Guest Post! Sadie Nagle, RD: Handling the Holidays with a Gluten Free Guest


Guest Post: Meet Sadie! She is on here today to talk about Celiac Disease, not only from a personal perspective, as her partner Ryan has a pretty serious diagnosis, but also as a registered dietitian who specializes in treatment for Celiac. I met Sadie and Ryan a few weeks after I met Alex and they quickly became our best couple friends. At the time, they were beginning to navigate the Celiac’s journey, which led me to share pretty early that I had Crohn’s. Us autoimmune people have to stick together, right?

Sadie and Ryan have gone on to do some pretty awesome stuff and certainly don’t let an autoimmune condition dictate their lifestyles. Along with being serious backcountry athletes (when they’re not chasing powder, you can find them mountain biking in the front range) you can also find them hanging at Golden’s Gluten Free Brewery Holidaily. They are currently living their best lives out in Denver where I recently got to reunite with them after too many years apart! Sadie has always kept me relevant on what supplements I need to be taking and what holistic alternatives are available. Sadie also worked for the University of Chicago’s Celiac Center, so I knew exactly who to call when I needed a new doctor here. Below is her informative post Celiac Disease and on how to deal handle a gluten free guest’s diet during the holidays! 

What is Celiac Disease? Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine in genetically predisposed individuals, triggered by the consumption of gluten. It is estimated it affects 1 in 100 individuals worldwide! But what is gluten?! Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley (and other uncommon grains like farro, semolina, spelt and several others). Gluten is the glue that holds all those yummy cakes, cookies, and breads together! There is no cure for Celiac Disease and requires strict, lifelong adherence to the gluten-free diet to remain symptom-free and to prevent comorbidities from developing.

Now, I don’t have Celiac Disease but my life partner (Ryan) does. Ryan went undiagnosed for 20 some years…and when he moved in with me, I became sick of him being sick so I took it upon myself to try and figure out what was wrong with him. I was in undergrad at Purdue (where I met Kate!) and was in my sophomore year of dietetics when we started to learn about food allergies and gastrointestinal disorders and then it dawned on me … Ryan was getting sick after every time he ate. One very strict elimination diet later, I figured out Ryan was reacting only to foods that had gluten in them. A couple of doctors appointments later, Ryan was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and our journey with the gluten-free diet began!


Fast forward 7 years later, I am a Registered Dietitian/RD (yes, I know I took my sweet little time getting that credential but hey, I also got my MS in nutrition research during that time too) who specializes in Celiac Disease and the gluten-free diet. I’ve had the privilege to learn and work with some of the world’s leading Celiac researchers, doctors and RDs at The University of Chicago Celiac Center and now with Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Celiac Center where I currently work. Now let’s move on from me and into gluten-free diet for holiday season….

The gluten-free diet can be hard to navigate (there’s so many ways gluten can HIDE) and certainly can feel overwhelming to friends and families who try to accommodate for individuals who have Celiac Disease during the holidays (which is stressful enough, right?!). So here are some tips to make your holiday season more enjoyable than stressful when preparing food for someone with Celiac Disease (or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity = gluten sensitivity, because let’s face it, there are other individuals out there who require a gluten-free diet too. More on that for a later post ;).

