Mother’s Day Guide

Mother’s Day is coming up and I wanted to share a new guide I created just for moms!

I know how much of our everyday energy, care, love, attention, focus, and thought goes into supporting others.

Whether it is our immediate family, our extended family, our friends, and those in our community, we tend to do a lot for others.

It’s important to also put some of that energy into caring for ourselves, our needs, and what “fills” us back up.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite ways to nurture and care for myself and also products that I love or would love for Mother’s Day.

Click here to download the guide.

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Healthy Valentine’s Day Treats for Kids

Valentine’s Day is almost here! Food and candy tend to play starring roles, which can present challenges for those wanting to eat healthy and/or navigate food allergies/intolerances.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a challenge to celebrate our loved ones with healthy foods and treats!

It just takes a few key things to make this Valentine’s Day nourishing and festive!

  1. Repurpose already festive foods: Strawberries make a pretty perfect compliment to Valentine’s Day (if you can find them locally) due to their color and shape. My Gelatin Hearts recipe is perfect because it combines the gut-soothing gelatin with a fun and festive strawberry heart. This is also a great alternative for those who cannot have or don’t like chocolate. Strawberries can also be cut and/or skewered and dipped into melted chocolate – Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips are perfect for this! Raspberries are other festive fruits that can be shaped into a heart if strawberries aren’t tolerated or liked.
  1. Bake something festive: Bake gluten-free crackers or cookies and make them heart-shaped with cookie cutters. See the gluten-free cracker recipe we made one year for Valentine’s day. You can also do cupcakes or cakes if you want to get really fancy but even a simple baking project can be fun and festive. Even better if your child wants to get involved and help expand their kitchen skills!
  1. Use fun candy molds: Melted Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips can be melted using a double boiler and poured into heart, lips, or flower candy molds. These can be customized to what you like and/or dietary needs. You can add nuts, nut /seed butters, chopped fruits, whatever you like in your chocolate! You can even use my easy Dairy Free Fudge Recipe and pour into molds for a delicious chocolate treat. You can make the standard recipe and pour into a shallow pan and use cookie cutters if you don’t have candy molds.
  1. Creativity: You don’t have to recreate the wheel, use your own family’s favorites, just repackage them in different shapes to make it fun. This can mean cutting pancakes or sandwich bread with a fun cookie cutter like a heart, lips, arrow, etc. for a festive breakfast or lunch. Or make hotdogs into hearts. You simply take hotdogs (regular or mini), slice them in half and put a skewer in them to make them into hearts.
  1. Make sauces and nut butters into hearts: If your child likes ketchup, you can give their plate a squirt in fun shapes or words that they can then dip their food into (or add it to your plate with the heart hotdogs!). Make your nut-butter in the shape of a heart on a cracker, piece of bread, or even on a flat slice of apple.
  1. Use fun and colorful serving dishes, table decor, or even condiments. Even if the foods are the same ones you normally eat, they can be plated in the shape of a heart or use red or pink napkins or cut hearts out of construction paper as a Valentine’s Day placemat.

Festive holidays can remain healthy with a few simple tweaks.

Whatever you do this holiday, may it be filled with love and hope!

Share your ideas with us in the comments below. I’d love to see what your family and children do to celebrate the holidays.

Holiday Treats on a Special Diets

This is the season for holiday meals, treats, and time spent together with family time spent together. This year especially, when our normal plans may have changed some, it was important to me to celebrate as we can and even create some new traditions.

Here at Nourishing Hope, we have readers from 115 countries who all celebrate the season differently.

So whether you are looking for Holiday recipes, or just fun gluten-free and dairy-free treats, here are some of my special diet favorites. In addition to gluten-free, many are grain-free to meet the needs of people on a Paleo, SCD or GAPS diet.

Many traditional holiday treats are loaded with sugar. For my family, I’ve created these recipes to be high in taste and fun, but lower in sugar.

Granted, these recipes do have some sugar; however, I always try to reduce the sugar content where possible. Especially with the fudge and the chocolate bark… you can use even darker chocolate to cut the sugar even more. And some can be adapted by using stevia, monk fruit, or a chocolate using one of these sweeteners.

Dairy-Free Fudge
GFCF/Paleo, Nut-Free, Egg-Free

GFCF Gingerbread
GFCF, Nut-Free, Egg-Free

Chocolate Bark
GFCF/Paleo, Nut-Free, Egg-Free

Chocolate Mints
GFCF/Paleo, Egg-Free/Nut-Free

Pumpkin Pie Filling

Nourishing Hope Holiday Guide


Holiday Gift Guide

I get many in my community who ask about my favorite products. When we are looking to nourish our families in the healthiest ways possible, having great kitchen tools are a must!

The holidays can be a great opportunity to change our our kitchen equipment and having ideas to send to family can be handy.

I’ve created the gift guide below with some of my favorite products for both parents and kids! Foods and treats can be a big part of our holidays and I wanted to share some of the products and brands I use personally.

For Kids

For kids who have higher sensory needs, there are some great products to help! Noise cancelling head phones can be terrific for helping children who have auditory sensitivities be more comfortable in loud places. Whether this is the grocery store, outing with family, or even a home celebration, overwhelming noises can be really challenging for those who are sensitive and this can be a wonderful support.

Sensory swings can also be a fun gift that provide support in addition! These can easily be used at home and provide a cozy haven when a little sensory downtime is needed.

I have also had clients share that their children really enjoy calming sensory lights as a focal point. These can be used near bedtime or even during the day in a darker room.

Sweet treats are something special many children look forward to at the holidays. But, with special diets, food allergies or reactions, and just the desire to have the healthiest diet possible, that can be a tricky topic. These Enjoy Life Rice Milk Christmas Minis can be a good option.  No Whey Santa is another festive and allergen-friendly option. And for that classic holiday treat, Yum Earth Candy Canes give you the delicious peppermint taste without the high fructose corn syrup and food dyes found in other brands.

Gifts for Mom and Dad

Staying hydrated is important for the whole family, including mom and dad! When we take care of our own health, we can better care for our loved ones. I like Hydroflasks or this glass bottle that I use almost daily.  For a truly special gift, my friend and colleague Terri Hirning told me about these VitaJewel bottles or pitchers. They blend the health of drinking out of glass with the stunning beauty of gemstones. Terri loves hers!

Essential oil diffusers can make beautiful yet functional gifts for moms and dads! In this recent blog, I brought up the topic of certain scents causing meltdowns. This can include even more natural scents like essential oils. If your child is reactive, you will want to be careful and avoid those that trigger behavioral issues. But, there are oils that are lower in phenols and can be very soothing and pleasant. This marbled glass diffuser is a beautiful option, as is this domed version with a smaller profile.

