Ask the Dietitian: Help with Gluten-Free Meal for Friend! Nuts in My Diet?

Celiac Disease
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Mary Noon

Mary Noon

Q: I would like to invite my friend over for dinner. She has Celiac disease and I know she cannot have wheat. Can you give me some ideas for meal choices?

A. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease whereby the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye or barley, can cause an immune reaction. This reaction damages the small intestine, making it difficult to absorb nutrients. A strict gluten-free diet can make the intestines healthy again.

It is best to ask in advance because the diet is very strict. It can be tricky if you’re unfamiliar with it. Your guest may even wish to help prepare it with you, ensuring it is gluten-free. It would be terrible to miss one ingredient in a recipe, and not being able to serve it or, worse yet, for your guest to ingest gluten.

Start with simple foods. Stay away from combination foods (from more than one food group).

Protein foods: All plain meats, fish, shellfish, poultry in their natural state are gluten-free. Do not purchase marinated meats, coated chicken or seasoned products.

Starches: Baked potatoes or sweet potatoes, all rices (not flavored), plain pasta labeled gluten-free, plain polenta, plain quinoa, corn on the cob.

Vegetables: All fresh or plain frozen vegetables. Make salads on your own. Use oil and vinegar, not bottled dressing.

Fruit and Dessert: All fresh fruits, plain canned or frozen fruit, plain nuts or packaged cookies or sweets labeled gluten-free.

Beverages: Water, seltzer, most soft drinks, juice, wine. It’s tricky to select gluten-free beer even if labeled as such with different regulatory agencies governing food and beverages. Distilled alcohol is acceptable. But keep it simple and use other beverages.

Other tips:

Use fresh herbs or dried herbs in a single form. Avoid spice or herb blends unless marked gluten free. Salt and pepper are OK.

All oils and butter are naturally gluten free and can be used in recipes.

Sample Menu

  • Grilled chicken on foil or shrimp or fish foil packets flavored with butter, garlic, onion, and paprika.
  • Summer vegetables like peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash on foil with spritz of olive oil and oregano.
  • Brown rice with added fresh minced herbs like parsley, cilantro and /or chives.
  • Green salad with baby greens, spinach, plain walnuts and fresh berries. For dressing try oil, white vinegar and a little orange juice.
  • Dessert: Fresh cut fruit with vanilla yogurt or whipped cream.
  • Beverage: Water or seltzer or ice brewed tea infused with fresh lime and berries.

Note: The grill may be a source of gluten exposure from toasting rolls or grilling flatbread.  This is known as cross-contamination. So use foil to be safe. Also, avoid using colanders that were used for wheat pasta. Soap and water eliminates gluten  on utensils, plates, pots and pans, making them safe to use. Colanders are too difficult to clean.

Q. I would like to add more nuts into my diet, because I heard they are so healthy. But I know they are high in calories. Do you have any guidelines?

A. Nuts are very nutritious, with heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, Vitamin E and hard-to-get selenium and magnesium. They are a good plant-based source of protein as well. Nuts are high in calories with an average of 175 per ounce, but they can be worked into your diet often.

Try to stay with a 1-ounce serving each time. That’s equal to ¼ cup, loosely packed. But feel free to eat them 4-5 times a week. Pre-measure nuts before packing for work in small containers. Couple nuts with a fruit or vegetable for a satisfying snack. Walnuts, which are especially high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fat, is a nut we think of in baking more than snacking, so it may be easier to eat a smaller serving.  Try to avoid nuts that are processed with added flavors. Stick with plain nuts more often.  Add nuts to favorite dishes you already enjoy.

Try these ideas:

  • Add pistachios to your salad.
  • Try peanuts with your stir fry.
  • Make a baked apple and top with walnuts.
  • Use pine nuts or walnuts with basil to make a healthy pesto.
  • Add slivered almonds to your rice.
  •  Top yogurt with a few pecans.
  •  Make your own trail mix with toasted nuts and dried fruits.

Want even more information and personalized advice? Make an appointment with a registered dietitian. Call us at Hartford Hospital (860.972.2604) and we can tell you how. 

Looking for information on surgical weight loss? Visit to find a FREE community education class near you!

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