Expert Voices

People With Celiac Disease Don't Have To Miss the Cookout (Op-Ed)

hamburgers on the grill.
This may put a damper on warm-weather grilling, but a new study suggests a daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 20 percent increased risk of dying during the study period. (Image credit: Red Meat a Ticket to Early Grave, Harvard Says)

Mary Kay Sharrett, R.D., L.D., of the Celiac Disease Clinic at Nationwide Children's Hospital, helps patients with celiac disease. She contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Americans often think of Labor Day as the unofficial end to summer and beginning of the tailgating season. People fire up their gas and charcoal grills, and while that usually means a good time at a pot-luck style cookout, for people with health concerns like celiac disease, that family gathering can be a challenge.

Families with children who are living with celiac disease are especially aware that this type of gathering can be problematic if they don't plan ahead. One way parents can support their children is by being proactive and preparing a gluten-free option on the menu, or a few, which will allow for a fun, stress-free holiday experience. (See recipes below.)

If you are the one hosting the cookout, it is especially important to ask your guests if there are any food allergies you should know about, and pay close attention to what those food allergies mean for your menu. It is estimated out of every 133 Americans has celiac disease, and while a gluten free diet is only recommended for people with celiac disease, chances are you will come in contact with someone who needs to strictly avoid gluten.

People with celiac disease really need to read the labels on condiments, especially. Marinades or sauces may contain wheat, especially if they contain soy sauce. Also watch out for marinades that are made with beer.

Even crumbs from food containing gluten being left behind can be harmful for a child with celiac disease if the crumbs mix with a gluten-free dish. In order to grill safely gluten-free, make sure only plain meat and vegetables end up on the grill. Wrapping your meat or corn on the cob in foil is crucial if you don't know if the grill has been cleaned, especially after marinades containing gluten have been used or buns have been warmed on the grill. Make sure the spatula only touches plain meats or vegetables — cross-contamination with buns or marinades could be dangerous. I also suggest bringing a gluten-free bun with you to the cookout or using a large piece of lettuce as a substitute for a hamburger bun.

Parents should also ask if the meat that a host has been prepared for a cookout is plain. Seasoning or soup mixes containing wheat may have been added to the meat. Also, meat substitutes, like veggie burgers, often look like the real thing, but can contain wheat. And if squeeze bottles aren't being used, try to be first in line to avoid contamination from knives that have touched bread containing gluten.

Taking a gluten-free side dish with you can help your child have a safe accompaniment to the entrees. Some options include a bowl of mixed berries, baked beans, corn on the cob or a gluten-free potato salad.

This is important information for everyone to know because the long-term effect of anyone with celiac disease being exposed to gluten is damage to the intestine. Some kids experience symptoms immediately. As a result, many parents choose to eat at home in a controlled environment, but group cookouts are possible if you are cautious.

Instead of turning down an invitation to a cookout this holiday weekend, try making one of these simple, but delicious, gluten-free recipes to bring along with you. You can ensure that your child will have a safe option, and these dishes are sure to impress even those without sensitivity to gluten.

Baked Beans

(Image credit: Minadezhda Dreamstime)


  • 1- 28 ounce can baked beans with pork (drain off about half the liquid)
  • 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (make sure it is gluten free)
  • 3 slices bacon


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a 2 quart casserole, combine the pork and beans, brown sugar, onion, ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.
  3. Top with the bacon slices.
  4. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until sauce is thickened and bacon is cooked.

Buckeye Bars*

(Image credit: stock.xchng)


  • 1 cup margarine, softened
  • 1 ½ cups peanut butter
  • 1 lb. confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Combine margarine and 1 cup peanut butter in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add confectioners' sugar and continue to beat until mixed together completely.
  3. Pat mixture into a 13″ x 9" pan.
  4. Combine chocolate chips and remaining ½ cup peanut butter in a saucepan.
  5. Cook over very low heat until melted.
  6. Spread over peanut butter layer.
  7. Refrigerate.

*Be sure to let other cookout guests know that this dish contains peanuts.

Quinoa Dip

Quinoa (Image credit: Charlotte Lake Shutterstock)


  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked in OJ according to directions
  • 1 avocado chopped
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic crushes
  • 1 mango diced
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/8 cup chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime

Directions: Mix everything together in a bowl. Serve with tortilla chips

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This article was originally published on LiveScience.

Nationwide Children's Hospital