Our special dads who shave will love this Harry razor! Another Close Shave makes a clean shave gel that would be a great accompaniment.

My Favorite Tools For the Kitchen

I love things that make it easier and a high powered blender is one of those tools! I have a Vitamix but Blendtec is another great option. The advantage of a blender like these is that it blends foods really finely so when you want to add things like kale to your smoothie, you don’t have to chew it! Another great tool is a juicer. When we aim to get as many healthy vegetables and fruits into our children, smoothies and juices can be easy ways to do so. For juicers, I like masticating because more of the raw enzymes stay intact. This Omega juicer is a nice option. For my fellow gardeners, winter doesn’t have to mean an end to your growing season. I have an Aero Garden like this one. I love being able to have fresh herbs and veggies all year round!

For the Whole Family

As I referred to above, in this recent blog I talked about reactions to common holiday scents, including from candles that can cause meltdowns and other behavioral issues. Bluecorn Candles are 100% pure beeswax, scented by honey, colored by pollen, are paraffin-free and have a lead-free wick. Some of my favorite kitchen tools include this glass kettle and my Instant Pot. They even make an air fryer top that fits on your existing Instant Pot if you wanted to try air frying.

Give the Gift of Hope

And finally, we here at Nourishing Hope are on a mission to support individuals with special needs and their families. We have made it easy for you to give the gift of hope through our new Gift One promotion which gives a family the gift of our Nourishing Hope for Healing Kids program. This program is our most comprehensive offering for individuals and families, it takes you through my proven 12 step program which includes a private Facebook community and live weekly Zoom calls to ask your specific questions. If you know a family that could benefit (or want to pass this on to relatives asking what your family really wants or needs), click here.

Ultimately the best gift we can give our loved ones is the gift of time. Special time together in the kitchen preparing delicious and healthy meals or special holiday treats can mean more than any wrapped gift. Baking cookies is a particular favorite for me and my daughter Ruby. We love these holiday cookie cutters to make delicious and healthy sugar cookies. If you need a GFCFSF sugar cookie recipe, I have a great one here. And for those families looking for a unique gift that also empowers and teaches kids, my good friend Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship has cooking classes for kids! Her classes help your kids learn basic cooking skills (ages 2-12) and encourage healthy eating, the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse makes a wonderful clutter-free gift!

No matter what your plans are for this holiday season, from our Nourishing Hope family to yours, wishing you love and joy.

Easy and Delicious Allergen-Free Thanksgiving Recipes

This is the season for holiday meals and none compares to Thanksgiving as a holiday of food.

Although, here at Nourishing Hope, we have readers from 90 countries, where not all have “Thanksgiving.”  So whether you are looking for Thanksgiving or other Holiday recipes, here are some of my special diet favorites (all available in Cooking to Heal).

Unfortunately for those with food intolerances, the prospect of a Thanksgiving or Holiday meal rich in gluten and dairy leaves many saying “no thanks!” Traditional stuffing, a Thanksgiving favorite, is made from bread (wheat). Gravy is made with wheat flour, and mashed potatoes are loaded with milk, cream and butter. Pumpkin pie contains wheat and dairy. All of these foods are off limits for those following a gluten-free and casein-free diet (GFCF diet).

But you needn’t miss out on these delicious holiday dishes, nor the good times that accompany Thanksgiving – not just because you’re on a gluten-free or other allergen-free diet. With a little ingenuity you can maintain the special diet your family is on right through the holidays.

Turkey is inherently gluten-free and dairy-free unless you add something containing those ingredients.  Use safe herbs and spices, oils, and avoid flour often used as thickener for gravy.  Avoid “apple pie spice” and other spice blends in your Thanksgiving dinner (because blends almost always have gluten).

Holiday meals often are notoriously deficient on vegetables.  Typically there is one “token” vegetable that no one eats.  So I’ve included some tasty vegetables that guests will love!  Also, check out this beautiful Kale, Beet, and Pomegranate salad – it’s delicious and the colors are so festive.  Most vegetable recipes can be made gluten-free and dairy-free if they are not already, so consider adapting one of your favorites.

For mashed potatoes: you can very easily substitute non-dairy milk for  milk or cream in the mashed potatoes, and certified casein-free ghee or other fat such as expeller-pressed coconut oil for the butter, or try my starch-free cauliflower “mashed potatoes.”

For a pie, there is no excuse not to do GFCF—there are so many options and no one will know the difference!

For those following gluten-free and casein-free, here’s a simple and delicious GFCF Thanksgiving dinner – along with recipes. Your guests won’t know the difference.

And if you are following a grain-free and starch-free diet such as GAPS, SCD, or Paleo, simply avoid the stuffing and the crust for the pumpkin pie (just bake the filling alone in the dish), and for the gravy avoid the flour and simply simmer down the pan drippings, and you’ll have a wonderful meal that’s compliant with your special diet.

Gluten-Free/Special Diet Holiday Menu

Roasted Turkey

Turkey is normally the star of the Thanksgiving show! However, if you are avoiding gluten, dairy, and soy, that can be a challenge to enjoy depending on what is used. If prepared with butter, stuffed with gluten and dairy-filled stuffing, or if any of the seasonings have added ingredients that are not tolerated, it can ruin a holiday! This recipe is just as easy as any other and takes into account various food allergies. You can alter the seasonings to meet your specific tastes too. Don’t let a GFCFSF Thanksgiving dinner intimidate you!

Gluten-Free Stuffing

What says the holidays more than stuffing?!? I mean really…..for some, stuffing is the defining dish (OK, maybe second to pumpkin pie) at Thanksgiving. But for those who cannot or don’t want to eat gluten, that can present a real challenge. My recipe is easy and a crowd favorite. I have had many people in my community replicate this recipe with the same delicious results. When you want a tried-and-true gluten-free and dairy- free stuffing recipe, this is the one!

Gluten-Free Gravy

Classic gravy obviously contains gluten from the flour and maybe even dairy if made with milk. However, with a few simple switches, you can make a classic gravy without any of those ingredients. And, there is no additional time or effort, it really just comes down to the ingredients you use!

Cranberry Sauce

This is a healthy twist on a traditional Thanksgiving dish that can be made to suit many different diets including GFCF, SCD, GAPS, Paleo, & Low Oxalate! In addition, cranberries are incredibly healthy! They are high in vitamin C, antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory, & they have even been shown to boost beneficial gut bacteria!

