of apple; Oriental chicken-vegetable stir-fries with gluten-free tamari sauce; and Shrimp-Spinach-Artichoke Salad (see recipe, right).

Eat before the party. If you didn’t talk with the host ahead of time or bring your own dish, make sure to eat some protein, such as a baked chicken leg or leftover pot roast, before you head to the party. It will give you staying power and keep you from getting so famished that you end up eating something you shouldn’t. Then look for veggie sticks or fruit pieces to nibble on at the party. To enjoy yourself and feel well, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

shrimp-spinach-artichoke salad

Serves 4

Reprinted from Healthier Holidays Going Against the Grain by Melissa Diane Smith.

1/3 cup organic extra virgin olive oil

6-10 thin asparagus spears, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1-3 carrots, sliced

½ medium onion, chopped

¼ red bell pepper, chopped (optional)

1-lb. bag tail-on jumbo peeled shrimp, thawed

5 cups fresh spinach leaves

½ cup chopped artichoke hearts

1 small shallot, chopped (optional)

5 cloves garlic, minced

¼ tsp. oregano (optional)

¼ tsp. ground coriander (optional)

2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)

Juice of 2 limes and 1 lemon (or to taste)

  1. Heat oil in wok over medium heat. Sauté asparagus, carrots,
    and onion 4 to 6 minutes; add bell pepper, if using, about halfway through.
  2. Add shrimp, and cook on one side until pink. Turn shrimp
    over, and repeat. Add spinach, artichoke hearts, shallot, if using, garlic, and oregano and coriander, if using. Sauté until spinach is just barely cooked. Remove from heat, and sprinkle with fresh parsley, if using.
  3. Serve hot, or transfer to glass container. Add lemon and lime juices. Cool to room temperature.
  4. Cover room temperature salad, and place in refrigerator. (Flavor is best after being in refrigerator half a day to a day-and-a-half.) Taste before serving; add more lemon juice or herbs, if necessary.