Food Preparation


  • First and foremost, label reading is the MOST IMPORTANT thing to do when preparing food for someone with Celiac Disease. If you’re buying a packaged food, look for the word gluten-free on the package and read the ingredients list to check for wheat, rye, barley, malted vinegar, gluten, etc. (gosh, it’s honestly exhausting). There is sometimes an allergen statement that will say “This product contains/made on shared equipment/or processed in a facility that also manufactures WHEAT, tree nuts and peanuts, etc” = this clearly means it is not gluten-free. * Please note that barley and rye are NOT required be on an allergen statement because they are not a part of the top 8 allergens. Also, you can look for these third-party gluten-free certification labels below. Your safest bet is to just go naturally gluten-free and forego packaged foods (because they are processed anyway and for crying out loud, it’s the holidays! Make something homemade). Fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free (yes, you heard that right and who would have guessed that!). See the recipes paragraph for ideas on naturally gluten-free.
  • Always clean your kitchen and wash your hands first! And I mean clean everything you plan on cooking in for someone with Celiac Disease. Don’t use pans or pots that have deep scratches in them because like I said before, gluten HIDES in many places and your scratched pot/pan has the perfect nooks-and-crannies for gluten to hide in (and also very hard to clean out).
  • Use a clean, preferably dishwasher safe, cutting board. Again, this is because old wooden cutting boards have nooks-and-crannies in them that gluten can hide in. Dishwasher safe cutting boards eliminate the worry of gluten hiding because your dishwasher gets hot enough to thoroughly clean and sanitize the cutting board and rid it of gluten!
  • Prepare the gluten-free food first! This helps prevent cross contamination, which we will get into the importance of in the next paragraph. Also, try avoid cooking other foods that contain gluten at the same time you’re cooking the gluten-free food (we all do it, mix up the spoons we were cooking with and ta-da, you’ve cross-contaminated the gluten-free food and now it’s NOT safe to eat).
  • Sharing is NOT caring in this case. Sharing butter and other condiments causes cross-contamination (unless they are squeezable condiments). Think of this like double-dipping; not only did your just get germs in other guests food but you also just ruined your hard work making something gluten-free now NOT gluten-free. Let your Celiac guest have his/her own dedicated gluten-free butter.
  • Make a dedicated gluten-free food section on the buffet line. Let your Celiac guest go first through the buffet line so they feel comfortable knowing no one has accidentally cross-contaminated their food with other utensils. Make little signs asking guests to only use the spoon/fork that is with that food item to help prevent cross-contamination. This will also make your Celiac guest feel extra special because they don’t have to go looking for their gluten-free food in the mishmash buffet.
  • Put love and joy into making the gluten-free food (and all food for that matter). Because we are what we eat, and no one wants to eat anger. Also enjoy trying something new and making your guest/friend/or family member feel loved. 


Contamination is such a harsh word sometimes but hey, in Celiac Disease it is HARSH! I cannot stress enough how important it is to prevent cross-contamination with gluten in Celiac Disease. To put it simply (and as an example), cross-contamination is when you make a PB &  sandwich (with wheat bread) on a cutting board and then make a gluten-free PB & J sandwich on the same cutting board without cleaning it before hand. Yes, all those little crumbs really do matter. In fact, 1 tiny, little, itty-bitty crumb equals 50 parts per million of gluten, which is enough to cause a Celiac to have a reaction/symptoms and cause smoldering inflammation in their small intestine (which no one wants) and have a bad time. This is why it is so important for you to prepare the gluten-free food first and inform your guests to use the same utensil that is with the dish on the buffet.

Resources & Recipes

Again, your best bet is to go naturally gluten-free. Here is an example of what I made for our most recent Thanksgiving dinner: grass-fed beef tenderloin (yes, the grass-fed part does matter) marinated with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary and garlic,  roasted beets (with garlic, salt & pepper), sauteed green beans in ghee, mashed potatoes (made with half/half and a fresh stick of butter), carrot souffle (made with whole milk, eggs, gluten-free corn flakes, butter, and sharp cheddar cheese), and gluten-free chocolate chip pie (Whole Foods pre-made gluten-free crust in the freeze section, Bob’s Red Mills gluten-free baking flour, eggs, butter, and chocolate chips). And surprise, it was just as good as if I would have made it with products containing gluten!

Here are some of my favorite resources. Gluten-free Watchdog is a very useful website (that another RD created) that tests claimed gluten-free packaged food products to see if they meet the FDA’s 20 parts per million requirement. It also requires a subscription.

Now get out and try to make something gluten-free…that’s safe for a Celiac to eat!

I can feel a ton of New Year’s Resolutions coming….;)


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