Mashed Cauliflower Potatoes

For many, mashed potatoes are one of the favorite side-dishes at holiday meals. However, for some people who wish to reduce or eliminate starchy food, this can present a real problem! Mashed cauliflower potatoes can be a terrific grain-free and starch-free option and compliant on diets like SCD, GAPS, and Paleo. Maybe you just want to get more healthy cruciferous vegetables into your family! Use my trick of using ½ cauliflower and ½ potatoes for a nice compromise with an added nutrient boost.

Confetti Brussels Sprouts

This is always a family favorite and the dish I am asked to make year after year! Brussels sprouts are a great winter vegetable, they are high in sulfur & sulforaphane, which help build glutathione, a master antioxidant and great for detoxification. Not only is this dish delicious, but it helps provide those wonderful health benefits as well!

Kale, Beet and Pomegranate Salad

This is a great salad because of the seasonal ingredients you can almost always find. This salad is filled with antioxidants and great nutrition from the greens, the beets, and the pomegranates! What a fun and festive way to nourish the body. And it is extra kid-friendly because of the sweetness from the beets and pomegranate.

Pumpkin Pie

How can we discuss Thanksgiving without talking about pumpkin pie? This is the epitome of a classic holiday dessert. This recipe provides you all of the taste you love without the ingredients that you don’t! You can even make this low oxalate by avoiding spices like cinnamon. Pumpkin is rich in nutrients, including carotene which is converted to vitamin A. Vitamin A is an important nutrient for a healthy immune system – in case you needed one, there’s your justification for eating your pie! 

Whether you follow these ideas or create your own meal, with a few new twists on your old classics, you can make an allergy-free Thanksgiving/Holiday meal that is simple and delicious.

And if you have a favorite of your own you want to share with other families, please comment below! 


Healthy Halloween: Trick or Treat Reinvented

Halloween is almost here.

This year, some families may be choosing to find new ways to celebrate that do not include trick or treating or large gatherings. There is still so much you can do to make this Halloween memorable, fun, healthy, and safe. 

Instead of Trick or Treating this year, try a Halloween Party.  

I’ve put together some really fun and delicious ideas which offer you many options for allergen free foods and treats, crafts, and activities to enjoy during this unique Halloween. 

I even have some friends and clients who prefer a Halloween party to Trick or Treating because with their food allergies, they are not able to (and do not want to) eat the candy. In fact, my good friend, former client, and business colleague, Terri Hirning has shared some of her favorite Halloween treats and activities from past years, in the photos below. 

New traditions can be fun to start and even expand on year after year. At home Halloween parties can be a great alternative, especially this year. You can have fun Halloween music, crafts, and activities to keep everyone engaged and having fun (and not even missing trick or treating!)


Deviled Eggs

They are a great way to get in additional protein and healthy fats and you can get very creative with them for different holidays! You can make deviled eggs of bats, spiders, and pumpkins as I did in this photo, you can check out my previous blog I did which includes a recipe.

Hardboiled Egg Ghosts

This is another great way to boost protein and healthy fats while making an easy and delicious appetizer. With a few cuts into the white of the hardboiled egg, you can create cute or scary ghosts.

Meatball Mummies

Meatballs are not only easy to eat as finger foods depending on size but they are also delicious! You can bring in additional veggies using purees or shredded vegetables like carrots, squash, zucchini, etc. The dough can be made gluten and dairy free and can be made to fit your child’s dietary needs, including grain-free or paleo! There are many great allergen-friendly dough recipes out there.

You can also use hot dogs or even half of a hot dog and wrap with your dough instead of meatballs.

Pumpkin Mandarin Oranges or Tangerines

Fruit is always a popular option and these are seriously so easy and delicious! You can do them peeled, or not. You can also draw jack-o-latern faces on these in lieu of cutting them. This can also be a great “decorate your own” activity for the kids before they eat them! Just use non-toxic markers for safety.

Popcorn Skeleton Hands

This is a great (and super easy) treat that is really festive and delicious! Pop some organic popcorn using organic coconut oil in a pot with a lid or a popcorn popper and let cool completely. You can buy skeleton treat bags here or use basic food service gloves. Just make sure the popcorn is completely cooled before loading into bags. Tie with a twist tie or small ribbon. You can even put a plastic spider or other Halloween ring on for added decor


Halloween Spider Pizza

 Pizza is a crowd-pleaser for many kids and adults alike! There are a number of homemade gluten and dairy free pizza crusts out there or if you have a favorite like Daiya, you can simply add your own toppings to create the Halloween spiders using thinly sliced red bell peppers for the legs and then olives for black spiders! If you are looking for a box dough that I like, Simple Mills has a grain-free version I like.

Monster Pasta

Pasta is another easy kid favorite food! You can turn plain pasta into a Halloween haunt using sliced radish (like daikon) for the whites of the eyes and then add some sauce for the bloodshot look and then finish with a half of an olive for the iris. You can add some additional radish for the “fangs” and olives for the mouth. Or get creative and come up with your own Halloween designs.

Sweet Potato Fries

A delicious kid-favorite can be made into festive jack-o-laterns. Choose a nice round sweet potato and slice it into 1/2″ thick rounds and carefully cut out eyes, nose and mouth – and roast with coconut oil and salt, flipping once until lightly browned and cooked through. These sweet potato fries will leave your goblins and ghouls happy and filled up with high fiber healthy carbohydrates!

Creative Veggie Trays

Make a skeleton or a pumpkin out of raw vegetables like baby carrots in the shape of a pumpkin, cut cucumbers for triangle eyes, nose, and jack-o-lantern “teeth.” For the skeleton, use sliced red peppers for the skeleton “ribs”, celery, carrots, or sliced red peppers for the arm and leg “bones”, cauliflower, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes for “knees, hands, and feet.”

All of these can be made gluten-free and dairy-free and tailored to your child’s specific dietary needs.

You can use ingredients that are favorites of your child, especially when it comes to the vegetables.

Kids love being part of this, and take greater interest in eating it when they helped create it! Whether it is adding toppings to the pizza, arranging the veggies for the veggie tray, etc. the more you can get your child involved, the higher likelihood they will want to eat the healthy foods you put out!



Using candy molds, you can make festive and gut supporting treats in the shape of jack-o-lanterns, bats, witch hats, spiders, skulls, etc. All you need are candy molds and gelatin.

If you need a healthy gelatin recipe, check out my blog. There are cute Halloween gelatin molds like this and this.

Coconut Date Monster Heads

You can use any raw date ball recipe like my Coconut Date Balls. Form small balls and then use a small amount of frosting to add spooky faces and decor to turn them into monsters.

You can also cover some in white frosting for skeleton faces!

Banana Ghosts

Banana ghosts can be another super easy – yet delicious and healthy – recipe! I have blogged on this before. All you need are bananas and mini chocolate chips that are allergen-friendly like Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips.  You can either push the chocolate chips – pointy side into the banana – to make eyes and an open mouth, or you can melt them and draw on the face.

Pumpkin or Ghost Cupcakes

Who doesn’t love cupcakes?!? You can turn a classic favorite into either pumpkins or ghosts. Use your favorite allergen-friendly cupcake and frosting recipe to create cute little ghosts!

Simply swirl vanilla frosting in a ghost shape using a piping bag. Then, use two or three allergen-friendly chocolate chips (like we did with the banana ghosts) to make eyes and you can also add a mouth if you want. These are sure to be hits!

Store-bought Treats

Some of my favorite store-bought treats include Smart Sweets, Enjoy Life Halloween Chocolates, Enjoy Life Halloween Minis, and Yum Earth Candy Corns.

For even more options and ideas, check out my previous blog here.

Craft ideas

Crafts are fun for kids of all ages and I want to share some of my favorite ideas for kids, both big and small! One of my favorite crafts uses toilet paper rolls to make Halloween characters.

For a keepsake craft, check out this Halloween BOO! craft which uses your child’s hand and footprint to make cute wall decor that you will cherish for years to come.  Your child(ren) can paint the canvas if you like or you can take over the task.

You can use any colors you like and even create a spooky crackle texture. Paint a spider web in one corner. Then, use black paint for a handprint spider (add googly eyes if desired or simply paint them on) and then use white paint for a footprint ghost. Finish it with letters cut out from cardstock and glued or paint them on. You really can get creative and make this truly personalized

Need more ideas? We put together a Pinterest board of Halloween Arts and Crafts Ideas for Kids (and adults).


Depending on the age(s) of your child(ren) these activities can be expanded or reduced as needed for their age and ability. The key is getting them all involved with the planning and even engaging older children in as the “leaders” and helpers for younger children can also get greater buy off as kids get older and sometimes lose interest in holiday events.

Sensory Bin

Fill a bin (larger than a shoe box size) with rice or beans and put various little items like spiky balls, round bouncy balls, jacks, puzzle pieces or game pieces, spider rings, erasers, etc. and either have your child be blindfolded and try and identify the item by feel. This is a great sensory activity too!

Spider Races

For these fun spider races, use larger diameter straws and the small plastic spiders, using masking tape or another option that does not mark or damage your table or surface to put a line down the middle of a table. Have one child on the right of the line and one on the left. Each child tries to blow their spider to the other side of the table (or whatever point you designate) first to “win.”

Pumpkin Stress Balls

To make cute pumpkin stress balls, use orange balloons and with a black marker draw triangular eyes and teeth drawn and filled with corn kernels.

Bean Bag Toss

This is a great craft idea and game! Kids can have a great time sewing bean bags and with just a little orange felt cut into squares, you can have a fun game in no time. Sew two felt squares together, starting on one corner and leaving about 2 inches open to fill with either dried rice or beans. Once filled, sew the remaining corner shut. You can paint or draw with markers on the unsewn squares fun jack-o-lantern faces. You can use white felt and draw in black for a skeleton, green for a monster, the ideas are endless. And if you don’t have felt, any scrap fabric will work! Use a Halloween trick or treating bucket or even a large bowl for the target. Kids can take turns seeing who can make it into the bucket for a prize or just a high five!

Scavenger Hunt

This is an old favorite! Create clues that lead from one spot to the next. Maybe hide small treats or Halloween items like pencils, erasers, stickers, or candy/treats. The older your children are, the more creative and elaborate you can make this. Engage your older children to even help write the clues!

Room by Room Trick-or-treating

Move the trick or treating indoors. Set up a candy station inside each door of your home and having your costumed kids parade through the house, knocking on doors, and collecting their candy, have different choices at each door to add variety.

Ping Pong Eyeballs

If you have a ping pong table, color “eyes” onto the balls for a silly change up to your regular game.

Autumn Tic Tac Toe

To make a festive Halloween Tic Tac Toe, use the small decorator pumpkins in orange and white as the markers for the game. Use masking tape or other surface-safe tape or use sidewalk chalk on concrete or use a large tic tac toe board if you already have one. Then, play as you normally would, placing your color pumpkin in your spot.

Pumpkin Patch Stomp

Blow up orange balloons to create your “pumpkin patch.” Kids can have fun and get their sillies out by stomping the balloons to pop them! Make sure you pick up all of the broken balloon pieces, especially if you have younger children or animals!

Pin the spider on the web

This is a classic party game that can be re-created with a Halloween flare! You can use white yarn or a printed image for the “web” and then print out paper spiders and do the classic “pin the tail” activity with this fun twist.

Halloween Bingo

There are various resources on the internet to print bingo cards that are Halloween themed.

Other Fun Games or Activities

Halloween painting craft

We can always find creative ways to celebrate holidays and especially bring in healthy and delicious healing foods at the same time. No matter what your Halloween looks like this year, we are wishing you a healthy and happy experience!


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Avoiding Holiday Havoc: Healthy solutions to avoid meltdowns and keep the holidays happy

The holidays are a wonderful time for being together with family and celebrating. 

But there are also new holiday traditions that can cause children to have behavioral and emotional reactions. Holiday treats and decorations can cause biochemical overload and physiological reactions like hyperactivity, anger, aggression, crying spells, and anxiety. And the things we enjoy as adults, such as: music, lights, and new smells can be overwhelming for a child with sensory sensitivities. 

Fortunately understanding them ahead of time can help you plan and adjust as necessary.

Holiday Stressors That Can Cause Meltdowns

The following are some of the things that can cause real reactions in kids:

  • Christmas trees
  • Wreaths and pine branches
  • Potpourri
  • Scented candles
  • Perfume
  • Lights
  • Music
  • Strong smelling food
  • Food and food additives

Christmas trees and Wreaths Can Cause Severe Symptoms

Before you run out and buy a fresh, new Christmas tree or holiday wreath, you’ll want to read about my client’s Christmas tree experience.

Her son 10 year old son with autism severely regressed during the holidays. After the holidays we had an appointment where I learned about his regression and asked if they had a Christmas tree. Turns out they did and it was the cause of his misery.

Here’s her description:

“During the Holidays our son regressed severely.  He became anxious, aggressive, and self-abusive. He cried and had tantrums regularly throughout the day. He couldn’t sleep anymore and was up for hours at a time, night after night. He was hand-flapping like crazy.  We have a swing in the house for him and he now wanted to swing all day long, constantly, and do nothing else. He lost eye contact and he stopped responding to his name.”

 And it’s no doubt that the Christmas tree was the culprit, because once it was removed the improvements were dramatic.

“The decorations came off and the tree was put out that same night.  I didn’t tell anyone at home about our discussion. I wanted to see if they would comment on my son’s behavior after the tree was gone.   The next day, he was much calmer. He seemed to have “exhaled.” Within 48 hours, our son was completely back to normal. His improvement was blatantly obvious. And, everyone commented on it.”

Pine trees and phenols

Christmas trees are varieties of pine trees. The aromatic oils that give pine trees their great smell were the cause of his behavior, mood, and sleeping issues.

These strong smelling oils are phenols.  Phenolic compounds come in many forms including artificial petroleum-based food additives, and salicylates found in plants and foods like strawberries and spices, as well as pine trees.

When phenols are not able to be broken-down and detoxified (by a process called sulfation, which is low in many children with autism and ADHD), they can cause many symptoms including irritability, red cheeks and ears, hyperactivity, aggression toward self and others, “stimming,” sleeping challenges and many more.

If you know your child is sensitive to salicylates or other phenols (see my salicylate article), you’ll likely want to avoid a traditional Christmas tree.  If you are unsure about their sensitivity to salicylates: you might ask yourself if your child is often hyper, irritable, or has red cheeks, and other common salicylate symptoms, or whether they crave salicylate-rich foods such as berries, grapes, apples, and ketchup.  If so, explore salicylates further.

In fact, since so many children with autism and ADHD react to salicylates (in my nutrition practice I find an overwhelming majority react negatively), I’d suggest a cautious approach to holiday decorating for all families of a child with autism or ADHD. Simply avoid the pine Christmas tree. I’ll share some ideas below.

Sadly, there is nothing “fresh” about air fresheners. And while those scented candles and diffusers seem lovely, they also contain these chemicals. Our body needs to detoxify them, and when we can’t do so sufficiently they cause physical and behavioral reactions. 

This year skip the scented products. 

Even essential oils, which I love, can cause reactions because of the phenols I’ve described above. Some of the essential oils with the highest sources of phenols include:

  • Balsam fir oil
  • Clove oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Citrus oil
  • Eucalyptus oil 
  • Lavender oil
  • Oregano oil
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Sweet birch oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Wintergreen oil

Essential oils are certainly better than artificial fragrances. But be sure to use them sparingly and avoid the highest phenolic ones if you suspect a phenol issue.

Scents: Potpourri, Scented candles, perfume

Most scented items for the holidays are made with synthetic fragrance. Not only do these fragrances contain toxins like phthalates, parabens, and styrene, but they also contain phenolic compounds (like the pine tree mentioned above). 

So these scented items can cause headaches, nausea, and behavioral reactions in children and guests. 

  • Potpourri
  • Scented candles
  • Stick/reed diffusers
  • Air fresheners
  • Perfume and cologne
  • Fabric softener
  • Scented Hand soap

Lights, music, and smells

Many children with neurodevelopmental delays, have sensory sensitivity. This means they are more likely to react to the holiday lights, blinking lights, strobing lights, music playing in the background, and new smells like food and others mentioned above. 

Not only are their physiological reactions that can happen, they can also create overwhelm. Sensory input, even when pleasant, are stressors to our nervous system. 

Try keeping sensory stimulation to a minimum. 

Having a quiet space for them to take a break can be very helpful. A small tent like this one can be an excellent option as a ‘sensory break’ spot!

Food and food additives

Gluten, Dairy and Food Allergens

Gluten, dairy, soy, and other allergens such as corn and eggs can cause behavioral and emotional reactions including anxiety, hyperactivity, irritability, and add to sensory overload.

There are many ways gluten and dairy can cause these reactions. If you are eating these foods and your body is creating opiates, opiates themselves can cause mood changes. Additionally, opiates peak and drop, these “withdrawals” from these opiate-compounds can cause irritability and aggression. Also, these foods can cause inflammation and pain causing physical and emotional symptoms. 

A gluten-free and casein-free (dairy-free) diet is often a great place to start with dietary changes, as there are so many ways these foods can negatively affect children. 

If your child is on a special diet, the holidays are an important time to STICK WITH IT! Infractions are not worth it. 

It’s easy to make gluten-free stuffing and gravy.

Artificial Food Dyes and Salicylates

I have mentioned phenols in the form of fragrances, but phenols are also in the form of foods and food additives. 

In my one-on-one nutrition practice, I’ve found that phenols are (by far) the greatest instigators of aggressive behavior, as well as other emotional and behavioral symptoms like hyperactivity and those I mentioned above with Christmas trees.

Artificial additives like artificial colors and flavors are phenols, and are compounds that can trigger irritability, sleeping problems, ADHD, hyperactivity and aggression.  

In addition to “artificial phenols” there are “natural phenols” in the form called salicylates.  Salicylates have a phenolic structure, or aromatic chemical ring, that occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices, and other plant foods.  These foods are rich in wonderful nutrients, but if your body has trouble “detoxifying” the salicylates, they can be a big problem for a child causing significant symptoms.

Salicylates are high in foods, such as: apples, oranges, berries, almonds, honey, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mint, and other common holiday spices. 

Avoid anything artificial like Santa lollipops and candy with red and/or green dye, as well as peppermints with mint and artificial colors and titanium dioxide (white coloring). Stick with natural flavored and colored candy and treats. 

Amines and Glutamates

Amines are a different natural food compound, similar to salicylates, that is processed by the same detoxification pathway, and therefore, often create similar reactions. People with salicylate sensitivity are more likely to have amine or glutamate intolerance.  Amines and glutamates are found in fermented foods including sauerkraut, salami, smoked meats and fish, bacon, and broths. Amines are high in broths, turkey skin, and pan drippings, which means amines will be high in your holiday gravy and stuffing.  

Glutamate, also comes in the additive-form of MSG (monosodium glutamate) found in store bought broths and bouillon so be careful to read labels. 

Holiday Solutions

  • Non-pine decorations
  • Non-living fake Christmas tree
  • Wreath made of dried hydrangea flowers or other materials
  • Unscented candles
  • Wrapped gifts
  • Ornaments
  • Stockings
  • Dropped and dried tree branches
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • Non-strobing/blinking lights
  • Essential oils (maybe)
  • Healthy food


Just because you avoid a fresh pine tree, does not mean you need to miss out on any holiday cheer or decorations.  Browse Pinterest or your search engine for “Christmas tree alternatives” and you will find many wonderful ideas. Using dropped and dried tree branches for decorations can work because they won’t be heavily scented. And can be from something other than pine. 

An artificial Christmas tree can be a good alternative. And be good for the environment too, as it can be used year after year.

Try a wreath made of dried hydrangea flowers or other materials. However, be careful and avoid dried herbs and plants with a strong smell – they are also very high in phenols.  

There are also many other ways to make your home festive for the holidays too: candles (unscented) or lights, wrapped gifts, ornaments, or stockings.

Here are some of my favorite Pinterest ideas: 

Sensory Support

Consider over-the-ear noise-cancelling headphones for your child. They are a great way to block out extra sounds.

Natural scents such as essential oils might be an option depending on the child, however, avoid the high phenol ones. Also, simmering some pear juice along with some orange slices can add a nice natural and not overwhelming fragrance to your home. 

Have a special room that is low in sensory stimulation that your child can retreat to as a safe haven. We all get overwhelmed sometimes. You might even find you enjoy a short break too.

Healthy Food

We all want to celebrate during the holidays and this includes some treats. However, it’s not worth eating junk food with artificial colors or flavors, or even gluten or dairy. 

The good news is, you can eat healthy AND have treats. Simply choose healthy treats.

You can make gluten-free stuffing and gravy as I mentioned above, as well as pumpkin pie without dairy or gluten. And you can also make treats like Chocolate Bark and Cocoa Mints that are delicious, festive, and free of artificial ingredients. And you can buy candy canes and chocolate treats and santas free of artificial flavors and dye. 

I wish you all the best for the holiday season. And I hope these ideas help.

If you have anything you love doing or eating for the holidays, please share in the comment section below. 

For Practitioners

While this article was written with parents/families in mind, I get asked questions related to these issues in my BioIndividual Nutrition Institute training program too! Sometimes it can be tricky to pinpoint what the trigger is with some of our very sensitive clients. I have seen this time and time again in my 18+ years working in the autism, ADHD, and special needs community and the unique biochemistry involved in the processing of these compounds and/or chemicals that results in behavior and physical manifestations.

If you are a practitioner wanting to dive deep into issues like these to support your clients even more effectively, our training program enrollment is open for just a few more days. Click here and join us today!

Amazon Disclaimer: Julie Matthews and Nourishing Hope is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

FTC Disclaimer: Some links may be affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of these.

Mother’s Day Cupcakes

Cupcakes – Diet Compliance: GFCF/SCD/GAPS/LOD/Paleo/Nut-Free

Frosting – Diet Compliance: GFCF (see further ideas below)

These cupcakes are certainly not only for Mother’s Day, but the floral design lends itself so nicely to springtime and Mother’s Day.

What makes these cupcakes festive is the floral frosting details. These flowers require special frosting piping tips. So you’ll need to plan ahead a little.

I wanted to share my Coconut Flour Cupcake recipe, and how we made ours. My 9 year old daughter and I made these. In fact, the pink one in this photo she decorated.

In this case we made mini cupcakes, and chocolate sponge. I like minis because I can get the flavor and pleasure with less sugar. Although, I think the regular size are even prettier with more flowers and even room for piped leaves.  If you want to make yours Chocolate add 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa. I am sharing the vanilla version because it has more dietary compliance with low oxalate and Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)/GAPS Diet. Any cupcakes will work, but I do love these.

The texture is very forgiving. Coconut flour makes a cake fluffier and lighter than almond flour. The vanilla is strong and delicious in this recipe.

Coconut Flour Cupcakes


  • 1 ¼ cups coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 large pastured eggs
  • 2/3 cup melted grass-fed ghee (use coconut oil if you need to be dairy-free)
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 330 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans.  In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, salt, and baking soda.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, melted ghee, honey and vanilla extract. Blend the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a handheld mixer until thoroughly combined.

Bake for 18-23 minutes, less for minis. Once inserted toothpick comes out dry (a few moist crumbs), cake is ready.  Let cook in pan, then cool on rack.  Frost after cake is cool.

Buttercream Frosting

I used regular buttercream with these because this was the first time we were using these new piping tips so I wanted to go with a frosting I know pipes well. Butter makes the best buttercream, but avoid butter if you diet is casein-free. I find ghee is often tolerated if it’s “certified casein-free,” but if someone has allergies to dairy, avoid ghee too. Coconut oil will work just fine.

Next time we’ll experiment. We want to make a sugar-free dairy-free “buttercream” frosting with powdered Lakanto and coconut oil next, in order to make it low sugar and Keto compliant. And we want to try a cooked buttercream frosting with honey to see if we can make one SCD and GAPS compliant.

Consider making a double batch of frosting if you want to make several colors of flowers. You’ll need the extra volume in the piping bags.


1 pound of powdered sugar (approximately 4 cups)
¼-½ teaspoon salt (personally I like ½ teaspoon)
1/2 cup ghee, coconut oil, or palm oil (ghee is made from butter, avoid if strict dairy-free is necessary)
¼ cup non-dairy milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
natural coloring

Cream ghee or oil in bowl – by hand, with an electric hand mixer, or stand mixer. If you use a stand mixer use the paddle attachment (not whisk).

Beat the butter for 3 minutes to make it a bit fluffy.

Measure the milk and add the salt to the milk to dissolve it, and then set it aside.

Add the sugar in two parts. Sift the first half of the powdered sugar into the mixing bowl with the butter, along with the vanilla and half the milk. Beat for 3 minutes.

Sift the remainder of the sugar to the mixing bowl, add any food coloring, and an additional tablespoon of milk (do not pour the milk all at once). Beat for 3 minutes.

Add any additional milk little by little, as needed, until you reach the desired consistency.

Remember, the natural coloring will add liquid so don’t add it at the very end or it might make the frosting too soft for decorating.

And one more thing, always use natural coloring, not conventional food dye. The natural colors look great, especially for florals where pastels look beautiful (and they are much better for you and your children). Those pictured here are all made with natural plant-based colors, and they came out very vibrant.

Decorating the cupcakes

Decorating them is my favorite part!

As I mentioned up front, these flowers require special frosting piping tips. They are called Russian Piping Tips. They sell them at Michael’s and other craft/baking supply stores, as well as some major online retails that ship overnight, so you can get them the same day or next day,  but planning ahead is always a good idea. They often come in a pack of 12 and there are many great videos online on how to use them.

But the gist is fairly simple, place the nozzle the piping bag (with or without a coupler) fill a piping bag with frosting.

To pipe, position vertically, place against cupcake and squeeze piping bag. One it begins to adhere to the cupcake pull up and release the pressure slowly. One press makes a whole flower.

One of my favorite techniques is to spread one color up the insides of the piping back, and then scoop a different color into the center. It comes out two-toned like my purple and yellow one.

You can practice on some wax paper as we did.

Hope you enjoy them! Share your results with us.

Deviled Eggs for Halloween

I have to confess I’ve always LOVED deviled eggs.

I used to be embarrassed to say so – I always thought I was the only one. Deviled eggs seemed like a strange appetizer relic from the seventies. I assumed they would not be popular (or sophisticated) for a party. However, since I loved them, I started making them anyway. And I’ve learned, I’m not the only one! In fact, LOTS of people love deviled eggs, including children! They always run out quickly.

At a party recently I brought a dozen and a half, and all but two were gone in the first 5 minutes! And by the end of the party, they were all gone.

Deviled eggs are perfect for any party because they are high in protein (and fat)… and not in carbs. As an egg dish, they are naturally great for breakfast/brunch buffets. They also work for any time of the day. And are portable and finger foods so they are easy to eat anywhere.

Now, make sure you use pastured eggs, for beautiful and flavorful bright yellow/orange yolks.  Using homemade mayo is best, but either way, be sure not to over-mayo them.

Deviled eggs are a super-fast, healthy snack!  If you have hard-boiled eggs in stock, you can make deviled eggs in 5 or 10 minutes.

Here’s my recipe.

Deviled Eggs Recipe

GFCF, SCD/GAPS, Low Oxalate, Paleo

  • 12 eggs (pastured-raised)
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (homemade)
  • 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Sprinkle of salt and pepper

Garnish with fresh chives, or even salmon roe, if you have it.

Cook the eggs by hard-boiling them.  To do so, fill a pot halfway with water and bring to a gentle boil.  Carefully lower eggs one at a time in the water.  Set timer for 13 minutes, start timing once you start putting them in the water.  Turn up heat until water is boiling again and then adjust heat down to a gentle boil, move eggs around in the pan so that the yolk does not settle to one side.  Continue cooking until timer.  Do not over cook – yolks will be greenish and sulfur-smelling.

Drain water, and rinse eggs in cold water until pot and water is cool.

Peel eggs.  Slice eggs in half.  Put yolks into food processor bowl with rest of the ingredients (mayo, mustard, and salt and pepper).  Mix in a food processor.

Scoop yolk into white halves.  Garnish with chives, salmon eggs, chopped olives, or anything, or serve them plain.

Decorate Eggs


Cut pitted olive in half lengthwise for the body. Slice halved olive into legs, Cut the end off each leg to make them a big shorter if needed. Place the body first. Add the legs by placing partly under the body and press into the yolk.


Cut olive in half lengthwise for the body. slice two wings and two triangle ears and place on bat. Poke small eyes with toothpick and add a bit of yolk to color eyes.


Form yolk into pumpkin shape and add lines with a toothpick. Sprinkle with ground paprika and add chive for stem.

Traveling on a Special Diet

Now that summer has arrived, I’d like to share some tips for traveling on a special diet.

Traveling with children can be challenging enough.  If you or your child is on a special diet, the idea of taking a trip can make any mother think twice and consider just staying home.

You cannot simply rely on stopping into any convenience store or airport deli to pick up food to eat. While some places may carry gluten-free and casein-free options, I’ve been to places that do not have a single choice in the store. You don’t want to be caught without any choices, as it puts you in danger of breaking your special diet.  But also, don’t let a special diet stop you from having fun!

Whether you’re taking a daytrip or overnight vacation, learning a few simple strategies can help families eat well, while sticking to a special diet.

I often travel while speaking at autism and nutrition conferences (sometimes even bringing my family along), and have gathered some personal tips and tricks over the years for gluten-free and special diet living.

The most important thing is to plan ahead.  Research online the restaurants, hotels, and markets near your destination.  Locate gluten-free and allergy-friendly restaurants that understand your special dietary needs.  Book a hotel that has a kitchenette or refrigerator, depending on whether you prefer to cook your own meals or not.  See if there are any natural food stores near where you are staying.  Addressing these queries in advance will help greatly.

For example, if I’m flying and will not have a car, I determine whether there is a market close to my hotel or on the cab ride from the airport.  If so, I typically go and get the bulk of my food needs when I arrive.  However, if there are none, I’ll have to bring more food with me.

For families considering a destination vacation like a theme park or cruise, some companies really go the extra mile to serve people with food allergies.  Disney Land, Disney World, and Disney Cruises all have delicious gluten-free and allergen-free food (see previous post). Fortunately, most cruises offer plenty of allergy-free choices – so you can always eat well on a cruise, even when you have food allergies.  Check your destination for their food policy as some parks and zoos do not allow you to bring food in from the outside (silly, I know).  You’ll want to learn their exemption process so you can be prepared.

Pack a Cooler

Whether you are going by plane, train, or car you’ll want to pack a cooler.  You’ll want to bring at least enough food to get you to your destination, plus one extra emergency “layover” day in case you get stuck while in transit.  If you are going by car, you can take food for the trip.  If you are traveling by plane, you can check an extra cooler of food, ship food to your destination, and handle food once you’ve arrived.  Use dry ice if you want it to stay fully frozen for a couple days.

Consider which food you’re bringing.  Apple are great because they are hard and don’t bruise easily. If you bring bananas, make sure they’re not too ripe or they will smash all over your bag (not fun at all).  My three staple foods for all traveling are: hardboiled eggs, apples, and almond butter (single serve squeeze packets).  Here are more.

Gluten-free and dairy-free foods to pack in your cooler:

  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Cooked bacon
  • Non-dairy yogurt, either homemade or store bought
  • Roasted chicken drumstick
  • Nut butter (Put on celery, apple, or crackers)
  • Hummus (Dip celery or GF bread)
  • Celery
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kale Salad
  • GF Bread
  • Home baked gluten-free healthy banana bread

Foods that do not require cold storage:

  • Sardines (with oil and bones for added calcium)
  • Canned salmon or tuna and avocado for easy tuna salad
  • Beef or salmon jerky
  • Apples
  • Kale or carrot chips
  • GF crackers like Glutino
  • Snack bars like Lara Bars or Macro Bars

Hot Thermos (for cold weather days)

  • Chicken broth
  • Soup
  • Tea
  • Stew
  • Hot lunch

Meal ideas

With your cooler packed with these staples there are many wonderful meals you can throw together quickly and easily while on the road.

Most of these foods are “ready to eat,” requiring no preparation while out and about: Hardboiled eggs, bacon, yogurt, drumsticks, beef jerky, apples, carrot chips and snack bars.  Others are simple parings: nut butter on apple or crackers, hummus with celery, tuna salad made simply with avocado, and sardines with crackers.   Bringing foods that are mix-and-match provides lots of options for the family so each member can find something they like, without mom having to plan and prepare snack and meals for four people.

Sauerkraut makes a wonderful “salad”—while not a true salad, I often eat it in place of the common side dish because it requires no preparation on the night before and provides easy vegetables for the trip.  Kale salad is also great because it’s hearty and holds up to travel well—all you need to do is substitute lettuce with kale leaves (de-stem and rip into pieces).

Salmon-Avocado Salad

This is a great recipe on the road because neither the canned fish nor avocado need refrigeration.  You can carry the food without a cooler, and prepare it onsite for perfectly fresh salmon salad.  It is also a wonderful egg-free alternative.

If you are traveling, you do need to remember to bring a knife for the avocado, something to mix it with like a fork, and a bowl.

  • 1 can of salmon or “lower-mercury” tuna (such as Vital Choice)
  • 1 avocado
  • Smash tuna and avocado together and serve!  It’s that easy!

Storing Food

BentoBoxThe cooler you choose is vital.  We learned the hard way that a couple of our soft-sided coolers were not waterproof, so melting ice leaked to the outside of the cooler and soaked things near it—in one case the contents of the backpack it was in, and in the other the hotel floor where it was left overnight.  Test things ahead of time to avoid surprises and inconveniences.  Ice packs work much better than ice cubes.

Remember to bring a plastic utensil set or two, plenty of napkins, extra Ziplock bags, and a bowl with a lid that can be used for mixing, serving, and storing food like the tuna salad. For a bowl, I like the Pyrex/Rubbermaid bowls with a lid, prepare and store the extra.  I’ve never had security stop me for traveling with glass.

If you find it easier, pack an individual lunch for the kids, rather than “family-style” meals.  A few of my favorite containers are: PlanetBox, Laptop Lunches, Eco Lunchboxes, and LifeFactory glass water bottles.

Hotel Rooms –Refrigerators and Kitchenettes

Since you will have food with you, you’ll want to plan ahead for a refrigerator in your own.  Even in standard hotels that do not have kitchenettes, most hotels can accommodate a mini refrigerator in room.  Even a freezer is possible—if the room refrigerator does not have a freezer, you are often able to use the hotel kitchen freezer by checking your frozen items in with them through the front desk.

Always call ahead to reserve a refrigerator.  Some hotels will reserve refrigerators, while others will not.  If the hotel has a first-come first-serve policy on refrigerators, bring your food in a cooler.  If you keep your food fully covered in ice, it will stay good for at least 5 days, or until the food would normally perish.

Some hotels charge for a refrigerator, typically $10-25 per day, while others offer it for no charge.  I love when hotels don’t charge, but even when they do, it’s still worth it because of the flexibility it gives.  And even with the added expense you save much more money than you spend in bringing your own food versus eating out.

You can tell your story to the manager and see if you may be bumped to the top of the list because your child needs a special diet.  You can also ask for a “medical refrigerator.”  Sometimes they are even free in this case.  Now this choice depends on your conscience—if you have medications or supplements that need refrigeration, this request is honest, and many of us feel food is a “medical” necessity.

Motels/Residence Inns with a kitchen

Depending on the duration of your stay and locale, you can find motels, condos, and privately owned properties with kitchens and kitchenettes.  Here are some popular chains with kitchenettes (you can Google others):

  • Residence Inn
  • Motel 6 Extended Stay
  • Extended Stay Studio Suites
  • Homestead Studio Suites
  • Hyatt Summerfield Suites now Hyatt House
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton
  • Staybridge Suites


Eating out can be a tricky thing, but with a few pointers and practice you’ll navigate it smoothly.

For breakfast, skip the buffet—cross-contamination is almost guaranteed with buffet food.  Tell your waiter you’ll need your entire meal cooked fresh for you.  Especially with eggs, do not let them give you the buffet trough scrambled eggs (they might contain dairy!).  Make sure the chef is using a clean pan, olive oil (no sprays or margarine or butter), and fresh utensils.  Remind them of the importance of a clean work area free of flour, crumbs, and other sources of cross-contamination.

Hand them a card, like my GFCF Travel Card that they can take to the back to check with the chef or manager.  If they seem confused or uncertain, ask to speak with the manager.

When you ask about whether their fries are gluten-free, remember to ask them if they cook flour-breaded items in the same fryer

Nationwide Restaurants with Gluten-Free Menus

Sonic Drive-In, Five Guys, and In-N-Out Burger (west coast only) are great burger joints that offer gluten-free hamburger patties wrapped in lettuce and gluten-free fries

The following restaurant chains have gluten-free menus (Google more):

  • Applebee’s
  • Bonefish Grill
  • Chili’s
  • Old Sausage Factory
  • Olive Garden
  • Outback Steakhouse
  • PF Chang’s
  • Red Robin
  • UNO’s Chicago Grill
  • California Pizza Kitchen
  • Il Fornaio Restaurant – a high-end Italian restaurant with 20 locations on the West Coast

When you eat out at restaurants make sure your server understands what gluten is and what foods might contain gluten or dairy.  Consider handing them a card that they can take to the manager or chef to ensure your meal does not contain any problematic ingredients. (see the one I created at our website).

GFCF Travel Card

product image_medCLICK HERE or the CARD to the right and Download our GFCF Travel card that you can use at restaurants to help communicate your GFCF needs to your server.

Trip Ups when You’re on a Trip

Most families have a safe routine when they eat at home; they know all the products and their ingredients. When traveling and eating out, you don’t have control over the kitchen, the ingredients, or cross-contamination.  Here are some common slip ups when eating out:

  • Sauces and gravies thickened with flour
  • Demi-glaze on roasted chicken can contains flour
  • Salad dressings can be thickened with flour
  • Soy sauce and teriyaki sauce contain gluten
  • Worcestershire sauce has gluten
  • Malt vinegar and malt sweetener are made with barley
  • Some ketchups, BBQ sauces, and mustards have a gluten grain-based vinegar or gluten-based flavoring
  • Frozen and pre-packaged French fries at restaurants are often dusted with flour before packaging to keep potatoes from sticking.
  • Even gluten-free potatoes may be fried in fryer that also cooks battered (floured) foods
  • Many bolognas and hot dogs contain gluten

“Flavorings,” “spices,” and spice blends may contain gluten.  It’s best if the restaurant prepares all of the dishes with fresh ingredients

Consider Digestive Enzymes

To help support accidental infractions when traveling, digestive enzymes containing DPPIV (Dipeptidyl peptidase-4) help breakdown gluten, casein and soy.  While they are not for those with celiac disease, many families find them helpful for gluten and casein sensitivity, and supporting infractions or cross-contamination that occur when they are away from home.

Accidental food infractions for people with food allergies can ruin a vacation.  However, with some trip planning and preparation, you can and your family can eat well when you’re out. No more stress of finding a restaurant while the kids are have a “starving” meltdown, what to eat, or concerns over food allergens.

With a little forethought, you can have a wonderful time, enjoy the sights, relax, and rejuvenate.

Happy travels!